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Tamer Mostafa

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The Question of Authenticity

by Tamer Mostafa

 

I demand to know,
the origin of cardamom,
rose water and coriander,
the moments in history
they became necessities
for our recipes.

Expecting an answer
of a chiseled diagram in limestone,
some hieroglyphic
roasting in an undiscovered ruin
that transgressed its way
to a flap of papyrus paper,
I am reminded
to stir a figure eight
on the pan with a wooden spoon.

In the process of confinement,
I inquire aloud about substitution,
the introduction of binders,
fruit grind garnishments,
the simple dusting
of confectioner’s sugar
through a sifter.

They warn of a testament,
a threat to reveal
the shame for innovating,
for wanting to invite
the strangers in.

 

 

Letter to Lucy Corin

 

When I was younger,
I remember
hearing
stories about racism
(and I’ve understood since the attacks
that racism is just

twisting
a pressure valve),

and I remember conditioning
myself
to absorb the abuse
as some form of pity,
to see the treatment
as proof of my existence,
a recessive nerve
captivated by pain.

Today, I sit in the car
next to my father’s dark brown skin.
I listen to his accent
mercifully trying to dissolve
into another language
he will never master.
How thick,
how hard to understand.

And I remember you.

 

 

On the Eve of Ramadan

 

No slumber can overpower me,
the waft of alcohol has left
my breath, the sins are toted,
a horizontal balance pole
held across my torso,
leaving one platform atop a tight wire.

I’m visited in intermittent periods
by reflections, an earlier identity
of myself, separated
like sheep wool fibers disentangled
in a drum carding machine.

I’ve sought to reattach with congregation,
display an innate prologue of survival,
the absence of food and fluids
for a protracted time period.
Won’t you die someone asks.

Losing patience for autotomy to manifest,
I dig the dust with my claws,
patting the earth
for the buried legs of an orb weaving spider
seeped in honeybee venom,
hobbled to exhaustion.
No, but I’ve been close to it before.

 

 

 

BIO

tamermostafaphoto2Tamer Said Mostafa is a Stockton, California, native whose work has appeared in various journals and magazines such as Confrontation, Triggerfish Critical Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and Phantom Kangaroo, among others. As an Arab-American Muslim living in Sacramento, he meditates on life with the reinforcement of family and the music of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.

 

 

 

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Sniper’s Rhythm

by Tamer Mostafa

 

lay belly down
arms overhead
and palms flat
lift shoulders
expand rib cage
move belly
so the dome
of diaphragm
clenches the guts
line rifle on side
of dominant eye
fit butt and guard
into proper pockets
of the body
keep eyes open
relax forehead
jaw lips eyelids
in that order
recognize wind
speed and direction
adjust accordingly
hold breath
identify target
and begin counting
one                  two
and                  pull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk to the Coffee Shop

 

Under a crabapple tree
a black cat
lies on its side
absorbing the leaves.
The stench undeveloped.

A crusted napkin
once red in added color
is picked up by the wind
carried to the tunnel’s
graffiti and halogen light bulbs.

On the unmarked street
a truck runs over
sets of rubber rumble strips
that mimic the sound
of premeditated rapid fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dealers are Sleeping

 

The lessons become redundant,
how to cover when you crush
on the clipboard. No credit cards
or crisp bills.

It’s minutes before closing
in the Walmart ammunition
aisle. I haven’t been this light
in years.

Here’s the deserted road behind
the river and all those abandoned
houses that come to life after
midnight.

We shoot bullets to the moon
and hope its shattered craters
land at our feet.

There’s talk and scheming
on how to live righteous
when our numb nostrils
and teeth regain feeling.

You’d forgive anything
in this state, unless it’s only
residue lining the inside of my
cigarette pack’s plastic pouch.

I’m sorry. I mistook you
for an old friend. Can you give
me directions to East Manchester?
I have a pickup to make.

 

 

 

BIO

Tamer MostafaTamer Mostafa’s work has been featured in California Quarterly, The Rag Literary Magazine, Poets Espresso Review, Confrontation Literary Magazine, Stone Highway Review, and No Infinite. He was the recipient of the 2011 CSU Sacramento Bazzanella Literary Award in Creative Non-Fiction and the 2013 Lois Ann Latin Rosenburg Prize for Poetry.

 

 

 

 

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