Khaleel Gheba


The dead bird’s body, gah, seems
a broken toy, its neck misaligned
by factory error, and this description
is obvious and pointless, contributes
nothing. The dead bird’s body feels

light, as if emptied out, which it is
of course, those straw bones
and paper feathers, which is lazy
to paint such a thing that lived, that
died suddenly, against glass it could

not see, as surely as I cannot see it
for itself, a creature beyond knowing
like my mother or my boss or you,
unknown reader, eyes but human. So
holding the bird body with man hands,

I can’t imagine the coloration of treetops
rushing in splotches, or what angle felt
best to climb, or how a worm squiggles
under a beak’s tension, or what a beak
sounds like under the thwack of rain,

is it like rapping fingers on a desk,
how I wouldn’t know what that is or
a poem or anything but lift and bite,
the fear of each moment and whatever
joy a bird can feel in between. Nearby,

the ice cream man is parked and playing
every free song in a medley, every old
and tired tune for milk, for sugar, their
cold union. The moment holds like the stupidest
fucking metaphor because I demand

it does. I require this blunt notion,
completely obtuse and loud as a bat
to a windshield, I need the object in scene,
the occasion for the poem. When I throw
the body in the dumpster, it rings like a bell.


for Calgary

Potential energy seems so nice:
a thing poised for physics, for
the fall or rise. A perfect gift of
mother matter, father fate, so slow
and then so late. Consider ice

in stillness, preparing always
for a vessel, an engine, a vase.
In any case, here is cascade held
in place. He squints; no one reacts
yet, each smile a forgone crater.

Khaleel Gheba received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2014. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Redivider, Bayou Magazine, the Bellingham Review, Split Lip, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Maryland, where he works as a public librarian.