BathHouse Journal

Ari Banias

LANDSCAPE

 

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.

 

 

TAUTOLOGY

 

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.

 

 

ORACLE

 

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.