Poetry by Karen Rigby

"Amar Pelos Dois" by Peach Tao / peachtao.com



Why My Poems Arrive Wearing Black Gloves

like twin gauntlets set on the margin: enter the female 
assassin. The screwball debutante. Noir and glitz 
mixed in one bad throwback to an age when dahlias 
bowled anyone who breathed them. My poems arrive 
wearing satin or suede to haunt you when they leave 
no trace. I’ve watched a man pull off his gloves 
with his teeth. The trick to undoing the wolf 
behind the saint is to make a slo-mo invitation 
of it. Because there’s never a plot unless one of us 
goes missing, that’s me at the aerodrome, 
and you boarding a custard plane. Now fly 
a desultory wind before you vanish. That’s 
the tension we need. I love an overblown image: 
a drawer full of hands wave in a solemn motorcade. 
My gloves pantomime moods so thick 
you could ladle gravy. About my first book, 
a critic wrote I’m a little bored with the aesthetic.
If that isn’t damning, what is? My poems wear black 
to turn the dials and bag the ice. In the director’s cut, 
I’m driving the hairpin curve when the camera
rolls back to show you, looking louche, but alive.  
You were always in on it. A poem is a diamond heist. 
Tell the critic no one watches a woman enter a room 
to look at her hands just like no one’s reading 
this poem to picture my life. But a black glove. That. 
Peeled down the avenue of my arm, what wouldn’t you do? 



The Roses

Daily the beatitudes. 
Phosphorus struck in midnight air. 
Flame cupped against rain. 
Deadheaded rose, crowned with bees. 
Daily the cut arrangements 
threaded in chain link, yellow tape 
dividing yesterday’s gunfire 
from today’s erasure. 
The roses are edged with bruises. 
The roses—American red—absorb the floodlit street. 
The roses hang nightlong in their jagged 
mourning. Scent the air 
with mottled plum.
Ask only to open, 
                                              prophesy and die.




Why My Poems End on Fire

or the sudden moment the sculptural dark turns visible, 
the light gone on/off long enough to graze the contours 
of a lover’s face.  Or blood. Beauty. I don’t know why  
splendor and loss mean the same. Take the hard kiss 
of Nirvana in a thirteen-year-old’s brain, each song 
against the day’s collisions—or did I mean collusions?—
the heart an empire paved in low-note guitar riffs. 
When Nevermind tops the Billboard 200 I don’t 
believe the wanton mouth who never loved anyone. 
So what if my work simmers like marrow into gel, 
condensed to a few gold sips? My best words trace
the line from navel to V, but what’s the use in promising
heat without its opposite, refusal? My poems end on fire 
because destruction seeds the forest. No. The lake.



Dear X

Here’s the pill. Here’s the jonquil. 

One for the hand. 
One for the eye.  

One to wound. The other 
to kiss your lip. 

Here’s the cup level with antidotes. 
My mouth, refusing to drink. 

Here’s the seam of a river 
in Allegheny County.

Half my life ago, the future
rode a horse black as creosote.

Now the future is here.
I’m alive, the flower 

an argument for another day,
the horse a wound 

my wild heart eats.


Karen Rigby is the author of Chinoiserie (Ahsahta Press). Her poems have been published in Palette Poetry, Bennington Review, The London Magazine and other journals. She lives in Arizona.