Nkosi Nkululeko


You would’ve had to have been there to see the moon,
bloody as a hemorrhage, beneath the sky, stars scattered
like chippings of bones. So odious it had to be elegant,
hung in the dark’s net, me below the celestial bulb.

When I say we won’t live to be here for the next death
the sky will hold like a mother cradling a stillborn,
I want you to reassure me that there’s still joy in the horrific.

Do you see the moon, seeming to be like a heart
but relinquishing its right to be a heart?

That is how I wish to die: seamless & willing.

Somewhere, I know a body is below the moon, black smoke rising
from chilled skin, with a jar of ash made out of its wrecked interior.


Culture of Dominion

& it’s a wild thing when you first discover porn
at an age where you’ve finally come to accept

that girls do not have cooties & what a way
to disprove this except with the recording of two people,

close enough to be indistinguishable
from the other; “pleasure,” in such a new format

that you become frightened of it, the way a face looks
in the eye of a camera: undressed & unapologetic,

their genitalia knitted & glazed as if dipped in oil,
seeming to be so edible that you have to try it:

the dish of salt-sleeked skin, a woman’s oval
valley flushed & fluid with gelatinous light,

a man holding the base of the woman’s bottom
against the wall, ascended in the air with her legs

corralling his hip like a belt & I often think that
this is how I wish to be held in the stark night

but thank god the human invented secrecy,
for I couldn’t tell my mom the things I’ve learned,

how the areola often desires a tongue to blanket it,
how desire has become the word that governs me,

sex thickening my imagination, wanting sex to be
done beneath the light-loosed coverings of the sun,

beneath the shade of a forest, in a room dark
enough to not see what you touch, knowing

only that you are & there is such risk, to know
your eyes do not tell you much of anything

but when looking at a video of a man smoking
while a woman’s mouth becomes the sheath

to the cock as his hand holds the neck down,
I’ve then become the witness of a culture of dominion,

with a series of no’s slipping into the sky as prayer
& I only speak of this knowing I’ve also been taken

in the brooding dark, my own body abandoning itself
when facing a mirror because of what has stained me,

the imprint of a hand that I can still recall on my shoulder,
the disturbed flesh in a slight quiver, the bones ringing

like wind chimes, loose & unresisting to what slips
through it; a feeling of the body being shear,

common ground for the damaged, being as weightless
as a phallus without blood, as the curtain of a labia;

the parts most ashamed but look there- the video
shows us a woman smiling, the grin of a man,

both in union, even their shadows making love
in independence, so of course there’s a lucid form

of joy here but when the camera sleeps, when the outside’s
eyes cannot see how pleasure defines us, I depart my room,

exhausted from a lonely fantasy, wondering how
will the world fall inside the open parts of me,
with all its terror, loud enough to almost be a moan.


Nkosi NkululekoNkosi Nkululeko, the 2016 NYC Youth Poet Laureate, is a Callaloo Fellow and The Watering Hole Fellow. He has been nominated for the American Voices Award, Independent Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize. Nkosi was part of the 2014 Urban Word Slam Team and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team. His work is currently published in No Token, Rose Red Review, Hobart, decomP, and elsewhere. He lives in Harlem, New York.


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