Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 3



How to Dress

Naomi Shuyama


(My mother went like this.)


                C h o s e         H a l v e d          H u m m e d                            P l a n t e d
| the cliff of the counter | eggshells | the hymn of the dead | a kitchen jungle in egg carton houses |
                       G r e w                     T h r e a d e d               U s e d                        L i c k e d
thyme, oregano, cilantro, rosemary | ribbons | blackberries as pincushions | fruit juice fingers
                   P r e s s e d              M a r k e d                 P l o t t e d                     G a v e
| Toothpicks to ribbon | their differences | their cradles and coffins | them each a name |
             S t a i n e d                          R e m e m b e r e d             H e l d              C r a d l e d
| the ribbon cloudy, vinyl indigo | hands full of basil | the entire world | in those fragrant palms


(I, too, had tried so hard to understand.)


In the beginning, it gave me a lot of pride to be
chosen, and I mean, goddammit—I was chosen.
I got a room of my own, an upgrade
office, bought myself a ponytailed palm potted plant
to brighten that place up.
I was given teeth and ears, sharp
and later pierced. Someone
applied kohl around my eyes, smeared my coat
ashy—Left me, unclaimed (for dead)
           to be chosen yet again.

But back to my tangible successes:
my office. State of the art, fully furbished
bedroom, bathroom, kitchen
           Bo. Peep. Beep
Someone stroked my belly, dust to hand to dirt.
This girl looks like my boho hobo cousin
           “I like this raggedy one. Looks like it used to be fuchsia.”
Of all the fucking colors, I thought. Another jab
at my fragile masculinity, my thin silver skin.
           “Ours now, Saffiyah.” Another boho hobo smiled.
His teeth were crooked, iced with plaque.
She snatched me from his fingers, skewered a pole
through my back.

Here we go, baby! I cheered. I was up high
and then we were off on
daddy long leg bikes with limbs
branching up and up—their towers of Babel,
Dakota terrain rumbling, slick glittering bodies
I recorded all of it.
           “David says he’ll be late. Got caught up at the yoghurt factory.”
           “What a wage slave. I think we’re beginning to lose him.”
           “He just likes working with his hands.”
           “He just likes your hands full of cum.”
She whipped the pole to smack the back of his knee,
           “sXe isn’t for me.”
           “You know we aren’t pussies. If you don’t fight—can’t fight, you are a pussy.”
Saffiyah smiled.
           “When I get bored like this, I get to thinking that I can deal with more than one of you.”

I cut the tape there. Sent it down to incompetent Jason from editing.
           Bo. Peep. Beep.
My evening replacement signaled he had begun
to use my ears and eyes. I could sleep,
but I didn’t. I replayed the ruins of Dakota, images of Saffiyah
on my chest. In the end
too tired to stare at the screen flashing temporary tattoo skin
raising their shish kebabed velveteen mascots high above their voices,
marking their territory, as they ate vegan dinners under the blinking stars.
sticky with summer, with blackberry blood.


(Its fur, too, was streaked like that animal my father once dragged from our backyard. It was the first time we saw something twitching in death. He told me we had to eat it because we couldn’t let it die in vain. I don’t know, he wasn’t afraid of parasites and shit.)


Peel                                Pull                                         Cut                         C r a c k
like a banana | the fur down like a turtleneck sweater | just above the knees | the base of the neck
P i n c h                        S l i c e                                 Rip                                  C o a x
| the lean belly | from bladder to the rib cage | through the membrane | the steaming organs out |
                      G i v e                        S h a r p e n                  P u n c t u r e               S k e w e r
Fido the heart, liver and kidneys | bark stripped saplings | sinewy hind muscles | through the neck
             S u s p e n d                             G a t h e r                              Add               L i g h t
| on wishbone shaped sticks | the dry branches for firewood | salt, pepper, rosemary | the fire |


(I’ve got rabbit in my kitchen—skinned, dressed with my own two hands. And I tell you, rabbit tastes like gamey, glorified chicken. There ain’t no velveteen, just a flash of lightning bolt, Zeus, but higher.

God and talisman.

God and Orpheus, those lambs stripped of skin.)


Naomi Shuyama: "I am currently an English M.A. Creative Writing candidate at Seton Hall University, where I work as a professor of English in the undergraduate first-year writing program as part of the University Core Curriculum. Recently I was a 2017 recipient of a full-tuition scholarship from New York State Summer Writers Institute for the intermediate fiction workshop and a 2018 recipient of a partial tuition scholarship for the master fiction workshop."




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