I.
Our drivers gun insanely over the dusty, red roads,
lurching from pothole to pothole.
Caravan of slick, adrenalized vans,

tattooed with symbols of western aid,
Will on my lap, trying to nurse between bumps,
my hands a helmet to his bobbing skull.

A three-legged goat hobbles to the side
and though we imagine we are a huge interruption,
women balancing jeri cans on their heads
face our wake
of dust and rage as they would any other gust of wind –
 
Water, sun, NGO.

We arrive covered in orange dust, coughing,
fleet of SUVs parked under the trees,
engines cooling, Star Trekkian cockpits flashing,

alarms beeping and squawking as we zip-lock them up
and leave them black-windowed, self-contained as UFO’s.

Behind the gate, we stumble through the boiling, shoulder deep sun,
Will and I trying to play soccer
as a trickle of Sudanese kids cross the road

hanging against the fence, watching the chubby Muzungu boy
I’ve toted around Africa like a pot of gold.
Three years old, he knows they’re watching, so he does a little dance,
his SpiderMan shoes lighting up as they hit the dust.

 

II.
Part African bush, part Wild West,
we’re based in Arua, grungy, dusty frontiertown,
giant dieseled trucks, barrel through,spreading their wake of adrenalin,
obese sacks of grain lying like walrus inside.

I chase Will from malarial puddle to puddle,
white blouse frilled like a gaudy gladiola,
lavish concern for my chubby son
suddenly rococo, absurd.
III.
7 foot giants of the SPLA, huddle together, drinking,
talking Dinka politics, repatriation, the New Sudan,
wives lanky as giraffes, set food on the table and move slowly away.

In candlelight the men’s forehead scars gleam –
I flutter around them acting more deferential than I’m used to,
slowly I’m learning Sudanese grammar —
men, verbs, women, the conjunctions that link them together.

In the thick of rain we walk home,
Ugandans huddled under their makeshift bird cages,
Will now pointing to the basic vocabulary of this road  –

dead snake, p rickly bush, squealing pig, peeing child .
Three drunk men huddled at a shack
scrape the whiteness off us as we walk by.

Though I don’t want to hear it,
though I love Africa,
it starts up anyway, the milky mother cells of my body high-fiving,
my mind quietly repeating the story of my son’s lucky birth,
his rich American inheritance.

 

IV.
My husband drops into bed, dragging a thick cloak of requests.
All day, I’ve labored behind him, toting our clueless muzungu.
watching him, dogged Dutchman in his rubber clogs

climbing the soggy hills of Kampala, despite the noonday heat,
a posse of hopeful Lost Boys following him,
He, afraid of nothing, really, not even death,
me afraid of everything really, most of all his death.

In the distance, trucks rev up to cross the bush
where Sudanese families perched like kites caught in trees,
wait for the next shipment.
But it’s night now,
the three of us inside the cloud chamber of our mosquito net,
the two of them breathing, safe.

Will’s nursing again, though he doesn’t need to,
swelling like a tick
and though I don’t want to love
the sweet mists of our tiny tent home,
the lush wetlands of our lives,
its thick rope bridges and gentle Ugandan hills,

the fat claw of my heart rises up,
fertile, lucky, random
pulsing and hissing its victory song.

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