August 20, 2018

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley


Barberry bushes have been trampled all day
and some boys along the creek
pretending it is the barbed wire of an Indian prison
lay prone clutching nickel-plated revolvers
imaginary of course. Unlike our Reservations
about choosing the wrong side of this battlefield.
Cowboys gallop red across the stripped horses
of their pink legs embarrassing Indians
into a shirtless whoop of bows and
arrows falling dead BANG BANG
barbs fired from prepubescent lips.
Swimming in the music of a clear October
morning eagles handcuff the sun
bald as our understanding
of war never ending ever was.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Tribute to Athlete Poets


Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley: “I am an elite level powerlifter (meaning top 1% of all competitors in the United States). Powerlifting consists of the bench press, squat, and deadlift. I love this sport because it’s you against yourself. Your opponent is an inanimate piece of metal, just as the poet’s opponent is perhaps—forgive the cliché—either the blank page or themselves, and certainly not other poets: both forge a strong community of fellowship around their craft.” (web)

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November 14, 2017

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley


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


Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley: “Jason Pero, a middle schooler, was shot by a cop twice and killed in his home on Bad River Reservation.” (web)

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