By Chrissy Banks
Thanks to Shanks’s
I mean these legs, that were not made for speed,
whose shape and shortness
I so often scorn. Just now they carried me
along by the stream on my daily walk for sanity.
Sun, the first Impressionist,
was painting sycamore light-dappled,
bright yellow-green and a jay flew up.
My pins. Their joints and muscles, tendons, bones,
their intricate tributaries carrying blood.
Bend, lunge, circle, kick, all the ways they move
then fold together when I sleep, a pair of tongs.
As a child, someone was always urging,
Say thank you. So I did, but felt nothing more
than the puppet whose strings are pulled.
Now I know gratitude as a kind of lifting up
the way that jay rose from under the rowan tree.
Or a brightening, the curtain of clouds
drawn back, sun signalling another day.
The Prophet II
after Kahlil Gibran
Chrissy Banks lives in Exeter. The Uninvited was published last year by Indigo Dreams. A new pamphlet, Frank, is due in May 2021 from the Poetry Business.
Thanks for Shanks’s: Several things kept me feeling reasonably healthy and sane during lockdown. One was making sure I took a regular walk. I needed to move around outside to know I wasn’t a prisoner in my own home, to feel the sun and the breeze on my skin and to experience the wellbeing that came from being part of the natural world: trees, birds, a stream, grasslands. This was all easy enough from where I live, but I realised only because I had a good, strong pair of legs, something I have always taken for granted. Lockdown was a great lesson in not taking anything, or anyone, for granted.
The Prophet II: I wouldn’t be the first to wonder whether currently we are all simply bit-part players in some cruel satirist’s new UK reality show. ‘You couldn’t make it up’ is now a common refrain in response to a new man or woman in a suit disastrously failing to do what they have been paid shedloads of our money to do. Government indecision, lies, attacks on the Civil Service, flouting of the law, huge contracts awarded, without competition, to mates, when it comes to having a rant, don’t get me started, but it’s not what I want to do in a poem.
I have always loved Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, his extended poem where the People ask for the Prophet’s wisdom on various aspects of life – Work, Love, Death etc. Where are our prophets now? I thought. Where are our wise people, those who could guide us safely and selflessly if they were in positions of power? This was what led to my writing The Prophet II. The poem is driven by my disappointment, alarm and anger that at a time when we the people most need someone honest and steady and compassionate in power, we have instead the opposite. I hope it makes people smile as well as leaving no-one in any doubt that politics do matter, especially in times like these and that we all need to engage.