Congratulations to Benjamin Hackman,
in recognition of being selected
the 2011 recipient of The Ted Plantos Memorial Award.
"What impressed me most about this
series of poems and what tipped the balance in their favour,
a combination of the formal restrictions placed on the voice, and
the sustained attention to
a single persona throughout. Hackman turns experience over in his
mind and reveals a depth of
understanding of the human predicament and without becoming repetitive,
revisits events and
turns over the multi-faceted nature of understanding, both the banality
of daily experiences
and the illumination of large themes."
John B. Lee, Poet Laureate
Some of Benjamin's
appeared originally in Canadian Literature, and
"The World's Biggest Bookstore" was published in Jones Avenue.
an audio version of "A Nation of Bears" can be heard at
NATION OF BEARS
Ones will come for you (permissibly) in the night,
in the bedroom where you sleep, where as a child
your mother kissed you on your head,
and yank you from your bed,
brandishing their badges and their clubs,
for Love consumes the flesh of Fear
have chosen Love.
They will drag you, as cold and naked
as a frog at night, by your pimpled skin,
through the hallways of your mother's home,
past photographs upon her wall, the cat meowing at its bowl,
out the door, into the streets and beat you,
whisper rape threats in your ear;
for Love consumes the flesh of Fear, and to those
who in the commonwealth of William Blair condone
the killing season, you are a nation of Bears.
We will have mercy, you say:
We will chew to your heart through the back of your
IN THE SUPERMARKET
go of me, Benjy--you're a burden.
There aren't enough belts in the world
to counterweigh your yanking. My pants, thank you,
just the way they are, and if I wanted them
down they would be
a woman I doubt would want you
anymore than I do there, yanking
at my pants and sucking
your thumb--why the hell are you crying
now for fuck's sake like some sissy?--let go
of the cart, kid! It's not a ride!
Between your smile and my eye-
bags & beard, that cashier can't have a clue
if we're Big or Benjy.
So you act my supposèd age
today, kid, and come
tomorrow, God-willing, she'll pretend to be the Mum.
be a Big thing, Benjy thinks,
to throw your daughter down the stairs.
His sister's not Big like his Mummy is. But little
girls ought'a learn, Benjy's heard, what that means:
That's a Big girl's education.
And where does that leave the boys?
is how that baby boy in diapers and all his
strident squeals & moans--how all those
scales he heard played out
seemed so chromatic then--became Big,
whether he knows what that means or not.
As he looks
back on his sister
at her studies (crying), Benjy is struck
with a most confusing conception of himself:
Even if I have to die, he declares,
to get to the bottom of things I will.
Tomorrow, Benjy's gonna throw himself down the stairs.
In a shopping
mall once I remember him bawling,
being dragged by the wrist beyond the drugstore; having
had (finally) enough, Benjy's thrown his hands & himself
with a frown and a fuss
fourteen years later, to the floor.
The Big Ones seem like they're always in a rush.
what? Where the world sits
praying for change, another bomb in the West Bank bursts;
where the poet starts seeming like he may make
mention of a long leg's function in the Great Rat Race, he diverts
makes petty complaint of his mother instead.
Why won't you slow down? he said,
little girl, three-years-old, has taken
his hand & him across the road
and he's waiting!--he is waiting for her little legs
like every Big One ought to do.
-Said: Sweetheart, you walk at what speed your feet go.
The Big Ones can keep up. Our Mummies can follow.
of a dream of a boy who is voiceless, mouthing
for a mother who is faceless, and falling
from a bed onto a hard and wooden floor, and his father
racing in to check. From there begins depression,
midnight hunger, images of Auschwitz & wooden shoes,
the daily news: the universe in all its eternal bleakness.
I'm twenty-four and my father no longer races;
he is a pig's valve and a zipper, a yellow beatless chest,
one instance of Intensive Care in which my sister (inconsolable)
that every Big One one day becomes faceless.
Memory: of decrepit Autumn leaves. Memory: of decomposing Earth.
I have fallen, Mummy. I have only ever fallen,
and I, like
my Benjy, like my father's Benjy, must
decay, into wind & worms & trees
& Tatte--can you hear him underneath that beeping?--,
how soon until we are a tree?
When will my branches, like your branches' branches, be
your father's branches, Tatte? We have fallen, Tatte.
We have only ever fallen.
How soon until I can decay?
TO THE MURDER PACT
Never mind to every tear,
to all my pride, my trunks of fear,
and drifted down river on raft
until the waters whipped him, tossed & gored,
and he tethered my legs to mast.
Not one black cloud moved quickly on.
of rain that fell upon him drowned.
I might have drowned that day as well,
tethered out yonder on the deep mad river, moaning,
"Come back, you fool, come back
" and diving,
he cried: She is a woman over whom every cloud moves past!
and the waters that day were winning.
I see her less,
whether in her walls or waiting. I could not make it last unless
I clung to dried pansies and a scrap of her dress,
joys both true and untrue.
Eventually their sickly cloud moved thickly past.
I untethered my legs and went home.
WORLD'S BIGGEST BOOKSTORE
Shame is that
human being, who lifted his hands, who cupped his crotch,
who backed down, and bent over, and out of his spot
because a Hummer's much Bigger than a Pontiac is
and that Hummer--that Hammer--feels Big.
The only thing my father ever says is: You just try and get out
And he dies everyday so that I can be the Biggest.
a time when I can't tell how far to take my father's words,
and what it is I ought to know and believe.
I know my fists hurt from the rain,
and that Shame is every human being
whose tears fall taciturn upon a proud & puddled Earth, and
in my high belief to listen, read my Dream Songs on the curb
and that it's
been forty years since my father read Golding
33 since Henry had a most marvellous piece of luck.
Not much has changed since in the world of parking lots:
most people are still jerks; no one gives a fuck about the rats;
and more important, Mister Bones, if we both dies tomorrow,
that Hammer's still got his spot. You just try and get out