Travel notesIssue 10 | September 2010


by Karen Rigby

Over 1,500 bridges span Allegheny County: miles of steel and iron trusses, bracelet of concrete, river, and road. You enter the Fort Pitt tunnel and cross the Monongahela downtown. Not long after you arrive, you ride the elevator to the top floor of the Cathedral of Learning, wanting to know if distance, like snow, makes blackened brick beautiful.

It doesn’t. Pittsburgh invites myth-making. You were told the coal pillars exist and you imagine houses folding on their own boards, the tunnels proof of Dante’s Inferno. You witness nothing, but old names echo: Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, Heinz. Money and fire, limestone and slag. Over a century later, the image of molten metal is still shorthand for the city, though the mills have disappeared.

You have to stand on Liberty Avenue to see past traces of grit. Tilt your head to notice inscriptions carved in masonry, walk on dogwood leaves and touch the windowless warehouse before you sense animal power behind each wall. The harder you work a landscape, the more it will shift. You forget how everything looked from the 61C bus, but you can smell Greek olives soaking in gallon buckets on Penn Avenue. You can sense mustard pollen blowing through Squirrel Hill every summer.

Near the end of your stay, you head out on the Monongahela river. You listen through an echo-sounder, trying to measure depth, but all you remember is the steady click of river heartbeats, slow-moving grace.

About the author

Karen Rigby was born nine degrees north of the equator, and has visited countries such as China, Hong Kong, and Costa Rica. Her sojourns have taken her to Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Arizona, where she currently resides. A recipient of an NEA literature fellowship, and co-editor of Cerise Press, Karen’s poems have been published in and Canteen, among other journals. Visit her here.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok