INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
Chrissy Banks lives and writes in Exeter. She previously worked as a psychodynamic counsellor and trainer.
Her poems have been published widely in anthologies and journals.
Chrissy’s first pamphlet was ‘Watching the Home Movies’ (Odyssey) and she also has a full collection, ‘Days of Fire and Flood’ (original plus).
She won second prize in the inaugural Wordsworth Trust Single Poem Competition in 2017.
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
‘What lives in shadow is always seeking a gap.’ In this collection, the unexpected enters in various forms, welcome or unwelcome. With psychological acuteness Banks’s searching, poignant poems unsettle, provoke and amuse. What is ‘uninvited’ changes the poet and her various subjects through experiences of conflict, joy and grief. Love, loss and a search for identity and meaning are attendant themes, while resolution comes through understanding and acceptance.
“These are remarkable poems, unshowy but compelling, powered by wry perceptiveness yoked to generosity of spirit; here are Manx childhood memories, loves early and late, celebrations and self-doubt, quizzical travelling in a world where ‘each of us guards/at least one colour/no-one else can see’ – a lifetime’s beguiling narratives.”
“Skilled and articulate, raw but never straining for effect, empathetic but never sentimental – each story is simply allowed to unfold itself in its own unique and apparently inevitable way.
‘The Uninvited’ is a grippingly ‘moreish’ book.”
We flew to a country of golden temples,
golden Buddhas six times as tall as a man.
But now, here’s what I think about most:
Garden lodge. Petal-strewn bed. Bowl of fruit
on a table. Banana skin partially stripped, flesh
well chomped, not by us. Too munched for a mouse.
I ransacked cupboards, peered under chairs.
Searched for a hole, a gap, a crack big enough.
Had I left a window open, a door unlatched?
Someone delivered a metal cage, banana-baited.
At first, not a squeak. Then I woke to a maniac
rattling of bars. The thing and I stared at each other.
Fingery claws, breathing fur. The naked flex
of its tail; those eyes, onyx-black. I could just about watch
as it shivered there in the cage. But when it was gone,
it was still here. In a sealed wooden house.
Me and the creature: all one, according to Buddha.
What lives in shadow is always seeking a gap.
The Horrible Haircuts of Childhood
I remember the horrible haircuts:
trapped in the chair, tied up in a nylon gown,
condemned to watching it happen, mute,
full-face in the mirror. Like viewing your own
execution, while the Serial Hair Killer witters
about holidays, shopping, school, the weather,
pretending there’s no ritual sacrifice going on
as she shreds you with eager scissors.
My hair was never that long in the first place
and the short, blunt cut was always wrong,
the way a pair of curtains, hung,
but chopped in half, are wrong. My face,
stripped naked, too plainly showed I longed
to die quickly, all hiding places gone.
Rio, Summer 2014
High on the giant hunchback of the Corcovado,
Christ is a small white cross,
luminous at night.
Even the least religious football fan is touched
by the way he watches over Rio,
He’s huge up close with soapstone robes, the long
hands of an artist. Lightning
has broken off one finger.
There’s a man lying on the ground full stretch,
tubular lens aimed straight up
the Redeemer’s nostrils.
A Chinese girl pouts, seducing herself with an iphone.
Everyone smiles, arms spread,
for a selfie with Jesus.
Three musicians explode into samba songs
on the packed down-tram. North,
south, we’re all on a high
and a young football supporter from Devon
is wooing an old, gap-toothed Brazilian.
He’s down on one knee,
the woman shaking with laughter so that
her belly rocks. Her tee shirt says in English,
Everything in life is for loving.
Washing the Buddha
In heat, wind, downpour, knee-high snow,
he sat on.
When kids pelted his head with soil and stones,
he sat on.
Juddering in the removal van’s closed dark,
in the seeping corner where midges dance at dusk,
he sat on.
I wander unfamiliar paths, turn and turn again,
while he sits on.
And when I scrub the mildewed spots from his
he sits on. Patiently he sits, as I scrape away
the yellow moss
and bathe his crown, face, chest, his mottled
arms and back.
I tip him sideways, backwards, upside down.
and when the green scum froths, I sluice it off
till he is clean again.
And then we sit together, me and Buddha.
We sit on.
The Sex Life of Paper Clips
He drew my attention to paper clips,
their furtive encounters, their magic tricks.
How does inanimate stuff like this
secretly manage to shift and hitch?
Necklaces left in a fastened box
end up coiled in unravellable knots
in a ménage à trois with a silver cross
and dangly earrings or bracelet watch.
I’m starting to notice it everywhere:
the toothy kiss of some forks ensnared,
post-tumble tights and a sweater, the pair
in a Velcro clinch on a bedroom chair.
But if it’s a crackle of static that smacks
us together, what holds over time is the mass
of poppers and studs, the clasp and the catch.
A hook pulls away and an eye pulls back.
and you came so softly
into the room where I sat
in my reverie
stepping behind me so gently
I didn’t know you were there
till your touch on my shoulder
light as a leaf settling
floating up out of my dream
I didn't know who
our son in Australia
my mother long gone
or a much younger you
who would find me like this
with a touch
hardly daring to