Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



Leslieann Hobayan


“Two-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots, Kills Father”

after Cathy Linh Che

It’s only a pop, they say, like
firecrackers, bright orange
bursts of light, like poppies

Maybe his son looked for toys or
wanted a hug, but only found a
gun beneath the pillow: a monk’s
silence, the shot muffled in robes

I hurt my dad, said the
boy, his voice no longer the brightest
light of poppies, the kind
of firecracker that pops of
life like the world on fire




Mother’s Warning

Run for your life! There is no time to face
the music of rivers running trouble
into the grounds of slick rock, silt, and waste.
He will only use the sharp syllables
of trigger, barrel, and hammer. So run
before the bullet renders you graceless.
Run before you become the next black son,
the growing list no one wants to face. This
is our nation now. Your blood will not quench
the thirst for more. He’ll slap those tin wristbands
on your body, no longer the bullfinch
bright with its orange breast. You cannot stand
when you are bleeding a river. But run
anyway—make a fast-break for the sun.




Empty Jar

Pardon me while I curl and caterwaul
over another dead black body. Rile
does not begin to capture or enthrall
the roil in my blood: a bitter bile
saturated with sadness to reveal
a blinding grief. Break the magic of smok-
ing guns launched by an officer of steel
from his fear of darkness. This is no joke—
an obsidian nightmare, dim races
where no one wins and bodies are contused
into blues and bruise. There are no faces
here. No brilliant gem for mother’s goddamn
eyes. Her child is an empty jar of jam.




The Yellowface Sonnets

1. Michael

Just syllables, exotic, on paper—
No one will really care, no one will see
my theft of names, plucked like leaves from maple
trees, a dress I put on insincerely.
How I fooled him! Hiding in the thick soup
of words, wander, billow into steam, rise
and fall in a clever lackluster loop
of language too smart for his Native eyes.
So I’ll tell him the truth, tap him, say, Hey
I lied
I’m no China doll but spiny
needles, prickly white quills, an ocean spray
of foam and air. I want the lush pine tree
of poems to be mine, served on a dish
I deserve with yellow faces of wish


2. Sherman

I’m not here to make a new lifelong friend.
Poems speak on their own. Don’t be wary:
trust me to be fair. No need to defend
my selections. I’m the new brown fairy
godfather who seeks verse. Not a fan boy
of trendy lyrics but words of merit
metered out in careful boxes of toys
meant for literature. But this carrot
caught my eye with an Asian name lauded
for its fixation on God’s followers.
I was taken in, stood up, applauded
the turn of phrase. I became swallower
of lies, duped into the bright yellow blind
face. He was not one of our oppressed kind.


3. Yi-Fen Chou

I’m tired of being stuffed, licked, and chewed
by dogs who thrive on the apparition
of Shakespeare as god, as heaven accrued
into gold coins of light. This fruition
of power chokes me into solitude
puts me in a white padded room mumbling
to no one. Look closely: I will intrude
your dreams, attack the tower crumbling
under its ivory weight. Your hands are trussed
behind you, chest open to my knuckles
fists, elbows. You try to shake off the dust
but instead fumble over brass buckles
around your ankles. Beware: my briar
patch sparks enough to set you on fire


Leslieann Hobayan: "I am a poet-writer and a member of VONA, a community dedicated to writers of color. Nominated for a Pushcart, my work has appeared in Barely South Review, Generations Literary Journal, The New York Quarterly, Phati’tude, Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina-American Writers, and Pinoy Poetics. I have been awarded the James Merrill Fellowship for Poetry at the Vermont Studio Center, an artist grant for the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Conference, and named a Scholar for BinderCon NY. Currently teaching at Rutgers University, I have served as a writing mentor for youth at Urban Word NYC and have taught creative writing at UC-Santa Cruz and Montclair State University. I am at work on a collection of poems as well as a collection of essays."




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