Many of those gays
down in the bayou loved Beyonce, until she put
on a black beret & draped herself in gold rounds
of ammo for a halftime show. See, you can’t serve
a crowd what they expect. The lesson of the show
is in the reaction, how she disabused those qweens
of their whiteness, & we watched their glittered
nails cling to it. I know I will never be the Queen.
My body could never fill those cups, & I’d never
fit into leather hot pants these days.
— from “make-believe queen bees” by Matty Layne Glasgow
My daughter spent years in-and-out of every costume she could find. She would be a warrior princess on a monday, the wicked witch on a Tuesday, and by Friday she’d pulled out the tutu’s and masquerade garb. There’s no judgement when kids journey into worlds only they can see. When they tell you they put a cup over their nose, and say “I’m a Snarkasaurases who breathes fire that smells like cupcakes,” it’s because they do. But eventually we grow up, and those masks, for so many reasons, become necessary.
In Matty Layne Glasgow’s Deciduous Qween (Red Hen Press), we move through the characters, costumes, and masks that make us whole. He reminds us that whether we want to wear our masks to sing ourselves to the world, or hide behind until our bodies know “how the years / pass in rings within him, / but you carve through that / history, fashion him a tooth-
chipped corset. The you scurry / down, and we watch that willow / sway.” Or until you’re told you “have a booty like / a thick-ass birch leaf.”
The reason isn’t always so obvious, but wear masks and costumes at each stage of life. We are, in most moments, who we choose to be. And in others, we become, well, others. In the end, much like Paul Laurence Dunbar pointed out so long ago:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,— from “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.