Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 2



Avni Vyas


Lord’s Prayer in The Sims ™ 4

Our Father, who art encoded,
Hardly be your name.
Your kingdom’s slums
drum on earth, as in heaven.
Our Father, what bread
causes hunger? I’ve heard some
bodies crumble, some lay
their slices on the tongues of others,
but what is hunger, hungry
hungroid, hungriloquence,
hungrish, hungerer?
Is it pixelated shell, translucent
Rain,, or diamond-light
inside the iris? Our Father,
protect us from our own
desire, if it was ever ours
in the beginning. Deliver
us our General Tso’s. Keep
our cravings wanton.




A Grammar

Distill yourself in the small waiting room,
             a coalescing gelatin cup, until The Vulcan
leads you upstairs for REBT sessions, where
             you learn to identify distorted thinking,
(like catastrophizing a lifted pick-up truck
             swiping you off the highway, your speed unsteady,
your subcompact diving off the Skyway Bridge)
             dispute negative thoughts (which curl like slippery weeds
insinuated inside you, almost politely)
             embrace your personhood, (the clueless windsock
of self puffed and writhing), and accept everyone,
             including yourself, especially yourself, universally.


Train your eyes on the opposite wall at a print
             of collective nouns. A crash of rhinos,
an ostentation of peacocks, a troubling of goldfish.

             Let The Vulcan asks reasonable questions like
Do you believe you are a good person? Good—his word,
             not yours. Shrug. Chasten yourself by accepting
your unhelpful use of labels, your conditional Jamiroquai
             dancefloor of a heart unsettling furniture, rooms, bedrock,
so you burn a little. Your thoughts, held together
             by syntactic rubber cement, rumble their grammar.

Vulcanize The Vulcan. Oh, you mean the difference
             between an adjective and an adverb?
You mean
the difference between a shit-talker and a bully.
             Adjectives only sneer, their flaxen tribe
running the brain’s hallways and cafeteria.
             The adverb shoves, asking How? How many?
To what extent or degree? Why? Why??


Let The Vulcan nods at this description, or shrug,
             it doesn’t matter, why should it matter, isn’t that
the point? Universal pain is and isn’t yours.
             Adjectives are and aren’t. You move on, living
because you’ve kept it up for this long,
             because you can, because you would prefer to.

Because.




Self Portrait as Boiled Peanut: Contrapuntal

(after Terisa Siagatonu)

Notice how
we call them soft,
of the tongue, like me,
bathing in vats of everything,
to soak up other things.
Not owning my flavor
is an anthem.
I haul empty vats
I steep in my succor

Maybe I am
made of smaller worlds
wanting
a trigger for an
excuse to break
boiled peanuts are pink,
“redneck edamame,”
swirling in a bayou
of curry-water, salt.
It feels inhuman
to be alive.
Women from villages
carry the water
for drinking and bathing.
Growing all the more
globe-like, or maybe
like droplets, falling wide
for someone else’s
open mouth.
out of the dark, or just
shades of human,
that live inside a sunset
that we live in. I remember
an elegy that broke me.
A lifeblood, a hymn,
a pressure cooker unhinged
Steaming, engorging
the plastic and splitting apart.
Women tend the fire
sputtering in our own filth
I am saltier, an ocean
in and of myself
hunger
I’m looking for any
necessary violence.



Lovesong with Boneyard

D, a snarl of lightning bolt turned woman,
walks me down Amelia Island to a ribcage
of driftwood, old trees bleached white,
branches warped into slim bars.

We’re often this way, in motion, a pair
of sea dogs roving, listless, waiting, our eyes
ready to land on the hide of something that hurt us,
or we’re this way because we can’t stop hunting.

Our kinship a feral sisterhood
of protecting each other from harm,
like the time she arrived at my doorstep
bloodied with red mulch to scare off a stalker.

Last week, a man punched her, cited
I’ll fucking hit a woman if I have to as his alibi,
scotch tumbler of fist on skull. Her, a black eye,
him, whatever happens to judges’ sons,

so the next weekend she kayaked into Georgia
to sleep on a marshy spit crackling with sand crabs,
a soggy, used-up paradise she was glad for.
She’d fucking heal herself if she had to.

