In South Sudan With Adrie Kusserow | Robert Hirschfield

In The Sudan With Adrie Kusserow

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.

her face:

dark as eggplant,

her gaze:

unpinnable, untraceable

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

enough.

How does a war move through a young mother’s body?

Despite everything,

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.

Kusserow writes:

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.

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