Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 3



Imogen Arate


Hundred-Year Calamities

I remember the desolation of these streets
the abandoned-small-town feel at midday
any time of day
The real surprise was not seeing random
wild things
the foxes the raccoons
though they made their presence known
in turned-over garbage cans
the skeletons of strays

Perhaps the tightly lined houses
convinced them that they’d never be
truly safe
a funny concept that we invest our faith in
when we turn in through that
rectangular portal
slivers of trees decorated
with a septum piercing or an erl bar
to secure our possessions

Jewelry that would risk our bodily security
depending on their worth and flash
the criminality that lurks on our streets
Ours
an unwarranted possessive term
What is truly ours when threats
to dispossess loom at all hours

Nature that looks at our planks
and steel girders as entry-level hurdles
barely worth her challenge
Her breezes like bored hands
waving away our pretense
The foxes and the raccoons
survey from a safe distance
rubbing their forepaws in anticipation

The ransacked fridge post gale-force winds’
tearing of aluminum-siding pleats
that dressed brick concrete or even stone walls
the boundaries breached
the self-doubt those savage hands induced
the hypervigilance in wanting to prevent
future assaults
the solution for which that’s slipping
out of our reach

How the salt water kills greenery
revealing its merciless face
to dry-land cousins of residents
thriving in its own gloomy bowels
rushing onto streets
ripping the smooth asphalt
of manmade finery
the puny battle we had
thought the war
“won” by paving over
the firmament’s wild hirsute skin

While she with a patience
cultivated by a time scale
outside our visceral comprehension
observes our folly
guffaws to swallow our abodes
chortles to scar buildings
snorts to shorten our fragile lives
the triumphal smirks slapped
off of our pompous mugs
prompting us to scurry
as we had made our furry kin
when we thought we were the chosen
to dominate over this land




Survivor’s Guilt 1 2 3

Fourteen-hundred greenbacks
lay like scales on a heaving
pile of the neglected
             the ones we let go of

Each penny a pointing finger
of the price someone paid
             heavier than us
a mask too much
             to ask

Let nana die to leave
us her inheritance
It’s only fitting the
older generations
             should leave us richer

Let them pay
pay through their
             decaying pores
pay through their
             drowned lungs

over-labored
from catching up
to a hundred-year-old
             overlooked record
clawing for our attention
             though we look away
stealing three generations
             in one take

Look at the shiny
gadget I just bought
Its polished gleam
reflecting our
             distorted ethical core
covered in fourteen-hundred
moss-laden armor plates
protecting us from
             a threatening conscience 

1 https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/3rd-stimulus-checks-heres-what-the-irs-wants-you-to-know-about-1400-payments/

2 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

3 https://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/family-loses-three-generations-to-covid-19-in-same-month




To the Boys I’ve Left behind

Don’t cry
I think of you often
between disappointing hellos
and frustrating goodbyes
The mind titillates
lingering on the might-have-beens
had we but chosen another path

Let wagging fingers fall
off their pompous joints
squeaking from overuse
Leave tongues dry
from salivating rumors
into sailing hauls

We abandon Helen
to let Troy stand
knowing the world
stretches far beyond
the Mediterranean
and chase ardor
as immortal gods
in between sieges
where alliances
come as wagers
to arouse undulations
from the planes
of eternity’s monotony




Disintegration 4 5 6

In between the moduled components
of a patchwork 26-letter palette
you take shape

Riding on the crest of s-curves
shaving the foam clean
from multi-syllabic waves
an aspiration for a better tomorrow
glides as a water nymph
whose innocence only the chase
can maintain            Something
             about a journey
                          Destination the ruin of a dream

Wrap us up in the fanciest fluff
of a beach-towel fantasy
eco-consciously weaved
by artisanal hands that
took a body from a small
map-buried village      tourists
have never reached
to the constant hum of a thronged
city      What was that about a
simple life      Would the monotony
of sweatshop work suffice

No one waits to hear the answer
A bigger goal dangling just           out
             of reach awaits        Get me back
to the ohms of serenity
                          mounted on teased yarn
     of non-toxic bamboo fiber
                                       Take me far from
             the realities of daily suffering
                                                    Buddha’s preachings be damned

                                                                 Man was an upper-class playboy
                                                                                         who got lost in the slums
                                                                                                         and thought he saw the universe entire

                                                                                                                              and now we can’t whitenoise out the drowning of pain
                                                                                                     or the droning           Give me a break       I work hard to dig my heels
                                                                                                                  into white-sand trance       I earned my break
                                                                                                                               I never did no harm                        I buy ecoware
                                                                                               I sponsor an African child        I donate to the latest cause
                                                                                                                                            I cried during Moonlight
                                                                                                                                                                      I am woke
                                                                                                                                                                                           I WORK to w

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  o

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    k

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     𝔷

4 https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/introduction-cultures-religions-apah/buddhism-apah/a/the-historical-buddha

5 https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/life-of-the-buddha-a-spiritual-journey/zjf4y9q

6 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Buddhism/The-life-of-the-Buddha



Imogen Arate: “I am an award-winning Asian-American poet and writer and the Executive Producer and Host of Poets and Muses, a weekly poetry podcast that won second place at National Federation of Press Women's 2020 Communications Contest. I have written in four languages and published in two. My works have been featured in journals in Australia, Hong Kong, Lebanon and the U.S.. You can find me @PoetsandMuses on Twitter and Instagram.”




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