Ben Naka-Hasebe Kingsley


Mother Walks Free Despite Admitting Homicide in Daughter’s Death on Tribal Lands


                       "No one speaks for that baby," said Bernadine Martin,

                       the Navajo Nation's chief prosecutor. — Associated Press


What is the news?

           “Just put up a headline,” says the editor,

           “no one will read it anyway.”

           Reporters round the unresolved murders,

           as if the wind eroded every remainder.

                       There was swelling around the little girl’s skull

                       and hemorrhages around her brain.


Who will count the bones?

           Silence swings like a pendulum over our

           brown body collective. We’re told “Do not speak

           unless you are spoken” into—unless you are broken

           in two—unless

                      The scars on her 36-pound body were consistent with burns

                       from a space heater, a curling iron and hot noodles.


What does the eye witness?

           Maybe you see us windowed in another world.

           A dusty whirlwind shimmering through an Arizona night-

           watchman asleep, derelict-whipped, without a job.

                       There was a tear between her right ear and scalp.


What is a hand?

           We file our nails into daggers. We sleep in each other’s

           nail beds. We crack the wind’s back and talk big

           at the bar about pitchfork promenades. Imagining

           our reflection in axe blades, when someone dear to us


                       It’s not enough to sing of cities sacked, of children

                       slain. What with Murder’s maw splintering wide

                       all across our plain.


Who will speak?

           Who will speak?

                       Who will speak?






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, and The American Poetry Journal.