Three boys from the refugee camp
next to my uncle’s house are whipping
a pigeon. They are dusty. I can see
they’re wearing the same clothes
from the day before. The bird is dusty.
It’s not going anywhere. A broken
bird trying to get off the ground sounds like
a rolled-up paper through air, like errant skin.
You ask me to be more intentional.
Today: Work cicatrix into conversation.
Show me your scar, now your limbs—
show me what it is that obsesses.
Ask one question that won’t be answered:
What is it about these parts?
Enumerate the invisible: Not private struggle,
which has its own airglow. Not exactly
the smoke from the fire that zippered more
than it crackled. Not the escape tunnel that led out
from the concentration camp. Not the memory of sea
when we came across seaweed washed up on shore.
These all have their signs and symbols—some way
to point to, at least, the semblance of the thing in question.
The truly unseen—how when I say no one had ever
touched me before, you think of the pyracantha we never planted.
The grass is a little taller, and the clothesline
a little slacker. How there is a certain
strength in name that owes wholly to the intention.
How the wind whispers liberate.
Issam Zineh (he/him) is a Los Angeles-born, Palestinian-American poet and scientist. He is author of the forthcoming chapbook The Moment of Greatest Alienation (Ethel Press, Summer 2021). His most recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Tahoma Literary Review, Guesthouse, Lunch Ticket, Bear Review, Sporklet, Glass (Poets Resist), Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Find him at issamzineh.com or on Twitter @izineh.