Beate Sigriddaughter, lives and writes in New Mexico, USA, the Land of Enchantment. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. In 2018 FutureCycle Press will publish her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends. She orchestrates a women’s writing blog at https://writinginawomansvoice.blogspot.com.
Dancing in Santa Fe
How beautiful you are,
world, with jewels in the juniper
moments after rain. When
will I be allowed to touch
your beauty and keep it
As soon as I encountered history
and Hitler, I became the enemy.
This is not a fairy tale
where a curse can be undone
by climbing glass mountains
and making sudden sacrifice.
I came to dance late
and at my age it isn’t easy
to find a partner. So when Chico
and I jelled in Santa Fe
at the Skylight and danced
better than I had danced in years
and danced past midnight
and found it difficult to leave,
of course I agreed to meet again
with his friends at Tiny’s Restaurant
and Lounge my last night in town.
Gabriel danced okay, but he was born
in Hamburg. The band went on
break. We had a country in common,
though he went to America
as a wee babe. He had just come back
from Germany to visit roots, including
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
where much of his family had perished.
Gabriel, all I could ever do is honor
I kept wanting to say,
as I have wanted to say
so many times in my long life,
“I wasn’t even born yet.”
And as so many time before
I kept my irrelevant silence.
I also wanted to say, “I only
came to dance.” Same silence.
at our table found my discomfort so
exquisite, he wanted to continue this
most captivating conversation
at lunch someday, or, since
it turned out to be my last night
here in Santa Fe, then maybe coffee,
now. I declined and soon left.
For days I was flooded
off and on with tears. Not a lot
of comfort at home, just
helpless witnessing. Who,
not born German, can possibly
comprehend the guilt I am condemned
to feel for sins I haven’t committed?
It is an unspeakable filter
on this gorgeous world.
I haven’t danced much since.
The war has been over
for more than seventy years.
The war is never over.
I grew up asking, “May I
go play in the ruins?” Mostly
the answer was yes. Once
in a while a child found a bomb
and we were grounded
for a few days or weeks.
I don’t want to live with this
guilt like a lead shield
that shelters my heart
and lungs from dangerous rays.
I wasn’t—the war—born yet
is never over.
A favorite heirloom: a browning
piece of paper, January 16, 1948—
I wasn’t born yet—declares
my father “nicht betroffen,”
I live a dream. Earth under my feet,
birds loud at the window, deer stroll
by, lizards dash on the wall, a husband
in my arms at night, rivers not too far
away, snakes, roses by the kitchen
door from April to early June, and again
from August to November, though
lilacs bloom only once, a juniper
that might be older than I am.
But no wise creature here to tell me
what task to undertake to undo
the curse that keeps me uneasy
in this shimmering world. Only
the wind in the juniper sings this
is the task that has been given
to you. Sometimes I feel I am blind.
I want to honor you, life,
by living with joy. The enemy
within just laughs. Those others,
they just wanted to live, never mind joy.
Your sister, dead in 1945. The Jews
in concentration camps. The children
who played too close to bombs.
Their chances gone forever.
The enemy within is strong.
Once you learn to dance
you never forget.