Rami Karim


I first met my half-sister at our estranged father’s
funeral. She was born somewhere in Arizona. He
started over when his green card cleared, certain
my mother would be different because they shared
a culture. I was born in East Los Angeles in 1991.

She said she’d waited 30 years to meet us, my
brothers and me. It was the first time I knew of her
but we hugged as though we went back years.


Think about the men you rely on, the fear that
drives them. The fear of death, making less money,
going to sleep alone. The fear of their mothers and
fathers dying, an alien invasion, of not being liked
at a new friend’s party.

In the ‘70s your parents voted for fearful men to fix
something an ocean away involving people they’d
never met, a language they couldn’t speak.


The beach reminds me of the Westside, of
my brothers tracing the shoreline on our way back
to the car.

Adulthood has taught me that we are children in
bodies that have sagged and grown more hair on
them. When it falls we are told childhood is further
away from what our brains want us to believe.

When I ride my bike on smooth pavement I am
moved to our neighbor’s driveway. Catch my eyes
in a car window and my sister appears in my
mother’s dress. She calls me inside before the rain

To Imad Malouf

Pack light we’re coming back today
Say the thing again
It’s really nothing
It’s only three months
I thought you wanted to go
Sorry I’m stuck on a train
I’m stuck at work
Everyone is laughing at me
I want to talk about it
You’re delusional
Publicly I mean
I could arrange for a panel
Sorry you’re breaking up
We’re breaking up
A break at the end of
I can’t believe this
The plane never landed
This is still a dream
I am still in Beirut
Bored in Pasadena
Then back again
Thinking in Arabic
Speaking to tourists
Who love the weather
Among so much else they
Go on about how in love they are
Considering becoming expats

Structural Empathy

Amal breathes loudly as she irons. We are not above asking for
attention. I ask what’s wrong. She hopes work gets canceled.
The snowstorm may just do that. Everyone mispronounces her. I
play something else. “Listening to sad music actually helps.” We
both laugh. I never said otherwise.

Miles has to go and kisses my forehead. He wouldn’t stay if I
asked so I don’t. He is offended. Eli makes large sculptures out
of feelings. He also has to go.

I took a cab. The rain made me do it. There are still previews. It
wouldn’t have mattered. I want to lie down. Sad music is fine I
just want less lyrics.

From Los Angeles, from-from Beirut. They share a climate. My
parents were into it. I don’t speak English. I’m a terrible liar. Ask
me for advice, what I want to drink. Ask me where I’m from-from.

I love the way the light looks right now, don’t you? The sky is
playing tricks on me. The hijab was a nun’s cap. I cleaned my
room. Enough materials for today.

Rami Karim

Rami Karim is a writer and artist based in Brooklyn. Their work has appeared in Apogee, The Brooklyn Review, The Invisible Bear, and Peregrine, and their chapbook is Smile & Nod (Wendy’s Subway, 2017). Karim teaches writing at the City University of New York and is a 2017 Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.