Allyson Whipple is a student with the online MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of two chapbooks: Come Into the World Like That (Five Oaks Press) and We're Smaller Than We Think We Are(Finishing Line Press). She teaches at Austin Community College.
Democracy and Exile
While the Berlin Wall is coming down
my mother calls, makes Thanksgiving plans
with in-laws she despises. My father out of town.
Just business? She knows the truth. Halfway around
the world, freedom spills, hammers and hands
in concert. The Berlin Wall is coming down.
In Cleveland, no snow yet. Everything is brown
and gray. When I am thirty-one, I’ll be on the sands
of Panama at Christmas. Won’t come back to town
for holidays. I would rather drown
on some foreign coast than sit through reprimands
and arguments. Easier to bring the Wall down.
No resolution, no peace to be found
in this family. We’re Israel. Afghanistan. Iran.
Like my father, I escape, always flee from town.
But I have Catholic guilt. My mother’s frown
haunts me. No matter where I am, I hear demands.
(Ragan implores Gorbachev to bring the wall down.)
But I can’t go back to our war, our town.
Every time I opened
my mouth to speak, my jawbone
popped and cracked, the hinges
crying from the nights when I drove
my teeth against each other.
You’d carved diagrams from Grey’s Anatomy,
sliced sections from the heart,
excised portions of the brain,
carved up muscle networks,
neural pathways, the coffee table
a loose collage of cadavers.
The pill bottles sat empty
for days. Then more days.
I wanted to cling
to the threads of your old
self that sometimes flashed
at dusk, after drinks.
I wanted to weave them into a shroud.
The best part of a love affair is walking up the stairs
In your bed, I feel like I’m alive twice,
fingers threatening to rip the sheets
to splinter the bedframe
Double life, double lie, where you’re not married
where I’m not a mistress
For an hour a week, easy to deny
where you come from
where you go afterward
Just an hour a week, if I’m lucky
the most you can get away
I’ll take my hour, my brief breathlessness
when I hear you on the stairs
Maybe love only lasts a lifetime
when parceled out in tiny pieces
that you can barely grasp