A Certain Resilience

Where I’m from, to ask “where are you from?” means
what gang do you belong to or why don’t you go back
to where you’re from. You sit next to me at the bar
and ask me where I’m from. I say this town

used to be a cow pasture. You say, “like praise the lord
and pass the munitions?” I ask, “do you believe in God?”
You say, “not the man-made version.”
I say I’m a poet. I want to use loam in a poem.

You ask if I heard about the kid in Kansas
who pinned a spotted lanternfly
to cardboard for his science fair entry, triggered
a federal investigation. It was in USA Today.

I say no. I ask if you’ve read
Octavia E. Butler. You ask, “God again?” I say Freud
had a one-track mind. You say Buddha was a deadbeat
dad and laugh. I ask, “why aren’t people who are

sexually unfaithful ever called infidels?”
You say the great hornbill mates for life.
The male ingratiates himself to the female
with berries from a fruiting fig tree. More words.

More berries. “What about catastrophe?” After
the nuclear reactor exploded, the fallout zone
was declared uninhabitable for the next 20,000 years.
You say the forest has reestablished itself and the wolves

have returned, that an apex predator would never
return unless the prey and the surrounding forest
were thriving. I thank you for your optimism.
I ask, “what about death?” You say, “what about it?”

About the Author

Issam Zineh is author of Unceded Land (Trio House Press, 2022), finalist for the Trio Award, Medal Provocateur, Housatonic Book Award, and Balcones Prize for Poetry. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Columbia Journal, Gulf Coast, The Yale Review, and Heaven Looks Like Us: Palestinian Poetry (Haymarket Books). He lives on Paskestikweya ancestral land. www.issamzineh.com