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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 26, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I was thinking about our insistence on capturing and memorializing the present as a refusal of the present. And I was thinking about the emphatic little cliché a nature photo so often is, a cliché I find hard to refuse.”
—Ari Banias

A Sunset

I watch a woman take a photo
of a flowering tree with her phone.
A future where no one will look at it,
perpetual trembling which wasn’t
and isn’t. I have taken photos of a sunset.
In person, “wow” “beautiful”
but the picture can only be
as interesting as a word repeated until emptied.
I think I believe this.
Sunset the word holds more than a photo could.
Since it announces the sun then puts it away.
We went to the poppy preserve
where the poppies were few but generous clumps
of them grew right outside the fence
like a slightly cruel lesson.
I watched your face, just out of reach.
The flowers are diminished by the lens.
The woman tries and tries to make it right
bending her knees, tilting back.
I take a photo of a sunset, with flash.
I who think I have something
to learn from anything learned nothing from the streetlight
that shines obnoxiously into my bedroom.
This is my photo of a tree in bloom.
A thought unfolding
across somebody’s face.

Copyright © 2016 by Ari Banias. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Ari Banias. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ari Banias

Ari Banias

Ari Banias is the author of Anybody (W. W. Norton, 2016). He lives in Berkeley, California.

by this poet

poem

People, far too many people here—
drinking, leaning on the furniture,
congratulating my father
on his new life. Here’s
his young wife, young enough
to be my older sister.
She—if you can’t tell
the whole truth—is nice.
But he slams his glass
onto the table, yells

poem

boxes taped up and up then tied with twine | addressed on every side | in that careful longhand taught on other continents | they looked like mail bombs | going round and round the carousel | in a regional anxiety | stinking barrel of sheep’s cheese beaded in sweat | olive oil tin wrapped in much plastic | each

poem

Enough birds.
No more branches, no more moon, no more
clouds, light glinting on
no more water. Refuse to sing because
the song is stuffed and birds
they lilt and carol wordlessly of what, of whose
turn it is to bird and bird and bird
the same translations as assigned.
Whose