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Wilson, Keith

Wilson, Keith


Keith S. Wilson is an Affrilachian Poet and graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He has received three scholarships from Bread Loaf as well as scholarships from MacDowell, UCross, Millay Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others. Keith serves as Assistant Poetry Editor at Four Way Review and Digital Media Editor at Obsidian Journal. He holds an MFA in poetry from Chicago State University. Keith’s poetry has been published in 2 chapbooks: Generation Oz (Finishing Line Press) and Kindermeal (Imaginary Friend Press).

His work has appeared or is appearing in the following journals: Poetry, Adroit Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Little A, Narrative, 32 Poems, Rhino, Muzzle, Blueshift Journal, and Vinyl. Additionally, he won a Best of the Net Award, placed as runner up for the 2016 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook prize and runner up in the 2017 Split This Rock poetry contest, and has had poems nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


I can’t imagine my father wishing he would rather be
anything. Once upon a time, he was a watermelon
growing from a box. His mother died. His father beat
the blood out of him, and teardrops dripped black
from his face into his food. My father’s father made him eat
his dinner through himself, the Miracle Whip salad spangled
like dew in the garden. This isn’t a figure of speech: my father ate
his blood. It’s hard to think he must have been young. He made me stop
all my life. He told me to not to be a girl. Whatever I was doing,
of course I stopped. He kissed me on the top of the head
before I went to bed each night. He was always there. He read
to my brother, he read to me from a book of animals. This is a fox’s paw.
This is a bear’s. He told me, I’ll give you something
to cry about. He never touched me. Bear claw, I said. Winters are easier
for bears. I spread my fingers over his. No, my father said.






in physics dark matter isn’t “made”
of anything. it’s a free citizen


that passes
unburdened through the field, through itself,


through you—




it helps to observe from a distance:
the field, for instance,


as a statement


the south has chosen to make,
the way whiteness too
is often rhetorical, as when an older student remarks


in those beginning days that only he observed mlk’s holiday
while his black friends, working, did not




sometimes love is a black dot
in a field


sometimes, suddenly
it is not.




or how can black be


the absence
of all color? take this cruiser. see the light strike blue off the car like copper
through a fountain




there is a difference between what is fair and what is just,
for instance,


it is fair
that I try
to love your skin even when it is not touching my own




whiteness is an alibi, the way the officer was like a steam-


only I could see



inside where nothing shows I am of course not black
but that does not matter


to the field




some colors are indistinguishable
at night. put your hands behind your back


a different cop once asked me.
it was so sincere. he was so






as a boy you learn to know the inside
without being required to feel it


as when, now, I understand a bucket
or a hood




he asks my girlfriend not if she is white
since even in this light


what we are is obvious


but instead he speaks philosophically:


ma’am he asks
are you here of your own free will




sometimes whiteness is a form itself
of hyperbole. try this:


sit in a field. then try reading


andrew jackson’s quotes on liberty
pretend they are being written by his slaves




look at the word black
on the paper
& you will see a definite black,a kind,


a certainty,


or if you see nothing at all that of course
is a kind of black too




by the road
my father showed me cotton


look at that
he said




First, you are invisible,
which is another word for Jesus


she’s gone. Second, the medulla oblongata makes you
automatic, so even when I am not thinking
of your hips, I am


thinking of your hips (the dreams I have dreamed
of being loosed like a sparrow would pronounce themselves


into wilder dreams if I were a bird already.
I would have to eat nothing until I was thin as the air


and I’d baffle the moon, my simple machines turning
the sky like a mobile. I could be


ready. Heave and release.
Only the nothing of a bird).


You are right. I am cabinetry.
I’m a man that needs to know conclusively


that he’s empty. Your name,
you know, is a midnight call. I am talking too much


about air and hardly about breath—
who do you think, really,


makes me lift my chest? This should be simple
but never is. Consider the wing,


to whom the burden of air
becomes the burden of flight.




Generation Oz, Finishing Line Press, September 23, 2011

Kinder Meal, Imaginary Friend Press, July 2, 2012

Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize Finalist, 2017

Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest Runner-up, 2017

Best of the Net Winner,  2016

Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize Runner Up, 2016

Gordon Fund Grant, 2016

Baltic KY Writers Prize, 2016

The Blueshift JournalEditor’s Choice

Founder’s Day Runner Up, 2015

Chicago State University Travel Grant to Czech Republic,2013

University of Chicago Minority Student Enrichment Grant, 2013