Karen Rigby

Karen Rigby was born in Panama City, Panama. She is the author of the poetry collection Chinoiserie (2011 Sawtooth Poetry Prize, Ahsahta Press, 2012) as well as the chapbooks Savage Machinery (2008) and Festival Bone (2004). Awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, she has been published in Poetry Daily, Washington Square, Meridian, Canteen, The Arcadia Project, New England Review, failbetter.com and other venues. She is currently a participant in the 2013 Flying House project, a collaboration between artists and writers, and resides in Gilbert, Arizona with her husband and son. (www.karenrigby.com)


Nightingale & Firebird

As if the song encoded in the wheel could railroad
to the garden, the mechanical grind transformed

the nightingale to music-box, the music to evergreen
vistas. The firebird was another story: inventory

of dust on the wings. Dried blood on the red-gold
coat. One thread about tin substitutes for splendor,

the other a ghost-image for your burdened heart.
Easy to confuse the black chinoiserie with feathers

torn from ashes, twin halves for a childhood fear:
you were never loved. You could surrender

to the hammer or the flame but no one would come.
That which they called wonder was only a greased key

in a courtesan’s palm, and when the bird sang, no one
heard the sound a wing makes when the current breaks.

Karen Rigby (Chinoiserie, Ahsahta Press, © 2012)

Photograph by J. Huang

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