Back to Issue Thirty-Six

Between Beauty




We walk in a fable.
I don’t know when, but something began here;

once-upon-a-time… our feet abandoned the past
twigs, mud-water in our wake— neigh interruptions!

Horses… in dark clearings throng their glamour.
A dog yelps. Our eyes throb, weighed by their presences.

— And as if from everywhere, fireflies sprinkle night-braille.


from 42nd Street to Highway, to winding infinite to Open
lot to Flies’ roadkill monopoly to “this is a new place,”
no one from here is from here. Nothing’s native
if it’s not kneaded. The townspeople don’t need
visitations, they’ve a quaint history of occupation;
Banjo & Co., local shindigs in dugouts, maybe

a lynching. Is a road we forget when it’s behind us
called “good riddance?”

City’s far but in a break of leaves, a hiss… stand clear
of the closing doors… cattle with briefcases herding.
we’ve machinery, we’ve economy, we’ve colony.


I am an animal
who thinks little on being prey

yet, still scared for my life.

“Whose body is yours?”           I ask to mine.
His body does not answer.

Distant myself, hay bales dot the fields; rural ellipses.
In the pasture, life’s unsolved.

Everywhere we occur, questions dilate.

I am a man bridged by beasts
writing between beauty, wilderness
in horses, and still
neglecting to mention their cage.

“Whose body is yours?” I ask to mine.
Their bodies do not answer.


Stratus clouds thin from wet bereavement,

gestural shores of cotton
pool in fireworks’ periphery.

The holiday heaves its light work, shimmering

beads in an onlooker’s skull
reflecting aerial potpourri—

Beyond lies

another celebration; rain, woods wind and ground.
At dawn a fawn wanders
in its solace. O the holidays it’s missed, or its family
arguments, or its solemn jubilee orbiting

the hour’s dead,           our eyes

are mirrors…


“It’s like a novel,—” I exclaimed to R, observing families of horses,
pairs of lovers crossing pastures awaiting mornings longed.
Leaning silent beside a gate, absorbent, mosquitos halo our skin.
Horses plodded to our perch, as if summoned. Our hands kissed,
gliding, then, their bodies gilded.

We fed them what seemed years. Some of their heads loomed
over us just to be touched. Back home, folks say “there’s a war
outside,” but we are outside in at least one world left to itself.
The horses aren’t aware fire nears. It’s a secret we kept, perhaps
deluding ourselves with it. But maybe they could tell, maybe
they sensed withholding, deciding to leave us to our own lonely

their built figures fade into silhouettes,
colors once named now absolved of their duty to be witnessed.


Trodden roads narrow sedated night,

seeing further only as we further;

no more “civilization”
just purpled borders of weeds,… insect gossip,… and a gate.

Minutes procrastinate my stroll— they fill
like honey            in a throat.

It’s Ithaca-quiet                 beside air’s vestiges
psalming trees,                  and a barn’s wind chimes feigning.


The late sky blues amnesiac. Each night I remember, I forget.



64 Dimensions




…3.d6 (Petrov’s Defense, Classical)

Foresight’s a gift when life is well
behind you. Hours drift lonely,
stores our passing dawns; Spring cleaning—

Each year there’s ceiling damages.
It’s not Bergen street. It’s Harlem—
Renaissance, rented, then ransacked.

Nights home the exhausted plenty.
We saw our Hours. We waited.

4.Nd3 (Karklins-Martinovsky Variation)

The police precinct’s blocks away,
sirens wee-ooh-wee-ooh; we who
see badges may see a murder

of crows. Bars are on my windows,
blood-red bricks, lead paint on the walls;
—It’s not just Section 8, it is
America. There’s no war here,

just slaughter; stained hallelujahs.



Nkosi Nkululeko, a 2017 Poets House and 2018 Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts Fellow, is the winner of Michigan Quarterly Review’s Page Davidson Clayton Prize for
Emerging Poets 2018, and his poetry can be found in journals such as Callaloo, Tripwire #17, The Offing, and Ploughshares. Nkosi’s poem “Skin Deep,” formally published in The Adroit Journal, is anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2018. He is also anthologized in The Bettering American Vol. 3 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry. Nkosi Nkululeko is a chess and music instructor from Harlem, New York.

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