Three Poems – Siham Karami

Siham Karami

On Mt. Sinai

For I. M., my father

For the nuances of fire,
he smoked, ignoring what wore down invisibly.
I averted my face from tobacco souring our air, and shrank
before his tower swaying in a gentle quake
as he shared balance charts, accounting notes, ledger columns.
Insurance litanies became last rites for what they couldn’t cover,
the sticky valves, pump heaving, until
at a certain point — the punkt.

At high noon, he stood on Mt. Sinai
Golf Course with friends. It crossed
over his expanse of smile,
darker than humus under the green,
when he joined the ball’s arc
driven into the air,
ascent, descent, a sine wave
of all he was, down through
his solo terminal, where
innocent, he fell
as a man must fall. For God,
a counting. For us,
an outline of the mountain
blue on our horizon.

Excommunication

Paradise was a field of mattresses
where my brothers, sisters, everyone I loved
laughed uproariously as if about to sleep,
telling stories that should never end —

It was a dream of soaring on my mother’s back
over the greenest earth,
my father standing over the clouds
in his flowing robes
opening the Great Book, smiling, inviting me in

until I turned away. Their angels were not
the rays of light guiding me
through forests, delightedly alone,
or through the heavy sadness of a wall.

And why should I be blamed for not chanting
hymns no longer mine, words
with less mass than
neutrinos passing imperceptibly
through sifter earth?

Here I eked out a life, became a pigeon
holding the whole weight of life
in my beak, in the balance
between insult and to be for children
a radiance, a bridge of tears
that does not teach despair —

Who will stop for the only Tiger swallowtail we may ever see?
Who can understand how little they understand
until they finish destroying it?

So I return to the field of mattresses
where my parents, brothers, and sisters are retinal ghosts,
and there is no forgiveness for apostasy:
you have become someone else
we cannot love
or recognize this you —
excommunicated.

The War in the Room

A piped-in Muzak of the children weeping settles
like regolith. It veils the ostentatious oranges —
a pang inside spikes hard as pines against the sky.
Turn off the sound of rapid-fire and look away.

Like regolith, it veils the ostentatious oranges
while choirs swan through glassy moods of holiday.
Turn off the sound of rapid-fire and look away.
Somewhere, men drag bodies out of sniper range,

while choirs swan through glassy moods of holiday.
Huddled at the hearth, we eat bread with cardamom
as somewhere, men drag bodies out of sniper range,
throwing us off kilter. Will peace ever come?

Huddled at the hearth, we eat bread with cardamom –-
the pang inside spikes hard as pines against the sky,
throwing us off kilter: Will peace ever come?
A piped-in Muzak of the children weeping settles …

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