[an excerpt from Spectra]


To speak without vulnerability you claimed


the land’s fragrance its honey its plants

translation           I wanted to be back in my language

“back”? /

I wanted to differently be in

another word for being

einai eimai           estar

small brown moth frazzling the windowpane 

another way

to live in the rind living had shed




Your spine’s doing great the chiropractor says 

that the source of the pain is a disconnection

she suspects self-protective 

between heart / pelvis

“there is no communication” 

between mind / ground

At my desk I swivel my hips in exaggerated circles 

for three minutes

as if to undo lifetimes of this “no”




Where someone spraypainted athens is the new berlin 

the retort follows


on a billboard for instant coffee above the café

in the ardent sun

go ahead / wish for it




A creek running under the building / makes the walls sweat

the weedbro next door exhales directly into my apartment

whose cheap rent is triple

what Greek friends already can’t afford 

they scan the room and slam the door

of his housekeeper the American poet wrote “like a Palmyra matron / 

Copied in lard and horsehair” 

of everyone in language school I had the most believable accent  

I can pretend-read coffee grounds 

in lurching fragments

should I worry about this feeling?

blithe vacation photos in my feed

of a person who’ d emailed asking 

for interesting things to do in Athens

you’re a stray dog, you don’t know where you’re from

we had the whole cove to ourselves

tourism is / to drink from one’s cut

then again it depends

where you were in the ’70s

your relationship to polyester blends


interminable queues


the phrase “exhausted blue”

tar deposits on beaches




Someone wheels an empty wheelbarrow 

past windows where two women fold sheets 

in yellowish light / the white sheets

make shapes in the window as they work 

triangle rectangle square

shapes I’m hungry for 

Someone walks the other way / without the wheelbarrow

the sheets in a sizeable heap

at one end of the long table 

their arms pass over 

I want to resist a comparison

to healers but this is how their hands move 

as they open / then fold something away  

as they tend to it 

She takes two corners taut

and shakes it down in one crisp move

lays it on the table where it settles 

in time 

brings the other two corners / to the first 

to make the sheet disappear

Only one person folding now

behind three large windows and a tall white fan

which is off


Ari Banias is the author of A Symmetry (2021) and Anybody (2016), both published by W. W. Norton. His work has been supported by Headlands Center for the Arts, MacDowell, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner program. He lives and teaches in the Bay Area.