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Category archive for: Adrie Kusserow

War Metaphysics for a Sudanese Girl

For Aciek Arok Deng

I leave the camp, unable to breathe,

me Freud girl, after her interior,

she “Lost Girl,” after my purse,

her face:

dark as eggplant,

her gaze:

unpinnable, untraceable,

floating, open, defying the gravity

I was told keeps pain in place.

Maybe trauma doesn’t harden,

packed tight as sediment at the bottom of her psyche,

dry and cracked as the desert she crossed,

maybe memory doesn’t stalk her

with its bulging eyes.

Once inside the body, does war move up or down?

Maybe the body pisses it out,

maybe it dissipates, like sweat and fog

under the heat of yet another colonial God?

In America, we say, “Tell us your story, Lost Girl

you’ll feel lighter,

it’s the memories you must expel,

the bumpy ones, the tortures, the rapes, the burnt huts.”

So Aciek brings forth all the war she can muster,

and the doctors lay it on a table, like a stillbirth,

and pick through the sharpest details

bombs, glass, machetes

and because she wants to please them

she coughs up more and more,

dutifully emptying the sticky war

like any grateful Lost Girl in America should

when faced with a flock of white coats.

This is how it goes at the Trauma Center:

all day the hot poultice of talk therapy,

coaxing out the infection,

at night, her host family trying not to gawk,

their veins pumping neon fascination,

deep in the suburbs, her life flavoring dull muzungu lives,

spicing up supper, really,

each Lost Girl a bouillon cube of horror.

from RefugeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Christmas Eve, Kampala, Uganda

Compost city, neon slumyard, Britney Spears

rising above the sticky bar,

buses from Juba coughing and belching,

inching slow as whales in the darkness

while the red-butted monkeys in the bush

leap from branch to branch.

Here, under fluorescent lights,

rat-dogs sniff the streets like addicts,

Dinka soldiers mumble,

drag their HIV around in a haze,

while skimpy girls gawk at televisions

till the manager waves them away like flies.

Still the moon, creamy and subdued,

spreads its patient lunar gauze over all of them,

not just the muzungus working off their Western guilt,

the noble golden cheetahs,

or the Doctors Without Borders,

but the limp jaw of the glue sniffer too,

the sprawled belly of the wife beater,

and the drunken man

sitting in a corner

working his cock into a frenzy

as his groans stretch wide with defeat

into some warm swatch

of the moon’s sweet milk.

Oh holy tenderness of this mute misty planet,

bless these fragile, harried nests

the tired and hungry build.

from RefugeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Borders

The phone rings,

you’re there, all sun, war and heat.

You’ve decided to drive

over the Ugandan border,

the jeep all rigged—

it’s a done deal,

but I beg anyway.

Nairobi’s slums burned,

ports closed, no gasoline,

so you fill up with what you can get,

strap the jeep with tools and jerrycans.

In the morning

our daughter hovers at my bedroom door

lunar and rumpled,

she must have overheard me on the phone

pleading.

Silently she assumes her throne

over the heater,

plots her revolution,

the warm air puffing her white nightgown

like a Queen Toad.

She reading me, reading her.

When her brother Will

tries to share her space

she jabs him hard in the ribs,

anger spilling red down her face and chest.

And it happens again,

whereby war, however diluted, however transformed,

however many times removed, has spread,

whereby the suffering of Kenya begets Uganda,

begets my husband,

begets me, begets Ana, begets her brother…

Later in the mudroom, getting ready for school

I see Will kick our tiny old mutt.

Perhaps it will end here, with this dog

who pees all over the house,

sleeping on the couch all day long,

cataracts like clouded moons,

for now, noble keeper of the passing flame.

The school bus arrives,

my children chatter,

emptied of their small wars

they skip lightly toward its open door,

the dog limping eagerly behind.

from RefugeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.