Poetry at Sangam



Heart Thaw by Ladan Osman

If I miss my mother, my kidneys are cool and present.
Other times my belly seems rubbed with camphor,
a hot rag set on it.
I think about thatching roofs, clayed palms patting,
the backs of their hands hot, palms cool,
roof cool for a moment.
I keep saying: I’m a hot cat on a tin roof,
remember my mother reciting A Streetcar Named Desire
lying atop her comforter.

The scalps of the women with the best prophesies
are dry this season.
They grew too aware of crowns,
and spend evenings rinsing, rinsing them with warm water,
water boiled with oils and herbs
and left to cool on the stovetop alongside chicken and grains.
They send their children to work on themselves or the house,
as they steam their scalps.

I dream of my father but don’t know what he says.
It’s kind. I share rice and other grains with a man.
I hand him light in my kitchen.
He takes it and my belly cools.

I prefer not to write about love.
I prefer not to write about my body.
If it’s not mine, it’s theirs:
My father’s love, my mother’s body.
Both regenerate with astounding speed.

If a man sleeps or walks beside me,
I prefer to find him on my left.
I prefer my right hand free.

At times, I find myself in an ancient pose.
In a cafe, I make my arms a bow
and look up,
as if an arrow will appear at an absurd angle.
I mark a line from privacy to throat.
I trace the dark line under my bellybutton.
Maybe someone took my astral baby.
Maybe I birthed the man who denied me.
Maybe he had to deny me to avoid a crime.
I don’t point my fingers because power feels plausible.
Maybe a scummy pond will fly out my fingernail.
Maybe just its surface. A salamander, too.

I’m convinced our fate is determined in part by water,
that we can’t avoid walking by or being near a body,
however we plan our travel.
And that showers are prescribed before birth.
How many things have I missed
letting my wet bangs touch my eyelashes,
singing into a stream?