The Down Syndrome Brother
Takeshi, you are twenty-one & my mother bathes you
in my tub, while I watch from a crack in the door.
She scrubs around your penis, massages the centipede
scar in the middle of your chest: you were born
with a heart two sizes too small, with a penny-
sized hole at its core, I was told. Pink bubbles sudding
around your ears, my mother sings Japanese, always
Japanese. Clusters of sounds I can’t yet pronounce. Clippings
of your toenails crescent the sink, she kisses your hairy
knuckles, dries you with a towel, helps you put on underwear.
Do you know you are her only brother? My oldest friend,
you try & sharpie your name in unending black sidewinders
Over everything, as if Hershey Park is only a palm stroke away.
I cannot teach you. To palm a name. Though I’ve pressed my lined
construction paper into you, again &. Like an abrupt,
wet blessing you lope a kiss onto my mother’s forehead, both
dripping wet. His handicap is Severe. S E V E R E. A name
I’ve never quite palmed. “Like scissors without the safety?” A word
I’ll never run with. Balloons bobbing in a thunderstorm, lashed
around your wrist. I groan like lightning, taller than the soft trunk of you.
Big brown dog of a suitcase at your velcro shoes. Headed for a government
home. Because I am still just a child, learning what it means to take
care of myself. & you are thirty-one. & how many names have we yet to swallow?
Our mother reads every palm, but yours. Captivity, a name: its grey tongue: your swallow.
Teach Me How to Deregulate Rage
My mother laughs at my halfcocked jokes but that’s about it—
a woman you’d see out in a bar on her first date
in months never knowing she’s framing your arm
as a lever your fingers switches your whole
body a machine she wants to sledgehammer
hard until the knobs bust off and confetti filings
silver the barroom ceiling—her collar is so blue
its made of skinned bluebirds plucked then shatter-fucked
china bluebirds—what an inadequate set of metaphors—she
is what thirty years wheelbarrowing through factories
does to some—what America’s parody of Foxconn does
to most and mostly in hollers and dens and caves and small
towns that couldn’t feel farther from a skyscraper with a king’s
name embroidered orange at the top—she says she never liked
the name Joe Sixpack because she’s never known
a Joe who stopped at six and everyone she really “knows
knows” buys Yuengling in bulk but it doesn’t gush
through streets so much as gurgle down polyped throats too
tired to pitch yet another metaphor about their lungs crinkling
like two mercury lined biohazard bags—a carnival
barker should walk just in front of my mother spinning
his black top hat—shake the dust around its rim and sing
to every passerby look look into its true dark its hollow—arsenic
beryllium cadmium chromium lead—then they might think
they’ve found a pot of precious metals—until an unmetaphored
cancer climbs into the wombs of their lymph nodes—or rally
the congressmen at least—parade Capitol Hill—parade
them into the barker’s magic hat—the ones who let the smoke keep
smoking the spoiled fish spoiling and babies tenderizing
in real wombs—cough out every metaphor for remission
because my mother can’t hold down a conversation
without pieces of lung landing in her coffee or yet another
handkerchief mapping an undiscovered universe of silver
and stars of hard steel—find someone who will stay
hard as our erection around wealth creation who won’t mix
their metaphors or turn heel but instead will show their metal
when standing witness as my mother is spilled out across another
hospital gurney bobbing as her barrel leaks silently down the river.
Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley Ben Kingsley is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Mahatma Gandhi. A touch less famous, Affrilachian author Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley has not acted since his third-grade debut as the undertaker in Music Man. A Kundiman and UPenn alumni, Ben is currently the 22nd Tickner Writing Fellow and recipient of a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship as well as scholarships from Tin House, Sewanee, & VONA. He belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. In 2017, his work was published in Best New Poets 2017 (ed. Natalie Diaz), the Iowa Review, Narrative, Ninth Letter, PANK, PEN America, the Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, & Tin House, among others.