Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Rachel McKibbens





the sandbox
for Lisa or Laurie

We held each other / in silence / mouth against mouth / blood & thunder scorching the grass / Behind the shed / I played the husband / brutish breadwinner / choking her flesh / in my troubled hands / pulling her head back / to lick / from neck to ear / in frenzied thrill / The kind of love / I learned from movies / & what light swamped the air / as I shoved my bald pelvis into hers / blood ripening into wolf brine / burning a girl-shaped hole in the clover? / Every afternoon I became a god reinventing sky / expert forger of the dry hump / I asked Whos your daddy? before that was even a thing / Once the recess bell rang / I released her back / into the quiet unwild / to no-longer-mine / to fat white tubs of minty paste / & songs about Jesus / From across the room / I watched my bride / make eyes / with the real boys / & knew I could kill for her / drill a body down into the earth / boy in the Polaroid / a grisly figurine / The white horse of masculinity bucking wild on the inside / I bit my lip & did as I was told / After school / I wanted / to hold her hand / she always wanted a divorce / When the big kids followed me home / calling me / lesbo / homo / wetback / faggot / I held my chin out & challenged to fight them all / every time / & why not? / Might as well / we all knew / I would never / win / anything.


my eyes in the time of apparition

Curse the steady mice who feast upon
____________my son’s gray matter—

__________________those soft purveyors of wickedness,
____________mutilators of my womb,
______mutilators of an empty chapel.

Praise the sirens of widening synapses,
______who beckoned my boy to fall,
____________then drift, upstream

__________________to sleep without song & awaken
_______________________savant: a piano angel hypnotist,
__________________miracle hands
____________fraught with confessions,
______their ivory lament.

Blessings to this illness that sutures mother
____________to daughter to son and back.
__________________Bless sorrow’s commitment
_______________________to reincarnate—an infant’s
__________________familiar arrival—a cold boy
____________sprung from the witch’s head.

Curse America & its willful gatherers
____________of foul seed & excess, castrators
__________________of dreams, vengeful shepherds
_______________________of paranoia. Curse you curators
__________________of shame,
____________of ridicule, of my eager impermanence.

Praise the mayhem of my prefrontal cortex—
____________psycho bitch brain fluke,
__________________most divine imaginer!
_______________________Praise my eyes in the time
____________of apparition, each heretic winter,

______as my teeth spark, igniting
the darkening litany of genetics
____________& growl: Let me be what I am.



The bitch in the photograph
wears my face. I cut off my nose,
her nose collapses.
Chop down my hair &
hers shrieks from the sink.
How many poems do I
have to write ‘til she
gets dead, how many
live-wire syllables?
I drive a fork into her
heart & she comes back
a quart of blood-hyped milk.
Some girls are daughters,
& some are ghosts.
I will always love what strays.
It’s just the orphan in me.
I have stolen everyone
I ever loved.

Rachel McKibbens is a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of four collections of poetry: Pink Elephant, Into The Dark & Emptying Field, MAMMOTH and blud, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press October 2017. In 2012, McKibbens founded the annual Pink Door Writing Retreat, open exclusively to women/femme/trans/nonbinary writers of color. McKibbens is a member of Latinas Unidas and co-curates the critically acclaimed reading series Poetry & Pie Night in upstate New York. More from this author →