Tried to be generic tried to be anywhere but the grasses
in the parking lot island, they know where they are.
They live in topsoil extracted from another location
sifted, aerated, weighed,
bagged and sealed, tagged and sold, deposited
in this parking lot beside Outback Steakhouse.
Some clover among the grass.
Some species of insects no one
except in a lab in a school some hundreds of miles away
where such things are researched
bothers about. Pulling in, my car scrapes the high curb which figures
now the height of all cars as greater than this.
I imagine the grasses recoiling a little but they
of course are stoic. They live in South Carolina.
A company turned the earth laid fertilizer scattered their seeds
in a concrete border.
This looked like a sheet of blank dirt until it didn’t.
And earlier, it looked like a graveyard, and before that a wedding
of not two things but all
figures to all ground before taken and measured
and cut. On a thick white plate
made dull by repetition is served a medium steak.
There is something about this
eternal, something else wants me to believe.
And how in the Outback parking lot my body looked
reflected in the adjacent window of the Bank of America
in denim cutoffs, thighs exposed,
irrefutable. Did I feel ashamed? I felt encased.
The bags of enriched soil inside a truck
speaking amongst themselves through plastic, a low banter
I knew, and knew I imagined. And heard us
talking to one another.
I had a body and it was good
until you gave it meaning.
Meaning ruined pleasure
and created it
so ruin creates
and pleasure’s meaning
I didn’t ask for just lived through
a gate that shrieked each time
it opened and on the street
we passed one another
flicking our eyes at then away from
the bodies made boring
by the small clamors that drown out
the one large clamor.
Something in the tree is arguing with the tree?
No that’s just the tree.
WE DON’T DRIVE TO THE SEA BUT WE TALK ABOUT THE SEA
Rain laid into my grimy windowpane at an angle,
a cocky guy against a car waiting waiting.
To watch water magnify the screen’s perfect squares
then extinguish, like lights in an office building
after hours when cleaning crews come in and leave.
From my desk I study it where
I take my little peasant meal, poached egg brown bread white cheese
grapefruit juice brief and dense.
A ‘peasant meal’ though the bread was $7 the eggs too
and purchased while in the luxury of a bad mood.
No peasants write poems some asshole says
and that asshole is me.
If one notion follows another the sense I make
will break itself against itself.
Round white petals on the street I think are shattered glass
I steer around while they flutter then go still.
A baby carrot in a bag of baby carrots nuzzled
and shaved down into this wet shape why
so it could be forgotten so it wouldn’t have to be itself.
Who wants to read about flower petals
who wants to read about all the theory you’ve read.
This blessed juice is sour and real.
I was wrong it isn’t
suffering that’s easy pleasure that’s difficult
How is it I have been living this way
holding my piss
a mirror scuffed by distant talk, secretly livid
worried what the dead would think
Someone greets with only the top half of her head
brown curly hair behind a computer monitor
Today for one second a woman is anyone who has a body
and can’t forget it
the tight loops of the office carpet start to unhook
Some men are women too
the way a mountain is land and a harbor is land and a parking lot
Refuse the difference between sameness and difference
The ocean is on fire
green flame on the neck of a god
who is a pile of rocks
not apologizing for themselves
Ari Banias is the author of Anybody (W.W. Norton, 2016). He teaches writing and works with small press books in Berkeley, California.