Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 2



Rachelle Saint Louis


Under

i was once inside
an underwater volcano
isn’t that how mountains
are made?
from the cataclysmic eruption
of something greater than itself
the volcanic residue
becomes the land
that you now walk on so freely
for i was once
inside an underwater volcano
really in there
so close to the center of the earth
that i started to combust
from the warmth she shared
with me
nuclear atoms colliding
until the fateful day
of the eruption
when i broke away
from Gaia/Mother Earth
to share that warmth
with a world
above ground
one she couldn’t quite reach
on her own
with that i became an extension of her
reaching as high as i could
while the tectonic plates
continued their fluid dance
and when the sky cleared
and i breathed air
real air with all it’s nitrogen
for the first time
i realized that
this was something
i could get used to
so my surface cooled
and i let go
of my boundaries
opening up for rivers and canals
accepting the gifts of the
birds flying overhead
as they dropped new seeds
every hour
the seeds growing into trees
that would become homes
for the next hundred or so
generations of
these very same birds
and the grass flourished
like the weed it was
so the goats came along
to keep it under control
and when the cougars found out
there were goats
they decided to move in too
in search of unsuspecting prey
and one day i realized
that i was now
the mother to an ecosystem
and that was something
i could get used to
but sometimes i still think
about how i was
once inside an underwater volcano
and the day my potential
was realized
the day i found my God given purpose
that day that Haiti
made its way above ground
for i was once inside
an underwater volcano
isn’t that how islands
are formed




From the Voice of Haiti

we didn’t choose one another
instead, you were forced upon me
ordered to collect my fruit
without ever asking
how i felt

you came long after
they killed off my people
obliterating the generations
long history of a people now
forgotten
and after they killed everything
i ever loved and all
who once loved me
they stripped me of my namesake
branded me hispaniola
they split me in half
and asked me to choose sides

they came to steal, kill, and destroy
stealing the wealth i’d kept buried
for my people
killing those who’d stood by me
for centuries
and destroying my peace
they terrorized me
for centuries
and after the uprising
the little faith i’d stored
began to make a comeback




Recipe for a Girl Like Me

When you said you wanted
a girl like me
I knew you were lying
because if that were true
you would have had me

But because you claim
you'd like a girl like me
let me give you the rundown
of this recipe

For a girl like me
you're going to need
some melanin
activated best through
a kiss from the sun
but to do that
you'll have to be in her good graces
the sun has a low tolerance
for tom foolery

For a black girl like me
you're going to need
to add a pinch of sass
but not that
stereotypical
angry black woman sass
I mean a little something something
those witty comments
that make you laugh
but also think
as if a reminder that
she is beauty and brains
so she knows how to conversate

for a girl like me
you're going to need to mix
the book smarts with
the street smarts
to get just the right ratio
of knowledge and understanding
because one without the other
creates a monolith
and I, I mean she
needs to be far more
nuanced than that

For a girl like me
you're gonna need some R&B
the ABCs
and Aretha's R-E-S-P-E-C-T
because girls like me
don't really have rhythm
so we respect those who do

And make sure you don't forget
to pour in a heavy hand
of hymns
cause girls like me were raised
on the good Lord's Gospel
and a girl like me
just wouldn't be the same
without it

And if you really want to have
a girl like me
she's going to need to
come from a broken family

Father as absent as
Georgia's winter leaves
mother stretched so thin
that her paper bag skin
has begun to crinkle

Her name and lonely
have become synonymous

Because girls like me
fall for guys like you
out of fear, not love
we never really wanted you
in the first place
we just wanted someone
who was there

Now
Here's a recipe
for a guy like you
something Charlie taught me
you're a rock
you'll always be there
but you can never really support me

Final recipe
for a girl like me
Some sugar
spice
and everything nice
that's right
I'm a PowerPuff Girl




On Growing up Haitian-American

When you do not finish your meal
And you have to throw
The remaining spoonful
In the garbage
You will be reminded
             that there are kids in Haiti
                          who would have loved
                          to have that plate
                          of rice and beans
Kids who have not eaten
All week

Growing up Haitian American
When you ask your mother
If you can go to a sleepover
She will tell you about
             a news story she watched
                          where a naive girl
                          got jumped on her way
                                       to a sleepover
When you remind your mother
That she will be the one
Dropping you off
She reminds you
That you’ve got a bed
At home

Growing up Haitian
You will have the three L’s
Memorized
L’eglise                          L’ecole                         L’akay
because Church is sacred
                          School is for learning
                                                    and why would you want
                                                    to be anywhere
                                                                 but Home

Growing up Haitian American
Your classmates will laugh
             at your clothes
                          your shoes
                                       your hair braided back
                                       into chunky cornrows
You will be an outsider
In a room full of
Kids you grew up with

Growing up Haitian American
You will be asked
To pick sides of your identity
They will want to put you
In a box
You will check
Other

Growing up     Haitian American
You will start to wonder
If you will ever really
Grow up
             because you are all
                          babyface and momma’s girl
                          and “are you sure
                          you’re not 12”
                                       You will not move out for college
Maybe out of fear
But you tell yourself
They need you
So much more
Than you need you

