Traffic Stop, Port-au-Prince
By Jason Rusch
People said this would happen:
Your red, sleepless eyes, dust-coated
hands gripping pistol, white foam
dried in the corners of your mouth
frozen by palsy. Brother, the moto driver
calls you, brother, she doesn’t have
any money to give you and neither do I.
away. The sunlight shrills in my head,
colors blur. You could have shot me.
But, entreated to a mercy the world
has not shown you, let me live, let me
return to my hotel to pick overpriced
items off the menu.
There is a Haitian saying:
si dieu vle, another way of saying
we don’t choose when we die.
There is an American saying:
check your privilege. Count the ways
you were taught to think you could cheat.
William Seabrook, Occultist and Adventurer
By Jason Rusch
If you were born today, you’d probably be a sociologist
who followed around gang members and opined about
old school hip-hop, insufferable windbag transparently
longing to be cool, longing for communion, for a pass
to forget your personal lonely. Instead you were born
in the thirties, traveled to Haiti, wrote about vodoun,
spelled it voodoo. You were not the only one to do this
in that era of rape and imported Jim Crow but you were
the most well-intended, ostensibly, at least you proclaimed so,
prayed not to misrepresent the people you declared friends
while delighting in descriptions of teeth gnashing human
hearts, children’s toes baked into stews, phantoms copulating
in the primeval woods of your imagination. Today few
people know your name but your naming remains.
You assumed this power. And aren’t I just like you,
white and weird and searching for something
to write about other than my own vague chemical sadness?
A friend who I’d declared a friend once asked what I stood to gain
from understanding Haiti, and I thought her shrewd,
ungenerous, to question me this way, to assume mal-intent.
I’m not your native informant, she told me, and I reared up inside,
believing I had only ever approached her in sincere love.
William, I hate you. I hate you for the crimes
I don’t know I’m committing.
Jason Rusch’s writing has or will appear in Entropy, Bust, World Policy Journal, Cheap Pop, Broadly and Lambda Literary’s poetry spotlight. He has an MFA in fiction from University of Michigan.