American Voices Nominee: Nkosi Nkululeko

The Gone Game

By Nkosi Nkululeko, 12th Grade, Home Schooled

2015 Gold Key/American Voices Nominee, Poetry

(Image Credit: Music Heals by Maria Tinoco, 11th Grade, Children’s Professional School, 2015 Gold Key, Drawing & Illustration)

These days, there always be an ocean of spirits
flooding the streets
yearnin to at least become memory,
tucked in the wallet or
some amulet owed to the girl that went over yonder
and never came back to her old folk cryin’ a river
and I think I hear them, playin’
an elegy amid a village of trees,

perched upon branches singin’ a blues Billy used to and their skin,
brazen like a sunrise, be coated in some shadow and dusk

for the moon hides them well and even sun
casts a maleficent dark
for their body to drape into

and they be gone like a vesper hymn in the night,

an evenin’ prayer whisperin’ to the trees
of some secret they’d never gather
and we’ve been looking for them for some time now,
callin’ for their blood to resurrect.

Render us that pinch o’ wisdom
they done took down to bury with their own collection of bones.

“Come out. Where you be at, son?”
“We was playin’ hide and go seek and he never came back”

I can smell the scent of his laughter still,
nesting in the thorn arms of a flower patch.
This is bliss in its moment
of extinction,

“Maybe she’s here!”

We unearth this world,
for a hint of existence,
some draft of wind that will
open the gates to where the dead lie.

“Dammit, this is only a hand.”
Covered in barbed wire, guitar strings and a eulogy
“I remember when his hands made that magic. He was good player. Played like the dead would have.”

—“Speaking of hands
‘Fore she left, she never taught me how to strum the rib of a guitar.
How to extract a colony of sound from mouth to a finger.
How to make the rhythm we ride into a tangible thing.
She held it in her palm for me once.
The rhythm.
Gave it to me to preserve like a secret,
watched it film through fingers like water,
shattering upon pavement
and this is all metaphor
for love…or friendship…..or human..

..and it’s so easy to break.

—but yeah the hands,
took this as proof that she never
needed her own body to hide,
just a pulse and some days not even that.

“where are you? I’m not playing hide and go seek anymore”

Can’t you hear him?
playing a piano forged of teeth,
little jewels of light shrieking into dark,
an eclipse of noise, echoing off the earth
and we are a solstice away from his body,
“He’s not…gone, is he? I never got to say goodbye.”
I just know it.
He’s somewhere ‘round here, waning.
“I think I found something,”—-> ….something
beneath the soil throbs,
yearniin’ to be found, seen,
“Only a make-up kit”
filled to brim with instruments used to vanish one’s self,
marked with the hand print of a father
on the underside,                            an omen to the touched
cloaked in maggots and dirt

“where are you?”

and out from the hands of the water,
they all drift,
a collection of heads with no faces,
bodies mangled and worn, wearing sweaters
woven from the thread of hair
and the mouth, nursed in pocket
begins to sing for the forgotten,
for the dead learning to breathe without air.
For those that leaves this place with only a memory….
and some days,
not even that…

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