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
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.