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ancestry, part 2

by McKenzie Chinn

i bought this gold linen dress
to wear on my trip to the desert.
i know that a dress in the desert is impractical,
but maybe that’s half the point.
whatever. i trust myself.

i am going to the desert.
i want to know what real stillness is like,
what stars can really do to a sky and
if seeing light from a dead one is a way
of looking into the past.

i am going to be black and be in the desert
and i can’t say i expect to see
many other people who look like me out there.
some say “girl what is you doin?
that’s some white people shit.”
but why should stillness be only for them?
i’ll be damned if i let them colonize peace, too.
i’ve never not lived in a city
or at least close enough to one
that the stars sink back into the sky,
and disappear.
i’m going to the desert, i’m gonna wear this gold dress
and be black and feel gorgeous about the whole thing
because i checked my ancestry and it turns out
i’m really part sky, am the reason
anyone can see a star out here at all,
so am worth at least my weight
in something far less fathomable
and more ancient
than gold.

McKenzie is a poet, actor, filmmaker, and educator whose work has appeared in TriQuarterly, PANK, Crab Fat Magazine, and others. Her poem “you don’t look like someone” was a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. She is part of Growing Concerns Poetry Collective which released its inaugural album, WE HERE: Thank you for Noticing, in 2017, and published its first book of poems, Five Fifths, through Candor Arts in 2018. She is also the writer, producer, and lead actor of the feature film Olympia which premiered at the 2018 LA Film Festival. mckenziechinn.com.