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PoetrySnaps! Karen Rigby, Bathing in the Burned House

Courtesy Karen Rigby

If you have the gift of writing, it’s your duty to use it. That’s what Gilbert-based poet Karen Rigby believes. She’s been writing since childhood and says inspiration is everywhere. In this week’s PoetrySnaps! segment, Rigby shares with us her poem, Bathing in the Burned House.

Karen Rigby:

I started writing because I was a reader. I read fiction through childhood, and I spent hours playing with a typewriter. Writing stories seemed like a natural next step. The poetry came along a little later. I started reading Emily Dickinson and whatever poets I could find in the library.

Now, I'd say I write because it's a way of thinking. I have to look at words to understand what I experience. It's also a duty for me. I think if you're given or find the ability to write, then you have a responsibility to use it for the sake of whoever might need it on the other end.

There are a lot of poets that try to be very disciplined and write every day regularly no matter what kind of draft comes from it. But I write very slowly only when the poem is ready. It's usually just one small thing that will start everything; sometimes the title, sometimes the opening line.

I think anything can be source material for poetry, that includes fiction, nonfiction, paintings, songs, music, even television shows. Anything that sets off a spark can serve as a source for inspiration.

Bathing in the Burned House

The house shimmers
behind ribbons of heat. Like a child’s
shoe-box diorama, three brick walls embrace
the clawfoot tub. Its beveled rim

is painted black. The brass rod
stands upright as a heron.
A woman steps behind the vinyl curtain,

leans toward the spigot.
Drivers touch the ceilings of their cars
when they pass. They think it’s lucky
water runs in a burned house.

Women envy her freedom.
Tease husbands, saying church drives
and dry cleaning trips are white lies.
Neighborhood wives

take turns bathing yards
from the road, someone new each week.
Men linger at the curb. Breathe
milled soap, long to be

the sky above the woman’s head.
Mid-August, any miracle could surface—
Mary’s image graven in the road’s peeled tar.

About the poet:

Karen Rigby is a Gilbert-based poet. She is the author of several chapbooks and poetry collections, including the forthcoming Fabulosa. Rigby is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a former participant in the Flying House project, a collaboration between artists and writers.

About the host:

Steven Law is a poet, journalist and educator based in Page, Arizona. He is the author of a collection of poems called Polished.

About the music:

Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

Steven Law was the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps!
Gillian Ferris was the News Director and Managing Editor for KNAU.