Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 3



Marguerite Harrold


Daughters of the Revolutionary United Council of Fairy Godmothers:
Almighty Queen of Sheba Chapter

Well ladies, what have YOU heard?

                                             Without a bit of warning
               Or even a midnight curfew
                                             She’s been granting every wish
               Every?
                                             EV VERY!
                                                            You know she even gave the dwarfs a gold mine
               And they’re drunk already
                              And out of money
                              Warring with the trolls over territory                  and mating with pixies

               The whole forest is petrified
                                                                                                         ’fore you know it

Did you hear?
Sleepy got trampled by a Centaur
                              And another Brownie got shot with one of those high powered cross bows
               I thought they were banned
(In unison)         THEY ARE!
                                                            But you know those Brownies know how to get anything
                                                            Killing each other over nothin’
                                                            Plus, you know they steal

Ladies, Ladies, so what are we going to do about HER?
                                                                                          Yesss, what ARE we gonna do?
                                                                                          ’fore you know it we gonna have a bunch ‘lil
                                                                                          Dwarf/Pixie half-breeds running around here
                                                                                          And who knows what else




Evil

Prayers to Jesus whispered just before dusk
TV downstairs still on
Just before the late night creaking made me
Jump                plot a place to hide

Under the covers yellow fuzz fluttered
I rolled myself up like a mummy
Pretending I was having a proper Egyptian burial
This was before I learned they took all your guts out

I was sure that God laughed at my prayers and whispered about me to his friends
I never washed my face well enough              and nothing about me was ever really clean

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was the scariest movie I’d ever seen
The first time I’d ever heard a little black girl with my name
Unlike her I could never stop talking               I tried
There were some things I wouldn’t tell

Even scarier than Roots where I would dream of hound dogs
And up to my knees muddy water patterned with sticks        and snakes and Cypress trees
Grasping fingers tried to hold on         tangling themselves on my knapsack
Filled with loaves of bread      and the family bible

God’s revenge on me for having the nerve to be born
For wishing I was the only one

For stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk on purpose
For not being smart enough to find a way out for all of us
For not calling the ADC and asking for a new family
For just being evil

My mom secretly hated me
Sometimes she said so out loud
Since I was the first

My dad wished I was a trumpet
            or a boy
I was the mistake that started it all

I prayed for a time machine so they could take it all back
Maybe I could have gone to some other planet where everyone was evil
So I’d fit in

Or maybe I could have just stayed down there shoveling coal
Dirty and sweating in my red jumpsuit          making sure the fire never went out
Keeping an eye on the younger demons
Making sure they didn’t ask The Devil too many questions

Maybe I could be his favorite
For sure then I would never be cold




Random Shoe

I.

No one ever wonders why          there’s just one
Or where the other foot bared the trip home to

Or why there were no panties    or pocket change
Was there a sock for comfort

Or just a naked foot hobbling alone         hoping to balance
Maybe make ends meet

The White Man’s Footprint sprouts prickly flowers at Eastertime
Was there the one
                            Then the other
                                          Another one
                                                        And then another
                                                                      Over and over
The Chinkapin Oak trees’ dried tobacco colored leaves clap
Like a thousand babies’ hands


II.

Night in              and out
The gravel gets caught
Cracked between my toenails

This lot’s got pot holes big as ponds
Seagulls swim    and watch
The crows run naked

Even trucks park cautiously
So as not to tip

One slip and tomorrow could be promised to someone else
I could sleep sweet         tagged and tucked in
Tonight though               I’m still walking

Skyline unobstructed
The Sears Tower seems to tilt and wink
No one who lives calls it “Big Willy”


III.

