Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



Ashia Ajani


Brown Boy

brown boy says
i don’t want to wear sunscreen!
so we covered you in mud and juniper

the women unraveled the yucca from their bountiful locks
softened the fibers in their teeth
and braided you together

a curious thing of twine and flesh
your body built of our milk
how you forget us so

brown boy says
i want to run!
unbundled and so far from sun

you took the things we gave you
cotton palmed brown, brown boy
sold our wisdom to whatever crystal eyelash

batted your way
the bittersweet thing about betrayal
it comes back to you

cut your hair, fold your tongue
wipe the berry red from your fingertips
this is how you lose yourself

the pitiful reflection of everything
you’ve abandoned, a love
so broken by rot

tell me: do you miss the taste of mangu?
do you miss the sage, eating away
at your selfishness?

brown boy, i am not selfish
i just want you back as you were given to me
the softest hallelujah




Drawing Blood

Once I was mermaid
A siren
Now wingless butterfly
Now all exoskeleton
I spent my past few years
Listening to the art of killing
How to kill swiftly
How to kill thermally
How euthanasia persists
How benevolence is a swear word
Mercy is often violent
Something endures there
This is blood
This is bloody
And if I am drawing blood
Where does it all go?
Pooling lunar eclipse cavities in my chest
Maybe I’ll tell you
It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand
It’s a brown thing, you wouldn’t understand
It’s a colored thing, you’ll never understand
The cells ferment like broken wheat
Because I love poetry
But I do not want to be eulogized in broken jaw
In punctured lung
I have felt only the mildest of machismo
Tell me, does the rest of it burn?
Is there acid evaporating cracked gums?
All I know is
He tastes like the lipstick stuck to my teeth
Something forgotten
In the most indifferent of ways




Missing Girl

Do not send the cops to look for me
When I go missing
They would probably shoot me on site
When they find me
Bloated body of a so called “fast-girl”
Too big for her own britches
That’s probably why she ran
That’s probably why she got snatched

When I was five years old
My grandmother would watch me from her window
As I ran across the street to the playground
Her eyes just like mine, always searching
I could see her gray scalp peeking out from behind the curtains
Her arthritic hands shaking as she became
The keeper of our youth
The watchful eye always ready to call someone one
When they were bad or tried to act too grown

And we pass this onus to our daughters
Always our responsibility to keep ourselves safe
To not look like that
Don’t talk so loud, draw attention to yourself
Lining your lips in red will get you killed
Even a little lipgloss will make them stare

Do you know what men do to little girls who smile too much?
Do you know what men do to little girls who run?
Do you know what men do to little girls who stay?

In this poem, I am my own kidnapper
In real life my body rots under the weight
Of my own dirt

Black girl goes missing and she is her own coping mechanism

You will kiss me and behind your teeth I will taste the flavor
Of every man who has abused me
The harsh betrayal of fragile masculinity
Sinking canine into marked skin

Watch me fade into the obscurity
Of my own name


Ashia Ajani: "I am a junior Environmental Studies major at Yale College from Denver, Colorado. I am the co-president of WORD: Spoken Word at Yale. I am a Minor Disturbance Denver Youth Poetry alumnus. I was awarded honorable mention in poetry for the 2015 National YoungArts. I am releasing a chapbook."




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