“German Girl” by Krisanna Scheiter

German Girl

Spitting and coughing over the side of a boat
with the smell of childhood still in her clothes.
It was sixty-four years ago
she worked those foreign words into her mouth
trying to explain the American dream;
emptying bedpans,
sifting through medication,
trading in her hearing for six solid days
of humming machinery.

Then her body would remind her there’s more
and so, she took it dancing.
As they swung her across the floor
she would let out her infectious laugh
that shook all five feet of her.
Twirling and twirling
she let herself forget the war back home,
keeping the one here ever present and
close to her heart.

She had to fight with stickpins and steak knives,
words and tears.
She fought for food, love, and respect.
She fought for her three-year-old baby girl,
floating in white light.
I can picture her, lying on the roof of her small flat
with her daughter, counting stars, counting wishes.

The children of Estes Lane, where she now resides,
know her from her solid chocolate bunnies at Easter
and miniature Santas at Christmas.
The adults know her
from her easy smiles and long hellos.

I know her from her stories,
from the life that pulses through her sweet accent,
from the bear hugs and loud smacking kisses,
perfected over years, doled out between
between “Ich liebe dich” and
“I’m so proud of you.”

She’s proud of me,
me, who has been flooded with every opportunity
made possible by the love and determination
of a sixteen-year-old German girl.


Krisanna M Scheiter is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Union College, who reads and writes poetry in her spare time. She lives in Schenectady, New York with her husband and her dog, Argos.

This poem was an Honorable Mention in the 2022 HVWG Poetry Contest.

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