Chris Jennings

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December 12, 2017
Tree Seed Workshop
May 24, 2011
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Featured Reader
May 24, 2011

Chris Jennings

Chris Jennings is the author of Occupations (Nightwood Editions, 2012)
Chris Jennings is the author of Occupations (Nightwood Editions, 2012). He is the former Prose Editor and Treasurer of Arc Poetry Magazine and was one of the founding editors of filling Station magazine. His poems, essays, and reviews of a broad range of poets and poetics have appeared in journals and magazines including Books in Canada, The Malahat Review, and Canadian Literature. He is currently working on the manuscript for his second collection tentatively titled Misanthropy, or Animal Cruelty.

From Chris Jennings


Eumaeüs sleeps to the sound of rivers

and wakes to the sound of the rain

smashing the puddles and mud.

Spring means a few stormy days before heat

reclaims rock and scrub.  The swine are quiet.  Eos

struggles against the clouds.  They are still gone.


Soon the fields will fill with old men and slack-minded

boys ploughing shallow, wandering furrows

or chasing farm girls rather than wide-ranging sheep.

Last year's unharvested olives rotted

on the ground and wild grass reclaimed hard-broken

land uncontested.  Ten breach-born lambs died.


Work is hard.  His body will not let him forget

this.  First to wake, he lies in

the dark and traces hard ridges of scars,

old and new, like turgid worms burrowing

through a wet mixture of manure and mud against

his sun-cured, swine-brown skin.  


Laërtes was never gone so long.  Nor did he

export twelve shiploads of able-bodied men

and leave behind an infant son.  

                                              Such ungoverned

morning thoughts trouble Eumaeüs often

these days, mixed with his still-clear childhood memories

of Syria and the father he lost.


Published in Vacancies, 2003

Cuchulain Still Fights with the Sea

                                            Cuchulain stirred,

            Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard

             The cars of battle and his own name cried;

                    And fought with the invulnerable tide.

                                 - W.B. Yeats, 'Cuchulain's Fight with the Sea'


First in, I'm still leaning into the chain link,

stretching two-a-penny bubblegum muscles.


Helmet rocking on his too-small head, he snaps

a bat off the racks and bounds into his cage,


pumps quarters into the machine and digs

hand-me-down spikes into hard-pack red shale.


Twirls the bat a few times like Stargell (too young

to know that though) while the machine hums.


A hole in the wall spits the first raggedy cage ball.

Its shallow arc rings the links behind the plate.


When it hits, he's still gesturing toward

the wall he imagines down the left field line.


I reach for my toes when he glances around

to see if anyone noticed this minor defeat


before he digs in again.  Swings from his hips.  

His head jerks back to counter the weight of the bat.


The fence rattles worse than a jeering crowd.

His next cut topples him into the shale.


You can't see the ball before it bursts from the dark

hole in the padding that protects the machine


and the sun's just high enough now to shine

into the box, hiding the central column in shadow.


You have to listen for the hollow plunk of air

the ball pushes through the drive chute.  Experience.


We're face to face for a moment.  I say

'Can't hit it if you hate it' and as he glares at me


his eyes fill with horses and the cars of battle

and the sea, though he won't know what they mean.


I climb into my cage, fish for quarters, watch

him flail at his futility, each swing driven


by concentrated, purposeless rage.  Balls pile

at the back of the box, immaterial, forgotten.


I dig in, and when that first pitch comes,

I close my eyes and punish the morning air.


Published in Fiddlehead #215

Diane Arbus as a Landscape


there are other universes

very much like this one


in one of them there's a planet

very much like ours


it knows it's an island

alone in its own sea


its continents support divers life


but they're separated

by uncrossable seas


so life on each continent is unique

alien to the life on all the others


one of these continents has grand mountains

whose peaks get lost in the clouds


even when sun blurs refractions

of ice and rock into a cloudy haze


hidden somewhere in these mountains

there's a lake so protected from the wind


that its surface looks frozen in summer


that it reflects more precisely

than the lakes in amateur watercolours


somewhere near the centre of the lake

there's an island with a stand of trees


where a species of insects gnaws

this singular bark for a particular chemical


necessary for their reproduction


their hard, black carapaces

turn sunlight midnight blue


except one the colour of evergreens

under a crescent moon just different


enough to blend in with the others

from a yard away but shine green


like an emerald next to a leaf

and though even the other insects


don't notice its peculiar hue

it does and it fucking hates itself


Published in Ottawa Arts Review #1