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Carol Moldaw: California Poets Part 5, Four Poems

Carol Moldaw

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Carol Moldaw

Four Poems

64 Panoramic Way

Like easy conversation,

rambling, obliquely angled,

the winding street traverses

the steep residential hill.

Stone stairs ladder-stitch

the street’s tiers; every few

rungs open on terraces,

windows glinting through hedges,

sunlight feathering grass.

At the first switchback,

pine needles tufted with dog fur

pad up the wide cracked steps

leading to a cottage and two

ramshackle shingle houses.

From the lintel of an illegal

basement apartment, magenta

fuchsia, silent bells,

bob and sag over a pot’s rim.

Higher, up wooden stairs

built over rubble, we climb

to the top deck. What was

our garden now grows wild

onions’ white flowers,

and butter-yellow weeds--

winter’s mohair throw

draping a bare mattress.

By late spring someone else

or no one will be bending

to pick cool herbs

like single guitar notes.

Something knots in my throat.


decibels begin jackhammering

inside #D--our old address.

Black Sabbath? Iron Maiden?

I know our own records

by the first chord. Pounding,

we try the unlocked door,

and pick our way through

a year’s domestic fallout:

dropped clothes, album sleeves,

mattresses blocking entrances,

plates, cups, hangers, books.

I trip trying not to look.

Waving on the balcony,

an old guest, now our host,

offers us the view.

At this time of year,

no yellow beach roses

tumble the latticed railing,

no draft of honeysuckle,

no bees flitting near their hive.

Cars nose around the hairpin turn.

Looking past Berkeley’s hazy

flat grids, past Oakland,

you can see, as if you’ve flicked

a painted fan open, a striped

spinnaker tacking the wide bay,

three bridges, and San Francisco

shrugging off her damp negligee.

From So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems (Etruscan Press, 2010)

A Leaf’s Gravity

A man hired by the man who dredged the pond

documented twenty-six kinds of birds

at the southern bend of the Pojoaque River

early one April morning. Like the girl

who glided up to you in a tot pool

when your daughter was small, and peered at you

unseeing, reminding you, against your will,

or perhaps it was against your better judgment,

of a blind fish--as you mull over ways

to incorporate the subcontractor’s list

into a poem, you stare blankly,

first at the page, then out the window.

All month you’ve been watching flurries of leaves

catch in the sunlight as they flutter down.

Weighing “the gravity of a leaf” against

“a leaf’s gravity,” you don’t notice the drift

of your mind until, as in a newscast re-cap,

the rabbit is already writhing, tossed

from the wheels of the car ahead.

As before, you’re glad you aren’t the driver,

but angry too, because you’d seen the rabbit--

if you’d been in front you could have swerved

and saved it. Whether impotent anger

or relief came first, you’re not sure, and which

emotion is truer—stronger—you also can’t say.

Even now, you wish you’d stopped to bury it,

the way you buried your daughter’s Siamese kitten,

mauled by the dogs next door. Small calamities,

you know, compared to the world’s, some

of which you register before you glide away.

From Beauty Refracted (Four Way Books, 2018)

As Far as I Can Tell

A lidless idleness designed to mesmerize,

out of which hesitancy and reluctance

give way to calibrations minute but not

insignificant, day in, day out, rocked

by the tidal bed the shell it’s attached to

is attached to, complacent in its mantle

of unconscious soft tissue, it grows radially

as if from a sound wave’s central ping

or like a breath-fired ball of molten glass.

The irritant of particularity’s the seed

that starts the exacting earnest venture,

the salt inside consequent iridescence.

From Beauty Refracted (Four Way Books, 2018)

From the Roof Deck

From our temporary housing’s rooftop deck,

I watch seagulls court on the roof next door,

the male cawing, hopping, wings like exhaust flaps.

I’d never mistake him for a whooping crane,

but being amused is (almost) its own comfort.

From up here, I get how sharks can mistake

surfers bobbing upright on their streamlined boards

for seals, the black wetsuits glistening like pelts,

but to catch a glimpse of the 4th of July fireworks

I have to drape myself around the chiminea

and list over the deck’s edge. The display starts

with the sun, sizzling and sparking as it sinks.

No holiday required for those pyrotechnics.

Or for my burst of waterworks, now air-dried.

From forthcoming book, Go Figure (Four Way Books, 2024). First published in Poetry.

Author Bio:

Carol Moldaw’s 7th book of poetry, Go Figure, will be published by Four Way Books in 2024. Her most recent book is Beauty Refracted (2018) and her work has been published widely in journals, including Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, The Massachusetts Review, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and Yale Review. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and teaches privately.


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