And if you are a boy, you might imagine the hairline that crawls backward without resistance.
The barber was a good barber. Give him a blade
and his grandfather emerges from the palm, like
a slave that was a good slave, raking the weeds
back until all you see is a shaven field of grass,
ready for eyes to bear witness to this marvelous
thing. The barber might’ve talked to Emmett
about his grandfather, the hands that grooms the
America black folk always attempt to believe in.
I’m sure Emmett would’ve cracked a joke, light-
ened the mood for the body to settle in and humor
toughens the skin, I am told. I know he could not
have bled even if the razor wished to carve more
than the patches of wool, resting on the head like a
dark field of grass after dusk.
And if you are a girl, the eyelash might attract your gaze; the beauty in its submissive tilt.
He was a beautiful boy, a lark in the jungle, calling
for a brother or two to share a flight with but wings
don’t work in these southern woods. Flight, like a
myth, are debated for the body. The sky don’t hold
what is too heavy for it and he ate much. Thick and
sturdy as a stump in the plains. The earth here be
coated in wood chippings. The Axe’s swing at what
grows and he stay tall and some forest-like beauty
brews within him like he’d live forever in his vanity.
And if you are a man, you may notice only the blood that lacquers the wounded skin.
We fight like lions, teeth misplaced in the knuckle.
Famished for the meat that crowns the plates. I heard
that Emmett’s snarl slips between the trees. The finger’s
claw clings to skin and he’s Bear-like. Plump and
swollen, gliding through the space with a bag of fish
in his mouth like a king on this side of America. Here,
the bullet flails and fails to miss what it wishes to split.
Boys eat well. Mothers feed wise. Ripe and ready, the
boy makes a good feast for what can swallow him.
And if you are a woman, you’d recall the nail collecting earth, like a shovel would for its grave.
And if you are a grave, you’d know how much you hunger for what does not know how it ends.
Nkosi Nkululeko, poet and musician, hailing from Harlem, NY, has performed his written works in venues such as Apollo Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Oxford University and others. He has performed for National Writers Union, Lincoln Center and Urban Word NYC. He was on the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team for BNV(Brave New Voices) and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team for NPS(National Poetry Slam). Nkosi is a 2015 nominee for the American Voices Award, a Callaloo Fellow and has been published in Junior Scholars’ Schomburg Review and forthcoming in No Token, The New Sound and is anthologized in great weather for MEDIA’s, “Before Passing,” their 2015 Anthology.