The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Ben Kingsley

“please take a seat, the doctor will see you shortly”

 

america lukewarm & turgid
on the local coroner’s table
rigid as a wrecked school bus
so much yellow brown & black.


they prodded me along


i tucked a single finger up
under the botox lip
& pried george
washington’s false
teeth apart with my thumbs


i considered my learning
about the heart


i scooped out america’s
jack-o-lantern brains
i massaged its flagpole


i applied the silver
bell to its tongue


now they look at me
like a mission
to mars enflamed
trust me i think i know
how hollow this examination
will prove


but someone gave me the bone saw so
here I am.

 

 

Ben Kingsley

Redeployment: Operation Noble Eagle, 14 September 2001—Present

              So much more than a politician’s statistic

 

 

Dear Zach,

 

Remember spring. When for your Eagle Scout Project we built bird house / mansions. About twenty-eight of them. Four-storied with tiny foyers, even family / rooms: only, you told me they felt larger / than the people one you were about to leave behind.


Remember summer. As we painted cedar / block after block a dark garnet. You finally hung / each grandiose house from hooks, or maybe we power-drilled them into the sides / of sycamores. I don’t remember anymore. But I can still see us hanging hammers / in our carpenter jeans, imitating / chickadee songs. The tips of nails spearing / sunlight between our teeth. Really believing / we weren’t just boy / scouts, but men.


Remember fall. From either Baglan or Khost or Saladin (it’s hard remembering), / when you returned home with a garnet-colored / keystone tattooed on your shoulder. And I asked if you really missed / us: this old Pennsyltucky, our keystone state. You said, no. The block of red ink was a crest / for the buckets of your brother’s blood poured out over Afghani sands: “The Bloody Buckets” “The 228th Iron Soldiers.” So, I started up my dad’s truck and headed for the bottom / of Penn Hills.


Remember winter. It was important / I go too, you said, I got to. I still don’t / know why / we disassembled / each long-spoiled / birdhouse after birdhouse, piled the dark / planks of dead / wood high as our silver belt buckles. I crouched with flint and steel like the old / times, but you snuffed the cherry / end of your cigarette into the ball of our collective / pocket lint. For awhile it burned, crackling. A collapsed / chickadee song. I said maybe we should head back home / not inhale paint fumes. But, you said the tumbled colors reminded you of yellowcake / uranium. Or, maybe you didn’t answer me at all. And for awhile we stood / together, staring into the cracking / keystone of our last summer as scouts, / boys.

 

 


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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