The Unraveling Strangeness

You are losing it, they say,

paranoid delusions of soldiers breaking into your house,

hiding your car from the police,

clutching the hot vein of your cell phone

as you drive your mother in her sari and smudged bindi

across the bumpy Vermont fields,

staring out from her yolky Alzheimer’s haze

as the car lurches over the mud and leaves.

No one wants to challenge your story,

             you who never should have left Bhutan,

your loneliness first swelling

high above Atlantic City

where you built your makeshift apocalyptic nest

pulling in the cheapest Gods that flew around,

storm after storm in that neon grim city.

           Now your fingers bruise your rosary with mad devotion.

No one can weave as fiercely as you

            in your tattered white bathrobe,

grey roots frosting your scalp,

            peering out from the curtains

like a spider sensing its web pricked,

            wrapping each social worker

in the pure white gauze of your stories 

             as they look at you with the tenderness

reserved for an infant or a dog

             and speak to you of boundaries,

calling you back to the Himalayas of your birth

             where you ran and ran through the night

and woke to a python wrapped around a tree

your father hacking its head off, prying

its 17 foot long body off the trunk.  

It took so long for it to die,                                                                                                                                                                            uncoil enough so you could feast on the eggs

 lined up like potatoes in its womb.

Let go of the steering wheel, just a little.

            Who is to say what suffocates, what heals,

coaxing yourself home each night,

             out from the ragged edges of this life you were given,

without asking, without knowing,

the billions of explanations and justifications

you fitfully braid and fuse, tangle and knot,

            the sticky plots that hold them in place

as you’re hurled through space,

            landing with a thump, 

into the great American refugee hive to begin

            this frantic human work, perpetual manic revival,

stretching your way through the half-light

             of this vast unraveling strangeness.


Adrie Kusserow was born in Underhill, Vermont, in 1966. At nineteen, she traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, and Dharamsala, India(home of the Tibetan government in exile), where she studied Tibetan Buddhism. She chairs the department of sociology and anthropology at St. Michael`s College in Colchester, Vermont. She has been to refugee camps in Kathmandu, Nepal; Dharamsala, India; and northern Uganda. She and her husband now work with Sudanese refugees in building schools in South Sudan with the New Sudan Education Inititative, Her first book of poems, Hunting Down the Monk, was published by BOA Editions, Ltd.(2002), and her first work of ethnography, American Individualisms, appeared from Palgrave Macmillan (2004). She won the 2002 Vermont Professor of the Year sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and also the 2001 Society for Humanistic Anthropology Poetry Prize Winner. She has been published in the Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, The Best American Poetry 2008, Green Mountains Review among others.