Three Poems

by Ben Kingsley

exchange-rates-1255284

Economy

Even though I’m told
death is a sunk cost
at the funeral,
I don’t understand
the exchange rate.

Fleshy durables in the casket
have expired. The corpse
awfully well
-dressed for
a brittle boat of unpaid
property tax.

Burn me up. Pour me
over the earth alive
and now ashes. Never
a phoenix, still just
a dead thing.

Still afraid. As if all
my sense will blaze up
after death and what will
be worse: embalming
or cremation.


Along a Field by my Then-House

Eroded rocks spread like my then-
golden lab Sasha when she shattered
a hip curled under hyssop and sun-eroded
to the size of a pup buried
beneath spades of porch light

grass in steam-printed thatch on my then-
lover’s thighs and her small breasts smelling
like handled change then-
certain we were more than the sum
of two or more
urges sequestered then-
beneath skyplanes shelling out
stars that stained children’s fingertips straining
to reach a telephone wire sagging against the weight
of one-hundred lost boy’s then-shoes

back-then’s field a piebald mudslide
shorn by wind gonging through skeletal rakes, red
backhoe loaders drumming past crawler excavators
tearing down and tearing down then-
boys on neon-green bikes then-riding high on
doubled dirt hills being built up
and being built up popping wheelies then-
without their mothers to bring them back
from a field by my then-house and my then-mother
to call me home and into the kitchen

where my then-father gulped milk and Raisin
Bran from a glass Pyrex measuring cup
and he said to dress for the job I want
so then I delivered pizzas dressed like James
Franco gripping the handles of a battered
dirt bike

Now I look at those hills along a field
by the house I inherited and I speak
to the window as if it’s one
of those boys now riding
high and say: “thank the one
that washed your small body
that dressed and fed you
that saw to it you got enough
sleep.”


G-20 Summit: The War Counsel Tattle Tale

Here on a Pittsburgh playground children huddled
like a cloud of mayflies flapping and round
a songbird crushed on pavement. Here boys rigged
in Kevlar backpacks to guard against the unseen assault:
rifle(ling) through his goods is Shinzo, now, with bits of
Doritos in his braces casted into a crunchy crown. Here
Vladimir jabbing a red umbrella lance at Angela’s ankles
the spurs of her light-up sneakers a fleeing police siren
amid the crepuscular October nightlife. Here are their socks
and unraveling mittens like gauntlets stained brown, tiny
teeth popping singsonging, each little dragoon plying
their wares: fresh erasers in a pouch, a finless plastic whale,
candy corn smushed into a giant orange suspended above
Salam’s eager mouth. Cooing, Calling, Crying, Keening—
Cristina stands atop a sagging plastic crate, reporting on
the G20-Someone-thing, so she says, like her momma: “Here!”
the children point and call, pulling the Great Miss by her
invisible lead to stomp some little songbird out.


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 [PANK]Prairie Schooner, & nominated for an Academy of American Poet’s Prize.

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