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Adrie Kusserow: First Encounters With Feelings Of A Capitalist Kind

For Todd Gitlin
Across the aisle sits Bimal,
the elderly Bhutanese man, 
who sold me tea from his shack 
in a soggy camp where work is rare, 
people too poor for TV or iphones,
everyone sticky with desire for face to face interaction.
Each day he clambered 
through thickets of greetings, 
jungles of curious tendrils,
viscous eager stares insisting upon a response.
Especially during the monsoon, 
when drama was high, 
feelings hung about for months, ripening,
fermenting, refusing to dry.
Now on this sterile, silent flight, bulleting toward New York, 
he fidgets with the remote. 
It’s agony to watch, 
like a lamb at a cold plastic teat, 
clumsy, awkwardly fumbling.
I watch him rise, drag his smile
through the aisles of passengers
docked at their stations, silently feeding,
searching for ones between movies 
more apt to engage because
all he needs is one kind exchange
to take back to his seat and feast on.
He hasn’t learned how to 
point the remote like a wand until colors explode,
surfing the channels of HBO, Netflix, Amazon,
deciding how he wants to feel
from menus of shows 
with limited liability feelings
that won’t drench the psyche for too long,
interrupt the work day or dampen a vacation.
Disposable feelings that can be taken off,
stuffed like a kerchief into a sleeve 
once the credits roll and the plane begins its bumpy descent.
When the beverage cart reaches him,
he milks the stewardess’ sweet but weak emotional tug 
for all its worth,
her smile no stronger than a twice used teabag,
her cheery banter, chirping high above him, 
noncommittal, casual, as she cracks the sodas open,
shovels in ice, pours, repeats,
her kindness glistening 
on her motions without slowing them down. 
I watch him fumble, nervous,
already he knows not to take too long,
or let his coil of loneliness unfurl.
I worry the soda will spill,
spread like shame across his lap, 
but how quickly Coke accommodates
her frantic pace,
seeping into the hollows of the ice cube skulls,
and when there’s no more room, or time,
and the plane begins its measured descent,
how efficiently the foam rises, bubbles, breaks
as it lands on his tray, the mist barely gracing his chin.

Copyright 2019 Adrie Kusserow

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 Editions, Hunting Down the Monk (2002), and Refuge (2013).

5 comments on “Adrie Kusserow: First Encounters With Feelings Of A Capitalist Kind

  1. Rio
    July 27, 2019


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ann Linde
    July 23, 2019

    So beautifully touching. Made me feel love and guilt and sorrow and inspiration. We all need one kind exchange to take back to our seats and feast on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rowena
    July 22, 2019


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joshua Williams
    July 22, 2019

    Yes we live in a time of Coca Cola feelings, inc.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margaret
    July 22, 2019

    So very perceptively Gets to the heart of refugee socialization!!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on July 22, 2019 by in Opinion Leaders and tagged , , .

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