Growing up Haitian American

When you decide
To be a vegetarian
Your family will ask
             If you’re okay
Your friends will ask
             If you’re serious
Strangers will ask
             If it’s for religious reasons
And you will say yes
To one of these questions

Growing up Haitian American
You will know
The Haitian hymns
             in part
Humming out
The unknowns
You will know the history
             of an independence
That left even more bondage
In its wake
You will know and love
Your culture
             you will know culture




Medusa Had Box Braids

Y’all know about Medusa?
home girl who went around
turning dudes into stone
yeah, back in the day
sis had box braids
down to her knees
had them ombre green
made sure the stylist curled the ends
with some boiling water
and plastic straws
sis wasn’t worried about
saving no sea turtles

Medusa wanted that 90s look
ya know that 1990s b.c.
fresh to death
kind of look
so when homeboy of the sea
took more than she’d ever
wanted to give
Athena blamed the girl
with the ombre green box braids
curled to the gods
right past her knees
for being at her temple in the first place

blamed it on what she was wearing
said a face like that
shouldn’t have been hanging out
with greek gods to begin with
said it was because of those
ridiculously well curled
knee length ombre green
box braids

Athena said she could help
Medusa out with that
make sure something like this
never happened again
said the braids looked like
snakes to her
said vipers would keep the gods away
but that didn’t mean
something couldn’t be done about
that “beautiful” face

by the time
Athena was done with her
Medusa didn’t look like
Medusa anymore

all im tryna say is
Athena did Medusa real dirty
like Medusa’s only known
for turning dudes into stone
with a severed head on a shield
dirty
talk about a legacy
because what is a pointed finger
without three pointing back




Haitian Dash American

i say that i am Haitian
before american
because i have a connection
to my roots

this mango tree growing
in my heart
branching out to every family tree
in and out of vicinity

i am Haitian before american
because i know my culture
culture developed over 200 years
of freedom with an asterisk

footnote saying this freedom
came with a cost
this freedom came with debt

i am Haitian before
ever being truly american
because i know the instant family
i have every time i say

my mother is from Saint Marc
the loving arms and strong kisses
on the cheek
hugs that swallow me whole

but if my children decide
that they are Americans first
i will make sure to love them
the way this country never will

i will feed them stories of the past
until their brains swell with knowledge
i will make sure
to plant this mango seed
in their heart
the same way my mother
did for me




Thoughts of a Victim

i didn’t realize
cops & robbers
was preparing me for
the real thing
maybe if i’d known
i would have played more
would have gone on the slides less
wouldn’t have spent so much time
on the swings
what did swings ever teach me
about survival?
what were slides good for
besides escape
maybe if i’d played cops & robbers more
i’d be more attentive
to my surroundings
noticed that i was only
5 miles over the speed limit
seen the obscure yield sign
stopped at the quick turning
yellow light
maybe i would have been alive
if i’d played more cops & robbers
maybe i would’ve been able to breathe
felt the rush of adrenaline
found in escape
found in retreat
found in survival




The Chair

there once was a chair
i didn’t much care
to sit on
and no/ the chair
is not a metaphor
for discrimination
where the four legs are
microaggressions, redlining,
an unjust policing system,
white supremacy,
and the seat is the “United” States
NO/ there’s just a creaky
old metal chair in my class
and i don’t like
sitting in it




Lessons on White Privilege

it was the best of times
and the worst of times
and i didn’t know how to handle
the awakening

how to take this L
that society handed me

so i decided to start this class
to teach others that
which i had to learn
was forced to learn

these are lessons
on white privilege

so whether you have it
or not
i just want you
to know that

white privilege
is applying for a job

that you know you’re not
qualified for
white privilege is
getting that job

white privilege is
not seeing the problem

white privilege is
stepping over Black folk
especially Black women folk
to get that position

in the
first place

white privilege is
believing that
the united states started
in 1776

white privilege is thinking
1619 is just a pair of numbers

white privilege is believing
that this country
was founded on liberty
and not bondage

white privilege is celebrating
columbus day

white privilege is holding
onto that 1/16th Native American Heritage
so tightly that your balled up fist
loses all color

resembling the one flesh crayon
i could use growing up

white privilege
is having
a monopoly
on flesh colored crayons

white privilege is
seeing Black people as a monolith

white privilege is
not understanding the beauty
of Diaspora
the very word released

like a river of flowing water
from my lips

filling the room
with its presence
functioning as an extension of myself
leaving its mark

on corners
i have never touched

white privilege is asking
“why are we still talking about
slavery?
can’t blacks get over it already?”

white privilege is
insensitivity masked as curiosity

white privilege
is racism
masked as
ignorance

white privilege is choosing
to stay ignorant

even when that thing
in your pocket
holds the answers
to the universe

white privilege is believing
that capitalism can function without slavery

white privilege
is believing
slavery
ended

white privilege is not
connecting the two

white privilege
just isn’t
that
complicated



Rachelle Saint Louis: "I received a 2018 Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for my poem ’Red Blood Cell.' I'm currently a Psychology and English double major at Florida Atlantic University. I've been writing poetry since the 7th grade and you can often find me performing Spoken Word at local open mics."




Top of Page

Table of Contents






Visit our Facebook page          Visit us on Twitter


editors AT rigorous DASH mag DOT com
webmaster AT rigorous DASH mag DOT com