WASTE: A POETICS
The line, the line, the line, the line, the line, the line.
Who gives a god-damn. Not the garbageman collecting
the city’s refuse. Such a waste, he thinks, and every
block or so, a church, and every few driveways, a few
kids riding their bicycles. And although the churches
are empty because it is Thursday, he hears bells anyway.
The sound of his own life tolling. His days numbered
and kicked to the curb. The line going on, and on, and on
without him. So much so, he imagines he sees some
other body walking between the shadows of the truck
and the world at large, between the here and the there,
trying to finish what he feels he began, only a lifetime ago.
The days changing, as the trees change, as the decades change,
and the line going on and on as people drift out of houses
along the city streets leaving old keepsakes and garbage
stacked on sidewalks like curbside cairns, monuments
to a million spoiled futures, waiting to be carried away.
MY OWN PRIVATE TINTERN ABBEY
…..and it just seems right, to be here, walking a path
watching the Grand River coil along its banks, the sun
amber in that way it gets when darkness begins
to squeeze it by the throat and pull it down. My dog trotting
a few feet ahead of us, mud-umbered, and purposeful,
taking occasion to stop, drop, and roll at the water’s edge
in pearled foam and river-silt, getting up to shake vigorously
and then with such perfect intention, he stares querously
at my wife and I as if to ask where are we going?
His puzzled look I would love to hold inside my memory
along with the sun-light, bejewelled and breaking off
the water’s surface into yellow diamond shards, the old mill
dismantling itself by a stand of birch trees, the river
sliding along its banks in its near perfect sublimity.
Ancient civilizations, I’ve been told, sprang up along fertile
river valleys – the Tigris or the Euphrates, for instance—
because of water distribution, transportation, and farming.
But might it not also be that a river is a home one recognizes,
instantly, like to like, for its transitory nature, its beauty,
for the energy that pushes its currents is the same one
stirring our blood? A man can walk a river his entire life,
watching the many days sail around the bend, owning
none of it, yet find it has taken deep purchase within him.
A blue heron stands on one leg, a hermit, a master fisherman,
unendurably still, perfecting solitude, waiting for a mystery
which lies beneath the surface to swim by so he might spear
a little bit of it with his beak and take it back into the day.
At such times, it is easy to imagine Wordsworth brooding
along the Wye, seeing the divine in all things, the way
I see it now as pollen leaving its golden honey dust
upon the river in the evening light, while bull-frogs
sing their sad, still music of non-humanity, a full chorus
rising steadily in pitch out in the marshes, playing
to a packed house, making it easy for us to forget
the machines of industry plying their wares a few miles
down-river from where we walk, dusk coming on
with its lexicon of stars too pale to read from, and
the little rooms of happiness opening heavy oak doors
within our bodies as the sun drops over the trees,
its slow fire dissolving us on the way home.
Chris Banks’s 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. A chapbook entitled Sparrows and Arrows was published by Biblioasis Press in the spring of 2006. His second full-length collection entitled The Cold Panes of Surfaces (Nightwood) appeared in the fall of 2006. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario, where he writes, and teaches at Bluevale Collegiate Institute.