Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 2



Carl Vaughan, II


Sestina: Writer’s Block

Acupuncture ice tapping my window
beside my bed in the besotted dark
makes the same sound (scratching, scraping) baby
birds make as they’re being ground into fish
meal. Beak, glass, and her breath keeps me awake
and for a moment, I think of Van Gogh.

My ears keep her with me wherever I go.
If you can truly see souls through the eye’s windows,
hers can see my soul’s eyes aren’t yet awake
enough to touch-tap find her in the dark.
Even asleep, she knows I’m a small fish.
Unwitting bait for an unclubbed baby

seal. When she wakes, I’ll convince my baby
I’ll follow her wherever she goes.
She’s a shark and I am the pilot fish.
Her skin glows, though the curtain blocks the window,
without my words to mar it. Like the moon on a dark
night. So I stay awake

to touch her pale shoulder, but not wake
her. She’s sleeping like a baby
if babies sipped rum ‘til well after dark.
She shifts, turns, hugs me as if I’ll go
and somehow sneak away through the window.
I wish she’d throw me like you’d throw a bait fish

back in when it failed to catch a bigger fish.
Or better, let me put my mark on your skin. Don’t wake.
I want my triumph on display like a flag in a window,
or art on a refrigerator. From the mouths of babes.
Insinuations of where I’ve gone
roam homelessly between us in the dark.

‘Stead, hand over heart, sleep through the darkest
dreams of shoving her hook through my fish’s
eye. And after, she’ll never let me go
where she goes, so I surf in her wake,
chasing the words that evade like baby
turtles during their one nightly window.

Still, the dark evaporates like dew on my window
sill. The light may see my fish gutted and my baby
still uncaught, left to roam free on the page as I lie awake.




Ode to the Chain

Had it divined in the hollering fires
of the smith’s forge its destiny
of shackles locked to brown skin
in an undulating choleric dark,

would the chain have happily
held every anchor that held every
ship that held every body that no
longer held home in their mind?

If it could have gazed up from
the plummeting depths of the first
musty well where it found use
as a replacement for the moldy rope

would the chain shudder and rattle
in cold shame upon seeing it
pulled taut around the ankles of
a man being pulled down a road by it?

The chain only knows how to hold.
It holds the child who just wants
to be pushed higher. It holds the broken
pocketwatch passed from father to son.
It holds the golden locket around
the neck of a first teenage love.

Knowing its history would the chain
be able to hold its head high?




The One Goodbye

I never knew why you had to leave
on foot, for miles, through choking drifts of snow,
oh father, whose death I never grieved.

Thoughts of heaven soothe some, but I’m not naïve.
I just blamed you father, because, I don’t know,
and I’ll never know why you had to leave.

The honey-gilded myths that we’ve weaved
(that ensnare us and don’t often let go,
oh father, whose time with me was temporary)

have to be false. Though we may believe
and complain to God as I did years ago:
“I never knew why you had to leave.”

I trust Him less than I would old tea leaves
mold-glued to a mug still in a window,
oh “Father” who took my faith from me.

Since He’d given me reason to grieve,
my field of faith, untended, is fallow.
I never knew why you made me leave
you “Father” when you took so much from me.



Carl Vaughan, II: "I am a current University of New Orleans Creative Writing Senior, former Creative Nonfiction editor for 13th Floor Magazine, and Managing Editor of the Laughing Crow Literary Magazine. I worked as a freelance book editor for three years. I am a gamer, movie buff, and foodie. When I am not working or doing homework, you can find me trying to teach my two small sons how to play Dungeons & Dragons."




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