Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 2



Sloan Asakura


New Life

ash breaks under my                          bones
there is no one who can see you
living in my walls you wipe away
the thorns pouring from my eyes
as i hyperventilate myself to sleep
there is no life like this new life
this one                  i will never want
 the transition to empty bedrooms
  was never even a contemplation
    but now the ghost of it hangs
     from the hallway
                its noose too loose to hold a body
                the crystal you hung for good fortune
                is collecting dust now
      we avoid you
       pretending we aren’t     the
        pendulum above the stairs is
         harrowing i imagine sometimes
          the fall that did it imagine where
           your skull cracked against the railing
            maybe it was the corner of the wall
the koa wood box on the table
is surprisingly small i don’t think
any of us realized how small
fire makes a body
i hear that bones fracture
before they burn
what sound did yours make
when they split?
did they sing?
did they laugh?
will we ever not wonder
                how to live this new life? 




Lepidoptera

how many times have I caught your shadow on my lips?
  your scales look like every pore on my tongue -- risen, resin, round, rolled
      if only we were mirror images, i’d pull shards from my knuckles to touch you.
         i have collected your bodies, framed in pretty glass and nailed to my walls
           twenty-five corpses lay a beautiful backdrop to every photo i take in pink sheets
           i draw your wings flayed apart, the way they look only when resting on tree leaves
          orange, purple, white, yellow, green, blue, you shimmer back at me like starlight
        one day someone will put me in a box too, thinking of all the ways i became
       a hanging shell of molten flesh, rebuilt myself into a new body -- unfamiliar
      larvae devour their eggs upon hatching -- imagine a baby eating its own umbilical cord
       and they never stop devouring, widen with greed and glutton, unsatiated, unsatisfied
         until they are too round to move much farther, wrap themselves up in white silk dresses
            cremate the body they know they weren’t meant for -- become plasma yes it is true
                imagine waking after having been nothing but a puddle of liquid, and you still
                    can hold each memory in your eyes, pluck them out and plant them in
                         a body that wants them. i wonder if caterpillars contort their figure
                              when their reflection appears in dew drops -- if they will themselves
                                    into bodies thin enough to float on cold morning breeze.
                                                does this count as suicide?
                                          perhaps it is not such a bad idea to pretend to be a pendulum
                                      i can swing from the hallway and i build my trans
                                formation, break my spine in half before becoming ash
                           wake to a new life, a new body, with wings instead of breasts
                       will away the roundness of my cheeks, perfect shape to hold in a palm
                    like a poisoned apple, imagine someone takes a chunk from my face
                lets it pour rubies down the chest, i can be red this time, can stain this
           skin with peeled pomegranate seeds, red beneath my fingernails red on
        my teeth, i can lay on the cement when i’m finished, under gold sun and
      can watch you flutter above me, catch your shadow on my lips over and over
      and i promise i can love you this way too, i can love you if you are living
      if you are a dancing body in daytime and a quiet corpse at night if you
       live long, joyous lives, never stopping to sleep, or if you rest on me
          i promise to lay still -- you’ll never know i was here, will never know
            how i wish to cup you in my palm
                   and steal all your magic. 




Hiroshima

I watch the body                                melt beneath mushroom clouds
               our eyes are white              only because the world wants them to be
                              and i can                count the lifted scars on your back
                                 draw them          out of existence
                                    turn them        into stars hidden only by
                                       cloudcover   shadows of light
this is the hardest part --                 watch the body become
                              and become           again, air and salt converging
                                  under                  mornings withering with flame
                                    tongues             licking asphalt and bone marrow
                                       our limbs       tangled red strings




On Daughters

one hundred generations of daughters break open the fault
   if a body can rot before dying, we know the taste of maggots
      of flesh turning green with bloat, eyes bulging, don’t look away
   i met a mirror-- she lives in my home, drinks coffee with me in
the light of dawn pouring over the trees and into the window
   she laughs just like me, pauses during her sentences to wonder
      and remember her life before we met, before she held me
   in her beautiful hands, her fingernails painted red--
red wards off evil, she was always protecting me, even then
   our bodies carry the secrets of every daughter with scars--
      the woman stolen, held hostage, forced to bear a daughter,
   the daughter, jewels hiding in the drawers, a .22 in the purse
a bullet in her drunk husbands knee, a girl raised by another mother
   the dishes broken across the flesh, the single mother and three children,
      the wedding ring and sponge, the chicken wrung and bled, the goat
   no one ate that night, the body asleep, the child stolen, the body
dragged by the hair, the bruises, the bottle, the white walls the
   bathroom door without a lock, the child afraid, the girl
      barefoot on volcanic ash, the accent practiced out of
   existence, the daughter with a bomb in her backyard,
the woman boarding the train with a tag on her coat,
   the diary i would rather kill myself the body an omen
      the widow in the florist shop sings a song without
   ever opening the mouth, the song, written in the
red strings which bind and braid, strung quietly into
   my hair, held still against the wind i know i am
      their wildest dreams-- did she dream we would happen?
   did she dream of hands touching across oceans?
did she know two mirrors form thousands of reflections? 




first love

i dreamt to touch her hair --
her would-have-been-black-now-sun-bleached-with-seasalt-sadness hair,
i was seven years-old and
dark as earth, could not have been
forced from the sea or chlorine,
i was a seafoam dancer --
an all-july-long-in-purple-swimsuits-and-not-enough-sunscreen girl,
and i used to watch her,
taller, slender, older form
graceful and full with calm laughter,
her almond eyes like a sunrise
her skin holding sunlight like a promise,
how i remember blushing at her
reaching out to beckon me into the pool
how i remember being seven years-old
in love with a teenager just volunteering for her church
how i remember floating on my back in the sterile water
fingertips pruned with confusion --
are-girls-supposed-to-like-girls-who-look-like-the-sun confusion.



Sloan Asakura: "I am a poet and memoirist originally from Los Angeles, now braving the Pacific Northwest. I am also a proud pet parent to Ferris, a Bernese Mountain Dog. In my free time, I can be found cooking comfort food, collecting papillons, and obsessively cleaning my bathroom."




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