Khadijah Queen

From “Exercises in Painting”

_________________________ what can be called nonchalant self-portraits

That side-eye and down
mouth crinkle, as if random word
or sound unwittingly just
uttered with or without misplaced
snark & overdone
sympathy—not a whole lot
tastes right when cooking
after sleeping in pink foam
rollers & satin night cap,
but sometimes, one lucks up
on the right umber mix to parallel stove
stains & undershadows in the face
unmade from a common, nowhere
near disastrous night



_________________________ happiness

Not a factual brink
Not a smoking quibble
Not a barn collapsing
Not unused implements or a hammer’s bass

Instead, Klezmer & sequins
Goat bleats & too much popcorn
Analog radio tuner & space heater smell
Not an impossible battery

Not a shivering candidate
Not a partnership of buckeyes
Abundant mulch & a moth fold

Not spoiled carnitas
Not paisley furniture
Not nacelles as new planetary fusion clues
Not fault collections
Not blowing hard death from anything
Not that raft of deadweight

Ridiculous iridescence & bedazzlers
In a color not seen yet

Lowell jewels
Bruise ash & porches swept rich again
Here in the rag paper knees & now


Khadijah Queen is the author of Conduit (2008) and Black Peculiar (2011). Individual poems and essays appear in jubilat, Aufgabe, Vinyl, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Rattle, The Volta Book of Poets and widely elsewhere. Visit her website: