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Ari Banias

Ari Banias was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in the Chicago area. He received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA from Hunter College. He is the author of Anybody (W. W. Norton, 2016). Banias has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Stanford University, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He lives in Berkeley, California.

By This Poet

4

A Sunset

I watch a woman take a photo
of a flowering tree with her phone.
A future where no one will look at it,
perpetual trembling which wasn’t
and isn’t. I have taken photos of a sunset.
In person, “wow” “beautiful”
but the picture can only be
as interesting as a word repeated until emptied.
I think I believe this.
Sunset the word holds more than a photo could.
Since it announces the sun then puts it away.
We went to the poppy preserve
where the poppies were few but generous clumps
of them grew right outside the fence
like a slightly cruel lesson.
I watched your face, just out of reach.
The flowers are diminished by the lens.
The woman tries and tries to make it right
bending her knees, tilting back.
I take a photo of a sunset, with flash.
I who think I have something
to learn from anything learned nothing from the streetlight
that shines obnoxiously into my bedroom.
This is my photo of a tree in bloom.
A thought unfolding
across somebody’s face.

No More Birds

Enough birds.
No more branches, no more moon, no more
clouds, light glinting on
no more water. Refuse to sing because
the song is stuffed and birds
they lilt and carol wordlessly of what, of whose
turn it is to bird and bird and bird
the same translations as assigned.
Whose turn is it to open-throated sing?
And what world’s turn is it
to be sung of, a thing made noticed
that isn’t, its beauty insisted. Who called again
to say what’s ugly? Who pointed
from the other side of town, and which
frayed hem of a chainlink fence
did they mean. Did they mean
to suggest or outright say
is distinctly unbeautiful. This face?
The hand that cups it
or refuses to? The bodies
we inherited and tried to slip out of by pressing
pressing them together
together into finest dust? In which these little
dun intelligences do chip and flit. Do we, ought we
to care? For one another, yes.
Come here and crouch with me
at the unremarkable front stoop
of this medium-sized aspen tree
on an unnamed side of town.
Listen to their chattering or shrill world-songs
about our plastics and forgetfulness and bombs,
bombs of much unnumbered rubble, bombs of the reasonable
fear of bombs, dividing the living
from the living, towns from towns, constant speaking
or lip-synching with feathers
over the sound of the erosion of
whose turn it is to listen. Listen,
time to quiet down, beauty. Time to world.

Villagers

boxes taped up and up then tied with twine | addressed on every side | in that careful longhand taught on other continents | they looked like mail bombs | going round and round the carousel | in a regional anxiety | stinking barrel of sheep’s cheese beaded in sweat | olive oil tin wrapped in much plastic | each printed letter a rounded separate bundle | standing on its own | the sore thumbs of my parents’ immigrant luggage at the United terminal | a friend who doesn’t speak at airports | except when spoken to | word for home that could also mean journey | or never-arrived | at the baggage claim | a person waits in a t-shirt printed with English words | whose arrangement is nonsensical | and it doesn’t matter | that what matters is far | while right here at any moment—  | no one need remind anyone | tether that | suitcases duffels packages | taped and bound so emphatically they look like total crap| what matters is the words are undeniably English | anyone can tell you this | is why the shirt exists | tether that to this | anyone whose intimate particular knowledge lives | with a line drawn through it | “they were a simple people” | my mother often said | from whom she untethers | and bundles into packages | all taut with twine and sends away | at the carousel on which they circulate | printed with her surname | she could | and might refuse them | that “they were a simple—” | was the sort of thing that sparked in me a rage | which I am only now beginning to draw a line through | line I wish to repeople myself | on the other side of | with a friend | a dear friend | who | doesn’t speak at airports unless spoken to