Saturday, April 21, 2018

On Narrative


















On Narrative

Some don’t like it in a poem. Would have
you chase inspiration like bloodhounds
a hare, skirt the bogs of sad stories. Even
I grow tired of telling you these old tales.
The past not even what happened. More
a burned out apartment with a few rooms
mercifully intact filled with not tenants,
but rumours. Tell us about the sun’s red
skirts. Dusk’s box of ashes. The delicate
pastel blur of a hummingbird’s wings,
although it reminds me of the first time
I saw Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Its haunting
soundtrack. The protagonist flying high
above a cloudscape in a winged suit of
shining armour. Huge dark pillars erupting
from the ground, blocking out blue skies,
creating a maze he must navigate to find
his dream girl. I watched it dozens of times.
The message life is more than drudgery,
mere work, conformity, irresistable to
eighteen year old me. It was sublime,
but already I have forgotten this poem
was not to be about me, was supposed
to be all clean line breaks, aesthetics,
images only. Every new idea, thought,
followed down the rickety mine-shaft
to the vein of ore below. These lines
talk about the seamless elegance of fire,
street pigeons like grey sacks of sorrow,  
a wallpaper’s patterned hopelessness
without mentioning my inwardness,
stories that are personal, and add up
to nothing, like dreams. Sam escaping
in his mind to live with Jill in the country
at the end of Brazil. The interrogator
Jack Lint unsatisfied, stating, “He’s gone ”.
Sam strapped to a chair in an old gas
and coal-fired power plant, his smiling
a sanctuary, a narrative, a bliss.

By Chris Banks

Friday, April 20, 2018

Monks

















Monks

“So you have to give away all worldly
possessions”, says my friend to his brother
who broke up with his girlfriend for God.
My friend goads his brother, teases him
saying he will take his stereo, his records,
now he is to be a monk in the Bronx. We are
watching the Tyson-Holyfield fight in a bar.
Tyson bites Holyfield’s ear. The younger
brother tells me his relationship with God
is special. I try to look sympathetic. We
both fail to convince the other. Holyfield
is bleeding. I try to picture my friend’s
brother in a monk’s cowl working at
a downtown mission, making artisanal
cheeses. Trappist beers. His pleasure in
living a life of asceticism. Twenty years
later, the younger brother is married
with children, and I find I am the one
who lives alone, placing a burning faith
in words, like prayer, contemplation
the focus of my days, bliss arising from
within, the frugal amid the plenty.


By Chris Banks

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tragedy



















Tragedy

A groom dies in a crash on the way
to his wedding. A toddler is killed
by a falling tree on a school field trip
to Botanical Gardens. Tragedy waltzes
into your personal space, slowly drapes
an arm around the small of your back,
dances you around its fields of waste,
until you feel sick. Dizzy from lost
potential. I hate child deaths the most.
News cycle stories about little kids
drowning in rivers, getting torn apart
by dogs, wandering out a front door
at night, dying of exposure to winter.
Tragedy says, Have a nice day. I’ll see
you around. Claps you on a shoulder,
leaving a bloody hand-print behind.
Even when hope sails the horizon,
a little white boat riding the curve
of the earth, wave upon lazy wave,
Tragedy starts a fire in the engine
room, or hoists a black flag instead
of a white one, so someone jumps
off a cliff, thinking their only son
is dead but really is alive, just a jerk
who does not know how to treat
a lady right. Tragedy is the promise
of unhappy endings. The hint of
one’s demise. Its guidance system
does not discriminate, targets young
and old, rich and poor, tears a hole
in the perfect story, multiplies pain,
anguish exponentially. It is the drone
you don’t see until the bomb hits,   
the flash and panic and human losses
exactly what it is designed to do.


By Chris Banks

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Male Ego












Male Ego

Little caged animal growling in my ribcage,
telling me I am so much more than stardust,
interstellar debris, living mud, holy atoms,
I refuse to feed you any longer. The way
you try to mansplain history. The world
no longer a comfortable nest, but a vessel
of competing ideologies, other voices.
You are bad at sharing toys. You brag
about running with bulls, and yet live in
a China shop, cry at the drop of a plate.
Even your therapist is sick of the self-pity,
the endless poor me stories. She suggests
writing a letter to yourself, but you pull out
a mirror instead. You become unhinged
when others talk about your need to find
a feminine side. Your cologne sends
people to opposite ends of the room.
The things you seek end in conquest and
you wonder why you have no friends.
Little animal, Jurassic hunger, your eon
was all hand-grip strength, chest-bumping,
but we’ve reached a tipping point. Stop
shining Little League trophies. Pamper
others until you like pampering others.
There is nothing more grandiose than
learning the cage is of your making.


By Chris Banks


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Chardonnay


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Chardonnay

Liquid manna in a glass. Hints of green apple
or lemon zest, clover honey or grapefruit,
I admit I miss it. I was a lousy drunk, though.
I had no stomach for the morning after
and refused to chase horror with another
round. I feel bad for those guys holding
their sign pan-handling for money across
from the liquor store, wanting to get enough
money together to buy a Tall boy, or a cheap
bottle of red. They are like living shipwrecks.
The flotsam of their life usually a couple of
bags strewn around them. Maybe a black lab
on a rope leash. Their dedication to suffering
is complete. Recovery is a violent wind, what
buffets against an individual, and you have
to stand it every day, as it shakes and clangs
the cracked iron bell of your heart. Sobriety
is an awakening, and a theft. A dividing
line between then and now. Guilt wringing
out the spirit, or the spirit wringing out
guilt. Fatalism needs to be folded carefully
into a drawer. Most days, I study my face
like a lost and found to see what has changed.
When people fiddle with their wine-glasses,
it makes me uncomfortable. The not drinking
makes life all the more poignant, and hard.
It frees you from a certain kind of pain, but
leaves you isolated and bereft if you let it.  
I used to hold a glass of chardonnay carefully
up to the light to note its colour and age.
It is much harder to do that with oneself.
Throw away the tasting notes. Interpret
the qualities of every day on your own,
love, loss, smells, taste, silence, seasons,
for this is your job now. This is your task.


By Chris Banks