For Aciek Arok Deng
I leave the camp, unable to breathe,
me Freud girl, after her interior,
she “Lost Girl,” after my purse,
dark as eggplant,
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.
Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.