I try to fit myself into the places her poetry comes from: the roads
walked by the lost children of the Sudan. Beneath their faces, other
faces, as lost to them as their homes.
dark as eggplant,
There is more:
Once inside the body, does war move up or down?
Adrie Kusserow, anthropologist, poet from Vermont, asks that
question in her new book, Refuge (Boa Editions Ltd.) There should
be awards given for asking certain questions. Do we care how a war
moves in a young girl’s body? Imagine stopping to consider a young
body in which a war is moving.
That stopping, that considering, is the poet’s work. I read that line
and I too stop, consider. I also remember. Not a furnace like the Sudan.
But yes, a furnace. A furnace in the frost. The mining town of Siglo
Veinte, Bolivia, in the cold of July many years ago.
An Indian woman hands me a soft, scrubbed blue jersey with a neat
and precise hole in the back made by a soldier’s bullet. The soldiers
were after revolutionaries. Her son was a student. That was close
How does a war move through a young mother’s body?
the land mines, skull trees, splayed carcasses of rusted jeeps,
there you are again.
deep in the humid thighs of July,
propagating Eden, little by little,
as you walk, regal and measured
Kusserow’s traveling is a kind of witness walking. Returning home to
Vermont, she teaches this. Can it be taught?
I like how she catches herself when her teaching morphs into
preaching with her little daughter. I had the nasty habit of always
pistol whipping people with my causes. I’d defend Palestinian non-
nonviolence with the linguistic delicacy of Mussolini.
Remember the slaves, Ana? They get less food than this.
She looks at me irritably, my East and her West grating.
So I sit with her and chatter,
luring her back in with an offer
of mac and cheese.
Our paths could have crossed in Dharamsala, Goa, Calcutta. I am
almost glad they didn’t. In meeting her, and The Sudan through her, in
her poetry, I feel I am meeting the essence of both.
Robert Hirschfield is a freelance writer and photographer whose work appears in Ode Magazine, The National Catholic Reporter, Outlook (the Indian newsweekly), and the London Jewish Chronicle, among other publications. He has travelled most recently to north and south India, and to Israel and the West Bank.