Khalisa Rae



Khalisa Rae

When they come to pluck me, I appear
neither girl nor boy, clam nor cock.

I have neither hooves nor snout.
But I do have claws; I can grunt and growl

and show my teeth. I do not need wings
to create a windstorm, I do not need talons

to break skin; I can snarl and scrape.
I can unhinge my jaw, to fit a head twice

the size of mine inside. I can be razor-backed
and spike-edged when he tries to skin me,

unscale my silvery back, debone my brazen
hen-hide. I will be foul-mouthed and crooked-necked.

I will be the chicken-head they know me to be,
if it will save my life. When he comes for me,

I will remember the coop, how they gathered the fowl
girl up by the feet with warm hands and cooing.

How her brown hung low when they entered her
into the guillotine and severed her head. How they plucked

her body until she was bare. I will remember the blood
and what happens when they want you for food.

Khalisa Rae is an activist, poet, and educator in Durham, North Carolina, and a graduate of the Queens University MFA program. Her recent work has been seen in Damaged Goods Terse, Crab Fat, Glass Poetry, Brave Voices, Hellebore, Honey & Lime, Tishman Review, the Obsidian, Anchor Magazine, New Shoots Anthology, Red Press, Roses Lit, among others. She is Managing Equity and Inclusion Editor at Carve Magazine. Her forthcoming full-length collection is debuting from Red Hen Press Spring 2021 and White Stag 2021.