Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Three Poems, by Chris Banks



Conquistadors sail back to Spain
leaving the Amazon untouched.
An old man regains his memories,
a child her innocence. The giant oak
over-hanging the street is an acorn
with mighty ideas. The marriage
never happens because I love yous
slip backwards into the lover’s mouths.
How runs the stream? Strange to think
time running opposite. Hindsight
in front of you like a coxswain telling you
to pick up the pace as you row
towards old tragedies and delights.
Maybe you will handle things differently
this time. The dead dog is a puppy
in your arms. Your deceased friend
smiles. The cancer cells gone. Despite
the creams, you are getting younger
and younger looking. Where does it end?
With no surprises. Tomorrow is already
yesterday. Perhaps it is best time runs on
ahead of us, the past a guide, and not a bully
waiting up the path, taking off his rings
one by one, saying this is going to hurt.
I guess I will take the future even if it means
our lives unravel unknown like red carpets
at a debutante ball where fate is only a minor
player at the party in a tuxedo handing out
pickled or d'oeuvres, while the rest of us
look for dance partners, or maybe leave early,
because lost as we are, at least we are moving
the way sharks do not stop moving,
the days, the hours, the minutes,
wild, unfamiliar, free. 


Edward Gorey

I feel most times like an Edward Gorey character
pulled from an illustration, made to stand here
among the traffic lights and the mall renovations.
Just the mere act of living one day at a time now
a diminishment of all the romantic possibilities
I dreamed of in my twenties. No one ever dies
of ennui. At least you can hit two or three words
together to spark a new idea or a conceit but
I’ve grown too old to explain how images work
to the young. The world happens with or without
you. The tree in my yard will be standing long
after I’m gone. A poem persists whether anyone
reads it or not. In Montreal, I remember long
winters, my own inability to write anything
but failure, which reduced me to reading and
rereading the work of others who were like Gods
to me, the way their poems flowed through, 
eddied around forms, a consciousness that
seemed semi-divine, but really was the product
of hard work and ambition. You can’t teach
ambition which is the pilot-light of any poem.
Mostly, I want more from a meagre lifetime
of teaching which is why I catch a glimpse of
my former self scurrying down St Urbain street
with the snow falling lightly on iron staircases
of the many houses while I try to find my way
to the Graduate party where I will no doubt
be embraced by friends. I remember the lights
lining the street, the warm glow coming out
of the houses, my trudging along sidewalks
through snow, thinking life does not get
better than this, this soft sifting of memory
and experience, which itself is like a Gorey
illustration, the tiny figure in the foreground,
the houses looming about him, a stirring
of menace somewhere in the frame. I’m forty-
seven, and I still love that kid who will not
know addiction for at least ten more years.
The way his life is still unwritten. His only
thought whether to pick up a quart of beer
from the Depenneur where a twelve year old
boy sits smoking beside his grandfather, or
whether to pick up bagels on the way home.
I’m hungry for that life but I can touch it
in a poem. The pleasures of the authentic.   



The moon is moving measurably
away from the earth every year.
In space, you do not cry because
there is no gravity to make tears flow.
Not sure this has anything to do
with 1,800 thunderstorms sprawling
over oceans and continents at any
given time. I learned most lipstick
contains fish scales. To testify,
derives from a Roman practice of
making men swear on their testicles.
Coca-cola was originally green, 
a detail sparking neurons in my brain
to fire 200 times per second,
when really all I wanted to say
was something nice about flowers,  
like how tulips were once a form
of currency, or how their bulbs
can be substituted for onions,
which are stray facts sitting in
a surgical tray until I place them
here for safekeeping. So what?  
The truth is most facts will never
give me a night’s satisfaction, no
matter what I say about Leonardo
Da Vinci inventing scissors,
roller coasters being first designed
to help people avoid sin, Buzz
Aldrin urinating on the lunar
surface. No wonder the moon
is moving away from us! This is
a memorandum of understanding
between me and Voyager I spinning
its golden record way out past
our solar system, Mozart playing
in the vacuum of space, as if
in its data stream, its little sighs
of ones and zeros, there might be
an official important message, 
and not just a random assortment of facts
calling collect to the stars
that have no answering machines.




Chris Banks is a Canadian poet and author of six collections of poems with Deepfake Serenade from Nightwood Editions forthcoming (Fall 2021). His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada.  His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, GRIFFEL, American Poetry Journal, Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.

1 comment:

  1. Hey
    The 3 poems here are great. I like how they move around, in,out, silther and sail, when the wind is in the sail, the rtyhmn of your voice pulling all the threads to make your poem. Thanks


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