Of What America

By  |  November 20, 2018
"Energy in Motion II" (2016), by Ezequiel Jimenez from Wikimedia Commons "Energy in Motion II" (2016), by Ezequiel Jimenez from Wikimedia Commons

How to Assemble a (1) Native (2) Nippon (3) Cubana Body in (4) Appalachia 

My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where 
family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust 
the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another 
in sunbursted bottoms there is nothing here but the bliss of this day 
& so I think on death hanging out over the Atlantic so many dead
mi familia 
watashi kazoku 
my kinfolk
there are four ways to name the century of dying in me what passions grew 
a mixed-mixed-skinned boy who would plant his body here & witness 
a happy beach rooted in the smile of so much untilled history somewhere 
the open ocean ferried my padre between Cuba & Miami swam pescado 
inside each swell of lung unmoored he said until his mind fell into love 
with the woman who fled America’s internment camps a pregnant Nippon 
daughter’s flight from San Diego to a Carolina quarry tegami kaku yo 
I’ll write you letters she touched the shovel-shaped incisors of a Native 
American boy whose floorboards were still booting the reeducation each hode’noda’ 
song of de facto fathers my Onondaga origin bowed beneath the whip 
of whiteness lashed he laid down love for my kin who ran skinny rail 
lines what split Appalachian silt & marl my feet saddle all the loosed 
mud of so many continents where everyone is gone somedays & somedays 
they aren’t because I believe on days like this with a mouthful of expiring 
sun the potential of a small beginning what sustains a soul across imagined borders 
what finds tortured bodies their song of forward rejoicing. 
Enjoy this poem? Subscribe to the Oxford American.

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s debut book, Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot, selected by Bob Hicok, was published by Backwaters Press in fall 2018. His work has appeared in Tin House, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, and elsewhere. A member of the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans, Kingsley is currently the Tickner Writing Fellow at Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland.