You are a Good Man (#NoDAPL edition): A Poem

Image modified from screen capture of State Terrorism at Standing Rock #NoDAPL


You are a Good Man (#NoDAPL edition)

by Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada

Knuckles squeezing
white mountains
on brown
nightstick.

Short hair
crumpling
on scalp, sweat
slick rivering
free from helmet.

Breath rasping
parched road in throat.
Ears straining, listening
for orders, disperse
the protesters
protect the—

You once stood in the forest
knees deep, breath fogged
feeling warmth on cheeks.
The wind spoke to you
said You used to
listen. Used to listen, now
you only hear

—pipeline. Heart
thrumming
bellstone vibration
calling indistinct
Not sure if the
dogs and the
helicopters and the
pepper spray are

necessary. Eyes
unbottling
salt water
watching horses
shot with rubber bullets.
One dies. You remember
protectors call them

relatives, horse nation. You
love animals. You are a
good man. A family
man. Get a beer
and go bowling
man. Wear a silly
hat to make your daughter
smile man. Food on
the table man.

One finger
disrobed, dry skin
raw canyons
on trigger finger.
You feel better that
your shotgun shoots only beanbags.
Breaking—

You once stood in grass
near cold lake north of
camp, sipped and heard
water speak
said You used to listen to
this place. Used to listen.
It is not

—skin and bone
and treaties. Non-lethal.

LRAD screaming,
++++++You are a good man
through ears plugged
++++++Hoping the sound
making coherent
++++++Drowns out our voices
intergenerational
++++++Drowns out your heart
cries of rage of sorrow
++++++Drowns out our ancestors
of ancestors of earth
++++++Drowns out yours
of wake up
++++++You are a good man
piezoelectric transducer screams
++++++Listen.
at 162 decibels
++++++Listen.

Family says, friends say, wind says,
water says. You are a good
man. You are a good man.
You are a good man. You are a
good man. You are a good
man. You are a good man. You
are a good man. You are
a good man. A good man.
You are a good man.

Family.
Friends.
Wind.
Water.
You are a

good man! Listen.
Family
silent.
Friends
silent.
Wind
silent.

Water
says

It is not enough.

 

 


 

Watching the militarized police response at Standing Rock from here in Hawaiʻi made rage and sadness fight for space in my naʻau. I am consumed by ʻenaʻena ana naʻauʻauā knowing that the riot-gear clad police and National Guard spend their days trying to break indigenous relationships to land and water, and then when it’s time to clock out, they call their husbands and wives to tell them that they love them, and they ask about their children. Because they are good people. I absolutely know that the people in riot gear at Standing Rock, and Mauna Kea and Haleakalā, and at pretty much any Black Lives Matter protest are good people. They have friends and loved ones. They work to provide for their families. Sometimes they give what they can to charities. Their neighbors would not hesitate to describe them as good. But really, that is not enough. Too much damage is wrought at the hands of good people, and “good” cannot be our goal any longer. So many of us are good and still uphold patriarchy, heteronormativity, racism, colonialism, anti-indigeneity through our actions or even inaction. “Good” must be our starting point, and we must push for pono.

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