Poetry at Sangam



Dive Lightly by Ladan Osman

A friend asks, Why him?
I tell her I’m addicted to longing,
that I don’t understand men
unless they disregard me at first.
I also don’t understand them
when they insist I can dance,
that I am a fox, a witch,
the whole ocean, and the rain.
Whatever they do, I’m repulsed.
I tell her the question
that pursues me regards souls,
that we’re stuck with ourselves
forever. Everything shared
by three or more friends reveals
our insistence on being seen,
the small hope that our image
could become viral,
that we could exist
in a stranger’s psyche by evening.
And is the sky viral?
Us, viral as rain,
or the whole ocean,
an ancient glacier,
or the moon pressing
play, rewind as needed.
The next time my mother asks why
I don’t want common things,
I may ask her why she walked
on the beach every morning
so that the scent of saltwater
orients me wherever I am.
When a man recognized me,
and said I smell like rain
if there’s a sea nearby
and there are flowers near that sea,
I recoiled. It was a common exchange:
turn to metaphor and landscape, leap
before two or more bodies lie.
The last time I dove
followed dusty dreams.
I dove into my own feet, further,
into a wart, its striated shelves,
a neon basin, and ran out of air,
wondered why no one
had cordoned my feet,
placed a sign nearby.
So when a man says he wants to sit
at my feet, and kneels but doesn’t sit
I disbelieve and discourage him
while he’s on his knee.
How would I deal with a man
who doesn’t call me the ocean,
or who does but doesn’t stop
at the basic fragrance my mother
gifted me, one who lies, who I find
diving lightly, lightly into my feet?
I asked myself how it’d feel,
to turn left, and see someone there.