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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 27, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Watching Purple Rain for the first time as a young queer kid was a transformative experience, to say the least. I was a nine-year old with gender dysphoria, in a Catholic Mexican household dominated by misogyny. Prince became the god I turned to. We would come home from Sunday school and watch that VHS over and over until it warped.”
—Rachel McKibbens

Minneapolipstick

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 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. 

 
2. 

 
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.
   
 
3. 
 
 
Boys will be boys, unless they aren't 

 
4.
 
 
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.

Copyright © 2018 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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

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
poem

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,