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by Thomas Kneeland

This Is Not the Last Goodbye

– after Joy Priest’s “Pegasus”


Before I say bye until next time,

I reach down & grab a handful of red dirt,

sift it through my fingers

            into an empty mason jar,

place it in my satchel, beside the spiral

shell I found near the pier. There, the water

whispers to me. But only a couple of bubbles

            burst, spill words onto the shore,

retreat to their currents. Sun washes across

orchid sky & stars prepare to stay the night,

so I sit              steal more time                      whisper back,

this time—in my native tongue—to see if it can hear

little fires erupting inside, groans my spirit cries.

            A wave comes             forms a wall,

paints me. Black boy. Rouge & blue & brown

            stain the sand. Fireflies blossom from invisible pockets

in the brush, glow in unison with my pulse

            like a blaze in the woods.

I reach my hand into the firefly flame,

            pull out an ember, swallow it whole,

sweet in my throat, a wildfire in my lungs

            like a scroll, prophesying.


Thomas Kneeland is the author of We Be Walkin’ Blackly in the Deep (Marian University

Department of Media, Communication, and Design) and a 2022 Frontier Poetry Global Poetry Prize finalist. He is a 2024 Speculative Play & Just Futurities Scholar-in-Residence, which is funded by Indiana University, the Mellon Foundation, IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute, IUPUI Center for Africana Studies & Culture, and the Ray Bradbury Center. He is also the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Elevation Review. His current and forthcoming publication credits include The Amistad, Southern Humanities Review, The Rumpus, Vagabond City Lit, Up the Staircase Quarterly, South Florida Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Thomas received his BA in English Writing from DePauw University, an MA in Ministry with a Worship Arts Specialization from Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, and an MFA in Poetry from Butler University.


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