Two Poems by Ben Kingsley

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

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *