American Ground


American Ground

On the 4th of July, half of faces are concealed by flags,
for, on most days, we are only this much American.
In New York, tourists are in awe of our disturbed aesthetic:

young teens in a park coaxing smoke from their mouths,
a man not watching his child in a playground, long enough
for there to no longer be a child, but in its place, a vacancy

on ground, surrounded by other children, American enough
to almost be his & for this, we’re so close but, yet, quite foreign
from another. Yes, the distance between us is what makes us

American. It’s a patriotic form of surrender, to sing an anthem
we’ve learned until we pack the little we actually own, & flee.


American Ground

“I want to be human above the body”
-Terrance Hayes

After light, when the morning fog swells the streets of Oxford,
before the city wakes with noise, tourists recalling false histories,
I am in the dim light of a tavern, with a glass of translucent blood.

I often do not pray; bleed into the morning air with only faith.
I know that the dead are collected in the shade of our bodies,
that there’s a kind of mark, left behind where we once resided.

I see the dead I once knew, surrounding the shadow that trails me.
The dead knows their kind. We have a different scent to us,
& it burns the eyes, what we carry; resembling arrogance,

a whiff of flesh attached to the human that invents loneliness
as a tactic for becoming a god & aren’t we always so far from it?

Some talk to the sky when asking for forgiveness. I ride American-
Airlines back home, hearing nothing but rushed wind on the outside.


Nkosi Nkululeko, the 2016 NYC Youth Poet Laureate, is a Callaloo Fellow. He has been nominated for the American Voices Award, Independent Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize. His work is currently published in No Token, Rose Red Review, Hobart, and elsewhere. He lives in Harlem, New York. You can reach Nkosi at