Monday, July 25, 2016

Viral















Viral


The Roman Empire conquered much
of the world not because their armies
were better at killing other armies, but
because their civil engineers built roads.
Someone invents electric light in 1800,
so our planet now resembles a gigantic
Lite-brite chandelier hanging in space.
Wordsworth went slumming in Paris
during the French Revolution so later
undergraduates might muddle through
the Prelude. Newton’s apple. Fibonacci’s
zero. What is it to be human? Turn on
a smart phone. Loss goes viral despite
our best attempts to immunize ourselves
with anti-depressants and room service.
I am tired of the deification of billionaires
who started businesses from a garage.
We should be paying attention to anyone
trying to save the whales, or languages
thousands of years old from dying out.
Persons without nameplates stamped on
buildings or Michelin stars. Just decent
ordinary folks who know one day we will
be reduced to a litter of ashes, so they
spend time building machines that allow
deaf children to hear mothers. Villages  
to have fresh water. Those with vision
who clean up our bloody messes, while
the rest of us worry about 401ks. Watch  
anonymous strangers dance awkwardly
to pop music. Dear Universe, no more  
candy or flowers. What is the big idea?  
That sweetness in you starts talking to
a sweetness in me. We infect each other.


By Chris Banks

Monday, July 11, 2016

Simulacra













Simulacra

Consciousness is an elevator,
a chimera in sunlight, cognition
shot from a neural cannon,
a top-secret containment unit,
an antediluvian calculator,
a pirate radio station, a newsfeed,
a magnifying lens, a multiplex,
an intruder in the control room,  
a cheap knock-off, a universal
adaptor,  an early warning system,
the soul’s GPS, a hot mike,
a tiger hidden behind a false wall,
an underground war, a pulpy
tell-all, a monster in the closet,
a recording at the bottom of a well,
an impersonator, a message slowly
revealing itself in tea leaves,
a trojan horse lurking in the code,
sensory enjambment, a little
pink cloud, a metaphysical bloom,
a spiritual fetish.

By Chris Banks.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ventriloquism















Ventriloquism


I’ve learned to throw my voice. I started first
by mimicking the sound of a breeze in shrubs,
a dog on a chain behind a wooden fence, kids
playing touch football in the street, but I have
grown more confident. Now nothing appears
too ambitious for my stagecraft. The silence
grown up between two people whose marriage
is an elaborate exercise in taxidermy. Panic
after a nightclub shooting. A woman angry
in an upper storey apartment window, clothes
raining down onto a man who lowers his head
on the sidewalk, saying “I’m sorry for this….”
to every passerby. The hum of street-lights
bathing the homeless. The sighs of the alkies
approaching last call, oblivion. The terrible
cleaving when, at thirteen, the world divides
into good and evil. The little boy banging on
the nailed-shut windows of the last century.
The blitzkrieg of corporations offering poison,
prescription drugs to the suburbs. The thing is,
I have become so good at it, merging my voice
with warfare and politics and memes, I am not
sure what I sound like anymore. The world gets
lost in the delivery. It’s confusing. My lips are
sealed. Hear that calling? I counterfeit well.



By Chris Banks

Monday, March 28, 2016

Devotion














Devotion

Why does poetry have to be so damn personal
all of the time? Why can’t I write a poem called
“Surveilling The Underworld” about a dead boy
who walks the banks of the River Styx looking
for his lost dog, a man holding his dead wife’s
dress in his arms, four men in a floating raft
adrift for three days after their merchant ship
was sunk by a German U-boat? Why not write
a poem about devotion, a man’s obsession with
stiletto heels, a woman’s loyalty to a hair-dresser,
the right shade of lipstick, a child’s fear of God
and nightly prayers? An addict’s choice of jail
over a twelve step program, the only place they
can get clean? Darlings, everyone has that one
piece of clothing they will never throw away,
that one book they continually read every ten
years. Some people are as committed to pain
as others are to happiness.  If someone were
to ask me what I am devoted to, I would say
the body. It is the one thing that won’t let go
of me. Sorry, I am being personal again when
really I wanted to write something only for you,
my faithful reader, who I still believe in, who
puts up with my many asides and silly detours,
who assumes these lines are leading to a place,
if only I knew where, of understanding, which
is all anyone wants, really, a little understanding
to form allegiances to, and perhaps build upon,
despite solid dedications to lovers who worship
or neglect us, to our jobs stealing time better
spent with family and friends, our adherence
to a particular brand of cologne or soda-pop.
Our fondness for first editions, or vintage
pornography, or fly-fishing. Our admiration
for a major league sports team, or morning
donut with our coffee. Devotion is the coin
of the realm and the currency of the heart.
Everything else just pays the balance owing.

By Chris Banks

Saturday, February 6, 2016

White Mansion












White Mansion


A confederacy of suicides. Borowski died 
breathing gas, head in an oven, twelve years
before Plath did the same trick. Paul Celan
drowned himself. John Berryman jumped
from a bridge. Pavese downed a handful of
barbituates in a hotel room. Ann Sexton
poured herself a vodka martini, and started
her car in a closed garage. Brautigan and
Mayakovsky died of self-inflicted gunshot
wounds. On and on it goes, a pageant of
death and despair, anxiety and suffering.
The mind can be like the wind, invisible
and everywhere, or it can be a goldfish,
a prize for some child who tossed a ball
into a small round bowl. Something to be
left upon a shelf and forgotten. Vanity
and obstinateness make for great poems
but few friends. When the end came for
them, the silence must have felt like one
last round of applause. I often wonder
if it was poetry, learning the vocabulary 
of what it means to be truly sentient, that
led to their suffering, or was it the thing
that kept them alive all those years before
they loaded the gun, or flicked on the gas,
or strolled towards the bridge. Lovers
abandon us. Damage is done. The work
always more than we are willing to give.
I want to smuggle some kindnesses into
these rooms of sorrows. Turn the pages
on these dead ones. Think about the girl
just sixteen, discovering her own poetry,
writing in a journal. There are birds and
clouds and a large white mansion sitting
atop a hill. She smiles unlocking the gates.


By Chris Banks

Thursday, January 7, 2016

All Night Animated



My friend Dave Okum animated this little video of my poem "All Night Arcade" which will be the title of my next book. Hope you enjoy it!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Anxiety















Anxiety

I feel like I’m walking across a thin glass bridge
and everyone moving past me
carry sledge-hammers

I feel like some trapped child
is wailing inside a sound-proof room
between my stomach and my lungs

It is 1974 again—

I have forgotten my address,
and the day camp has left me to go swimming
so I wander the school parking lot alone 
                                                                crying

I imagine this is what it feels like to be dead

Somebody comes back for me 45 minutes later
but by then I have tasted it

The dread of loneliness
and it is too late

The darkness standing sentinel
at the edges of the tree’s shadows
begins to smile—

Show its teeth.



 By Chris Banks