Three Poems – Nkosi Nkululeko


Sharp-Edged Vernacular

The first time I used profanity, 
I laid my head upon my mother’s lap
            and fucking wept,

not yet old enough to remember
that some things are banned from 
            the young’s mouth.

The shit that fell off of the tongue
was a dirty thing; quick, vile &
	    quite violent.

It was similar to a reckless dick
needing something vaginal to approve
	    its existence

in the thick jungle for the damned
where Gods go to fuck in the dark
            rooms of brothels.

I have been made ashamed of the things
that I have said but aren’t we allowed
            to color the speech dark? 

No matter the gauntlet of slang that I
exploit above the tongue, I am still here
            & among the living. 

So this poem is a prayer for the sinned.
Not for those who wipe the mouth clean 
            & leave the body foul.

It does, indeed damage us, the mother-
fucking teeth stained with sharp-edged

but there is something attractive about 
possessing the forbidden in the caves 
            of our cautious selves.

Fuck the safe words, the language with
a mask that eats the face that it covers.
            Unveil the ugly.

Let loose what disrupts the comfort 
in us all. Those who govern own clean
            language but look

at the country ablaze with all of its
quaint verbosity, stained & stagnant
            as a man with no job,

destined for a death that will follow
even his children with a plentiful 
            debt in its wake.

If I die, I pray that Hell be the home
at which my soul will finally sleep.
            Let the tainted

be given my company with a bottle
of whiskey & gin, weed & dice to burn 
            our vices away,

because maybe that’s the purpose of Hell; 
to make ash of what holds us in a 
            dangerous bondage.

See No Evil

I removed my eyes so that I cannot witness.
There are some things that the head aught 
not hold in its shallow holes, things you can-
not risk to break inside such a small space, 
like memory or consequence. Take the hand 
for example--- I once watched it watch me,
coil around the handle of a blade and think
to end the throat’s hunger. So I lynched it, 
tying rope around the wrist, ceasing the blood’s 
seamless dance and saw it begin to decease.  
Because I can no longer witness, the body
can move without prohibition. This is freedom; 
to know you are seen but to not see, the bone 
and flesh, exempt from all cruelty because it
cannot see it. To see what causes you death, 
is to accept the death. If one cannot handle 
the savagery the eye records, simply remove 
the eye, then maybe we can all live with 
all of the wrong deeds a little while longer. 

Diary of a Cybernetic Spirit

[click on third poem for larger print]

About Nkosi Nkululeko

Nkosi Nkululeko, a Callaloo Fellow, has received nominations for the American Voices Award, Independent Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize. Nkosi was a member of the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team and 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team. His work is currently published or forthcoming in No Token, The New Sound, Rose Red Review and elsewhere. He resides in Harlem, New York, where he listens to Jazz. You can reach him at: View all posts by Nkosi Nkululeko

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