I CAN’T CLOSE MY EYES WITHOUT SEEING JASON PERO’S BODY
Boys like us don’t make national news.
That’s what we’d tell each other, fleeing
the long blue arms of police LEDs.
Our hightop Reeboks kissed gravel
miles of Central Pennsylvania Street. Us
not old enough to have kissed a lover. Boys
like us, cops shoot & ask questions never,
we laughed. We ran. We laughed. We hollered
“Pig!” as if it was just another pickup game
of basketball on the blacktop. We were so young—
how young is too young to teach a boy never
turn his index finger & thumb into the hammered steel
of a gun. You might die. I breathe for decades,
older & older & now when I close my eyes
I can see Jason Pero isn’t with us boys—us running
from cops. Jason is at home. He was a teddy bear,
said his grandpa. He teased his little nephews once
in a while but that was the meanest part he had.
Jason Pero is in his front yard making the best
of Bad River Reservation, turning porch boughs
into a drum set, each stick cracking stained wood.
He imagines making it all the way to high school
drumline. & here comes that cop with report
“of a man carrying a knife.” & here is Jason drumming.
& here there will be no justice for death, no video
evidence of Jason’s dying. Just this one that plays out
endlessly in my head. The greatest horror
writers know it’s worse when you can’t see the monster:
jaws that catch, claws that bite, hidden in darkness.
In Onondaga, our clan mother says kahséhtha’ I hide
something akweriákon in my heart. But tonight, I am done
with hiding. Jason Pero was shot once in the shoulder
& once in the heart. & my heart beats faster the longer
I sleep. The longer I close my eyes. The longer we hide.
—from Poets Respond
November 14, 2017