by: Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley’s poetry is a storm of language we get caught in; it reflects and refracts the anxious perplexities that ensnare us. Exploring the ways we are alone (“I cannot/ pluck off my nose/ so you can smell/ what I have smelled”) and the dread we share (“my fear is/ not that I Am/ failing at anything. but rather/ succeeding at those things/ which do not really matter), his lines sing to us all.
I am the black and white and red all over S&M priestess howling like biblical Wisdom for Solomon’s sky-shattering discernment from every street corner. Peeling apart this electronic newspaper licking dark wires fired and my hair is kindling that I break off to ignite our arguments that smell so solipsistic because I cannot pluck off my nose so you can smell what I have smelled or dip my kingfisher’s beak into the eyes of a thousand lidless little stories: goldfish heads who have no voice yet I know some cry for: “Tyrannicide!” I get it. We’re both rocking down the back of every blue donkey, dancing down the trunk of every claret-red elephant, sucking the shaft of a thousand golden trumpets, and was it Uncle Calvin who said that on Jesus’ thigh a name is tattooed that no one knows but Himself? Revelation I am. Telling my children about Rumpelstiltskin’s scalp bought and sold and thrown from the spread corollas of my finger tips so that the child on my lap can imagine what I used to, as I read to him even if only for a little while, for ahead there is grief and great trials. He doesn’t need to know about blood swirling in a wine-dark scrim shanked from a fleeing Arab’s side because for now I am the pink mist sprayed on a table collected in pouches methamphetamines wailing to be snorted so I can soar through your lymph nodes and remind you that when you were six years old there were only two women you loved your mother and your mother and your mother—and— my fear is not that I Am failing at anything. but rather succeeding at those things which do not really matter. The American Dream: You Have to Be Asleep to Believe it The burner against my back, I was in a long-distance relationship with goals like quitting this career under a boss who adopts puppies only to string them up in a Wal-Mart bag, tossed into a lake. The litter drowns. You too? Great, we have so much in common. Like me, do you pound four NoDoz, a large espresso, and tear through a cardboard case of Mountain Dew to get through this shift—we’ll always have more tomorrows. Live: like you’ll live twice. Right? And I’m the only CEO of my kidneys, “Blah Blah” our doctor’s tell us Vyvanse can’t be hammered angry-fisted into clumps and bumped up running noses but they’re the ones with shit handwriting, student loans, and I’m over here soon to be debt free and nose-deep— in the clean currency of our republic: green petaled faces enough to cram into a Vitamix blender, and all I have to do is bend this back, press my nose into the gravel, prostrate before the crossroads demon Corporation. The anti-human—and I a worker ant. You and me both? Perfect. In the month that you and your brother were both eight, did your mother pour baby oil on his face while you were gone and did she paint a cross on his forehead so “the Lord’s face would shine upon him?” then did she say there was none left for you? No blessing. The unlucky one. Did you punch your own jaw looking in the mirror? Do you confess this on Fridays after work with your comrades: belts unbuckled and every other taste bud seared by well whisky as you all crawl out of this night in cars like phosphorescent sea crabs washing out to distant neighborhoods. Do you elect the hours of dark aren’t over for you and sing yourself into a gully and pry at the wet handle of a walkout basement, hushing imaginary friends around you to be quiet as you do your best impression of Bugs tip-toeing inside? Yeah? Really? You too? When you got inside did you see the boy sleeping on the pullout with his toes curled beneath the sheets, and did you hum to him on your hands and heels as you crab walked towards the Batman bank on the mantle, then when his eyes twitched did you put the Macbook under his bed under your arm and waddle away, scooping up a handful of Starbursts, dropping the yellow ones onto the carpet, hoping to whore a little more out of this night, just another random B&E? Are you in the kitchen making two dishes of Japanese? One for you and one for if someone from Capitol Hill comes to congratulate their appetite? Did you, like me, buy your dreams with a credit card? The American One with a private loan? Are you almost thirty too, is that when Sallie or Mae comes for us: slink into our bedrooms while we sleep to bleed out our piggy banks red and belly up on a plastic fast? Maybe if we shatter every gas station mirror, and crack the necks of nine hundred black cats, if we waltz our umbrellas open indoors, and work our lives under a ladder leading to an unseeable horizon, they won’t reap what little we saved for our children in flag-flying Sows—we, too luckless, too charred, too bulimic in this failing night to ever be collected.
Ben Kingsley is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Mahatma Ghandi. This Ben is a touch less famous. He hasn’t acted since a third grade debut as the undertaker in Music Man. Currently, he is a Michener Fellow, VONA: Voices of our Nation Scholar, and belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. He holds an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently his work has been published in Prairie Schooner and Diverse Voices Quarterly.