Kerry James Evans

A Hypothetical Excursion to the Land of Bananas

What if anything is possible?
Consider the afterlife as a string of numbers
laced across the galactic ocean
like a dinosaur’s DNA code,
each talent manifesting itself
in a life-form not unlike
ourselves—each job
held by one excellent person
who has spent lifetimes
perfecting one art.
The DJ. The Elephant Inseminator.
The Parade Organizer.
Except here, the
floats actually float.
As hypotheticals go, the
afterlife sounds awful,
but who can blame a string
for anything? So many undiscovered
numbers leading to vowels
constitute the acceptance of
beauty in its rawest form,
which can be found
at Governor’s Square Mall,
the display mannequin
depressed, its limbs awkwardly bent
at four and ten o’clock.
You know the eyes,
the arousing fake nipple.
The teenagers stop for a peek,
their notions of sexual intercourse
mumbling vaguely down the causeways.
Remember, one person per job.
A goat rancher. A college student
dressed in a bright yellow
buttoned-down shirt
with matching pants. A giant
banana that explicitly states
we had our chance.
Now we are bananas.




is a bucket of nails spilled over at a job site
and those nails puncturing a tire,
the left brain, the right hand,
the clock pin-wheeling like a ballerina.

The same nails that build empires
hang detractors on crosses,
roadside crow-thick with decay.
Look how Caesar’s banner

shows off the Mediterranean,
how the golden ox stands amidst
a background of blood. Is this not idolatry?
Flag worship while territories

like Puerto Rico turn down illegal contracts
cooked up in back alley boardrooms
on K Street—this time
to rebuild a power grid pancaked

by back-to-back hurricanes, where my father,
the colonel, stands by a phone
trying to get water up a hill
to a village who hasn’t seen power

in over a month? Is this not the empire
of old? Gold hungry, diseased
conquistadors clattering in overwrought armor
onto a smattering of Caribbean islands,

ships clad with cannons and what?
Christian intent? It’s no secret the state
is an iron boot. There go sirens.
There marches the mayor up a flight of stairs

to an oversized podium facing a room
of cameras to give a speech
about waste while wearing Versace,
and even here, in St. Louis, is a clay sewer pipe

over one hundred years old, now busted
by a tree root half its age in a yard
that is sloped and sinking toward a dried-up river
called Des Peres, which means of the fathers.


Kerry James Evans is the recipient of a 2015 NEA Fellowship, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers' Conference, and his poems have appeared in Agni, New England Review, Ploughshares, and many other journals. He is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon). He lives and works in St. Louis.