It’s my responsibility to provide the American people
with a candid assessment on the way forward …
Absolutely, we’re winning…

-George W. Bush

The welfare of the people in particular has always
been the alibi of tyrants.

-Albert Camus

The Muslim woman in the schoolyard tells me
to cover my baby’s head. It’s too windy, or
It’s snowing, or, There’s a man hiding
in the bushes with a gun

On the bus, the Russian ladies give up
their seats for my blue-eyed booby-babe
who spits curdled milk onto their
snapping alligator shoes.

She smiles for the Puerto Rican mamis
eager to point out the birthmark on her face,
the bald patch on her head, the scratch
across her nose. They say God bless her
so sincerely, I almost want to swallow
them like swords.

The witch in Prospect Heights warns me
to teach my baby how to sleep with her
mouth closed
, to stifle the ghouls who
want to climb down her throat
and stitch their teeth into her blood.

As she sleeps beneath a crucifix, clutching
a rabbit’s foot, the eyes of a deer tucked
behind each ear, rock salt around the cradle,
a horseshoe hung on the doorknob,
I sit in silence as the dead
march through my living room,
stumbling over the furniture,

climbing into the cupboards,
tucking into closets and under the beds,
wanting desperately to escape, to outwit
their unavoidable ends,
eight thousand arms searching
for one good mother in the dark.

*My son’s birthday.  Also, when the New York Times reported the death count of U.S. soldiers in Iraq reached four thousand.

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RACHEL MCKIBBENS was born a few blocks from Disneyland, which explains her inability to get along with stepmothers. She recently moved to upstate New York with her ginormous family. Despite not having an MFA, her poems and short stories have snuck into numerous publications, including The American Poetry Journal, Wicked Alice, The New York Quarterly, The Acentos Review, Melusine, H_ngm_n, The London Magazine, and several fun anthologies. In 2009, she became the Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, which amuses her to no end. She has shared stages with Nikki Giovanni, Kanye West, Billy Collins, Martin Espada, Ellyn Maybe, Eve Ensler, and Nick Flynn. McKibbens is also a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and her first collection of poems, Pink Elephant (Cypher Books) was released on Halloween of 2009.

5 responses to “To the 4,000 – March 24, 2008*

  1. Hey Rachel:

    Wonderful poem, my dear. Thanks for joining the ranks of TNB.

    Onward and upward.

    • rachel mcK says:

      aw, shucks, Rich. thank you for reading it at all. I’m happy to be here. I’m always the last invited to the party.


      seat filler

  2. jonathan evison says:

    . . . wow, great stuff, so vivid and tactile . . .

  3. jaha says:

    this poem is a painting.

    jaha zainabu

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