“Days of Fire and Flood (Poems 1985 – 2003)” Chrissy Banks (Original Plus) Poetry Review

Chrissy Banks is concerned with what lurks under the surface, eg in “Psycho Sunday”,

“I grab some ham and hack it
into little fleshy pieces,
smash a slice of sponge to smithereens
and drown the sliced cling peaches
in their own dishonest juices.

The ghost of a stain spreads across
the white politeness of the table.

Now, the bread knife winks at me.”

The devil’s in the detail, that “fleshy” suggests the narrator’s thinking of more than the ham such as a pump relative, the “ghost” of family members not there or who might have become and the family Sunday tea being a white-wash of stifling politeness.  Likewise the language is deceptively simple, but there too, look at what lurks under the surface, “cling” does describe the peaches but also a family clinging to ritual.  Later, Chrissy Banks looks at her own family, in “The Gift” when the mother returns home after being patched up in hospital following an accident,

 

“… And my son
my tall, cool son of sixteen
kissed the top of my head
and over the curve of my shoulder
laid his arm, like the broad wing
of a mother bird guarding its young.

Anyone who has known tenderness
thrown like a lifeline into the heart of pain
anyone who has known pain bleed into tenderness
knows how the power of the two combine.”

There’s more to it than the shock of a teenager showing compassion, there’s an acknowledgement that “mother” can be a role played by any family member, something that mothers, caught in the net of instinct and expectation, sometimes forget.  Easy to dismiss the subject matter as “domestic” but Chrissy Banks’s poems deserve much more than that.  They pack a lot under their surfaces and reward a deeper reading.

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