Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



Chris Lilley


the year I started drinking whiskey

10. i was told   sadness is not masculine           i became a dried riverbed
i was told           anger was more attractive        i became a volcano

15. there is a body in my bathroom
it is made of obsidian
it is made of the dried lava flow
it is made of cutting
of separating skin from its meat
it is made of separating
how easy it is to hide a body
when you split it
from its secrets

18. i have taken up storytelling     i tell of the fable of the boy     with the magma in his chest     the explosion on his tongue     i tell of the heat he brings     and the wilted lilies he leaves in his wake     it is a sad tale     i tell it well     there is applause     someone cries


it is not me

20. i am avoiding the story
of the body
of the boy in the brooklyn bathroom

21. i make the joke                         what is to be said
that us black folk can't be              about a throat
out in these streets                          lined with famine
with dry skin                                    and nightmare
i say nothing                                    where is the joke
of a dried mouth                              in that

23. when the girl leaves
i will be sitting in starbucks
i will be staring into a cup
of brown
half empty
wonder about bodies last breath
hugging of a sarcophagus
i walked home
or rather
walked searching for home
or oasis
or myself
i will be staring into a cup
of brown
half empty
very soon

24. among friends
which means laughter
and stories
and drinks
glass four
of whiskey
or bourbon
or scotch
i pour another
glass
of brown
of course
it is the only brown
on its shelf
perhaps the only brown
in the cabinet
or the apartment

25. i hug close the bottle            amber ambrosia            a brown holy spirit            a present help            in the time of trouble            the same colour as me            when i survey            the wondrous bottle            i remember            what numb feels like            what hiding feels like            what is a testimony            but a confession of guilt            but a freeing of the heart            and a church mothers side eye            and i will pour another

another
another
an unholy communion            "do this            in the forgetting            of me"




Knock Knock Joke

Knock knock

Who's there

Your Father

Ghost who

Do not be silly

I am still alive

Knock knock

Who's there

An empty pantry

An opened, swinging door

A casket in your bedroom



I spoke with mother today

Said I got my humour from you

That I wear jest like a mask

Me shroud

Be clown

Each joke be more disguise



Knock knock

Who's there

Mirror

Mirror who

You do not recognize yourself either

The unkempt tornado dissipating

Or disappearing

An empty space

Filled with destroyed things



People say

I look like you

I must remember

That does not make me

A voided tract of land

Empty Mason jar

Once filled with knives

I am not the weapon

You once were



Or rather

I am

Knock knock

Who's there

I love you

Must you insist on cutting?

I love you

A son made meat for the butcher

I love you

There is the tornado once again

I love you

Is that the joke?

I love you

No

The joke is

I am the ravaged landscape

I am the unearthed home



The joke is

I have built the immunity

To the bane in your tongue



The joke is

I will still laugh

For none of this has been enough

To make me stop loving you



That is the joke




When your pastor says “all lives matter” in his sermon to a church filled with blck folk

And it hangs in the air
Right in front of a lynched Saviour
Above all the dead innocent bodies
Ain't no resurrection for them
no three day reverse entombment
no families regifted their dead kin
Still the pain
Still mamas watching their babies die in front of them
Still daughters and sons
Livestreaming their last breaths
Still families hoping that God
will miracle their children breath from beneath the dirt
Still monsters trying to make our cries
A resounding gong
A clanging cymbal
We remain
We remain present
We stay black and crown
We stay children of God

Ain't there so much Saviour in this?
So much Jesus in this?
The way we stay on trial
Stay crucified
The way they black and blue the brown out of us
Watch us bleed for hours in the hot sun
The way we hang from trees
Like this skin be leaves
The way niggas died
While these Pharisees watch
Knowing of his blameless blood
Saying nothing

I see a Jesus
An olive Saviour
Hung from boughs
Hair like lambswool
Skin like earth
Cracked
Split open
Carved into mountain and valley
From His veins flow
Rivers of living blood
Skin browned and blacked and blued and red
Criss-crossed with cross and sin
Torn asunder

That's okay
That is not Jesus

jesus got long flowing brown hair
Got good hair
jesus got skin like ivory
Poached
Faded
Blanched
Marbled with cruelty
Tame enough to
Hang around our necks
Dipped in gold

Why we so concerned by a brown Saviour
Don't all Saviours matter?
See
Jesus ain't dead
He third day awoke with power in his hand
Got up pure as snow
And ain't that salvation?
To be made a body of white ash
To be cleansed of your sins
So perfectly


Chris Lilley: "I am a poet and musician based in New York City, with two self-published books to my name. I am also a member of the Brooklyn Slam Team, which took 2nd place this year at the National Poetry Slam."




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