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“Ain’t such a thing
            as a lynx
—not even bobcat
            kin out here in East Jesus,
PA,” says Tommy Rico. 

Quarrel smokes
           above our fire pit,
and the Old One’s lawn chair
           sinks another half inch
into muck and gravel
           clods. “My father told
of a wandering
           lynx,” he says, “And now…
we have all seen
           the end of its wandering.” 

True, we had all heard
         and maybe even seen,
but it’s me wandering
         down into this gully—
dawn’s placenta dribbling,
         runny over Kittatinny
mountain heads—
        me and my
little fingers
         clutching a wide-mouthed
pail of gasoline. 

My nostrils plugged
            with cotton,
My lips light pink
            beneath black
Harley-Davidson bandanna,
            six matches
lined in the elastic band
            of my favorite underwear,
is all it should take,
            they’d said.  

“The lynx spirit
            cannot wound the pure
heart of a boy,”
            they’d agreed.
And again, I was offered up,
on the altar
            of my father’s pride. 

I splay out
            my legs, hairless—and careful
not to disturb even a shrub
            sloping—into a hollow
of the creek’s left nostril.
            My sneakers slide
across constellations
            of dew shimmer,
sometimes tangled
            in thickets of hairy earth.
I look up
            from careful footing
and offer my chin
            against lobes of purpling light. 

Dawn outlines the lithe 
             silhouette of a man belly
down, unnatural, 
            as if he’d come
exhausted from between
            hips of the creek’s feeble
            he lies chin propped
upon a stone,
            as if he would sip at
one more cup of air,
            as if he would face
the eyes of his unmaker.

A billion gnats discuss
            who will suck the sweat
from the cheesecloth
            of my white tee.
Even the peach fuzz
             of my small belly stands
straight with fear. 

But, I slosh the gasoline.
            I ladle the whisper of match glow.
I wonder if he will 
            speak to me:
the voice of an old god
            beneath the work of my hands. 



Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley belongs to the Onondaga Nation. He is the author of Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot (Nebraska), Colonize Me (Saturnalia), and Demos (Milkweed) and recipient of fellowships from Provincetown, Kundiman, and the Gilman School, among others.


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