by Yasmin Kloth

The summer my daughter turned five
she learned how to swim.
She took big breaths between breaks
in her stroke, her hands cupped the water
and legs kicked up white froth.
Each year she grows like a wildflower—taller.
Each year more words attach themselves
to her sentences, like pearls on a string.
Each year pulls her in a current
further from her heritage.

I know she won’t know
the silver-sided leaves that grow
on bushes found on an island
in the Nile. My mother showed me
how to press the leaf in a heavy book
and in time the silver would shine
like coins in the sun.

I cannot replicate my upbringing
for my little girl.
There is no cut and paste.
I don’t speak my parents’ language
or know the songs from over there.
I do not carry the recipes in my hands—
phyllo dough wrapped pastries,
rolled leaves (grape and cabbage),
kofta flat in its tray, cut in diagonal lines.
The smells that stay with my daughter
will not be the same ones
that have stayed with me.
Sumac. Cumin. Mint. Garlic.
I dream these smells mixed
with my mother’s scent.

I don’t know the name
for the silver-sided leaf.
It grows sideways from bushes
bordering broken sidewalks
in a blistering Cairean sun.
When my mother took me on walks
through her old neighborhood,
she counted sightings by touch
of her favorite leaf.
You can only see the silver, she said
if you peel the green away,
bend it from the branch,
and press it’s body for years
in a place away from the sun.

Yasmin Mariam Kloth‘s creative nonfiction and poetry explores love, loss, place, and space. Her work has appeared in such journals as Gravel, West Texas Literary Review, JuxtaProse, O:JA&L, and Willawaw Journal. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and daughter.

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