National Poetry Month Day 18: zaina alsous






“Molecular genetics and the use of mutants to probe wild-type gene function
rely on the wild-type being well characterized”
Arabidopsis: An Atlas of Morphology and Development


My first surrender was the need to be understood.

My first failure: domestication, an inheritance of kingdom.

I was too wet in the summer to yield saffron. I was too angry

to mom. Too demographic for rurality. Too middle class for truth.

When a U.S. soldier kills for sport we say pathology,

not pathogen—patriotic trauma is aftershock, not origin, not infectious.

Who species a virus? War is not just war but its interpretation.

Interpretation is not just a haunting of content but a history

of feeling. I mutated to be beautiful. Bleached dead hair cells,

stained pores fuchsia, blood rushed, botanical. A crown mimics

an interpretation of desire. How much did we dispossess

to be a thing worth having? Archive me in moods of absence:

a past tense of data, water cycle omission, a memory of salt.


Photograph of zaina alsous by Helen Pena-Smicker.

zaina alsous is a prison abolitionist. Her first full-length collection A Theory of Birds won the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, and was published by the University of Arkansas Press in the fall of 2019. More from this author →