Photograph of You Straddling Two Countries
Big Bend National Park
By Allyson Whipple
The Rio Grande is only shin-deep, but the current
almost pulls me to my knees as I try to take
your picture. We’re both wincing, pebbles stabbing
the soles of our feet in the rushing water. You stand
in your Walt Whitman hat, grin, ask Which side am I on?
Beyond the frame, you’ll step
onto the Mexican riverbank, no fear
of the border patrol helicopters that tore
across the sky ten minutes earlier. You stare
at the sheer cliff of the Santa Elena canyon,
rising from rocks behind your back, say,
Any politician who thinks he can build a wall
has never seen the border.
Yesterday, on the Boquillas Canyon trail,
we saw carved walking sticks, painted rocks, a handwritten price
list in Spanish, a collection bowl. Items for sale, but nobody to watch
for theft, nobody to make change. An invisible artist slipping
across boundaries, undeterred, the blades of the Airbus A-Star
chopping through the desert. I wish I’d bought
something, wish I’d let her know which side I was on.
Allyson Whipple is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is the author of two chapbooks, most recently Come Into the World Like That (Five Oaks Press, 2016). Allyson teaches business and technical communication at Austin Community College, and enjoys exploring the trails all over Texas.
Featured image courtesy, Allyson Whipple.