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Carine Topal: California Poets Part 2, Three Poems

Carine Topal

February 23rd, 2021

California Poets: Part II

Carine Topal

Three Poems


The birds were feeding

and on fire I swayed

on hinges blue

November light poured from me the stones

of my teeth dug from shallow earth

My mother died

her eyes the color of a Brueghel field

I looked out one window the great heart of earth

no longer beat

Moonless and close I ate by the door rose to be blessed

in a room not my own

I was bright fruit

unbroken til then.


We misunderstood our luck

growing up in that house —

third from the corner, where the forsythia

bloomed, as though to mock us, and my brothers hurried

down the street with a handful of bees in a jar,

for father who had a thousand demands,

who did not easily love, but was loved, who put the boys

in their place with a razor-tongue — afraid to let go of them,

yet keeping a distance — who lacked the know-how to father,

who struggled—feeling diminished in their world as they aged—

who held in his pocket the several sorrows of the world

when the boys grew older and first one, then the other died.

My father, who refused to hold shiva, though he sat fixed

for a week beneath the shrouded mirror. Friends

came anyway, pressing against us like broken stalks

under an impossible weight, some hugging casseroles,

others with bouquets, surrendering the bare-throated

flowers, a continuous loop of murmured comforts

feeding the machine of our grief. So many things

disappear in the world: lilacs. Even the bending light

leaves, though the windows linger.

Unaccounted for, the long-numbered streets.

A river that once flanked our city.

And father, overwhelmed and immovable,

withdrew, watched as those who could leave, left

the wreckage of our home. But the world

demanded, go on.

I Never Wanted It So

after Carol Ann Davis

It was summer.

It was summer and the aloe wanted none of the rain.

It was summer so the fields gave the finger to the sun.

It was summer, air, thickened by heat, gave in.

I heard a breath from my lungs corrupting

the air, maddening June nights

only to displease myself. Because I never thought

that was a way to settle me. Summer was a bitter sham

in my bitter mouth. Summer was everyone standing

in the standing room. Though I hunted,

no one came my way. My impulse cowered.

And in the corner, summer’s darkness, by chance,

gave me away.

Author Bio:

Carine Topal, a transplanted New Yorker, holds an MA from New York University. She was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, awarded residencies in the U.S. and abroad, is the recipient of numerous poetry awards and honors, including the 2007 Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award and the Briar Cliff Poetry Award. Her chapbook, “Tattooed,” won the Palettes and Quills Poetry Chapbook Contest. Topal’s 5th collection, “In Order of Disappearance,” was published by the Pacific Coast Poetry Series in 2018. She lives in the desert and by the sea and leads poetry and memoir workshops.


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