. The Inca Kings Who stole the kings? Even Pachacutec's mummy now is gone from Lima's hospital display of Inca royalty—the T-Rex of them all, ferocity turned brittle bones and shrunken body in a sack, worthless to invaders seeking gold. The wisdom of the panther run amok, hapless Incas lost their kings to mold and priests who scattered them like arthropods. But to their subjects?— Royals' empty shells held souls of soaring condors, splendid gods, in whose dead eyes the Starry River dwells, who witnessed sacred rites as honored guests: served, as if alive, the food and drink. For years the faithful carried them, obsessed, from home to home, convinced these hulls could link death to life, and power to poverty. They'd seen magnificence at dizzying height terraced, made productive—and the sea of brambles cleared for pathways underfoot as Pachacutec's broad, insatiable mind planned an ecstasy of social power where mountain range and human forged a bond submitting each to each. It stood an hour in geologic time, then slipped away, old victories still marked on knotted strings whose code is lost. Now Cuzco streets convey on aging women's feet, the dust of kings. . . The Swimming Lesson We learned to swim through rapids in the river, except for me. Their method’s flaws seemed obvious. Dive upstream, let raging waters sever all ties with life, and then pop out, impervious. Don't be scared, it's easy! See—your sister! She sunbathed on a rock, a distant Venus. Her soft arms must have battle-gear sequestered within, and that's the difference between us. I stood high on a boulder, in a trance, then plunged, thoughtless, battling the torrent whose sinews bear-hugged me, a hard slow dance silenced in the world under its current by death, eternity—about a minute, but no one saw if I was out—or in it. . . Elegy for Mary My sister, unlike me, was royalty; her coif demure, her posture wouldn't yield. Her demeanor: wind over a field, a gentle pressure, cool, grandmotherly. Her laughter whinnied, a calliope of jovial confusion, reined by wit— but faster steeds were chomping at the bit— polite restraint, her favored recipe. Her firm hands guided mine when I was small. She could have sailed majestic ships to port— instead, she plowed the ocean with her heart, whose sails unfurled through turbulence and squall. Through well-bred reticence, her kingdom fell, the golden sheen of childhood torn away. They turned their backs on coronation day— she donned a gray suit, left with eyes of steel. She knew the watchtowers, climbed the winding stair. Her feet paced softly in the upper rooms. Their walls enclosed her like pretentious tombs— her private sobs fell slowly through the air. Music's domain then offered her a throne: she sung for the uncrowned, the missing war, abandoned heroes, disenfranchised lore. Her voice re-christened sacred ships and stone. Incapable of roughness, she'd believe the lies of men, until they turned on her, and as her fadeout reached the sepulchre, she wondered, Who remembers? Who will grieve? I wander sadly, past a full-blood mare galloping through fields up to a cliff. And there a message waits for me: What if? A lost embrace, a sceptre, and her stare. . . Siham Karami is the author of To Love the River (Kelsay Books, 2018), a poetry collection which features sonnets, ghazals, villanelles, and more, including poems in forms of her own invention. Her work has been published in The Orison Anthology, Able Muse, The Comstock Review, Measure, Tiferet Journal, and Poetry International, among others. Her sonnets have twice won the Laureates’ Prize in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest, and her poetry has been nominated multiple times for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She blogs at sihamkarami.wordpress.com.