459: The Feeling

459: The Feeling

459: The Feeling

The Feeling 
by Ari Banias

Each spring, a cloud travels up from the south

to an island in the Aegean.

The red cloud is coming, the townspeople say.

Or, the red cloud has been here.

What cloud? my mother asks. Since when?

The red cloud covers the buildings, the cars, 

in a fine red film of dust from elsewhere.

That we imagine we cannot feel the wars

is an American feeling. That we cannot see them, 

that we say they are somewhere else.

But someone pays the police. We do.

That we are meant to believe the poem can say moon

but not government. Both have flags 

attached and can make a body 

howl beyond its will. They punctuate existence 

even if I believe I can’t feel them;

they legislate, they leak.

The moon which is always here

even if it cannot be seen. The inmates

and the detainees in correctional facilities and jails and prisons,

in maximum and minimum security, in solitary,

cannot see the moon, or they can.

The inmates who are here, always,

even if I cannot see them, who cannot speak to me

or who do, but am I listening? Are we listening,

to poems? Not much.

Therefore I can say anything. No;

I can say moon and tree and fox and river,

or me and you, or love and stutter,

but I can mean corporation I can mean police.

I can mean surveillance,

or that the moon is a prison, it is daytime,

and in daytime nearly no one sees the moon.

And the tree is a television 

where the president appears in the form of a finch.

He sings gorgeously; people swoon.

We learn that finches eat mostly seeds

small and harmless, so when the tree flowers

in spring we forget the moon

and its mute armaments. How drunk we become

on blossoms. We don’t ask 

what kind of seeds or where they’re from.

We hum along with the finches, with the sirens, with the rivers,

with the police: a harmony whose falling droplets 

we can’t feel. And meanwhile,

a law ushered through noiselessly, mandating seeds.

This is not our poem. The poem has been privatized.

Its flag will be a red feeling. 

“The Feeling,” from ANYBODY by Ari Banias. Copyright ©2016 by Ari Banias. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.