Inventory: Shrinkage

Ladan Osman


“I lost my grip. / I balanced it on a piece of paper.” – Crystalfilm, Yukimi Nagano

I can’t turn my head          right, 
salute the angel recording good deeds: Hey. 
You must be idle lately. 

“I’m missing my mind,” I say.
My real laugh. My scream.

A gold compass gifted while infant.
A gold earring in the shape of an egg. 
I lost my mother’s pineapple necklace.
She lost her syrup scent. 

My             mouth.
Every few months, I feel
it retreat.   At the corners. 

I can’t tell the difference between 
incense dust,
a rabbit pellet, 
		Is it food or waste?
and the moon.
		It’s all ash.

I lost my sense of direction.
I lost my sense of the sun.
I didn’t know which way to pray
until an overweight housefly showed me.

2 3

I forgot which burner I kept the kettle on.
My husband 	kept 	moving it,
so I lost my marriage, too.

Over thirty pounds;
my linen slacks       but not the jacket;
my    cleavage;
                        Even my insteps jiggled 
                        when I chased buses. 
my sense of time;
my ability to run after things;
a desire to set things 	 on fire;
an interest in stealing.
I stole whistle cookies,
root beer.                 Not men. 
I lost my interest in stealing away.
I mean: being          stolen away. 
	Once I climbed a poolhouse wall.
	I wanted to see water from above.
	I tore my fingers. They peel every few years.
	My mother says I made my fingers black  er.
	At their joints. I started to climb a man
	but I think he was climbing, too. 
	Like pools, I wonder if water 
	looks better in blue eyes.
I made my heart an indoor inflatable
and drop-kicked men who lingered.
We bounced	   all over the place.
I jumped	   off the top of my heart
onto them. Only I had access
to the second floor.

4 5

I’m losing my understanding
of metaphors. I blink
at allegory:     Of course Cain
	               had to one-up his brother.
	               We all want our harvests accepted.
	               Sometimes we cut down men.
My ability to cry.      So the floors 
springs pools 	          with no source. I blink.
Doorframes drip.       I blink. 
The fridge leaks        three times,
stops when my landlord observes.  
It must be quantum physics, I say. 
Is my house supposed to be my      self?
If so, they’re turning the water off tomorrow.

When I look at the gristle on my heart,
I fraction. In a trinity-fold bathroom mirror,
especially at night, my recursive selves 
are tinged green.
I’d like to call myself a 	          of ferns
but I’ve had difficulty with vocabulary 
for living things,                        thriving.

6 7


Ladan Osman earned a BA at Otterbein University and an MFA at the University of Texas at Austin. Her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, appears in Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014). The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015) is the winner of the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in ApogeeThe Normal SchoolPrairie SchoonerTransition Magazine, and Waxwing. Osman has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and the Michener Center for Writers. She is a contributing editor at The Offing and lives in Chicago. More info at Twitter: @OsmanLadan,676321.aspx