Krysten Hill


Krysten Hill is the author of How Her Spirit Got Out (Aforementioned Productions, 2016), which received the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize. Her work has been featured in The Academy of American Poets, apt, B O D Y, Boiler Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Muzzle, PANK,Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Winter Tangerine Review and elsewhere. The recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award and 2020 Mass Cultural Council Poetry Fellowship, she received her MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Boston, where she currently teaches. Source


I ask a student how I can help her. Nothing is on her paper.

It’s been that way for thirty-five minutes. She has a headache. 

She asks to leave early. Maybe I asked the wrong question. 

I’ve always been dumb with questions. When I hurt, 

I too have a hard time accepting advice or gentleness.

I owe for an education that hurt, and collectors call my mama’s house. 

I do nothing about my unpaid bills as if that will help. 

I do nothing about the mold on my ceiling, and it spreads. 

I do nothing about the cat’s litter box, and she pisses on my new bath mat. 

Nothing isn’t an absence. Silence isn’t nothing. I told a woman I loved her, 

and she never talked to me again. I told my mama a man hurt me,

and her hard silence told me to keep my story to myself. 

Nothing is full of something, a mass that grows where you cut at it. 

I’ve lost three aunts when white doctors told them the thing they felt 

was nothing. My aunt said nothing when it clawed at her breathing.

I sat in a room while it killed her. I am afraid when nothing keeps me 

in bed for days. I imagine what my beautiful aunts are becoming 

underground, and I cry for them in my sleep where no one can see. 

Nothing is in my bedroom, but I smell my aunt’s perfume 

and wake to my name called from nowhere. I never looked 

into a sky and said it was empty. Maybe that’s why I imagine a god 

up there to fill what seems unimaginable. Some days, I want to live 

inside the words more than my own black body. 

When the white man shoves me so that he can get on the bus first, 

when he says I am nothing but fits it inside a word, and no one stops him, 

I wear a bruise in the morning where he touched me before I was born. 

My mama’s shame spreads inside me. I’ve heard her say 

there was nothing in a grocery store she could afford. I’ve heard her tell 

the landlord she had nothing to her name. There was nothing I could do 

for the young black woman that disappeared on her way to campus. 

They found her purse and her phone, but nothing led them to her. 

Nobody was there to hold Renisha McBride’s hand 

when she was scared of dying. I worry poems are nothing against it. 

My mama said that if I became a poet or a teacher, I’d make nothing, but 

I’ve thrown words like rocks and hit something in a room when I aimed 

for a window. One student says when he writes, it feels 

like nothing can stop him, and his laugher unlocks a door. He invites me 

into his living.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Education & Learning


Health & Illness

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure

Media Res

a literary work that begins in the middle of the action (from the Latin “into the middle of things)


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Sensory Detail

words used to invoke the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell)