Saturday, March 18, 2017

Notices













Notices


The rain is past due. No one need go to court
if you answer the summons. All the people
you hurt while growing into a man are seeking
damages. Next time, bury the bodies a little
deeper. Someone vandalized a lyric poem.
They found your fingerprints and a hippopotamus
at the scene of the crime. Jury duty sounds
slightly more fun than three days of DTs.
Stay away from the woman smoking french
cigarettes. She will try to bribe you with similes,
spiritual illuminations. The hydro company  
is threatening to cut power to the orphanage.
All those children wasting away in the dark.
You have been accepted to a fake seminary,
offered admissions to warring poetic schools,
been drafted into an army. Sign the contract
or you’ll never understand a river at twilight.
The disclaimer reads: the rewards are real, but
the contest is rigged. The zoning office says
neighbours are planning on expanding a yard.
They built a trebuchet and have the proper permits.
A few final items. Doctors warn tests revealed
a malignancy. You will die slowly over the course
of a natural life-span. It is a bag of spun gold, or
your first born by month’s end, writes someone
at the collection agency. This is the last notice.
Make arrangements. Your credit score rates
lower than your mental health index. Write off
the difference. The bank will give you an extension 
on your next midlife crisis. Bills must be paid. 
No, you cannot use dark matter or stonehenge
as collateral. Your reserve funds will last you
two weeks. I'll write you a bad check.

By Chris Banks  
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Romance














Romance

I never understood it. The candy and chocolates.
The rose petal path leading to a boudoir or hot
bath. Not that I am an ungrateful lover but a circle
pendant meant to symbolize love or union loses
meaning over time. Know only I hold myself out
to you the way a young black cat holds a snake
in its jaws, alive and wriggling, the feline purring
as it offers its gift proudly to a squeamish owner
at a back screen door. Know I would cut through
a barb-wired border to make my escape with you.
Save you from a witch’s oven in a house made of
gingerbread, the chimney forged of red licorice.
Know I would break radio-contact, orbit around
the dark side of the moon, if it would be the only
way to bring me back to you. Heights make me
dizzy but I would stand at the mountain’s summit
just to hold your hand. Throw my transparent net
around the trees near midnight if only to attempt
to capture your unseen inexplicable pain darkening
their branches. I would stoke a wood-stove, pull
the quilt of our shared years up to your chin. Wrest
hope from shadows, sit in the sidecar of an Italian
motorcycle if you were the one driving. Oppose
despots if they took you as a political prisoner.
Light a votive candle, and pray to the saint of us.
Know the tape recorder is on, and I fully testify
although I do not yet know your name, my cold
devotion is only to you. My passport to where?
Not a place, never a place, but a flush of feeling,
our breathing carving our initials into the air.

By Chris Banks

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 hearts or Wikipedia entries. 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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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Laboratory of Aesthetics




















The Laboratory of Aesthetics

For some people its massive city bridges,
Woody Allen movies, strawberry-decalled
tea-pots, German WWII paraphanelia.
Others thrill at a Brillo box in a museum,
Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photos,
or Radiohead’s Kid A. There is always
that one guy willing to explain French
New Wave. How Breathless is the best
movie ever made, and not because of
the cool sunglasses, when really it is
the cigarettes and the cool sunglasses.
I have to admit France never looked
so good. Take an object, paint it silver,
blow it up about two hundred times its
normal size, set it up in a public square,
and I guarantee people will take selfies
around it. The laboratory of aesthetics
these days is really about mischief and
surprise. For instance, I was writing
another poem about Buddha and panic
attacks, but aesthetics dictate I throw
myself off the deep end. So now there
is a Californian subdivision engulfed
in wildfires, and the State is all out of
water. A riddle without a satisfactory
ending. I don’t get it? You are going to
fit right in, says Buddha, whom I tried
to keep out of the discussion. Let’s just
say aesthetics is irony taking the piss out
of everything, which is why you should
rummage through culture’s junk drawer
and pick your favorites from the mess.
You may not understand why you love
the things you do like Jack Gilbert’s poems,
scarab beetle collections, wood turned boxes,
the 1974 Ford XB Falcon, a Diane Arbus
retrospective, her mesmerizing photograph
of a boy with a toy grenade, his face squeezed
into a grimace, but they understand you.

By Chris Banks
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Jade Pendant



















Jade Pendant

I have a slow leak like a ball of yarn, only
made of being, slowly unravelling itself.
I walk through my house, and I start
dropping things: Neptune’s 900 mile
an hour winds, Caravaggio’s Medusa,
the fact 100 lightning bolts hit the earth
every second. The names of Eastern
deities, a graffitti mural on the side
of a boxcar, Cesare Pavese’s interior
monologues, a piece of rose quartz
I found as a big as my fist. Truths
and half-truths. I try to pick them up.
All the nights I got drunk and didn’t
remember what happened. That time
a homeless woman with a torn coat
called me a stinking sexual criminal
as I crossed a street. Maybe the brain
needs to declutter, so forgets the names
of movies I cried through. And movies
I wanted to see. With every inhalation,
a sad refrain whispers, let me out. I feel
things spilling out of me like an art gallery
modelled after an insect’s compound eye
I never built. Hymns I sang in church
which tasted like vinegar. The seven ages
of man. A jade pendant bought at the foot
of the Great Wall. Names of boys I made
run away from school. A comic collection.
If you insist on staying, grab a basket. Look
carefully. Help yourself to anything of use.

By Chris Banks