Autumn (a sestina)

 From the window, she sees the sun as it falls,

its streaks of light glowing through the hanging leaves.

Just yesterday, it seems, the sun was out for hours

longer, but now it seals the day shut as it did September.
She returns to her stool, feet dangling, waiting
for a steaming mug of chocolate seasoned


with floating marshmallows. Her mother doesn’t see

her reach too quickly—the scalding mug almost falling

over as she takes an eager sip. She always hated to wait.

Tomorrow she will collect the drying leaves

with careful fingers, trying to usher in the November

piles a month too early. But her wishes dissolved into hours


spent, rake at hand, mimicking the motions of our

father as he gathered the leaves with a seasoned

patience. The heaps were mountains; at least that’s how we remember

them. They rested under the tire-swing, awaiting the fall

of a giggling child. The warm colored rainbow of leaves

splashing into the air under our weight.


Our time was spent in suspension, two sisters waiting

to grow tall like the trees from which we swung. We scoured

the attic, carrying boxes as big as us down the stairs: a maple leaf

cut from construction paper, fake cobwebs, a sea

of spider-rings and corn wreaths. But freefalling

through her favorite season, she failed to remember


time keeps moving. Soon it was November.

The biting cold and flurries threatened to eat

the golden crunching leaves that had fallen

while we were looking ahead. And soon more hours
passed. Then days, weeks, months and seasons

stacked up like gathered leaves.


With only a few warm days left,

we bundled ourselves and waited for December.

The trees stood bare: we could see

our breath. Now each moment carried weight,

Savoring the waning warmth, we are

holding closely onto what’s left of fall.


She thinks of all the time she left, the years fallen

behind her. The memories that became ours

transformed into reasons to make time wait.

Thoughts from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor


Feet dangling over the edge, the splintered dock stretches behind me.

A spread of wood dried a salty tan. Rounded nail heads protrude

through the planks. Below, the water is a black sheet of glass.


The air here is cold to the skin, a thin and hazy moisture

settles like dew. The sky above an expanse of overcast,

the clouds clustered in a single sticky fog.


Schools of birds swim through the white sky, their black forms splitting

the clouds, their flock formations cresting above the billowing masts,

a song of their cawing crescendos as they approach.


And then, with its nose cutting through the waves

in a distinct precision, the ship hurtles forward.

The bow’s grand shadow cast shamelessly over the meager dock.


I’m here—my hands gripping the dock’s corners,

my head tilted back. The hugeness of tomorrow

hangs like the boat’s towering walls—it moves


towards me with impossible speed, its weight,

its importance, heaving through my life

with staggering momentum, as the birds in their rapid flutter.




Spreading the blanket that once swaddled me

onto the carpet, I practiced with a doll.

A big sister must be prepared, after all.


You watched from the couch with, what?

Amusement? Pride, maybe? Your belly

and family grew before your eyes.


Memories blurred, the images fuzzy

as the edges of the sonogram photo

that hung from a magnet on the refrigerator.


But I do remember when you told us,

my hands busy with blocks,

we made you pinky swear it was true


before congratulating you and dad,

parents for a third time.

I don’t remember when she died.


How did you tell us? That our sister disappeared

in thin air, it seemed, gone from the ultra-sound

screen. I stopped practicing after that.


You’ve told me now that Grandma came

to watch us, she understood how bad things come

in threes, your third happening half a century after hers.



Inspired by: “Photographs of the Syrian Civil War” by: Alessio Romenzi


Neck craned, eyes wide,

I try to see past

the ocean of black coats

and draped head scarves.


The crowd whispers of injustice,

the word shabiha lies under

their breath, coated with blame.

They stand close, shoulder


to shoulder, shaking their

heads at one another in a

manner of understanding

that this is beyond understanding.


Yet amidst the guttural sobs

and quiet chatter, I can hear

the songs of the ‘arada,

their voices joyous, their hopeful


prayers reaching up to the ears

of Allah in request for the afterlife.

Their swords glint, the Syrian sun

reflecting its rays back towards the sky.