Banality

By Gregory Djanikian

Featured Image: Tullichewan Castle, Vale of Leven, Scotland by Sir James Campbell of Strathro, 1855
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

There’s something to be said for banality,
the way it keeps everything on a level plane,
one cliché blithely following another
like cows heading toward the pasture.

How lovely sometimes not to think
about Russian Futurism, or the second law
of thermodynamics, or how thinking itself
requires some thoughtfulness.

I’d like to ask if Machiavelli
ever owned a dog named “Prince.”
I’d like to imagine Rosalind Franklin
lounging pleasantly by a wood stove.

Let the mind take a holiday,
the body put its slippers on.
It’s a beautiful day, says the banal,
and today, I’m happy to agree
with its genial locutions.

Woof, woof, goes the neighbor’s dog.
The sun is pouring in through the window,
heating up the parlor, the blue sky is so blue,
and the cumulous clouds are looking very cumulous.

I’m all for reading a murder mystery,
something with flair but forgettable.
Or some novelette whose hero’s name
is Hawk or Kestrel, a raptor bird
soaring above his ravished love.

I’m lying on the couch with easy puzzles.
I’m playing a song that has no accidentals.
Life’s but a dream, comme ci, comme ça.

No doubt, tomorrow I’ll be famished
for what’s occult and perilous,
all those knots in the brain,
all the words that are hard to crack.

Today, I’m floating like a feather,
call me Falcon, look me up
in the field guide under Blissful,
Empty-headed, under everything
that loves what it does today,
and requires no explanation.


Gregory Djanikian has published seven collections of poems with Carnegie Mellon, the latest of which is Sojourners of the In-Between (2020). His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and have been featured on Fresh Air and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He was for many years the director of creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania and now lives with his wife, the painter Alysa Bennett, near Philadelphia. For more from Gregory Djanikian visit gregorydjanikian.com.

Originally appeared in NOR 17

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s