Published on Academy of American Poets (

The scalps of the women with the best prophecies are dry this season

They grow too aware of crowns, spend 
evenings rinsing and rinsing, water boiled 
with oils and herbs left to cool 
alongside chicken and grains. The women 
send their children to work, on themselves 
or the house, and 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.
My father’s love, my mother’s body.
Both regenerate with astounding speed.

At times, I find myself in an ancient pose.
In a café, 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, 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.

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


Copyright © 2019 by Ladan Osman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem in Chicago during a time when I expected water to spring from anywhere: the floors, my eyes, out of windows. It's one piece from a sequence that considers heartbreak and climate change by rendering the body arid, the speaker's longing imprecise.”
—Ladan Osman


Ladan Osman

Ladan Osman is the author of Exiles of Eden (Coffee House Press, 2019) and The Kitchen-Dweller's Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015), winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize. Her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, appears in Seven New Generation African Poets, Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York.

Date Published: 2019-06-19

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