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Thomas Kneeland

Thomas Kneeland, MFA is author of We Be Walkin’ Blackly in the Deep (Marian University Department of Media, Communication, and Design), and one of ten 2022 Frontier Poetry Global Poetry Prize finalists for the continent of Africa. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Elevation Review. His poetry is widely published in Up the Staircase Quarterly, South Florida Poetry Journal, INverse Poetry Archives, Rigorous Magazine, and elsewhere. Kneeland holds a BA in English from DePauw University, an MA in Ministry from Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, and an MFA in Poetry from Butler University.

Purchasing the Visa In-Person

When they ask me why I want to fly

            to you, I say in support of the people.

They hand me a pink slip,

your name stretched across the margins.

It feels like a one-way ticket

            to go & never come back.

                                    Once I get there, it’s

                                                 like stepping into a time-loop.

Why doesn’t she love you, her sister, the same?

Music blares from random bars at 2pm

              shedding covers of Santamaria & Gillespie

                                        who most of us thought was just Black,

                                        but isn’t that what most of being Black is?

Birthed as a song without lyrics

& no one wants to learn the origin?

To walk the streets, held captive to the late 1950s

              & to know that attack dogs & fire hydrants still bore

the deepest holes & strike us for oil     gold spilled on an avenue

             that never knew our skin had a name before all this?

“Enjoy your trip,” they say “& don’t forget your receipts.

          Take pictures & preserve for five years.”

                                All this          to love the place that welcomes me

                                & hope it loves me enough     to bring me back.

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