Poetry Spotlight #38: Hibaq Osman

Poetry Spotlight #38: Hibaq Osman

One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. This new installment focuses on the work of Hibaq Osman.

Hibaq is a Somali writer born and based in London. Her work largely centers women, identity and the healing process with a focus on the often hidden, nuanced aspects of our experiences. Her debut poetry collection A Silence You Can Carry was published with Out-Spoken Press in 2015. In 2017 she released her online poetry chapbook ‘the heart is a smashed bulb.’ As a member of OCTAVIA poetry collective, Hibaq works towards a future where funding and access to the arts for all is the norm and not an exception.

Blood Work #1

She bought a season’s full of grapes for him to crush in his hands. Licked the juices off his knuckles. Ears shut to anything but the wedding march. Marveled at how easy it is for him to destroy. Did not sense her impending doom or wait for the reflection in the well.

Soft girl
So easy to love

She wonders if it’s in her genes. Family tradition is hard to break, she rationalizes. Long line of women hurt and left split, stitched the wounds over with rice paper. Still crackling when they walk.

Smart girl
Swore that wouldn’t be her

It gets exhausting doesn’t it? Picking a side today. Maybe you’ve always been attracted to shaking foundations, with hopes of submitting yourself to the debris.

Letter Six-Anagram

I have asked your name three times and
only once was I given an answer
there is a small blue box of memories
he won’t unlock for me

(I wonder if you’ve kept cigarettes
or a gun
in his glove compartment)

His mother welcomes us
oil hitting skin
Says it is great to finally have an African girl in the house
outside, your ghost tells me
think nothing of it
his mother is a dictionary
of compliments

Sweet in that too American way

(In an alternate universe
I have said yes
I have moved, he has moved
we have stayed static)

His grandmother looks over my head
when she speaks
points at the girl in the corner
she must miss you too

I think of the kids I’d have with him
they’d have three grandparents
speak three languages

In this rule of three
you are also there
third leg, dead weight,
four letter name

the self-help aisle is a scam

you, island of apprehension
attic with no ladder
have poured yourself into work
mimicking the smiles your aunties wear
this week you try rice milk
do not ask about the mechanics
would bathe in it if you could
rinse your eyeballs out
apologise for the bodies they’ve seen
try to outrun the sugar in your blood
like you did the men
and the boys before that
in front of the mirror you stand and
ask: who was the last person to visit
and not take?
tomorrow, you will free yourself
but now you pray for peace or
malak al-mawt

Packing Two Gold Necklaces

When there is talk of warriors
rarely do they mention the keepers of secrets
or how whole cities have been moved
under the cloak of night
what tiresome work it is
to carry lineage

       which is to hold
your great grandmother and great grandchild
in one hand
and a tasbeeh in the other
you say inshaAllah, God will free us
and prepare for the unknown
often, water
            often, death

When there is talk of warriors
the bustle of kitchens is omitted,
but recipes are strategically altered
in new weather
on new lands

isn’t a sword just a knife
that has been repurposed?
Which is to say you have made do

behind the curtains of sons
and into the long memories of your daughters
whose minds are a maze of language
that cannot translate
your name

Nobody will speak of what you left behind
to carry us forward,
least of all yourself

instead:
Allahu aclam /
                     God knows best

[“Blood Work #1” and “Letter Six-Anagram” are part of Hibaq’s online collection ‘the heart is a smashed bulb’ (2017)]

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