Monday, February 27, 2017

The School





















The School


Tired of being a student? Start a school.
Carve a path. Woo acolytes with honey.
Tell them you will teach them all about
beauty and strangeness. Write for thirty
years. Snare an angel. Nail its wings to
a barn door. A river is a correspondence
course. All my masters are dead. Throw
away the manuals. Stoke the mysteries.
I will build a new school on the praries.
A parcel of land with cattle and buffalo.
Some mountains in the background. We
will write in the mornings, sing praises   
while holding hands, strolling the green
wheat, in the afternoons. People from
a neighbouring school, one built beyond
the low foothills, will stop by wanting
to share stories. How nice it would be
to accept their offers of friendship! But
the school needs protecting in its infancy. 
We tell the strangers to wait for us down
by the creek, the large oak tree, while
we grab ivory-handled knives. We do what
must be done, then bathe in the waters,
until our hands are clean, evening tamed,
the sun crimson as the blood we shed.


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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Witnesses












Witnesses


Popular culture is in remission. Some people
are watched like chronic illnesses. I wait for
the next market crash, hip youth revolution,
with bated breath. I’ll take three wishes please.
Then maybe three more... Don’t think about
other centuries too much, or your life will be
disappointing. Depression is running among
bulls, or Chinese-water torture. Our anxiety
comes in thirty-one flavours. A prosecutor goes
off his meds. He is no good to us. You win
the case on your own, or not. Note: the weather
never asks for help. The government wants more
of that DIY attitude. Memories are orphans.
Do you want darjeeling tea, or chemotherapy?
How many would like a choice? I miss poets
who have died. Their poems stand around,
witnesses telling the truth of what they know,
but eventually most of us stop listening. Start
networking. You have been contracted to bear
this bundle another day. To suffer fashions
until the prognosis changes. I wear my being
like an ill-fitting coat with a few buttons missing.
How long has it been since you played marbles,
or kissed a relative stranger? Keep pitching ideas
until one hooks, starts tugging. Something will
emerge from the briny deep. Be yourself, they say,
which has something to do with a gate closing,
a hardship post, the self a ghost haunting a tower,
an upper walkway. Make your peace with it.


By Chris Banks 
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Stolen Matches













Stolen Matches


Existence is not for the weak. Consciousness
moves like a river beneath sheet ice. I make
going to the grocery store an event. Every meal
when you are single is a sad banquet. So what
if we are incisors, daydreams. Hey Muse, hit me up.
Let’s go dancing. The lyric makes its little noise,
something like, out of the darkling sky come
the white stars, little frozen glyphs, or Valkyries
burning in separate Valhallas. No more hand-me-downs. 
I have nothing up my sleeves except nerves
forming a small city with dirty cabs. I don’t
want to learn the patter, the schtick, of one word
against another. I want the feast. The offal
I leave on a silver dish for the Gods who are
starving this time of year. What goes around
comes around. Begin where you have never been.
Choose wisely amongst the coloured rags. Memorize
traumas. The after-life is a recital. Hello loss.
Hello exaltation. Have I made you smile yet?
Know this poem is a forgery. I traced it by hand
in elegant calligraphic script. Like a dry drunk,
I want more and more of what I cannot have.
Emotions disfigure perception. Open all the doors.
What is the difference? Heave-ho the familiar
and see what takes its place. The scope is cavernous
so take a good flash-light. I follow my thoughts
into a gully where they are playing with stolen matches.
Isn’t that always the case? Put away the play-doh
when you are done. The school closed down years ago.
Clean up the art tables. I'll lock up after you.


By Chris Banks

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Green Spider Tattoo


















Green Spider Tattoo

What is the procedure for when friends die
and you need to manipulate words? Divest
yourself of secrets. I knew a guy who nearly
died working a chainsaw from a tree-top.
One minute he is pruning a large branch,
and the next, he misses the artery in his leg
by half an inch. Some people are just lucky,
I guess. It’s all scratch-card wins, bi-lateral
symmetry, and evolutionary fitness. Beauty
is an advert for good genes. How does it
do it? I mean nature. All that math. X and
Y chromozones. Some three billion DNA 
bases the same in most people. It sounds
tiring. Gaia sitting there, with her internal
calculator going all the time, not paying
attention to what the kids are doing. One
opens a soup kitchen. Another vandalizes
the post-office, stealing all the Christmas
Card money, and social security checks.
How many kids can you fit in the back
of a police car? Seven. When your father
is a police man, he does a puppet-show
in front of your class in Grade three. 
Chaperones all your dances in high school.
He whispers the sins of a man walking
on a sidewalk in your ear as you drive home
together one day. It is like being God.
I look at my students and the wreckage
inside them is hidden. One boy I taught
killed another boy with a machete. I wish
I made that up. He had a green spider tattoo
on the back of his neck. I wish it forever. 



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By Chris Banks