The poem “Trivia Night” by Shaun Robinson comes from his wonderful new poetry collection If You Discover A Fire out with Brick Books later this spring. A review is forthcoming!
It’s important to get things wrong,
even if it feels like fighting
with a lover, forgetting important dates
and the names of her friends,
and she thinks it means you don’t care.
We do care, America, just not about
your state parks or your presidents,
the pretty coins stamped with their faces
spinning through the pub’s gloom
to settle a bet about the year we landed
on the moon. Remember that, America?
High-fiving the cosmos, trampling
the dusty surface of eternity? Four-hundred-
whatever years after Vasco da Gama
discovered whatever it was—
Florida, maybe, or fire, or the fountain
of youth, which I imagine surrounded
by marble parrots and bubbling
like a vodka soda. It doesn’t matter
if it’s real. The helicopter has only existed
since 1936. The zipper was invented
in 1891, and before that we lived
without it. Picture Lincoln fumbling
with hooks and loops above a chamber pot
in the Ford Theatre moments before
every fact he’s ever known is blown
through a hole in the back of his head.
And the facts in yours will one day rot
into a black soup, the capitals floating
in a stateless void, every letter
of Mississippi emptied into the Gulf.
Isn’t that why you come? To test
yourself in the blackout shrine
of a neighbourhood pub, to honour
the knowledge you’ve lived without?
You know as much as you need to.
Your mother’s maiden name, floating
inside you like a slice of lime
in a vodka soda. You know the story
and the shortcut, the password and the prayer.
You know you’ll wake on your bathroom
floor, the toilet glowing above you
like a ceramic moon, like a match
struck on your zipper in the dark room
of everything you’ve forgotten.
By Shaun Robinson
SHAUN ROBINSON’s poetry has appeared in the Puritan, the Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, Poetry Is Dead, and the Rusty Toque, and received Honourable Mention in ARC Magazine’s 2018 Poem of the Year contest. Born in 100 Mile House, BC, Robinson has lived in Vancouver since 2006. He studied in UBC’s Creative Writing MFA program, where he served as the poetry editor of PRISM international. He is also the author of the chapbook Manmade Clouds and currently works as an editor for the chapbook press Rahila’s Ghost. If You Discover a Fire is his debut collection.
Chris Banks is a Canadian poet and author of six collections of poems with Deepfake Serenade from Nightwood Editions forthcoming in Fall 2021. His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, GRIFFEL, American Poetry Journal, Prism International, among other publications. He lives and writes in Waterloo, Ontario.