New Poems from Ari Banias: “An Arrow” and “Bouquet”

Credit: Nan Palmero Flickr

“An Arrow”

Too often I’d like some direction

but am ashamed of this fact, still I ask for it,

men are supposed be bad at admitting

they’re lost though why men agree

to fulfill this is lost on me.

Who cares what men are. Can’t we

scrap this whole enterprise, seriously

top down management

small talk, normative dating. A little box

I fill in over and over, like feeding pennies into a slot

it leads somewhere I think

I’m saving them. For when? The pulldown menus

reach longer and longer, so to scroll becomes

the new version of a sweeping gesture, more ways

to be erased. At the end of the day

we still march on directionless,

used by pronouns & all the livelong

language still drags us through its shitty toll plazas,

do “you” have a highway phobia like “I” do.

Or who do you feel most related to.

Under my breath I say Love

thy neighbor as thy self

is to thy as neighbor is to the scraggle

in my front yard is to a badly pruned bush

across the street. But love it & those neighbors

drunk and too loud on their porch while I’m trying to sleep

to love us all better. The steepest hill

in maybe all of Oakland California, pointing my body up it

walking leg muscles burning, love the fortune

to have legs the cinderblock the succulent and none of them equal,

fuck equality, predicated on sameness

why not by now insist on a complex star cluster

a fuck of will and willingness and imagination, all our most unwieldy crap?

But crap, I’m daily losing my grip as if having

handed my only bow and arrow to a stranger who

might shoot it off look at that thing! it could hit

someone I care about or love, you myself anyone or a bush

here’s another bush and another they all mash together,

one is pine-ish the other has purple flowers, it’s basically formless

& somehow I feel it’s my key relative

that cousin I’m always close to no matter how many years pass,

who once cared about art now he’s a depressed socialist

vaguely entrepreneurial by necessity, as once I was

a slutty teenage girl they now call Sir, I guess I can see that

here’s another bush that could be shaped into another form

or just left alone. Outside the neighbor kids

shout without regard like their parents

before them, I saw one kid the other day point a phone

from their window into mine to take a photo of me I wanted to take

one in response as reminder that hey it’s a window

not a mirror and the object talks back

 

Credit: Randy Robertson Flickr

“Bouquet”

Today I build flowers out of concepts

in order to speak to you sincerely.

Today you want nothing because wanting

comes too close to feeling.

And though a sad old person

who combs their silver hair

all afternoon in a high window

curses you with great acuity,

you being anyone in a suit, a suit

being whatever you insulate yourself with

so you don’t hear that voice up there

calling you out, you keep going

as grim fleets of semis keep going,

shuttling dry goods across the continent.

In their fervent rumble lives

a hope to be getting paid soon. I get it.

Even last night’s cream roses still in their cellophane

and chucked on a downtown sidewalk

by their recipient have been called out.

These are the conditions of our times, you say,

stuffing ourselves with what’s greenish,

filming quickly in a garden

whose foliage is nearly realistic.

Once, we faced each other.

Now the unused filaments grow limp in us each day.

What huge thing catapults through you

when alone on the edge of your bed

is sincerity, or a need to absorb

its most mineral clarity & let it

bloom out your eyes,

but you’d rather it didn’t.

Theory of feeling will sling feeling back to you

so you can just think it.

I offer these compact shapes of affection and sadness

which the words affection and sadness do not convey.

Cancer’s sincere, shit is, indigestion, resentment

is sincere, sweat, dogs, mint, rust,

certain friendships are utterly sincere, and genitals

are sincere, though a flower is indifferent.

Ari Banias is author of Anybody, forthcoming from W.W. Norton in September 2016. He currently lives in Berkeley, CA and holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, where he was a teaching fellow. The author of a chapbook,What’s Personal is Being Here With All of You (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2012), his poems appear in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, FIELD, Guernica, The Offing,The Volta, and as part of the exhibition Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects. He has earned numerous fellowships and awards.

 
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