by Rachel McKibbens

Rachel McKibbens


Santa Ana, California,
3 a.m. in my cousin’s basement,
lights out, television volume spun low.
We are huddled around the screen,
a small congregation of forgotten children,
brown faces illuminated by
a five-foot-two Black man,
decked out in lace, eyeliner, Spandex
and the gutsiest high-heeled boots
big enough to fit only a mannequin.
This Minnesota royalty freaks and splits his body biblical.
Throat raw with screeching doves, he pirouettes
with his truest love: a pale pawn shop guitar
we daydream of buying some day
with our lunch money.


1984. What planet is this?
A third-grade heartbreak apostle,
I got a butch haircut my father calls a “Dorothy Hamill.”
Naw, pops. Watch me pin the girls against the handball courts.
Bold. Answering their tongues with my tongue.
My forbidden schoolyard brides. My makeshift Apollonias.
Once they’re in love, I pull away, bite my lower lip,
wink, then walk away.

I am not yet a king, but I got moxie and I move
like I know I’ll die young.


Boys will be boys, unless they aren’t


This is what it sounds like
to praise our heavenly bodies in spite of the hells
that singed us into current form. For the permission
you granted in sweat and swagger,
for the mascara’d tears you shed on-screen,
for the juicy curls that hung over your right eye
like dangerous fruit, for the studded
shoulder pad realness and how your
falsetto gospel rang our young,
queer souls awake,
we say amen.

Last updated May 12, 2019