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The Gate

by Nkosi Nkululeko

I am old enough to know I am too young to grow old

in this unfortunate, young country. How much longer

before my body neglects me? On the corner of 155th St.

& Fredrick Douglass Blvd., a mother carries her child


from a store, the boy in her arms flailing as if he wants

to dive in the air beneath him & he is young & therefore

reckless with himself. The mother smacks him & this is

a kind of violence that may even prolong the death


he will one day be offered in this world. Black & Alive

are not always synonymous but when the young see

how easily even their beloved can unmake their bodies,

they gaze, hauntingly, at a baton hitched to the hip


of an officer of the law; someone occupationally ruthless

& not related by blood. The boy figures besides the back-

hand or belt, there must be more methods of dominance,

some that do not believe in a religion of mercy. Act right


or you'll end up dead or in jail! Yet, he is both, even with

his mother as she says this cruel & crucial kind of wisdom,

while slipping a cigarette between the lips, a necessary joy

from the world's indecent rage & the boy is then caught


in the smoke. His body, confined when vanishing behind

the dark smog & gun smoke looks quite similar to this.

Now, I don't wish to die in a way of an anonymous fading

so according to statistics, my best option is prison,


where a child might go to visit their father or their father's

father behind a window as if it were the frame of a family

portrait of two men who'll soon die behind the bars we all

thought would at least save them from a death outside the walls.


Forgive me. I have to divert our attention to the Daphne,

Calla Lilies & Mountain Laurels in a garden in Harlem.

Let go of the trauma for a moment. Gaze at this world,

perked up & alive, daring to grow beyong the age of 25


when most of us become candles, bouquets & wine bottles;

the simple rituals the dead are awarded. Look at the Gardener

closing the gate to leaves & floral kingdoms. When the gates

close, witness how much like the improsoned even they become.

Read all work by Nkosi Nkululeko


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