Burdens Q & A (with Charles Banks, Jr.)

Burdens Q and A
with Charles Banks, Jr. (Author of Burdens)
1. What was the inspiration behind this particular project? There were a myriad of themes for Burdens. At its core, this chapbook of poetry is about loss—loss of identity, of naivety, of self. I think the speaker in this book is struggling to make sense of recent events. Black Angel is trying to use past experiences to make sense of his current frame of mind. For a lack of a better term, he’s become a zombie of sorts.
2. How did this particular project come to fruition? For the past five years, you have written primarily as Curiosity. In fact, your last three books have been penned as Curiosity. So why shift over to Black Angel for the first time since 2008 for an entire body of work? In hindsight, I wanted to explore who Black Angel’s voice was in poetry before I committed to another project. I was working on another piece of writing, and a couple of months into the process, the vision in my head did not match the writing. I was telling a different story than I wanted to. This particular writing told a far deeper story of lament and anxiety and discomfort.
3. Discomfort? In what way? Meaning a sense of being unsettled. It’s well chronicled now that I had cancer last year. I can’t think of anything else that would make one any more unsettled than a life-threatening disease. In the last year, I have tried to objectively, emphasis on ‘objectively’, analyze my life. I’ve learned some new things about myself. And I think some of those newfound realizations manifest themselves in Burdens.
4. How did you decide on the poem sequence for Burdens? Well, I like to focus on the beginning and end. Meaning, I like to choose the first and last poem initially, and work in the guts in between. I felt the most impressionable poems, the poems that wholly encompassed the book’s theme were “Bedside Vigil” and “Finale.” It’s interesting because “Bedside Vigil” was the last poem I wrote for the book, and “Finale” was the first poem I wrote.
5. How difficult is it to write about such an emotional, human moment in time like you did in “Bedside Vigil”? That was probably one of the easier poems to write. Though, it was difficult to determine how much detail was too much. I had a difference of opinions with my editor about specific details. She wanted more! But I wanted the focus of the poem on Tony, his fading grip on life, and the narrator and his early deterioration into regret.
6. How real is the moment you wrote about in “Finale”? It was very real to me. I’ve never spoken to someone who had contemplated suicide before about the experience. I can only reflect from my perspective. I wrote that during radiation treatment, which was the greatest test of wills in my life. I was mid-way through a 37 session treatment, and had lost a significant amount of weight. I went from 200 pounds to 126 altogether. I was depressed! The radiation had damaged my taste buds, so I stopped eating. I did not drink water either because it tasted like lead. So I ended up at the beach one night. I don’t remember how I got there. In my frailness, I walked two miles at 3 in the morning with a knife and a suicide note in tote, and I sat at an empty life guard’s post. And for that short window of time, I contemplated the idea of dying. At that moment in time, I did not want to live.
7. Why do you think you did live? The pros of living outweighed the cons. My life felt incomplete. I can say that because I was 24 at the time. I mean, whose life is really complete at 24? My narrative would be incomplete if I had died on that night. So I made a conscious decision, in the wake of the most unconscious moment of my life, to live. Sometimes, the act of living is a choice. I chose to live.
*Carla Westbrook
for Spilt Ink Poetry
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Bedside Vigil (Writing as Black Angel) Excerpt from “Burdens”


I sat vigil over Tony’s bedside
for sixteen hours before he died
on Christmas Eve, five days before
his nineteenth birthday.
Nurses came and went, checking his vitals,
propping his pillows, asking if he needed
warm blankets or the window opened.
We traded cancer stories and laughed about how
the hospital food reminded us of radiation treatment.
I went through 37 rounds
and had been cancer-free for nine months.
He went through 28 twice before the cancer
came back and took over his entire body.
When I got to the hospital, Tony was frail,
pale-skinned, and frequently lost his breath
in the middle of a good memory.
He died just before midnight,
as the Christmas carolers sang from down the hall.
I remained at his empty bedside
long into the silence of morning,
sitting vigil over what could have been me.

© 2014 by Charles banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel
Excerpt from Burdens
Published by Spilt Ink Poetry

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Burdens (Written by Charles Banks, Jr.)

Hello followers! Today, my third chapbook of poetry, Burdens is officially available on eBay and through direct PayPal payments! If you’re in purchasing a signed print copy, please head on over to eBay http://www.ebay.com/itm/Burdens-Writing-as-Black-Angel-/121255777643?pt=US_Fiction_Books&hash=item1c3b68556b or send PayPal payments ($8.00) to spiltinkpoetry@hotmail.com. PayPal payments also come with free shipping!

I would like to thank Fernando Gallegos for providing artwork for this project, including the cover art! Also, thanks go out to Denise R. Weuve, whose selfless help aided the project’s completion!

Happy reading!


Sincerely Yours,

Charles Banks, Jr.


Synopsis by Denise R. Weuve (Poet)

“It takes courage to be a poet, and even more courage to write from the dark places most people attempt to hide.  Black Angel (pen name for Charles Banks, Jr.) flourishes in these places.  He plows the earth to see what is beneath the soil, and finds the beauty in the lost seeds that were never watered, those trapped beneath oppressive roots blocking their growth, and all the “mislead beauty” that no one seems to care about.  In this chapbook collection, Burdens, you will find a man not afraid to show vulnerability and the harsh truths that surround his life.  In “The Fireplace” he starts the poem with, A reflection of scolding hot truths and each of these poems seem like Black Angel’s deepest truths.  “Inheritance” is such an example.  Here we have a persona so thoroughly incased in the truth of the life he has been trust into, that he sees no hope, and no empathy outside his own body.  When you reach “Finale” you will have been taken on a journey that questioned society, afterlife, diseases, love, and most importantly the self.  You will have no more answers than Black Angel does, but you will have visited a world that only he could have taken you to, and that in return will make you look more deeply into your own.”


Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

“Finale” by Fernando Gallegos

"Finale" Art © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos Inspired by the Poem "Finale" by Charles Banks, Jr (Writing as Black Angel)

Art © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos
Inspired by the Poem “Finale” by Charles Banks, Jr (Writing as Black Angel)

“What Stalks Me” by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos. Inspired by the poem "What Stalks Me" by Charles Banks Jr (Writing as Black Angel).

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos.
Inspired by the poem “What Stalks Me” by Charles Banks Jr (Writing as Black Angel).

“Shattered Glass Bottle” by Fernando Gallegos

"Shattered Glass Bottle" Art © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos Inspired by the Poem "Shattered Glass Bottle"

“Shattered Glass Bottle”
Art © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos
Inspired by the Poem “Shattered Glass Bottle”

Shattered Glass Bottle (Writing as Black Angel) Excerpt from “Burdens”

Shattered Glass Bottle

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

“Shattered Glass Bottle”Art © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos
Inspired by the Poem “Shattered Glass Bottle”

Glass is shattering at this present moment.
Shush! Can you hear it?
It’s the spirit of a fallen man,
a cry for aid.

But no one hears its broken shards,
No one hears its impact against the mighty wall.
No one hears its remnants make sympathetic notes.

Formally, a stout Vodka bottle,
but now a million reflections of a lost man.
Its contents comfort him,
a deceiving console.

So, can you hear it?
The spirit of a fallen man?
It cries out in a melancholy plea.
Shush! Listen and you might faintly hear
the mutes screams.

Art © 2014 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos