Emancipation Queen

“Emancipation Queen” was a historically Black beauty pageant in Utah.


       It’s true
that beauty
can be a tool
dually wielded    
      robin’s egg
who would know
come from a red-
breasted bird    
      taffeta gown
named for what
the body made
its blue    
      but not the maker
or the blue
from which come
the robin    
      is that emancipation
to leave beauty behind     
     a Black girl      
     on a stage   
     inside the egg
of a robin    
     a Black girl who is
a robin
repeating the question


From Golden Ax by Rio Cortez. Copyright © 2022 by Rio Cortez. Published by arrangement with Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.