The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Ben Kingsley

Beneath Carnival Lights

 

You can’t stop morning
from melting plastic bags.


100 other goldfish twisty-tied
up and dreading a hot sunrise.


You’re in mourning together
for the old 20+ gallon tank.


For the familiarity of the green leaf
that released you from an orange egg sack.


How’d you find yourself
in one of these again?


You are a woman now
but you have always had scales.


Bulging eyes, torn fins, and a fading
coat, you don’t like what you see.


You’ve been told
you will be born


again and when
it’s all over.


You like it when the man yells, close
but no cigar.


They say hope is his finger
poking the edge of your new egg sack.


You like it at night, when the brilliant scales
filled with light turn on.


You have ears for children’s song.
Their blown bubbles remind you of home.


You think you are strong enough
to die in a toilet bowl.

 

 

Ben Kingsley

 0 to 60--One Horse in a Field

 

The engine of our silver 1984
Ford Bronco whirrs in a blue
night detour while my father whips
through a cornfield of husk
and copper seed pelting our windshield,
our clattering dash.


                        “A shortcut,” my father
                        sings with Leonard Cohen.


                                                                                His boot double-times the pedal. Baby
                                                                                cousin Nora sleeps slouched against my lap.
                                                                                The ricketing cradles her. The tires lick up
                                                                                Mississippi Plain’s dirt, dark and slurred
                                                                    at the edges of our car in brown bully splotches.
                                                                    I envy her unawares—to her father’s
                                                                    galloping hunt for newness toward land
                                                                    of enchantment: New Mexico.
                        “Dance me to the end
                        of love,” he hambones
                        against the steering wheel.
                        I smell his scalding
                                                        breath. I tell myself, don’t cry out in fear. Don’t wake
                                                                    Nora to this booze-saddled waltz of blue night
                                                                    pushing down plains, ripping up some unknown
                                                                    farmer’s blackgold stalk and labor.
Crop parts in yellow waves,
and peaking through the treadless tires
of my eyes it’s


            all
            open field
            sixty—or 60,000—
            horses running through unbound plain
            stampeding around our little silver car
                                                            a streak, a tribe, a falling rock, an earth
                                                            of muscled, shuddering
                                                            hoovebeats louder
                                                            than our radiator’s rat-tat,
                                                            and with my voice, I crack
                                                            and stutter, ‘stop’
We careen so close to a stallion,
that our bucking wheels are nothing
but a child’s spinning top
below the bass of his thumping weight.
                                                                                                Nora sleeps. And I won’t wake
                                                                                                her to this dream, wilder still.
Mare feet clomp and catch
            against our fender denting
its metallic smirk.
                                                                                    Moon flecks sparkle in my father’s
                                                                        good eye—the bad eye twists
                                                                                    blue.
A tumult of flanks romp in dirty-

             skirted cream. Horses
toward the edge of dissolving night.
                                                                                    Red circles around their eyes,
                                                                                                their nostrils, their speared knees,
                                                                                                                        vessels of war
                                                                                                indifferent to our bucking,
                                                                                                our little—
            I want to go where they’re headed:
            galloping into a different kind
            of new, but I’m too afraid to ask.
                                                                        Take me anywhere
                                                                        except the land of enchantment:
                                                                        anywhere except New Mexico.
At my barefooted trembling, Wild
Buffalo and a sawed-off scuffle,
where Nora’s dreams of feeding
wild ponies haven’t yet caught
up to my father and his Wild
Hunt.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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