Trio House Press
publishing distinct voices in poetry
since 2012

Unceded Land by Issam Zineh

Issam Zineh is a Palestinian-American poet and scientist. His poems often engage with territory as both demarcated physical and psychological spaces and explore associated concepts: boundaries, identity, power, subjugation, resistance, and reconciliation. The son of immigrants, he was born in Los Angeles and has lived in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and Southern U.S. He currently lives on the ancestral homeland of the Paskestikweya people. His poems appear or are forthcoming in AGNI, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Find him at

Issam Zineh is a Palestinian-American poet and scientist. He is author of Unceded Land (forthcoming, Trio House Press), which was an Editors' Selection and finalist for the Trio Award for first or second book, and the chapbook The Moment of Greatest Alienation (Ethel Press, 2021). His poems appear or are forthcoming in AGNIGuernicaGulf CoastPleiadesTahoma Literary ReviewThe Rumpus, and elsewhere.
Beginning is like tracing lamplit ellipses. The wall against your finger
tells of fresh heat settled over a room we do not own and don’t care to.
The processional sweat of night makes this bed the bottom of a body of water.
Behind your head, the seawall—static, insomniac—maintains against what erodes.
Crumbling quiet is the measure of your voice, your immortal torso,
the mercy of your legs around me. We’ve made something of our selves.
Extending at the elbows until all that is left is extension. Euphony
bends without angle: this nameless part of your throat. We have left behind theme:
air, a dance of vengeance, a quiet city, an old man’s collected songs where every verse
is grief in the tempest of a stolen bucket. And you can arrange to forget my face.
Lips might be nothing more than shadow waiting for day, bodiless as song.
The human mouth fills with foam. I will make something of you.
For your body, a slow stretch of bow across beauty bedded down in sound.
Your body, like a long vowel held in the composition of my breath.



In Arabic, all love songs sung

by men are sung to men. And hung

too many times from the rafters,

the word for towel: بشكير —never

quite short enough for the disarray

of the body’s mistakes. To say

dreaming in American Sign Language,

put your index to your temple

and curl, not so hard to manage

the repeated tendons of the hand.

The mandarin poet with official words

of love, skin lit like black woods,

official, absolute space renounced

in the heart, makes space with poem

in mind. Let’s play this new game.

Hysteria, hysterectomy. Not his, not

his but hers. And having said this

I take you as you are. Forever and far

in this difficult language of the world.