CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Three Poems
by Aaron Bannister



Eloquence, the Cripple

Conviction is an engine, yes,

but idleness bubbles and babbles, too.

There was the day that seemed to need

to be addressed, just waiting, primed, a blank



page baiting relevance, and eloquence

the cripple chirping about apples

not yet ripe on their stems—sour, molded

even, patinaed with a development



that would not help or hinder them,

just a seasonal formality, as their variegated

reds and greens in apparent streaks

and subtle film rattled the branches in riot



to be acknowledged. So much addles

us from the nourishing details—the desire for

engagement with particulars that seem—

instead of being discovered—to discover us,



as the fruit fattens, and we are steeped

in awe, having fastened to the things

that carry us to, and nurture us with,

their apparent, exacting displacements.








Bal des Argents

How tempting, never having tempted fate,

to seek out otherness, to court danger,

a derangement to ridicule and right oneself,



as these men, the king among them, dressed up

as wild men for the queen’s masquerade.

They dance about, dressed in flammable fur



of linen soaked in pitch, to which they’ve stuck

frayed hemp and hair. They galumph and snort

as wild men must; the king, already mad,



lost to irony among his ladies

dressed up in various conical hats

and arabesques lining cleavage and cuffs.



And we, who should be quite impressed that they’re

from some significant place in history,

have come to see things metaphorically:



the king and his companions nearing flames—

one, who has masterminded the charade,

who’d forced peasants at sword point to bark



like dogs, will die a slow and agonizing death,

his mask seared to his flesh. Another, burning,

leaps into a vat of wine. The others



fizzle in their finale. While the king,

hopeless even to the mercy of moral,

is spared by fate or kismet or whomever



happens along at the moment we see

the woman beckon him beneath her skirt

to snuff his sparks within alluring dark.








Assignment

As the premiere agent for the Anti-Misunderstanding Foundation,

I am the first to come ashore. The natives wade out to my skiff



and welcome me with orchid garlands and locust necklaces

then help me through the reeds that lead to sugarcane.



The way’s been paved by missionaries. Boys, the only soldiers,

pose provocatively with the entrails of their enemies tasseling



down their narrow chests. The public humiliations and decapitations

have been postponed as I’m paraded through the village center.



In the house of my host, finding few common words, we quickly begin

the exchange of images. “This is what my people fasten the bulk of their



anxieties upon,” I say. “Here is the word—hear it—enunciated when

one’s parents have reached a mid-life impasse. And this, before you,



is the anathematic item, when we mean vainglorious embellishment,

without soul. And here”—I hold up my party’s bronzed thorn—“is



ridicule, in its more positive usages.” Down the way the public

tortures resume. The reserved chief brings his tiny metal guitar



from its case of pounded tin. He plays percussively, jangling in-time

with the large drums they’ve brought around the fire.



I am an agent of immersion who must descend into each disputed territory

and fail, ultimately, by almost succeeding to crack the codes,



though willingness and persistence are coinage here.

The fire burns late. A green log sends smoke among the rattling cane.



Machetes in the dark swish and clank as each stalk is felled.

My cocoon, musty, roosts in stoppered light.