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A Botanical Voice in an Urban Setting
Knife. Bass. Woman.
The wood handle thick
as a cattail. Two pegs the color of pewter
anchor the blade. In my left hand,
the knife. Eggs balance on the tip.
The bass hangs, its zippery spine
loose. Each stroke brings down
a host of scales. Skin rolls
like hose. Over soaked paper
I understand why a man rapes
before dawn: for the red-rimmed eye,
fearful and waiting. For the puff
of cheek, air catching
her throat. The woman on Vine
wore flannel. Maybe her skin smelled
like pilings near the water’s edge?
wood-rot, sweet. I wonder
what book she thumbed, what kept
the lightbulb burning. A man carries
sperm like a black suitcase.
Last winter on the corner
of Fifth Avenue, paint buckets filled
with poppies. I remember not for their jazz
tearing a backdrop of snow,
but for the way two men unloaded
buds like munitions.
One of them wore fingerless gloves,
cupped cellophane throats.
Below him a brother or son
shuttled fox fur
between the truck
and curb. I knew from the cold kiss
of his touch the petals
gave no scent — he did not lean
into the red corona, it was
pure commerce. The pods hung,
Before my desires
with their impossible hues,
before the first wings
descend, I remember
you remembered me
even when I was silent—
my body a tarnished
pendulum in a field
of other mourners,
would pluck an eye
and another eye,
a plumed rape
communal and harsh
as light glimmering
on bladed stalks.
I felt your hands
bear my losses,
a gold thread pulling.
By slow degrees
my face turned.
Poems are from Karen Rigby's chapbook "Festival Bone,"
Adastra Press. "Sunflower" was published as "Sunflower
Mid-American Review, and reprinted on Verse Daily. "Poppies" was
FIELD and reprinted on Poetry Daily. "Knife.
Bass. Woman." was published in FIELD.
About the Writer
Karen Rigby's first chapbook, “Festival
Bone,” was published by Adastra Press in 2004. Her poems have
appeared in FIELD, New England Review, Swink, Black
Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Crab
Creek Review, Mid-American
Review and other journals. She received a full fellowship
for a June, 2006 residency at the Vermont Studio Center, a 2006
Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council artist opportunity grant and
a 2007 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for
the Arts. "Savage
a chapbook, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2008.
Born in the Republic of Panama in 1979, Karen moved to the U.S.
at the age of 18, later graduating from Carnegie Mellon University
with a BA in Creative Writing and an additional major
in English (2001) and from the University of Minnesota with an MFA
in Creative Writing (2004). She currently resides in Chandler, Arizona.
her Web site at