Iridescent green flies on the dog shit scatter when I walk by.
I’ve never seen flies so vivid. Gorgeous, these shit-flies.
Someone sits on a park bench with head in hands.
A plot of ornamental grasses bends in resigned unison.
Helicopters overhead, how they move
like spirits with no conscience.
Patience. Rage and being told “be patient.”
The birds with orange heads and dust-colored bodies bob on the powerlines.
The poet explains a patient is “one who suffers.”
Beneath the underpass, a chair overturned in the fenced-in weeds
toward which a misplaced tenderness arises.
Each night, she says, and most mornings, refugees arrive.
Then ship off to Athens. Why would they want to stay, there’s nothing here.
Fog descended from the Pacific;
I took a bath with my biggest rock. A deity,
ancient, severe, rolling around in the bottom of the tub.
Nothing: a bookstore, a lotto place run by cousins, two bakeries, one
university, donated used baby clothes well-meaningly folded
and stacked, one detention center in the capital
road sign with the capital’s distance in kilometers spray painted FUCK
Where one bright aperture in the cloud has closed up
inner tubes and shoes and life vests on the shore.
My mother lives above this beach. She watches them.
After being asked for money by five separate people
an office supply truck passes, GIVE SOMETHING BACK across it.
I give five dollars to Ceci.
I gave two dollars to someone earlier, but he seemed disappointed.
I sit on a sunny curb in the parking lot, feeling useless, like a teenager.
Ha, who is American! my mother asks bitterly.
One of us looks down at the other.
Palm tree in the distance with the hair of a rocker dude.
My mother said fight.
She said they used to call her “the little Spañola.”
Photographs of water, like case studies.
How far away from yourself would you say you get?
When I swim the first time, I cannot call it pleasure.
‘Them’ here feels violent to me.
Three kids in the chilly light
of a convenience store’s back entrance
visible from the highway
between one California and another.
One squats looking at a phone,
two lean and smoke. Slouch
of interminable suburbia
interminable crap-jobs at fifteen
a flash, momentary as toward the city
we continue. As we do.
Four old paint drips
on the windowpane I look
at, not through.
Four old punctuation marks
a nearing helicopter cuts across.
I refuse to detail the humiliations that keep me up at night.
I am pulling a blanket over my head.
Or, I’m elated by 30 seconds of rain.
At the laundromat
churchlike, fastidiously polite,
I pair socks at the high counter,
plastic marbled to resemble marble
black, white, and blue.
A woman claims a whole row of washers
spacing five hefty trash bags
at even intervals, looking tired.
Here our delicates.
I sit down she gets up.
A stranger I want to convey kindness to.
The day opens like a compact,
mirror on one side
powder on the other.
* * *
Ari Banias is the author of Anybody (W.W. Norton, 2016). Ari lives in Berkeley, CA, where he teaches poetry and works with small press books.