November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Rachel McKibbens

Spoken word sings


 Ex-punk rock chola

brings life to the party


As her web site says, “Poet Rachel McKibbens is an ex-punk rock chola with five children. Known for her astonishingly visceral stage presence and devotion to craft, McKibbens has become one of the most respected poets in the spoken word community. She is the 2009 Women of the World poetry slam champion, is an eight-time National Poetry Slam team member, a three-time NPS finalist, and a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and Pushcart nominee.”

Out Loud editor Molly Kat asked Rachel if we could feature some of her work, and she kindly obliged. We trust you’ll find her poetry and her voice both charming and disarming.


M, from After the Fall


In the kingdom of pointing fingers


Head Above Water

Everything reminded you of what happened.
There were paintings of it hung
in the museums you frequented. 
Each new canvas was the same
horrible event, only a minute later,
until finally, the last frame –
your bed, covered in flies.

It followed you home after wild nights out,
shadowed your stagger, wiped the spit from your chin.
Your friends couldn’t look you in the eye any more.
They complained about it frequently:
It’s always staring at me, not saying anything.
And why does it have so many teeth?

You did your best to go on with your life.
After it tore your car apart
you rode a bicycle to work.
When it started eating children,
you stayed indoors.

When the people of your town
circled your house with torches, you left quietly.
Within a week after your departure, the town
returned to its slick comforts.

Eleven years have gone by. Only a handful of people
remember what you look like. When your mother
cried out for you in her deathbed,
she called the wrong name.

The local fishermen recount slurred tales of your sightings.
They say you built a giant raft, that the two of you
are floating hundreds of miles out to sea,
where undiscovered creatures of the deep
wallow in the freedom of their namelessness.
Where the girl, somewhere small inside you,
can finally get some sleep.


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.

The girl 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. Outside her bedroom, the Lonesome Boys
hid in trees to watch The Father lift her gown.
Before It Happened, her mouth was a shining crown,
her hair moved like a hungry dog.

In the morning, the girl 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.


Reading All the Ads in the Back of Magazines

You fold two loads of laundry.
Your hands, once split by heat,
are now calloused, invincible.

You sit at your kitchen table,
masturbate next to a half-eaten bowl of cereal-
swollen clouds floating in pink sugar milk.

You stand in your living room
turn off the television, glare at the
reflection of your thickened hips,
wipe your hand across the screen
tearing through static.

A garbage truck roars outside your window.
You watch the barrels spit out the unwanted-
exhausted light bulbs and soggy cabbage,
a doll’s torso bruised by crayons.

You press your hand against the glass, shock
at how the morning’s cold presses back,
how even calluses do not deny
this pointed chill.

It is in this moment that you see yourself.
First, spot your left arm, pale blue stiff
and reaching. It tumbles with empty milk cartons
and a dead hamster zipped in plastic.

You see your heart waddle
like a damaged plum as it drops against
your breasts now sticky with syrup.
You watch your blood crumble and fall
like day-old rice, your face,
thin and jagged, slides from
the barrel like an oiled mask.

You turn away, once you recognize
the sound of your legs slamming
against the truck like twin corpses.

This is when you realize –
you should have kept his number,
should have stayed after he kissed you
so hard it split your lip

when he chewed your nipple through
your sweater and you nearly fainted
by the shock white charge of it,

when he ripped your stockings
grabbing your thighs, when you felt
his fingers move inside you 
as if searching a coat pocket.

This is why the price tag still swings
from your wedding dress, why you cannot
fuck your husband with eyes open,
why you dunk your child’s head too long
while rinsing his hair.

This is why permanence terrifies,
why your spine threatens to tear out
and run, why you do not own pets
but keep cages

this is how you haunt your own house,
why your hands coil in hunger
and why the sound of screaming tires
burning away in the night
is the only song
that ever puts you to sleep.

1 comment

1 Joseph Lindsley { 11.01.09 at 5:39 pm }

Let me catch my breathe.