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.