Benni Claflin

Fountains of Youth

I watched the old woman, her lips puckering before the cigarette had even been lifted from its disease-ridden cardboard bed by her feeble, determined grasp. A temporary flicker of hope and youth flashes against her eyes & her face is transformed. Suddenly a 16 year old girl stands in her place and is lighting her first cigarette, anticipating a violent coughing fit. But instead as she inhales, her face relaxes & washes over with a wave of pure pleasure. As she exhales a plume of lazy drifting smoke her face is painted with her effortless and entrancing grin. The smile forces itself into the creases of the woman’s skin, the cigarette resting between her fingers at the brink of her lips. The youth drains from her eyes and crow’s feet branch from her eyelids as they sink & the skin below her eyes goes purple. The smoke melts her, brow sliding lower and cheeks sagging away from the bones that have worked so hard to create a frame for flesh. The edges of the smile cement into the deep valleys of the old woman’s skin, wrinkles replacing the effortless smile with a hollow pained expression.

 

-November 2nd, 2015 Brooklyn, NY

The Source

There’s a well.

A crumbling, grey cobbled pit into the earth

At a distance one hears twinkling, trickles

echoes of movement

Stepping closer

a rush of deep tones

light twinkling, trickles ride

As if a rambling creek

hovered

over

a channel of furious tumultuous

liquid.

 

The bucket is bottomless

No water can be drawn

But on occasion

water rises and bubbles

flowing over cracked stones

Tiny rivulets filling gaps

cascading

in miniscule

w

  a

    t

     e

      r

       falls

until they reach the earth

once more

 

If you put your ear to the earth

allow blades of grass to pierce

your fragile skin

hear her

draining, pulling,

Recalling

water to her source

 

The creek is enchanting

The river is terrifying

The creek has no power

or a quiet power

The river screams

 

I tried to dry out the river

but I found the creek lost her magic

 

The river holds it all

Nothing can be stuck or hidden

Breaking down to sand and sediment

 

I see inside myself

a tunnel of fire

Through which a freezing

river runs

Yes, that’s a lot.

Too much for some.

Not everyone wants the most thrilling ride.

Some prefer lazy rivers and bumper cars

to speed slides and roller coasters

 

-April 1st, 2021 Gig Harbor, WA

Benni is a white resident of invested duwamish/salish ancestral land in Washington state. They are a non-binary multi-faceted artist with a Drama BFA from NYU Tisch ('16). Benni's most recent work leans into the forms of burlesque, drag & theatrical performance. You can find their drag persona Princess Pillow on Instagram (@mx.princess.pillow). They are heavily influenced by their previous work as a childhood educator and caregiver. *They would also like to note that they do not condone violence towards animals (including humans) & their cat son, Colby Jack, was not harmed in the making of this video piece.*