Rags of Rigor

Stone Bride Madrigals book cover, WongStone Bride Madrigals
by Nicolette Wong
corrupt press, 2013

Sort of a review by Kathleen Kirk
Poetry Editor

Stone Bride Madrigals, by Nicolette Wong, is a chapbook of eleven poems—brief or extended lyrical flights of image and language. Yes, there is a statue, there is stone, there are rooms and halls, but the poems escape any stationary position. There are snippets of story, but the poems escape a single narrative. In her blog, Meditations in an Emergency, Wong calls these poems “songs of disintegration,” and, indeed, they seem to me a collection of melodic fragments, often gorgeous, often disturbing. Specifically, they may be songs sung by the figure—presumably the “stone bride”—in the statue on the book’s cover, who has seen a lot and, by the looks of her, suffered for it.

I was struck by so many wonderful individual phrases in these poems—among them, “rags of rigor”—that I wished to compose a cento from them, by way of “review.” A cento is a poem assembled from fragments of other poems (as in the Wolf Centos by Simone Muench, here at Escape Into Life.) So here is a sort of a cento of lines and phrases from all eleven poems in Stone Bride Madrigals by Nicolette Wong.

And, by the way, she is a magician!


Rags of Rigor

a cento of stone bride madrigals

The brittle dies in me.

     They have choked a hole.
     They have choked a hole.

A musket shooting into your stomach.
A surfeit of fear: that you will die affronts the present…

A flashlight is trimming our house.

To call this honest house, spill dark sand
over its failings.
Everywhere the image scrawls a lasso
in search of answers.

Going to my next life to sell sprinklers
and tango to the musicians of Jacob.
Get to my next life.
Empty-handed, I look for sacada
around the garden. The ghosts look dry;
mockingly, they swirl a cobalt, rags
of rigor around their necks.

In camouflage flung
to reflect past
as vibration
the soul dries
its sheen—a woman whose brows
have been singed by scriptures…

Having pressed half the world
into an atlas of wounds
and inhaled it, I return to snow

     for rupture.

In a hall strung with
paper oaths: a lone seat awaiting.
Pushing souse words across the hall
I watch them surf…

if I were a magician
you and I have been skating in rings of gravitas.

Nicolette Wong at EIL

Stone Bride Madrigals at Meditations in An Emergency

A sample poem from Stone Bride Madrigals

Book cover art by David Heg


One response to “Rags of Rigor”

  1. Maureen says:

    Given the form a madrigal is, I can imagine how eerie this would sound. Wonderful cento, Kathleen.

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