Blair Kilpatrick


In memory of those who died in the Waukesha Christmas parade

You have to make your own self want to dance
my old accordion teacher once said
because whatever you call it—
Cajun or Zydeco or Old Time Creole—
Louisiana French music is meant for moving
for two-stepping and waltzing 
even when you are playing between vegetable stalls
at a Sunday farmers’ market
in a tranquil California suburb 

First up: the smiling woman in the snowflake sweater
who tells us she plays piano and offers 
to get us a gig at a local retirement community
Next: a woman with tawny grey braids and blue jeans
and the soignée slouch of a hippie cowgirl
Last: the one with the rattlesnake jacket 
that makes you forget everything else about her

They dance apart with a certain Louisiana languor
exchange glances then synchronize and for that brief time 
strangers become sisters 
at one with each other and with the musicians
me on my red accordion
my husband on his fiddle
our friend with the guitar

Three women of a certain age (as the French would say)
have pulled us all together with their sashaying
and their je ne sais quoi and their sexy moves
and now they send me back thirty years
as I watch the oh-so-cool teacher at the Cajun dance in Chicago
who stared down middle age in a short swingy skirt 
I wouldn’t dare to wear myself
and said dancing is just walking with attitude

I was so hungry for the music 
willing to dance but longing to play
fearing it was too late
until the accordion dreams started 
and one morning I listened

Home that afternoon spent but satisfied 
I hear the news of a speeding car
a deadly plow that tore through
the annual Christmas parade
in a Wisconsin town near Chicago

The five who died that Sunday
had marched with a troupe
of high-spirited older women 
who dared to bare legs in
short swirling skirts and twirl their pompoms
and strut to the sound of an oompah band
like the high school kids who survived

The man behind the wheel of the ugly red SUV 
had used that car once before as a weapon to hurt women

Dancing is just walking with attitude


And make no mistake about that attitude:
it is transgressive 
it is resistance
to misogyny
to ageism
to violence
against anyone

Don’t stop 
brave dancing sisters
wherever you are
young and middle-aged
and especially the elders
we need you
in our fractured country
we are thankful
and we will not forget 

Blair Kilpatrick is a Duke-trained psychologist whose life was transformed by a chance encounter with the Cajun accordion. She is the author of Accordion Dreams (U. Press Mississippi) and the recipient of the first annual SUA literary award for her creative nonfiction. Her poetry can be found in Amethyst Review and littledeathlit, and in an issue of ONE ART. In her free time, she enjoys baking bread, making music with her fiddler husband, and visiting their adult children in New York and Toronto. She lives in Berkeley, California. Her website is