Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 3



Joshua A. Merchant


Rowdy Ruff
(loosely inspired by the Rowdyruff Boys
from the cartoon network animation
The Powerpuff Girls)

the first time they hear of cooties
the girl is a boom-box to be
gripped tightly
to bump in perfect sync
with a house party
baseline against a wall.
a pelvis. a fist.

and maybe it was
fear all along.
their guardian
tells them she’s made
of chemical x. doesn’t
mention how chemical x
made him, making his
boys too. but that

would leave room
for a super family.
and why would he want
that? him, a living
example of how wanting

good things can harm you.
he tells his children
how his sister wasn’t
until he found out she was,

how all their conversations
seemed to end with his brains
being exposed. naturally,
he does his best to instill
in his boys to protect
themselves by protecting
him. and the girls

make ribbons in the sky
swinging their fists the way
their father didn’t teach
but encouraged. and the girls,

naturally, see a problem, believe
they are capable, and show up
to fix it, and BOOM. boys meet
girls and the city of townsville
is under attack. the cliche
lives in how the boys
believed they were stronger.

or in how the girls
believed this too. or how
the tears of the city had
to bring them back to life
after the fight. or how aunty
bellum with the curls had to
remind them that they already
possess what is the most feared.
the embodiment of disarmament.




Black Sheep In The Big City, A Capitalist Love Story
(loosely inspired by the the cartoon network animation ‘Sheep In The City’)

a god asks for goat's blood.
he’s handed a black sheep
instead. the crowd laughs
warmly. the sheep shears

himself and makes a collage
on a gold canvas. the monster
under the black sheep’s bed asks
did you bring me the boy?

the black sheep hands him an orange.
the monster asks if the black sheep’s
got the juice. the black sheep replies
pulp fiction. they both laugh and strike

tarantino in the mouth faster
than he can say nigger.
tarantino scrapes the black
sheep’s wool off the canvas

made of gold. throws it in
the naked black sheeps face
screaming, your work is shit!

he sales the canvas for a billion
dollars. one speck of the black
sheep’s wool is left glued on.
tarantino is set for life.




Courage
(loosely inspired by the cartoon
network animation ‘Courage The Cowardly Dog’)

old man says you are banned.
believes you wear a mask
that makes us look bad

and puts on a mask of his
own to scare you out the house.
but when a demon possess

a ghost’s haunting with vampire
fangs itching for his blood, you
come running to save the day.

not because you want to, but,
because somebody still prays
for him, and you still love

the hands that rise in his name.
so there you are naked, shivering
in the rain with a stake, a scroll,

and a jesus chain bookmarking
her favorite passage in the bible.
no cape in sight. an umbrella

would be better. but all you
got is the rain. and that’s cool.
niggas can’t see you cryin
when you dance here.



Joshua A. Merchant: “I am a native of East Oakland exploring what it means to grow and love in this country. I have had the honor to be published as a finalist for the June Jordan Poetry Prize anthology Walk These Streets in 2007, a collaboration with Alice Walker and OUSD, as well as 580 Split’s 24th issue - Push Black this year.”




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