Ode to Drag Queens

Photo: © Stefan Hengst. All rights reserved.

Lashes, lashes, lashes
swimming in disco ball petals—
face and body for days. Tucked
and destroying that stage.
Girl, put your glasses on
and read this whole club for filth.
Work those sequins, queen. Sell
the gown like you’re holding down
a debut, cotillion, and quinceañera.
We love to watch your lips
and padded hips master a song.
Love to tuck our bills between
what is real and not.
Work, bitch! You’re beautiful. You know
the hard work and the power
it takes to become
a woman. And, dangerous, too.
Let these lights shine on you!
Your contours, your face
beaten for the gods, covering—no,
transforming—that face once beaten
by fists. Never mind, bitch. This ain’t
about to be a sadass poem!
This is about shine! About glitter.
Glitter. Something people say that they hate,
pretending there’s not straight-up
magic in a glimmer that lingers—
in lashes, in crooks, in tucks—
well beyond the next morning.

Michelle Peñaloza is author of Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, which won the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize and will be published in August 2019 by Inlandia Institute. She is also the author of two chapbooks, landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). Her work can be found in places like Prairie Schooner, upstreet, Pleiades, The Normal School and Third Coast. A Kundiman fellow, Michelle has also received scholarships from Lemon Tree House, Caldera, Vermont Studio Center, VONA/Voices, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, among others. The proud daughter of Filipino immigrants, Michelle was born in the suburbs of Detroit, MI and raised in Nashville, TN. She lives, farms, and writes in rural Northern California.

Appears In

Issue 7

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