Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman


East Berlin, 1977

I order an outline of you: dash
chalk to make your bedroom,
telephone table, the east window.

I place myself inside and x
where it's feasible to hide.
I sit where you sit and picture

which part of her you kiss first.
My fingertips trace the photograph
to tease out the darker places of her mind, yours.

I know you. Am trained
to crack lies. This is the year
they stopped counting the suicides.

I can't say when I started
to hear. I felt her tremble, sigh.
Words grow faces. If I were to write it,

it would be gone. Winter averages:
shoes purchased per person—3.2,
children graduating from the Academy—96.

You want to know, on average, how much
of a person died this year.
I rest my forehead in the bowl of my hands.

Tonight you read her
new lines from your play; she cries. I wait
till I hear you both asleep. I write:
the couple sleeps.



Now out of sight: doorways, edges, verge.
I clamp down on what's between, what's shorn.
Thighs quiver, burn beneath weight. Lullabies
lie. What soothes is repeating till urges

subside. Over and over till the mind clears,
numbness spreads. Need's a scalpel.
Don't notice the brink till it's here. Watch:
when the going gets going, I turn machine.

My voice, soft and caught; crinoline-
stiff my spine. I duck my head to make sure

the pilot's still lit. Hiccough of thought.
Sometimes, for sleep's sake, a song is repeated,
prayers mumbled till meaning ruptures:
girl talking to no one, a final disguise.





On STASI AND THE PLAYWRIGHT: Initially inspired by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film, The Lives of Others, I wrote this poem after researching the Stasi, East Germany's secret police force during the rule of the Socialist Unity Party. I was struck by the particular attention the Stasi paid to artists and writers in the fear they would create art that undermined the Party's ideals.

On DOLL: The Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria defines compulsions as behaviors aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event. (The Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria of DSM-IV-TR. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.)