A Dove Sings for Young Lovers by Ladan Osman

guest-edited by Danielle Evans


She’s a Negro dove
so her song sounds like 
a man divining scratch-offs,
false discerner of his own fortunes.
She cups possibility, 
puts it in a pocket, 
throws it in the garbage, 
and purchases another.

Her voice magnifies her body,
a shadow filtered by leaves. 

They think that's Soul they’re hearing.
But she’s too modest to show 
both her transcendence and guilt.
Do you know what it feels like to be held
between shame and elevation? This song does.
Soul feels like a dreaded wrapping 
or your spirit rising out the top of your head.
This is not Soul.

It's more like a screaming threat, worked to sound like trills. 
The song asks, how come they keep wanting me
when they're in heat? Don't they have their own moanings?
Don't they like nothing at all sometimes?

I'm just singing your denigration
for all the times someone thought I was a crow
and didn't listen, though the song was familiar.
I'm just singing oil slicks into your hair.
Listen for your debasement. Don't ask why
you feel so needy when I give you the silhouette 
of a piss stain. Don't reach out for that olive branch.
It's already down my throat.
All I got is this match. 
Turn the flame on yourselves.

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Contributor Notes

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). 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.