At ten even this boy wanted to have them:
what older girls in training bras
had taken to padding we manufactured
with balloons swelling our t-shirts
as we sang, my younger sister & I,
to Dolly on the car radio, the slosh
of automated car-wash rollers slapping
against roof & window, & Daddy
for once not yelling at our backseat
performance. I was falling in love
with Dolly, that hillbilly Valkyrie,
her platinum hair-do a spun-sugar miracle,
her hummingbird voice a God-given weapon
against heartache, life's missed takes,
hardscrabble lessons about getting
the things we weren't getting but wanted—
Dolly, the doll I could never have,
her songs hungry & angry & funny--
a golden-throated spiritual connection
to the busty Daisy Mae hidden inside me.
My Dolly-pops squeaked as I rubbed
their knotted nipples, the car wash's
soapy water and brushes almost through,
& Dolly still singing "Here You Come Again"
as Daddy strummed the steering wheel
and lit a cigarette, while Dolly offered
a quick wink, all glitter & glue,
with eyes that could tell if a man
was a happy drunk, a sad or mad one—
& me, a balloon-breasted boy still singing
for a tender bosom to lay his head upon.
Kelly McQuain's (he/his) poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2020, The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Rogue Agent, Spunk, Assaracus and Cleaver, as well as such anthologies as The Queer South and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. He is the author of Velvet Rodeo, which won the Bloom chapbook poetry prize, and he has been a Sewanee Tennessee Williams Scholar and a Lambda Literary Fellow. He teaches English and creative writing at the Community College of Philadelphia.