You recount the history of the French garden.

From above, I see tight rows of trees beside threadbare grass.

When the language teacher talks about le capitalisme:

the gesture of three fingers rubbing imaginary fabric.

I’m a tourist, vulnerable and stupid,

my legs showing, shoes practical, face red.

Together, we try to reconstruct an anecdote

whose contents have scattered. A motorcycle passes, a French police siren

you say sounds innocuous then we both laugh sourly.

I hadn’t seen a woman slap a child in some time.

A truck reversing, and the alarm that continues for hours one morning.

Porn on a handheld device, its tinny echo in a room

with bare floors and very little furniture.

Across the courtyard, this t-shirt on a hanger out the window

turns in the light breeze as if trying to look behind itself.

I’m consumed with not knowing where to buy paper, safety pins, stamps.

The windowframes of that building are red, emerging from grey gables.

Enormous bumblebee at the threshold investigates the doorway, doesn’t enter.

The flies do; they’re promiscuous; they leave.

I don’t know the word for because.

So each act is disconnected from another.

I can almost imagine there are no consequences,

the days just pass, one sunny, one cloudy, someone unseen shouts, sirens

every few hours, clouds move in a solemn procession across

a wide sky staggered with chimneys,

people wait to cross the street, a large tree tosses its wig a little.

Other small trees in the courtyard flicker.

They are responsive.

The sun heats the pavement; le pavé répond.

You send me a short erotic video, you’re naked, propositioning me.

Do you act more like the coin or the water?

Across the narrow street this bird

sipping from roof puddles

seems more dove than pigeon.

Pacing, grandmotherly, she keeps stopping to look at me.

Do you just know how to love another person

like someone knew to paint those windowframes red?

Most of the architecture looks floral, like a boring math problem.

The crosses that reach and reach.

Why does the scrape of the furniture when I rearrange it

sound like crass American English to me?

I slept late, now I’m watching the clouds, like clouds

in an eighteenth-century painting. Overly articulate.

Except these clouds are not trying to symbolize anything.

Where’s my dove.

I always want to go look at people.

A booth selling copies of copies of Louis Vuitton.

The small shadow the roof makes on another roof right next to it.

When my friend came to Paris she wanted to break everything.

Impeccable shoes on the impeccable feet.

Clothes so new they’re creamy, and to seem to never have to compromise.

I feel tattered when I’m actually not;

I’m an American, I eat.

A huge decorative basket of citrus stationed beside me in the upscale bistro.

The woman from a building opposite comes down, indignant:

Who threw a pomelo into my window?

You read to me about the history of the barricade.

I picture the drab suburbs.

The shoulders and elbows of people in the museum evoke more reaction

in me than most of the paintings.

A young lithe person with live eyes tends bar, gender trouble tattooed up their arm.

I count twenty-nine sleeping bags lined up beneath the overhang

and each one inhabited.

I read to you about the history of enclosure.

Two people talking on a balcony, their black hair blowing.

One leaning over into the courtyard.

Behind the cathedral, vulgar black felt stapled in the raised flowerbeds

to mask their frames.

The river stinks, allures, as a specific person can.

A repository, a consequence, a long sentence, an ongoing story.

The generous current cut through by a party boat shouting

wooo! wooo! wooooooo! wooo!

emitting an obscene light

waving at whatever will wave back


“Fountain” Copyright © 2018 by Ari Banias. Originally published in Poetry. Used with the permission of the poet.