Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 1



Ashley Elizabeth


welfare check

like spread legs,
an open door
is not an invitation
to come in
and shoot.




Not what we expected

y’all must be hearing heavy hymns
hummed by ashen ghosts
of the ancestors toiling to the horizon.

what y’all expect when you tip-toein’
onto old plantations?
these tour guides tell the truth
whether you can respect it or not.
truth consists of:
             firecracked whip
             strange fruit a swinging from trees
             bloody hands from picking cotton
             bloody backs from cracked whip
             blacks being bought and sold
             black family torn apart
             bounty on escaped black head
             back baby as alligator bait
             broken bucks
             branding
             belief in black inferiority
             but belief in black superpowers
             black blood
             innocent blood
             blood in the soil

the blood is on your hands now
the anger is in my veins now
don’t be mad they stopped sugarcoating this shit
be mad that they ever did
I never got the sugar-coated version
but I often wish I had

y’all expect the best out of your ancestors
but I know better
cuz I can only expect a few things out of mine.

slaveholders weren’t nice or kind or just doing their job
slaves weren’t happy
aint no such thing as a happy slave
just one that gotten used to their surroundings and sacrifices

what did you really expect?
don’t worry, this conversation is a safe space.
it’s okay. be honest
you wanted white savior stories
but aint nothin honest ‘bout that

my ancestors picked cotton
not daisies.



Ashley Elizabeth: "I am a writing consultant, teacher, and poet. My work has appeared in Bonnie's Crew, yell/shout/scream, and SWWIM, among others. My chapbook, you were supposed to be a friend, is forthcoming with Nightingale & Sparrow. When I'm not serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications, teaching, or freelancing, I habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram, watching way too many dog and cheese-pull videos. I live with my partner in Baltimore, Maryland."




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