Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 2



Kailah Peters


How Stars are Made

My dad told me of a time he was grabbing coffee with Death when his IVIG treatment interrupted. His autoimmune disease almost got him, but doctors like to save the day at the last possible moment.

He said, Death told me what comes next. Your soul floats out of your body. It can get caught in the wind, drifting till it gets stuck on a fence or a tree branch. Then you spend eternity with leaves. Death told me leaves are the worst conversationalists. But if your soul is light enough it’ll just float up. Up and up till a star grabs hold.

What happens once it’s with the stars?

Oh, I don’t know. Death never got to show me. Maybe that’s how stars are made. Or, perhaps they hold it for a moment, like getting caught in awkward small talk at a party you ’d rather miss. Eventually, the soul wiggles free and just keeps floating. Anyway, I’m just trying to live lighter now. I don’t want to get stuck in the branches.

I pause, imagining my father with Death. What was he like?

He kind of reminds me of you. Very free, kind of cool. At peace with himself. He said he gave up on trying to impress humans long ago. Now he’s just doing his job. Just doing his shitty job.

Do you think about him often?

Every day. He told me he’d be back, just not when. He even gave me a coupon for the coffee place we went to. I guess that was kind of nice.




Fratricide

I thought that when you died
I would feel ecstatic
because your body is no longer on my planet
or pissed because I couldn’t do the job myself.

Instead,             I feel muddy yellow.

             I feel my leg bouncing even when it’s not.

                                                                              I feel scared.

I’m scared that your ghost
can now reach me in places
your body never could.

That when I sleep
with a knife under my pillow
it won’t do me any good.

When we were little
you told me bed bugs
crawl in through the window
to eat my skin while I sleep.

You forgot to mention
they aren’t confined to the bedroom.

I’m crying on the CTA
because my therapist made me remember
your hands around my mother’s neck.

My mother who,
when you turned red
and punched a hole through the kitchen,
scooped me up and escaped.

No time for shoes or coats,
we drove to Wendy’s and
ate in the car.

             Chicken nuggets smell like fear
             dipped in ranch.

                          Chicken that I wouldn’t eat
                          so, you taped me to a chair.

                                       Chicken, like what you called me
                                       when I flinched before a punch.

                          I don’t eat in the kitchen
                          because it reminds me of duct tape
                          on my ankles.

             I don’t walk without a weapon
             because I exist in fight or flight.

I don’t sleep with the windows open.




All of it

I don’t blame you
for all of it.
             Just parts.

All of it would include
my mother’s failed suicide.

All of it would include
how you took her to a friend’s house first
hospital second.

My mother says it was because you were scared,
but I’ve been scared and I’ve been suicidal.
When you are scared and you care about life
you go to the hospital first.

All of it would include
waking up to the fights.
Fists and plates thrown around
like water balloons on the fourth of July.

All of it would include
learning how loud the music needs to be
to hear nothing else.

There is still a faint buzzing in the quiet.

All of it would include
a condom on the floor
and your hands reaching for places
I’ve yet to discover.

All of it would include
how fast I can deconstruct
a disposable razor with a staple remover.

I dare you to find a limb on my body I haven’t etched in.

All of it would include
every depression-soaked tear I cried.

All of it would include
a half empty bottle of vodka
and a completely empty bottle of sleeping pills.

All of it would include
waking up the next day
thinking fuck!

All of it
is blood stained.

All of it
sleeps on the floor
when it’s anxious.

All of it
cries every time it rains.

All of it
sits like lead
in my gut.




Apologizes

If I make you uncomfortable let me say this:
I am not sorry.

I am not sorry for my hair cut,
the fit of my jeans,
or the way I walk with my tits half out.

I am not sorry for who I get to love,
and if they love me back
I am more than blessed.

I am not sorry for the curve of my waist
Or how it can make
Your groin strain.

I am not sorry for the riot on the tip of my tongue,
the tint of skin,
the tight curls on my head.

I am not sorry for existing.

For living loudly, boldly, and honestly.

But, I am sorry if you don’t.




Philophobia

I look at other couples
             enthralled and elated
             wrap his tongue ‘round her teeth
             and his hands ‘round her heart
             boasting about the little moments
             when MaryV stitched herself
             into the center of his life
and I think,
             maybe I’ve never been in love.
I’ve loved
             But I’m not sure I’ve been loved.
I’ve liked
             And I’ve lusted.
I’ve made love
             And I’ve fucked.
But maybe
             maybe
                          there is something I don’t get.
Like how two people meet
                                       and trip
                                                    And stumble
                                                                 And fall
                                                                              And crash.
I’ve tripped,
             but I always land on my feet.

Maybe cats don’t fall in love.
Maybe I’m too much of a pussy.




Good Love is a lot like Good Poetry

My favorite poems
are the ones that come easy.
I sit in front of Savanah, my typewriter,
and the words spill out of me,
the feelings flood over me.
Suddenly, I’m staring at a piece of paper and thinking:
I can’t believe I didn’t know I felt like this before.

I keep thinking good love should be like good poetry.
I’ll sit in front of Savanah, or Alex, or Johnathon,
or anyone I haven’t met yet
and the words will spill out of me,
the feelings will flood over me.
Suddenly, I’ll be staring into someone’s eyes and thinking:
I can’t believe I tried to love before I met you.

My editor, Kathleen, will laugh when she reads this
because she taught me that good poetry takes work.
You write and then you edit, and then you edit, and then you edit,
and then you edit, and then you think that you’re done and then you edit some more
and then maybe you are done but you’ll probably edit more.

I’ve never been able to get past the rough drafts on my own
But I’ve got an editor now
So, I’m learning to work for it.




What the Stars Can’t See Part 1

Stars are bored creatures, watching earth like we watch television. They love to peer in on intimate moments, but their perspective is limited by rooftops and awnings. The poor stars will never know of me and you, not truly.
They see us walk to the train,
             but we don’t hold hands in public.
They see me hold the door open for you
             but miss us flirting over sushi.
They see you help me with my hood as we leave the restaurant.
They know we will walk to get hot chocolate then walk back to my place.
             But they don’t know I kiss you in private.
Maybe they have suspicions. Maybe they can tell from the way I look at you. Maybe the stars know we are lesbians but don’t bring it up out of politeness.
Do you think tonight we can sit on the back porch? I want the stars to see me holding you.




What the Stars Can’t See Part 2

The room is dark. No one speaks except the movie screen. Her hand is inches from mine and all I can think is she’s beautiful. I try to breathe in the courage to touch her, but courage must be absent from this thin air. She is beautiful, and I want to hold her hand. She is beautiful, and I want to unfold myself before her. I want to write myself into a novel so she can leave funny comments in the margin. I want to tape those comments to my bedroom wall so I can always sleep next to her thoughts. She is beautiful, and I want to tell her that. I want to morph my lips to the shape of her mouth. When our lipsticks bleed together the color is always a mess, but reddish brown around her mouth has never looked better. She is beautiful, and I want her
                                          I want her
                                                        I want her.


Kailah Peters: "I am an emerging American writer. I study creative writing at DePaul University and write with Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and our typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand."




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