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About this poet

Rachel McKibbens was born in Anaheim, California. She is the author of blud (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), Into the Dark & Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press, 2013) and Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009). McKibbens is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion. She co-curates the monthly reading series Poetry & Pie Night with poet Jacob Rakovan in upstate New York, and is the founder of The Pink Door Writing Retreat, an annual event open exclusively to women, femme, trans, gender-variant, and non-binary writers of color. She lives in Rochester, New York.

Across the Street from the Whitmore Home for Girls, 1949

The Mad Girls climb the wet hill,
breathe the sharp air through sick-green lungs.
The Wildest One wanders off like an old cow
and finds a steaming breast inside a footprint in the snow.
She slips it into her glove, holds it close like a darling.

At night, she suckles the lavender tit, still warm
in her hard little hands. She drapes it over her heart—
the closest she will ever come to a Woman Thing.

She sleeps on her right side with the breast
tucked between her legs. Her eyes flutter like a rocked doll.
She dreams of Before the Father, when her body
was smooth as a crab, her fingers
tip-toe soft. Her mouth was a shining crown,
her hair moved like a hungry dog.
Outside her bedroom, the Lonesome Boys hide in trees
to watch the Father lift her gown.

In the morning, she is who she is again.
Her hair, a soft black brick, her body held together
by hammers. The breast is shriveled up. Gone cold
in her lap. A death-blue fish with one stone eye.

Copyright © 2014 by Rachel McKibbens. From Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock Edition. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Copyright © 2014 by Rachel McKibbens. From Beloit Poetry Journal, Split This Rock Edition. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Rachel McKibbens

Rachel McKibbens

Rachel McKibbens was born in Anaheim, California. She is the author of blud (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), Into the Dark & Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press, 2013) and Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009). McKibbens is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion.

by this poet

poem
1. 
 

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
2
poem

To my daughters I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.
The one whose love lifts its head to you
despite its broken neck. Whose body bursts
sixteen arms electric to carry you, gentle
the way old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy in all its too much,

poem

after the poet asked how I would bury my brother

Beyond the carrots and blind white worms, beyond
the yellowing bone orchards and corkscrew roots, 
beyond the center of this churchless earth, beloved Peter, 
my little sorcerer, brought up dirty & wrong, you deserve more