Friday, March 17, 2017

Subject Matter

Subject Matter

Better a talking parrot than a cello unchaperoned
on a stage. Better an Aztec Empire than a kingdom
of Kodak moments. Never mention tarot cards or
dark tunnels. Take an image and enter through
the fire escape, the back window. The front door
has too much foot traffic. Rifle through old family
stories but upset no one. A teen runaway has left
his group home with a suitcase. Is he going to his
grandmother’s house or his dealer’s apartment?
A man surrenders his gun in the middle of winter
after scaring his family sitting around a dining table
in an old farmhouse because a son came home from
university with a boyfriend. He weeps in the back
of a police car apologizing to the police, hoping
the son he just disowned will feed the exotic birds
he raises in his barn. Their plumage his one passion.
Childhood might be a match-stick house, or a rusty
swingset in a vacant lot, the whole apparatus rocking
a little if you swing too high. Keep out the mortgages
and gift cards and self help gurus if you can. Death
is better as a bored teenager in a red usher uniform,
flashlight in hand, than a black cowled bony figure.
No psychologists or laugh-tracks. The poem is allowed
to keep name-dropping old classmates, secret crushes,
icebergs, Mexican painters, the sky’s stretched canvas.
Happiness is too precise a word. So is sorrow. Sandblast
their syllables and start again. Hell is a blank page. Read
back my notes. These rules are meant to be broken.

By Chris Banks

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