Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 1



henry 7. reneau, jr.


Bombingham

The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s
brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern
United States to work on agricultural plantations.

                     —Textbook publisher McGraw-Hill's characterization of
                     slavery in their 2015 edition World Geography textbook.

we was real hard workers was'nt we

                     —sarcastic text message from 9th grade student,
                     Coby Dean-Burren, in response to what he viewed
                     as an erasure of African-American history.

Nothing is more human than hate that can touch any of us, at any time: the spill of blood & meaningless chaos. Something to make what some have already decided, easier, when everybody knows the boat is leaking, & nobody who is standing by is innocent.

Come and see! September 15, 1963: a well-worn, dog-eared bible with flame-seared pages, a child’s shoe gleaned from smoking ash & rubble. Some things in this world that are so vile we pretend it will never happen to us, & hate, come & gone, skipping over golden avenues on cloven hooves.

McDonald the Trump recycling the spent casings of greed & devil-hate to build borders, less than on the Others' side. The perversity that makes bullets & bombs & terrorists. & we all know minds of metal behind the wheel of the big car-bomb is a clear indication of what is collateral, until it is not.

& if we see something that we weren’t supposed to see:

white women placed on a pedestal in gilded cages, genocide-ed heathen redskins, interred enemy-combatant japs, lynched uppity niggers & Smart-bombed Jihadist towel-heads—persona non grata till economically viable—

we’ve been taught to look the other way. Come & see! The oilfields on fire, blackening the skies with spite,

as federal wings of arrogant authority circle, meddlesome—in our homes & in our heads, telling us what to think & how to act: Don’t run!      Don’t walk!      Don’t speak!
                    & never mind the fire next time comin’ off the street.




Chance is what’s left, when you’ve run out of Hope.

How does He choose who gets how much?
The distant gaze of omnipotence
before the slapdash assignment of choice.
As if appraised by predator.   A feral stealth
suddenly rising from tall grass.   To assess
opportunity?   To measure
the handicap of the expendable gimp?

The capricious momentum of
suffering.   The famine after drought,
The homeless without: A weighted force
applied with velocity.   The uniformed school-
girl & raincoat stranger
                                             with sweets

We wonder: Does God only allow
a finite amount of pain
                                         into the world?   How
does He choose?   To take it from one place
& leave it as careless litter
                                                 in another?




The holocaust flaunts its swallow for
fourteen thousand, four hundred seconds.

after “The Stroll” by Petra White

Lucifer takes the Black man for many walks.
He talks about all the things Black folk must do for Him,
this & this & this, & then
                                               they will fear who I am.
One day they chance upon a gunshot-splayed Black child,
                                         browning blood-spattered hoodie &
four hours chalk-outlined, beneath a searing sidewalk sun.

Shall justice burn its own church again? This
in-just-us?
                     O raptor-eyed Lord of Flies.

Lucifer exults
                        in the sodomy of blind Lady Justice
under color of law, pumps 25 to life
mandatory minimum
into her Habeus Corpus. The new Jim Crow
rises
without accountability: Black bodies,
                                                    like bad pennies underfoot,
as if seeking ways to be visible: daring to glare
when the po-po shoves, fails to drop his wallet, keys, or
cell-phone.

Breathless, she mumbles
like her mind is not all there. He wears his pants
saggin', like his expectations. Criminally seen
                                                descending a dark stairwell,
ghosted, crimson against concrete &
smoke, guilty as sin, from a policeman's gun.
                                      The blue-eyed Devil testifies; He
feared for His life,
as if an afterthought.

The Black man, bruised by repetition, stares horrified
into the wrecked science of expendable Black lives.
                                                            Their forgotten stories,
discarded in the peripheral blur of the outside gaze.
Their always uppity tongue: an appendage of
accidental saints, now fallen from grace.
They clutter the media's cash-register tally of blame, as if
the policeman's gun was the miracle . . .
But already, Lucifer has taken the Black man by the elbow.




Illume #8

after “Dream It or Leave It” by Dorothea Tanning

Foremen, night-walkers, no judgment of this being whose fault is innocence,
whose crime is magic, whose hair lengthens like the wind to lash her desire.
Weep for the tears of the unseen creature, gather the ashes hidden by her
shadow. Wait for the egg, falling like a comet in the dark sky, this exquisite
egg that bursts in your brain.

                                                        –Dorothea Tanning

this woman who molded &
                                                  shaped the flame.        dread woman
                                                  in siren red velvet gown

denies that she is a villain
but the world will not believe her.

her heart
like deep, dark water    the perfect hiding place.

                                                                   the key to the arcane door.
                                                                               the obsidian tunnel
                                                                     to the unspeakable place.

a blood stained red that means danger      & guarded utterances.
             a hobbled red with heavy apprehension

                                                                      that one has gone too far
                                                                      to turn back now.
 staggered   foolishly   forlorn
                                                   into the wind & facedown
                                                                                                in the mud
but in spite of all this

                                        she is impelled by some curious force
                                        to open every door

                                        to enter every brier-blocked cave.

                                        to seek among
                                        the canted ominously & fallen tombstones

to lie down in condemned tenements of heroin dreams.

despite
the shrill stiffened cry of fear skimming water in attempt
                                                                                                        of flight
                                    despite the possibility that
                                      absolutely nothing-good-can-come-of-this.

to dare
the columned smoke of escape painting omens on the wind.

this woman
still cultivating the dream machine
                                  found abandoned
                                  under a pile of flat stones in a shadowy glade.

a sort of harness made from bands of cloth knotted together.
crimson red & very beautiful.

& she
fascinated by the intricacy of its design—
satisfying herself of its proper positioning—
                                                                                 quickly puts it on.

this woman
endeavoring to persevere
                                              with a certain defiance.

                                                                               holding out her arms
                                                                            taking a deep breath &

                                          ascending skyward

obeying the momentum of                 so vast can reach forever:
                                                                               let me forget my name
                                 in the frozen rapture of exhilaration's embrace!

yes               let me know not my name nor the number of my days.




How unforgiving the sins from the past #1

Today two desperate fires scramble the weather patterns & I'm fourteen again,
in Teviston, CA.  I've discard empathy, replaced it with bone shine & Molotov

glitter of enraged by the murder of the Rev. Dr. King.  Like God blew a whistle,
& the inferno of inner city shit bricks synonymous with the oncoming slouch of

reckoning the size of Money, Mississippi.   Spiritually nailed to the same
rugged cross he carried & the ricochet of umbrage, a defiant heart seized uppity

as sunken, gin-fan weighted bones, into the Tallahatchie River.   Just because
he said what he meant & meant what he said.   Always, where there's smoke

there will be scavenging legion of crows, the ignorance of atrocity &
exponentially a battlefield of bodies.    Everyone.    Everywhere I go,

in the Year of Dissent.    An unquenchable anger
billowing a plumage of smoke, upward into madness—where the air, trapped,

has nowhere to go.
A riotous portent of combustible despair, of blazing fury—the desperation

of three-fourths deferred    gut-buckets of red,    white,    black & Blue(s).
Come closer.        This is the part where I tell you a secret that eats to become.

Come on.
Don't be a'scairt.


henry 7. reneau, jr.: "I writes words in fire to wake the world ablaze: free verse that breaks a rule every day, illuminated by my affinity for disobedience, a phoenix-flux of red & gold immolation that blazes from my heart, like a chambered bullet exploded through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. I am the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, I have self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and am currently working on a book of connected short stories. My work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by LAROLA."




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