“Quit Givin Me That Stippled Look” © John Engstrom


The Big Picture

There are days when she longs to belong somewhere, not live like a jigsaw puzzle. Most days she looks for how the pieces fit. At times, like an impatient child, she wants to secretly take off the corner of a piece or jam it in by force. So far, she has managed to resist. Sometimes she is patient and serene and wants to believe when wise folks tell her she is exactly where she belongs. Feeling that, however, tends to be more tenuous. At other times she questions if this is even a picture she wants. And then it all claims her again with its erratic edges.



She thinks of the sad shaping of children, erasing spirits early. Systematic reduction of passions. Systematic dampening of enthusiasm. For a while loud laughter keeps erupting in pillow fights, in meadow races. Eventually well-behaved silence prevails. Dark fists of anger grow, invisible at first, some holding knives, some just sporting bloody knuckles, some fantasize volcanoes or nuclear buttons. And God is used widely, to justify, to blame, to accuse, to implore, to pacify. The general confusion is enormous. Definitions are turned on their head when the whip that subdues the last stain of exuberance is called love. Droves of adults depart on pilgrimages to look for their inner children while bullies heckle, mock, toss matches, and trample things with urgent irreverence. Sometimes literati come along and worship the irreverence. She breathes in. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow: fragments of early laughter in the debris.


Beate Sigriddaughter grew up in Nürnberg, Germany. Her playgrounds were a nearby castle and World War II bomb ruins. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), where she was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. Her occasionally prize-winning work is widely published in literary magazines. In her blog Writing in a Woman’s Voice, she publishes other women’s voices.

John Engstrom is a Boston-based artist-author-poet. A retired journalist-museum worker, he serves as Arts critic for the Fenway News. His collages and poems appear on Facebook and Divergents Magazine.