Sometimes you have to reset, she says of changing
her neural pathways in meditative bursts of sitting
in a beige silence, holding of the world what one must.
I’m quick to snap, and it’s a problem. Then,

Let’s save for Peru, or hike through Guam.
We’d follow bull sharks as if they were omens
if it meant finding signs of a kind future. It’s difficult
today, standing here pressed against a celestial current

of dark and light, negotiating with the sun
which burns like love, a sizzling abundance
shining off these driftwood claws.
A body so angry it survive storms out of spite.

D points to a swirl of froth where ocean meets river,
a seam that forms waves where surfers peel the ocean’s
skin in flicks, taking pleasure in colonizing force.
I wish I knew how to protect us.

Later in an antique store, we slip each other
phrases—what      impossible      us and what money
but we are cosmic      we deserve
—a lullaby we need
after learning Dr. Ford’s testimony of sexual assault
was the ticket price to go wherever a Georgetown son goes.

One August we read our horoscopes as astronomers,
mystics tethering ocean blood to deepen
blackness, devout to this faith of reading stars
in suburbs of our own design, because we lose ourselves.

So we cast ourselves as goats or fish
as needed, the month’s prediction draped over us
like armor. In mirrors I’d pose, capricious:
unpolished but plucky, deft, a bit stony.

nevermind star-readers were most popular in Berkeley,
or the Santa Cruz boardwalk—we need these maps
to become new people, need the other to witness this:
how we temper ourselves into masks or whatever protects us.

Once, a man kept showing up at my door uninvited.
He’s not as bad as the others, we’d say.
Spurned, he left things: books, poems in the slit
of my door jamb, forks. Once, his body

loomed through the peephole until D,
bat in hand, appeared in the parking lot,
like a holy bird from a religion I suddenly needed.
She was my goat, my bassline.

In the boneyard we touch the trees
like we know them, rub our knuckles along theirs,
test how much force the bones can stand, how better
to brace, how close to grip that sand.




A Good Public School

Ms. M’s Latin portable was in the far corner of campus,
             so no one heard her throw a shoe at Lucy for leaning her wet hair
on the bulletin board— she’d make the Magic Marker bleed. In front of me
             sat a boy I “dated” for four months in tenth grade, from February to May
until he broke up with me to date a girl in a rival Latin Club because
             she was sexually adventurous for a Latin Club girl,
which was code for smart-enough,
             plain-looking girls who didn’t have self-esteem.

He offered to help me with my translations of Caesar.
             I blinked.

No one taught us about the Sabine women.

Krysta fed us gossip we filed into tight diamonds
             of notebook paper to pass in the halls:
A varsity tennis player was dating a sophomore (who cares?),
             the Mu Alpha Theta team is going to win regionals (yawn),
while the crew team was just an auto-fellating entity made of 30 bodies (true).

Addie decided to paint the ceiling tiles of the Latin room
             into a Pantheon. I offered to do the goddess Minerva at age 16,
posing for the yearbook. I gave her glasses. I wrote poems as Dido,
             dismissing her heartbreak from Aeneas like a rumor.

Our story is smoke. The air will eat it
but it will stain your robes and the hills,
the feathers of hawks who circle us.
There will be my dust on your skin.
You won’t even know I’m here.


Lucy and I made our belly buttons talk to each other between
             classes. It was the first time I’d shown my gut willingly. Our
tummies jiggled a kind of joy I wouldn’t accept until I was thirty.
             I woke up at three a.m. to run alone. I hated being weak.


Avni Vyas: "I am a poet living and writing in Florida. My poetry can be found in journals such as Grist, Meridian, The Pinch, Juked, Crab Orchard Review, Better Magazine, Arts and Letters, and others. With Anne Barngrover, I am the author of the poetry chapbook Candy in Our Brains (CutBank 2014). I received my MFA and PhD from Florida State University. I teach in the Writing Program at New College of Florida."




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