Mechanics of the Negro

Nkosi Nkululeko


At night, I wonder on the mechanics of the negro,
the silent hum beneath its interior—blood fresh.
History, I know it bathes in iron, in the deep of rivers,
boys are found ajar, internal wiring exposed.

This century, skin is eyeless. I want to burn it.
I've become fond of fire. The woods nearby,
watch over in the deepest green, so heavy, it means
to be black, to be disguised in the sky's dark cloth.

Winter falls through the blinds and my skin clings
to me. My mother puts on a mask of clay. I see how
it means to cleanse the flesh but there's always burning,
gold light infused in the exterior. It looks like metal,
like masks machines wear to pretend they're human.

I want to believe I'm human but in the morning shower
I feel the cool rush of mortality. Rain comes through
the streets, faces are wet and shining. I see how we are all
almost like machines in the ways we practice toleration.

Everything becomes a kind of mask. When minstrels
put on a good face, I wonder of the rusted gears behind
our eyes. My face sits behind faces. Most days, I feel
more machine than human, almost damaged, a product
of Race when water touches my skin beneath the moonlight.

There's something deeper, in the negro's mechanisms,
an order to breathing. I don't know what keeps us alive,
in the fields, in the little offices we roam but I know
I don’t want it, at least on this earth, what says live.

History, it works like a new device in the creased hands
of dementia. I want to think better of the human but my city
is a city of apparatus, a factory built on the usage of power.
Historically we're of the damned, doomed for wreckage
by the blade of our own genius.

When I breathe, I know my people know well
of inhalation, of what the body does to run.