Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ari Banias

The Brother

I’ve made a mistake.

I’m an only child,
but here is the brother—
a good head taller, bony-shouldered, awkward, wide.

Somewhere in Kansas, we’re sitting in a diner.

The booth’s peach vinyl
shell-pattern blares his outline.

I tell him,
         “I don’t have a brother, man.”
         “You aren’t mine—I’m not yours—”

But his face, hair
like mine—

the rumpled shirt missing
a button; how he bends
over eggs and sunken toast.

My coffee goes pale in its chipped white mug. My foot taps.
They give away free pens at the diner

when you go up to pay,
pine tree scenes on them, starlit
lakes. Are there any

trees at all in Kansas? Or just these

endless yellow wind fields, nowhere,
no damn place
to lose a brother.

The Other Language

I love this sea, animal of complexity—
serene and wild, pebbled with color.

My shawl drags, fisherman’s net
snagging a few thin things.

Air passes through its many holes, it unravels.
Absence pulls in it like a tide.

At times I want to cast it off
but then who would I be?

In each hole: thoughts in this language,
grandmother’s heavy steps, the spring harvest

(small this year), the air
of pine, oregano, chamomile, salt,

and the other set of bones
hung in the wardrobe

beside her mourning clothes, the suit
no one I know will ever see me in.


Things happen—something breaks, breaks open,
that isn’t supposed to—the way

families get angry—
the hissing charge finds its fuse

crackling, sparks to rage—or ragged
shouting, stomping off scorched,

the house echoing slammed doors.
Everything quiet,

then the crawling back.
Like the quick

two-handed work of a clock,
a ticking charm, that pattern—Yelling

and soothing, yelling
and soothing. Things happen. Another

someone is born; another
chance, like the door

to a world, standing open.
Behind it, quilts you

pull again and again
over a body so much like your own,

shelves you paint over
until thick continents loosen,

fall away. What gets built
gets broken;

sewn then frayed:
things happen.

As hard as possible, slam
then gently open the door.

Standing on the other side,
eyes level with your eyes,

in quivering reflection—
who is that?

Ari Banias lives in Brooklyn, NY and studies poetry in the MFA program at Hunter College, where he also teaches undergraduate creative writing. Recent poems have appeared in Pocket Myths and Arts & Letters Journal of Contemporary Culture.