Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 2



henry 7. reneau, jr.


badly drawn boy

born into a latitude & longitude
of down by law
a defenestration   that brings to mind
been flayed
but no   only the baby tossed with
the bathwater
a trajectory of consequence  &
personal worth
that rumbles &
squeals a train fading closer
then gone   the meth-
stupored scribbles of happenstance
subliminal at the deep end of hope
brushfire blaze & a new-
found appreciation of the Blues
each inhalation
the glittery specks of random atoms
to churn of thunderstorm-
like an affinity for disobedience
that foreshadows
                                a badly drawn boy




final solution to noise pollution: goin’ postal,
an amerikkkan tragicomedy

you hear it every day. . .
the frustrated cha-ching! of living paycheck to paycheck
as a cold-blooded Uncle Sam takes taxes & mo’ taxes,
nickel & dimin', left & right . . . ‘till death do you part

the futile penny-in-a-vacuum sound, working too many hours
for less & less,
your desperate whimper when your money changes clothes,
butt-naked to the financial whining of little Joanie’s new braces
& the deafening shriek of your latch-key son’s affinity for
mota, meth & metal at 200 decibels

you hear it every day. . .
the be-like-the-joneses plea of status brand clothes for the kids, &
day-care for the crying, shitting, awake-at-all-hours-of-the-night,
10-month-old rug-rat

you hear it every day. . .
the passionate temptation of desire’s fixation with
a showroom-smell, tricked-out Hummer that you cain’t afford

the ball & chain clang of mortgage payments,
the criminal extortion of the credit card swipe
bringing you eye to eye with the homeless trudge of dispossession

life insurance &   car insurance &   medical insurance,
all insuring that over which you have no control

car registration & smog-check . . . every other fucking year,
another rush-hour breakdown in the fast lane & triple-A
puts you on hold

you hear it every day. . .
the self-pity whine, “why me?” when you realize
you are not living the life you pursued

& cock-blockin’ rejection: “oh honey, i’m really tired” or
the tried & true excuse: “honey, i have a headache”
that reins in your inebriated libido,
then taunts a triple-X bump & grind,
as you fantasize about your female co-workers
(especially that hard-body intern wit’ the rack & the backs)

you hear it every day. . .
the persistent, gnawing, rats-in-the-wall scratch & chatter,
the relentless stress of a cold-cocked submission to desperation
when you lose the big account,
& evasion pollutes your boss’s explanation
of why you didn’t get the promotion you felt was yours,
terminated after 35 years,
bootlicking & begging for your job,
over-the-hill, but wanting one more goddamn shot

then, the clamorous, pounding train-on-the-track Leviathan
of oncoming mental breakdown,
a hundred-dishes-onto-the-kitchen-floor shattering to insanity

you hear it every day. . .
the whispered plotting of delusional revenge, a psychotic solution,
the ecstatic drool of redemption, retribution & i-caint-get-no
satisfaction,
as your AK spits mayhem & murder, silencing

your wife & children, the neighbor & his dog
your mother-in-law & father-in-law
your boss &
your backstabbing, johhny-come-lately co-workers

before the final spiteful outburst of the last bullet
clearing your ‘sivilized mind of frustration, guilt,
anger & pie-in-the-sky, if-you-work-hard-success-awaits-you
illusion

you hear it every day. . .
the intrusive, breaking-news self-promotion
by the bubble-headed, bleached-blond newsperson
(who slept her way to the top)

“we interrupt your regular programming to bring you
this special message . . .
details of the rampage are sketchy . . .
but neighbors claim he was a quiet person, who kept to himself . . .

film at 11”

you hear it every day . . .
the final door-slamming rejection of a short-circuited dream, &
no finally cutting a slice of Amerikkkan Pie®




the gi-normous legend of Tinkerbell, aka Lil’ Bit

for Petia Dilyanova Yoveva, on her 25th

Once upon a time
comes in a small package:

miniature Venus, rising on the half shell.
Begins with Tinkerbell,

diminutive Goddess ascendant
on transparent wings of gold,

magic gettin’ busy
with waving silver wand.

