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For the Woman whose Love is a Bird of Passage————-
I am so poor before you. A grackle /
whose colors are as good as a peacock’s, /
sometimes better in the full face of sun. /
The love poem I meant to say /
is lost. Instead, I swear an oath. /
I curse like someone speaking /
in a foreign language. /
Instead of leave
I say scourge. The proper word a chick’s voice
still in its egg, a beak in a small crack.
Your blood is hot and flowing,
and the hinges of your heart’s doors allow traffic
in all the heart’s rooms.
Is that why the little kisses are not enough?
In your sigh there is the sound of water pouring
into a hot, empty kettle.
Let us have the same dream tonight, I say
and your smile is red glass in dim light.
I dream my front tooth is a crumbling pillar
and you are the entire city of sin, in collapse.
Instead of leave, you say raze. You are so poor
So let us paint the ocean instead.
We dip the brushes in a canvas
that takes them out of our hands. Now you are the grackle’s tail
calling for eyes from the side of a road,
and I am the smallest and best room
in your heart.
The Man who Puts Dirt on his Head
I till you, my garden. I remove weeds
from you and only hesitate when the birds
share an especially sweet note. I wonder
if the lesser plants clinging to your earth
have a right to it. I pull arms from bases
when they reach out to a neighbor for help.
I observe the milk they produce when choked,
I deny them offspring. They used to have a right
to your earth, when you did not understand
how birdsong swells in the cathedral of a tree,
how a person can leave a life on the kitchen table,
how need is most powerful before dawn,
death’s popular hour.
This dirt will not cool you. I remove
the weeds and leave the wildflower. I take
the excess and place it on my own head.
Who turns the earth? Who is the garden?
In the days when butterflies and beetles
escort us in our work, we are both water and wind,
seed and petal, farmer and the earth that resists,
relents. We remove the uninvited worms.
How their color reminds us of the private places,
how they cling to the roots of anything.
Ladan Osman is originally from Somalia. She received her M.F.A. as a Michener Fellow from the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Artful Dodge, Black Renaissance Noire, Callaloo, “Poetry in America,” Poet Lore, and ROAR Magazine. She lives and teaches in Chicago. Please contact Ladan at: [email protected].