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Adrie Kusserow: Bus Station, Kampala, Uganda

For Willem, age 3


We are lost.


Holding you tight,

the drunks pawing me


as I weave through the stalls

sticky with beer and urine


looking for a way to get us out.

Gray buses wheeze over the colossal potholes,


barnacles of street kids

clinging to their sides.


I don’t know if you know it,

but we are winding through alleys


where dogs bleed from their butts,

a freshly pummeled woman


lies like pounded meat in the gutter,

reeling from the punches for requesting a condom,


or if you hear the gurgle that is blood in her cheek

as she slumps into a puddle


while the drunken crowd jeers.

Meanwhile, back at the Lake Victoria hotel,


the hibiscus lashes its red

tongue into the cool night,


wealthy muzungus* spread their stiff white napkins

starched and white as calla lilies.


Hush, sweet boy,

swollen broken nests of these slums,


I can hardly breathe

but for the rotting and the birthing.


For now, cooing, clueless, you can hardly see the difference

between the squashed condom


the man threw at her in disgust and the crushed

lily flattened by the muzungu’s high heel,


between the bleeding, the bleeding from everywhere there is an opening

and the languid arch of the red hibiscus


sprawled against the night.

*Muzungu is the East African word for white person.

Adrie Kusserow is a cultural anthropologist who works with Sudanese refugees in trying to build schools in war-worn South Sudan. Currently an associate professor of Cultural Anthropology at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Kusserow earned her PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. She is the author of two collections of poetry, both published by BOA EditionsHunting Down the Monk (2002), and Refuge (2013).


Copyright 2013 Adrie Kusserow

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