An unexpected gift
at an unexpected time,

like Mighty Mouse, or
dynamite,

as she paints the sky with stars.
She be rhythm & Blues-like,

a fleet footed gypsy fantasy,
Mercury’s quicksilver ease, &

bulletproof beauty,
as if she were gi-normous,

like the stars, forever & ever & ever,
as wise as serpents & gentle as doves.




The Fall of Camelot

waving constituents
lining a gray November street
the convertible passing grandeur
of presidential limousine &
All Hail the Chief
as an umbrella opening
segues to
an abandon-ship veering
of blackbirds rising
from coming causality
& a man with a camera
records the drive-by
the rifle cracks &
bullets boring into
brain & bone
& the national shock
as fingers-point: the Dallas
Book Depository   or
the grassy knoll
the close-up zoom
of blood-stained pink Chanel suit
ever fashionable in panic
searching frantically
for the irretrievable
for JFK
before the breaking news fade
to LBJ &
end credits: may God
save us all




the flower that exists on the edge of the cliff

for Nisha

i cannot hide my fears from my child—
built from my flesh & animated by my desperate expectations:
every pinnacle of hope shaded within parameters of anxiety

—so why try?

my child is beguiling mystery, eternal radiance of nuclear sun,
a myriad of rain forest birdsong in the secretive span
between constellation of stars
& a kiloton of dead-weight dread
that rests its wide haunches onto my heart, & clings

to what might happen,
a smooth, shiny carapace of worry enfolding great love
like a silent imitation of angels who are mute
& therefore terrifying.

my child, barely breathing, not unforeseen tragedy,
but chance's aftermath,
& dreaming
ten million, million adjectives for suffering;

no well-stitched words of condolence
can halt the block of concrete
falling hundred-pound out of heaven:

wingless, eyeless,
breathtakingly patient Harbinger of Death,
streamlined
& impersonal as a shark.

that which has happened,
that is, & is not, a crushing gravity—
an aftermath slicing definition from her precious individuality,

processed, eviscerated, mangled & honed—
sedated, so as not to suffer—her ravaged beauty
like a pregnant, glowing agony
birthing slow-motion struggling & a feeble cough
dislodging
the venomous toad of post-anesthesia into a hospital issue,
plastic, pink kidney

& the persistent itch
about rough-sewn sutured scars;
who can bear the awful opening of her eyes
the happenstance color of apprehension before the cure?   the seizure-
white venom of chemotherapy—worse than breast-less

with its thousand & one ritual killings by essence of mustard gas &
silent Chernobyl rads of radiation intruding into bone—parasitic time bombs,
their evolution
marked by experience
on the scarred landscape of battlefields, myriad bomb craters

& rubblized ruins—
so deliberate, so cruel, some divine watchmaker
positioning cogs & gears, a long-distance omnipotence,
put her in an oven & leering at her through the glass.

her body starved, illuminated by the looming chastisement of my fear;
my child, contorted into a paralysis of pseudo-sleep,
like a ghost,
or the body of a soon ghost
fallen into cold, quarry-deep waters,

just enough time to pray a thousand, thousand
mighty prayers,
the flickering of tiny sparks from the flaming threshold of hope,

as some, not all, will be rescued.

Note: The first use of drugs to treat cancer was in the early 20th century, although it was not originally intended for that purpose. Mustard gas was used as a chemical agent during World War I and was discovered to be a potent suppressor of blood production. During World War II, a similar family of compounds, known as nitrogen mustards, were studied further at Yale University. It was reasoned that an agent that damaged the rapidly growing white blood cells might have a similar effect on cancer. Therefore, in December 1942, several patients with advanced cancers of certain white blood cells were given the drug by vein, rather than by breathing the irritating gas. Their improvement, although temporary, was remarkable.


henry 7. reneau, jr.: "I write words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by my affinity for disobedience, like a chambered bullet that commits a felony every day, an immolation that blazes from my heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, exploding 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 my collection, The Book Of Blue(s) : Tryin' To Make A Dollar Outta' Fifteen Cents, was a finalist for the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Series. My work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize."




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