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 a little 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

Ivory Towers













Ivory Towers


Burn the canon. Didn’t we do that last year?
Spread ashes on the seasons. The oak tree is
an anthology of leaves. No one is yelling at it.
Tell me one true thing and I will regurgitate
shadows. I was a failure in academia. Ivory
towers trigger my fear of heights. Never coat
an enemy’s shirt in poison ivy when you can
rub his face in it. I redact that last statement
for fear it will be used against me. Degrees
wash up onto a beach like stranded jelly-fish.
Poems are devotional candles. Stop praying
to one’s self. I wish I understood a second
language so I can make tenure. I hope you
are reading this with white gloves in a library
full of mahogany desks, brass lamps with
green shades, red tomes, austere bookshelves.
Alas, archives are for staff members only.
The librarian says you can keep that little
magnifying glass as a souvenir as long as you
don’t set fire to the building. First editions
are restored, gently put behind glass doors,
sold at auction. Even if I take the stairs two
at a time, I will never make it to the top
in this lifetime. Often when picnicking in
a field or walking my dog, I see the towers
in the distance. Cloaked figures standing on
balconies either in need of rescue, or in silent
contemplation. It makes me a little jealous.
The ascent is arduous and full of coup d'etats.
Imagine that view. A kingdom of one.



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By Chris Banks

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gulag












Gulag


Guilt is everyone’s personal gulag. Don’t think so?
Read your lost letters. I once told a girl I hated her
with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.
Another girl I cheated on with a room-mate. Guilt
is the body’s dark canvas. How many joules does it
take to say sorry? I wouldn’t know. The spirit holds
a public hearing. It calls itself to testify over and
over. Maybe we can become better people. I’m
trying to be sincere. A song is mounting. Let’s hold
hands. Wait for our bodies to blossom. Whenever
a woman’s face fills with grief, I can’t stand it. Turn
off the camera. I’m on the brink of tears. The bees
are emptying hives. Stroke my cheek. Who assigned
me this life? To educate one’s emotions is not
a work of genius. It’s the blood’s heritage. We rub
perceptions against one another, sometimes even
bodies, hoping for a revelation or two, to drown
out the Muzak. To live with those faces staring back
at us from the mirrors of mall lavatories. We hurt
people. We love people. How else to say it? Tomorrow
calls you sweetheart. Don’t waste it. Get out of
the way of happiness. A blessing. We should be like
children in kindergarten, all smiles and group hugs,
our emotions transparent, joy’s helium carrying us
lightly across a playground, if we are to see others,
have them see us. But what about guilt, you say?
Its patina stains the soul. Wasn’t Paradise the story
of its birth? A garden once immense and undamaged.
Tell that to the children and I will have no choice
but to walk out of here, leave you cold and alone.
   


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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 stardust, 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