Maren Hassinger, “Rivers” (2007), ink on paper, framed: 14 1/4 x 13 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches (image courtesy the artist and the Baltimore Museum of Art)


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.

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