It Burns, It Replenishes
All memory campfires itself into a collective fire, not the fire we think of as fire, but the one we pass in mugs to one another that brings a measure of warmth to the night between strangers or old friends who have been parted by unexplained canyons. Across the expanse: smoke signals. We shelter in tents which takes the edge off the vastness, makes it more comprehensible, framed like a portrait of some thing. How the vast quantities of night have been calibrated to magnify small campfires in the depth of nothing whose receptive heart is really a pulse, a tide invisible, more real than gravity, a dark energy exuded by emptiness, grounding us in one another. How we see ourselves as stories spewing into it, our separate sparks gathered into a bright longing. The longing itself augments the meaning of things by piercing the annihilating force of night with an edge, an attractive counter-force produced by the essential love of the unattainable. Above, stars like anchors hold the sky in place for us, their fires sharpened to points by distance so we could use them as signage. Longing itself a night, intractable but alive and searching for twilight, crackling fires, the wild choirs of crickets, myriad languages breaking our sense of falling slowly toward oblivion. There in the sputtering heart, the campfire tells our stories back to us in silent coffee cups of wonder.
It Goes on Shining
My childhood felt like the sky out the window, a being who once rained on earth, now reined in, tethered to it by a single road. We rode then for hundreds of miles in grand solitude, our lines of thought strung between a few wooden poles driven into the distance. How we never reached an endpoint, although our eyes reigned over all we surveyed. Then my Big Sky self became more earthen, aching into an expanse of day, and this road recycled me, accumulating brown, an amalgam of all pigments mixed loosely together, a road brushed red with young pain, later with being old every time I closed my eyes and opened them again. What I saw was never the same; yet it was still me down the road a piece, my thoughts like a family surrounding me, unblinking as the blue and its flashes of cloud dotting the horizon. What kind of loneliness is this, what strange happiness to be reflected in a road trip which ultimately leaves me behind?
Once upon a Time in
From a half-mile up, you hear the
its water-scent rising over fading cabin
resin. And here I stop at the Cathedral
of tall fir columns, an island of stillness clearing
our thoughts from cluttered summer
with the cool incantations of trees.
I join the festival of white birch trees,
a wedding procession down to the river.
Deerflies' twang and wasp harmonicas, a summer
orchestra follows us from the cabin.
Soon the river's clamor scours a clearing
for its incessant rush, a sound cathedral...
A statue on a boulder, I must break this cathedral,
its echoing of my father's calls, the murmuring trees.
Dive in! Fight upstream! Clearing
my throat, I hurl my whole self blind into the river.
It muscles me into its underworld cabin—
a silent unraveling—then disgorges me onto the shore of summer.
Where's Mother? Everyone?—oblivious as summer,
they never look from their distant cathedral.
Back at the cabin,
I slam the screen door. Only the trees
and dragonflies seem to know the river
brings death as a stock-still clearing.
When night deepens into a clearing,
my father wakes us: Northern Lights! Summer
curtains wave across a river
of stars. This is his cathedral,
high above the trees,
luminescence drowning our little cabin.
Years staved me in since I last saw the cabin—
though kerosene pungency brings it back, clearing
its place, a floating summer.
Years break everything but the cathedral
where prayers of insects, families, trees
pass through death as I passed through the river.
Now cabin summers weave through city winters
where they're clearing trees for asphalt tributaries;
my heart a riverbed, a cathedral in the woods.
Siham Karami lives in
Florida, recently surviving Hurricane Irma after four others. Her poetry and critical work has appeared in The Comstock Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Able Muse, Measure, Naugatuck River Review, The Turnip Truck(s), The Rumpus, and Orchards Poetry as featured poet, among other places. Nominated multiple times for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, she blogs at sihamkarami.wordpress.com.