The Book of the Dead for Dummies

Winter, 2018–2019 / No. 42

I am past my expiration date. Some would argue

water is not a human right. Maybe we are all dead

awaiting rebirth. I do not believe the world exists.

The universe is a giant hologram. Any first death

is a practice run. We are stranded together amongst

the office towers and traffic cops and billboards.

Commuters read popular novels. Stare out windows

on the subway awaiting resurrection. I wish I had

been a better person in a previous life. Miracles

go unseen. Bombs explode on prime-time news.

I am stuck in a holding pattern. Past-life regressions

are incarnations to prepare you for the other side.

What kind of prison is this with its plastic water

bottles and big-box stores? I am plotting escape.

Let me begin again. I fall asleep every night

only to wake in the same place. Is it wrong to love

the feast if the guests are all ghosts? I am bound

for a certain term to think about online profiles

and the spirit’s inferno. Purgatory is a late shift.

Experience is an illusion. Had I grown up with

demon gods, I might have been reborn already.

I treat everyone like emissaries of the hereafter.

Heart attacks are the way some people transition.

Over time it occurs to me my body is a reliquary

of stardust and unyielding losses, and despite my

love of calla lilies, the smell of aftershave, massage

therapy and hotel pedicures, Arabica coffee and

French baguettes, morning smoothies and air travel,

as an astral plane, I give this one three stars.

Chris Banks is the author of four books of poetry. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in publications including the New Quarterly, Arc, and the Antigonish Review. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario. Last updated winter, 2018–2019.