Keith S. Wilson

Basilisk, as Seen in Reflection

Entering back into the bus she catches him
in her gaze. She roams him openly—he hides
his eyes. The woman cannot slay

her urge to overcome this living painting,
unwrap the strange of him like eyelids
from an onion. She asks about his skin,
(does it burn?) and she writes her number, makes an offer.

He looks down at himself. Under her gaze he feels drawn
tight. In the reflection he can see his cubism,
the misaligned hell of his shirt. He struggles
too much, wars with his fingers (stiff

beneath the killing look). She reaches out and touches
him. He looks into her eyes and sees himself flapping
in her like a fractured pigeon, brown and white
and every color. The whited noise. The sudden altar

of a bus. The grace of violence under
wheel, under engine, underneath.

Transfer, Gilead Baptist

Arriving __________ Sixteenth Street

Even the graffiti behind the graffiti fades
to white—what a tragedy the sun must make
of the children. Basilisk is taken
on a new line,

to an old street. Signs come and go,
meaningless. The spectrum
of his dreams bleeds like gasoline
on water. Memories are hard to make.

Migration is the mother of cities he tells himself.

His people, his people!

The bus sags about him like denim.
The yellow whale is full—
its wheels of ink spin a black prayer
from the moan of the street.
Basilisk’s Broken Window Theory:
Empty buildings cannot keep their windows.
These apartments catch rocks
in the proud gaps of their teeth, cave
into themselves like tired mothers.
It would be cheaper to keep them
occupied. Basilisk witnesses

the proof of this and other
axioms—possibility that stirs
in the dead eyes of a building,
pock-marked glass,
lynched blinds,
the cicada-husk of an air-conditioner left trigger-

cold. He’s hung up again
on the inch of wood he sees
that demarcates bus-stop benches. Bench-
dividers that keep men
from sleep. And patched-women, children screaming

each others’ names explosive

against the chill. In that car wash lies
the gray sacrifice of the lottery—tickets purchased
from a man who still wears hats, who sells, as well,
rolling papers, bowls and razor blades.
The not-unhappy people who greet and brag, as if they know
one another.

When hope is the shockwave that hits a bus, it is butterfly wings.

At the other end of the transfer, north of here, where the city opens up, another place. The basilisk in tourist clothes. Dogs pulled back, politely.
Neon joggers veer. Businesses take the bars from their windows; neighbors plant them like peonies in their lawns. Children play more
like children. Passing the basilisk, a woman constricts               her body and

her coat.

(In that moment, a loud crack

like frozen pipes beneath—dark thunder breaks below the steps!)

Basilisk is not there, in that dream. This is not the north-
side. He is transferred. But what is that sound,
and that pale white light?

Sometimes I feel discouraged—Remember being southern?
And think my work’s in vain—Out the window, all the little girls.
But then—The bus billows with a broke
mass of bodies—the Holy Spirit—All change is tender. Warmth beats
against the basilisk, up-rises him—all the little girls—Revives my hope again!
humming up the benumbed blood from under the church of him.

Sing low: Strawberry shortcake, huckleberry pie

His eyes close. Maybe this is another dream.
Some kind of drum is beating. Breath runs out, —There is a balm!
a song goes slowly in

There is a balm!                      There is a balm!


Keith S. Wilson

Keith S. Wilson is an Affrilachian poet, Cave Canem fellow, graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and recipient of a Bread Loaf scholarship. He holds an MFA in poetry from Chicago State University. Keith’s poetry has been published in two chapbooks: Generation Oz (Finishing Line Press) and Kindermeal (Imaginary Friend Press). His work has appeared in a number of anthologies and in the following journals: American Letters & Commentary, 32 Poems, Cider Press Review, Anti-, Muzzle, Mobius, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.