Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reading So and So's Selected Poems In A Used Bookstore














Reading So and So’s Selected Poems
In A Used Bookstore


I like the jade dragons and the bougainvillea.
The various mistresses of Paul Klee, Gustav Klimt.
Jackson Pollack pissing in a fire-place at a party.
A locomotive hauling away a sibling’s death.
Allusions to Pompeii. A Greek philosopher du jour.
A token villanelle. An amusement park.
Roller-coasters on fire. What beautiful rhymes!
Afro and gaspacho. Crocus and hocus-pocus.
Syllabics of beauty and despair and truth
hidden in musty stacks. Someone’s hand-written
notes in the margins: Love this one! Huzzah!
Haikus solemn as frogs beneath a lily-white moon.
Lyrics a reminder of the shadow’s dark roost.
How about this one poem with sledge-hammers?
A grand piano overflowing with Blue Morphos?
A Japanese actress who cut off her lover’s genitals,
threw them into the sea? The last poem
in the collection will rip your heart out, I swear.
It’s about a boy throwing rocks at a seagull,
smashing its wings. The bird hopping broken.
The Gatha of Atonement. Its little prayer.
Human shame like a shipwreck in a bottle.
The poet’s photograph is in black and white.
He lives in a French chalet, or as a recluse 
on a Greek island, summers when not teaching
freshman about poetry and personal failure.
There is an ivy-league campus in the photo’s
background. His crow's feet, grim smile, says
each day, I walk out of my French chalet, or
a white house with a blue door, heading 
to the old town, poems gestating, where I buy
my breakfast, a newspaper, thinking about
friends back home. At night, in my dreams,
I put contract out on this poet's life


By Chris Banks    




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tom Swift



















Tom Swift


I have a minor crush on Saturn’s moons. Callisto,
Io,  and Titan. The rent is too high. I read once
about a boy inventor who built rocketships. Dark
forces, mysterious agents, always conspired  
against him. Leaving the planet for the vacuum
of space was an easy decision. Turn the pages.
The first time you are hurt in love you discover
the body is a spacesuit with a lifetime supply
of oxygen. Floating untethered leaves you gasping
for air. Come back to me, you say. Those words
bleed through to the suit’s interior where you
feel trapped. Try to make it to the ship's bridge.
I built model rockets as a kid. Launched them
from a yellow field. I never intended to vacate
this world. NASA says they have found exoplanets
in outer systems that can support life. Still, no
nude beaches in space. No Comic-Cons, fois gras
or walk-in clinics either. As you get older, you feel
the pull of gravity more. Dreams less. On the way
home from school one day, you notice you are being
followed. Your father is a brilliant scientist. Why
has he been kidnapped? Taken to a secret moon base?
You head for a launch pad. Your rocket is waiting.





By Chris Banks

Queue










Queue

Take a number and hold my place in line.
Spend twenty-five years of life asleep.
Three months in traffic. Forty-eight days
having sex. Cut out the part about bears
feasting at a town dump. Hornets haunting
a summer camp. Stop being a hostage
to the quotidian. Ever hold a megaphone
up to a flower? Wear sadness in a lapel?
Your memoirs are burning. I struggled
to retrieve them from a fire. Some words
are glowing. Others turn to ash. Walk me
through the mis-en-scene. Connect the dots
so the story includes a few minor themes.
Hope amid devastation. Alter egos and
slices of birthday cake. You are tempted
to step out of line for a moment. Realize
when you fail to return, no one notices.
It is best to put the past on shuffle. I retain
rights to my pain and my designer clothes.
The rest is yours: eleven years working.
Fourteen days kissing. Two years watching
commercials. When they finally call out
my number, I'll be ready for my close-up.

By Chris Banks

Monday, February 20, 2017

Scrapbook













Scrapbook


Here are old ticket stubs and pressed flowers.
A picture of me with punk rock red hair. A guitar
I played four hours a day for years. This is me
at my first teaching job. A girl is doing Henna
on a friend’s forearm. She leaves thirty Don’t Do
Drugs stickers all over the classroom. This is me
picking at the soft glue of my adult life. Here is
the boutineer I wore to a Sadie Hawkins dance.
Life-savers, a white doily, coloured streamers.
Here are years of trying to drink myself invisible.
Can you see me? Me too. Here is a black eye, 
a bloodied face. My grand-mother breaking a hip,
then me running to the neighbour’s next door.
Here are all the precious moments time forges
stuffed into a dossier, a scrapbook of worries,
the evidence misfiled, or tampered with, so you
have to sort it yourself. The pages are dust and
moonbeams. Lightning storms and yellow grass.
I have left places for new pictures. Absences are
intentional. There is one of a polar bear to show
my grand-children. One of me at a demonstration.
I am reading poetry, or some kind of manifesto.
You can tell by the blue flames kindled in my eyes
I believe defending ideas is worth some tear-gas
and riot police. Let’s all fight for a cause, even
if that cause is getting out of bed in the morning,
pasting down pictures, and using up all the glitter.
I bequeath you these pages instead of an Ars Poetica.
Add anything you like. A butterfly conservatory.
Tiger Swallowtails, Ulysses, beauty's useless wings. 

By Chris Banks

Ivory Towers













Ivory Towers


Burn the canon. Didn’t we do that last year?
Spread ashes on the seasons. The oak tree is
an anthology of leaves. No one is yelling at it.
Tell me one true thing and I will regurgitate
shadows. I was a failure in academia. Ivory
towers trigger my fear of heights. Never coat
an enemy’s shirt in poison ivy when you can
rub his face in it. I redact that last statement
for fear it will be used against me. Degrees
wash up onto a beach like stranded jelly-fish.
Poems are devotional candles. Stop praying
to one’s self. I wish I understood a second
language so I can make tenure. I hope you
are reading this with white gloves in a library
full of mahogany desks, brass lamps with
green shades, red tomes, austere bookshelves.
Alas, archives are for staff members only.
The librarian says you can keep that little
magnifying glass as a souvenir as long as you
don’t set fire to the building. First editions
are restored, gently put behind glass doors,
sold at auction. Even if I take the stairs two
at a time, I will never make it to the top
in this lifetime. Often when picnicking in
a field or walking my dog, I see the towers
in the distance. Cloaked figures standing on
balconies either in need of rescue, or in silent
contemplation. It makes me a little jealous.
The ascent is arduous and full of coup d'etats.
Imagine that view. A kingdom of one.



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By Chris Banks