I wonder if someone can see me from here
Where rabbits and rats run from Red Tailed Hawks pooching on telephone poles

At dawn dark hums turn the trick of the furnace on
Sandstone wears scuff marks from returning ashes

Faces of crying sisters and cousins turn away       and into their hands
I wonder where they found them

Him      any him              almost always a him
Sometimes no one even comes to say they know them

Sometimes they come in me
Then come know the shadow of my walk as crispy bodies billow

Every Friday they fry ’em all up on this Westside
White smoke blows East

They found the car I’m in
They never find most black girls whole




Friday Night Out in Nowhere

This was my last

Naked asses all laid out             on top of wooden tables
Decadent designer skin serving appetizers                   Crudité dip in navels
Nipples a flowery flourish

Downstairs décor modeled after a ship’s hull             Brown bodies head to foot
Some twisted               Two inches apart          Tethered to the bulkheads

The clientele                Tourists           Ten or twelve brown bourgeoisie folk
Tame as tenements in the suburbs
Came round to tempt themselves                     To taste the darker sides

Closest to me               Off to the right               Sulking against a splintered beam      An Asian girl
            Without a partner                   With skin like French milk bath
Is too shy to get started

Still new myself I reach out      Show her it’s ok to touch me               Strangely excited to feel her
Salad bowl full of hair against my figure

I pull her head to my chest                 Something like a mother consoling
No one’s looking yet                   I tell her         But I’m sure the camera’s on

                                                        I whisper       It’s ok                 Just pretend you love me
She nestles my nipples as if relieved

I close my eyes too
Guiding her down                      We drown in skin and salt and saturation
As if we were both late for the funeral




First Date

We’d already smoked half a joint
Between Burgundy & Esplanade
Just after leaving Mag’s 940

I wanted to watch The River put on her disco dress
You’d already confessed
Most of your crazy

Merry men half naked in the streets
Lined the heat like Honey Locust trees
Flasks nearly falling from their pockets

We skipped out of sight

Played hide seek with the orange & white feral cat
Who kept peeking from behind the pillars
Flirting & following us all along the pier

His wounded green eyes looked like someone I’d seen before
Someone I’d want to keep and cuddle
Subtle remembrances of cauterizing wounds kept me from it

Wobbling in a hand-me-down go-cart
Senior citizen security guards gave us chase
Gritty and gumming directives

Uniforms half hanging off
They almost tipped over
Trying to turn

The closed market felt abandoned
Racks of clothes swayed
As if the spirits were taking turns trying them on

Bazar rows of tables housed wares
Covered in crinkled blue tarps
Whose triangled tails waved to the wind

There were ghost rows of tomatoes and spices
Silly sunglasses and pink daiquiri colored umbrellas
Candies candles and perfumes

Familiar fragrances in the strangeness of the quiet

The River lap danced against the rocks
Rolling her stinky belly
Whispering sweet secrets

Probably wondering what we were doing together

You held my hand as if you’d never touched a girl before
Been so long
It felt brand new for me too

You told me fantastic tales about the Nutria Rats
Used for targets down here
Where people come to practice being who they are

             “Laissez les bons temps rouler”
                          Let the boys do what they may
You said I wasn’t an experiment

I noticed how your eyes smiled when you looked at me
How close your lips were to my face when you talked
I’d like to think I listened to everything you said

Mostly I just watched your mouth move

I noticed how you never looked at another woman in my presence
Even the ones who came into Check Point Charlie’s
Wearing nothing but pasties & partial panties            Garters & guitars

I heard you when you said you were lost
I was looking when I found you

Bronzed and bare chested
Hair from neck to just below the navel
Like a coy Creole version of my prince

Except you are actually from Tacoma Park

I noticed how you swooned
When the waiter bent over
To pick up his checkbook

Really
I didn’t mind




Illumination

After Ed Roberson’s “...As One Two Three”

I am a foolish cloud
Silliness accumulated
A fluffy clown falling in love
With a beam of sunlight
Heartbroken when it disappears              Abandoned
Unaware that it has been blended into me
My own shadows
Sagging sadness
At night the falling stars come to play
Lay down
Watch me
Soothe myself
Then do it all over again


Marguerite Harrold: "I am a Chicagoan. I have spent over 20 years of doing HIV Prevention work. I am also a Naturalist. I have an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and I am a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. I was recently accepted to the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writer’s Conference.

"I have had poems published or forthcoming in Tipton Poetry Journal, SHANITH, Oculus Vox, Melbourne Poetry Project, RHINO, Eleven Eleven, 5X5, Criminal Class Review, Whimperbang!.com and Poetry City, USA among other journals.




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