Start with an animal, but not a bird. A buffalo. And exterminate it. Think: not a bird.
Think policy or practice. I met the new neighbor. He was hauling bags of grub killer. The crows
have been tearing up the lawn. In his words, this is an act of spiritual reciprocity. Think hawk,
and by that alone we have animated the land. The San tip their arrows with sun-dried grub guts, let fly, like birds,
arrows toward a kind of kind exhaustion. The first kill is transcribed in the skin—the father slits the son’s side with bird
bone, rubs meat and fat into the wound, scars the body right side for buck, left side for doe. Every bird
has a name, the least articulate default to color and body. White-browed, yellow-billed, grey-backed. Some birds
impale their prey on thorns. Some people feel the more appropriate word is unhoused. You remind me of the swallows
that return, each year, to the same mission—this has become our cosmology. Promise you’ll leave me behind when it’s time. Unburden.
Surround my body with thorn scrub. Light a fire at my feet. Let me listen to the distance—birds, and just beyond them, more birds.
-- Issam Zineh is author of the forthcoming poetry collection Unceded Land (Trio House Press, 2022). His work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Guernica, Pleiades, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @izineh.