Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 3



Ann Plicque


Late spring at the lakefront

Daddy’s yellow swim trunks
with white piping,
mama’s black, nondescript one-piece,
unmemorable suits for Jacob and me.

Didn’t matter.

It was the swimming
at the lakefront to ease
scalding late-spring heat;
free us from a house
with no air-conditioning,
tie us to the WPA seawall
wrapped around the lake
in a concrete ribbon.

The lake drew
us to another realm:
bright-green, hairy algae waved
on steps under water,
slid us to the cool, wet,
where fish nibbled toes,
a crab swooshed by
to flee the pot
meant for it.

We three rode the bus
an hour after school,
and daddy met us with the car,
from work at the post office.

There were other families:
Parents talked
in chest-deep water,
I dog-paddled, treaded,
coughed up brackish stew;
my brother horseplayed
with boys his age.

Then daddy swam off
like an Olympian,
carved into the green
for what felt like forever,
his shoulders and head visible,
shrinking in a shoreless horizon,
and I had a fear of losing him,
of water and distance—
from land to lake,
child to parent,
air to water—
the space
between things.

Then he turned,
parted small waves,
and mother smiled.

I shivered,
pulled myself
out, shaken:
wrapped tight in a towel,
ready to go home.




Split

The Afro-Creole me,
split 43-53 black to white,
3 percent American Indian
Finnish-Nigerian icing,
skates full bore,
all cylinders firing
until I fling colors off.

Despite shade,
religion, culture
language,
there aren’t races.

We come from
Lucy in the sod
with diamonds,

upright,
tiny, ape-woman
Johanson and Gray found
in the Great Rift Valley.

Yet rifts reek
between us—
epithets fly
like daggers;
bombs drop,
RPGs rattle
in collateral
damage
to people
everyone says
they’re sorry
are dead.




Pedal, fingers, eyes

Great-grandma
taught me
doll clothes on
her manual Singer,
fast as foot, ankle, calf
could make the belt
circumnavigate pulleys,
ratchet needle up and down.

Poised between her legs
to learn the rhythm—
I herky-jerked it,
bloodied fingers,
sucked them
to stem the pain.

She gently said,
‘Again, but slower,’
as if a 6-year-old
could do so
easily.

Each time,
I learned pace, speed,
became the machine:
my fingers eyes,
my legs engines
that knit cloth
into shapes
to wear.

She lives
in my fingers, eyes, legs,
the cut of cloth
of what I choose
to make and wear,
and makes me
who I am.


Ann Plicque: "I am an MFA honor graduate of the University of New Orleans’ Creative Writing Workshop and a New Orleanian. I have been published in di-verse-city 2015. I just completed a Writer-to-Writer mentorship through the Associated Writer’s program, and have finished a first book of poems I hope to publish."




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