Two Poems

Poetry / Ladan Osman

:: Apparition: One ::

White tiger in the snowy sandbox,
a concrete corner visible in lamplight.
It guards the alley to the bad boys’
house, the two who held their mother 
hostage. The alley where dogs go crazy.
Every single one of them lunges for a face.
Every one turns to that single lamplight,
strains on tethers towards a far corner. 


:: Apparition: Two ::

We saw ghosts near the cat-shit sandbox. 
We beckoned the girl-ghost once. 
She wore white, rode a white bike
around the lamplight, in perfect loops.
The air around her looked like a video game
played in a lightning storm: 
shredded newspaper, or dirty snow.
She would not ride her bike closer.



From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems appear as a kind of estuary in the last section of my book, The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (April, 2015). The poems just before them start to suggest an interest in surrealist possibility, while the ones after them enter atmospheres beyond dreams and prophecy. These poems prepare a reader to trouble an expectation of truth, to widen faith in witness. Many of the images mirror places, objects that are mentioned earlier in a narrative around play and magic.

When I revisit my childhood home, my memory’s museum doesn’t have regular floors and doors. It’s not a static place. It maybe exists in dark matter. I’m not sure how I entered or how to exit, but the walkways and courtyards and small, open spaces there invite meditation. I feel I can put anything there. I can erase a girl, make her a ghost, and she still exists, with static between us. I want even impressions to be living, to make demands, to demand as much emotion as straightforward figures do, to resist our desires for logic.

I also submit to limitations. That my speaker says “Be!” to a figure, and nothing happens because she doesn’t have the power to generate, only to describe, interact, move and pair. That seems to be the hardest work for me as a poet lately. What is the language of origination? Generation? How do I respond to the incredible archive of the material and immaterial? And maybe most importantly, how do I dismiss the urge to value, name? When the figures in my book insisted on their freedom, I stopped asking myself: Does this make sense, is this good? and started asking: Is this true?


Ladan Osman is the winner of the African Poetry Book Fund’s 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her manuscript The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Michener Center for Writers. A 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Life in Poetry, Broadsided, Narrative Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and Vinyl Poetry. She lives in Chicago.