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.
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 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.
Date Published: 2018-09-27
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/minneapolipstick