Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.

Yasmin Mariam Kloth

At the Souk

Laughing Shroud #3 by Edward Supranowicz


I remember sitting on piles of Persian and Egyptian rugs. They were piled high as snow drifts, a height I knew well as a child of the snow.

We sat in the souk, two American-Egyptian kids, in the rug seller’s place in the middle of Cairo, a city with borders that moved and flowed like the tentacles of an octopus; a city without stillness. My brother and I mountaineers atop silk and wool, our backs against the colors and swirls of our culture, dreaming we had touched the highest peaks and the sun through breaking clouds, bracing ourselves for the salesman’s shout to get down from our heights—a shout in a language that runs on the page from right to left in elegant scrolls. A language we knew, oh we knew it, it was part of us, but it slipped by us like a chain in our hands and we did not understand the words.

All this dreaming and running around and hiding from the salesman while you spent hours tracing colorful patterns with your eyes, your fingers touching the quality of the rugs, your mouth in that very strange language bargaining for the very best price.

You and dad would roll the rugs and you’d fold them and you’d stuff them into empty suitcases, the bounty from your visit to your home country. They’d arrive on the baggage carousel in upstate New York with tape around their long, plump bodies, banged up and tired from travel.

They’d arrive, shocked and surprised at landing in this new, strange, cold, foreign place.


In the years after you died, I had to convince dad over many months that I did not want the things you had carried so carefully from far away. I watched him roll the rugs like handmade cigarettes and movers took them away, piled them high in the corners of a midwest storage unit to be sold. I watched quietly. Maybe you did, too, from somewhere far away.

I remembered where they came from and the journey they took. I remember you and the way you chose these pieces of your country so I may know where I came from each time I stepped into a room. I remembered their weight, in the suitcase, on the baggage carousel. I remembered all this as my eyes followed the truck carrying this weight away from me, my heart free.


About the writer:
Yasmin Mariam Kloth writes creative nonfiction and poetry. Her writing explores love, loss, place and space. Yasmin’s work has aired on NPR and appeared on She co-translated a book of poetry by the French-Canadian author Mona Latif Ghattas called Sails For Exile, and her work has appeared in Gravel and West Texas Literary Review. She has work forthcoming in publications including JuxtaProse, The Tiny Journal, Willawaw Journal, and Tiger Moth Review. She most recently attended the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop with Natalie Shapero. Yasmin lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and their young daughter. Kelsay Books has just released Kloth’s new collection: Ancestry Unfinished: Poems of a Lost Generation explores what it means to be from “here” through the author’s lens as a first generation American-born daughter whose parents emigrated to the U.S. and Canada from Cairo, Egypt in the 1970s. The cultural (Egyptian) and ancestral (Lebanese/Syrian) layers of her family memories are revealed in poems through the generations of women—grandmothers, mothers, and daughters—who taught her “how the felucca travels;” and how to mourn the losses she knows her own daughter collects each year she’s “pull(ed) in a current/further from her heritage.” Ancestry Unfinished: Poems of a Lost Generation is available through Kelsay Books and Amazon.

Image: Laughing Shroud #3 by Edward Michael Supranowicz. Digital image. No technical information specified. 2022. By permission. Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up on a small farm in Appalachia. He has a graduate background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Another Chicago Magazine, The Door Is a Jar, The Phoenix, and The Harvard Advocate. Edward is also a published poet.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.