Carine Topal







Chagall Psalm    


The man who tends to the dead

in the town of old Jews

is the man who seeks

down the road

a sky, quietly blue.


Blood cedar

in the frozen fields.

Sleeves of snow.

Chambers of the heart closed

in the bright cold.


Scarlet yarn,

swatch of wool, blood

of calves in bad weather.



for it was moonlight.

Widely spaced trees.

Petals of blossoms. Gone the stars,

the white-barked trees,

amaranth of anonymity.


Blind white things:

violets, eyes made of water,

of lilies, shallow jasmine

out to the near end of Yiddish.

Old ivory, deep winter.


Amber denouement

of houses hanging

from slanted streets

built off the banks

of the Moshna.



at the edge

of a rose garden.

A fig tree.

Its root.


A key given. A bell.

Rings. Jacket

of pearls. Or meager halos

of ash.



Of the Formation of the Circle


Meanwhile, you have walked toward wisdom in sandaled feet, dressed in silken cloth.

Walked to the porta to enter the circle from the East, a space through which

you shall enter and depart beyond the circle itself. Beyond this

there is a host of circles with symbols and names for Adonai,

and a square within the circle, drawn with sharpened knife. Segments touching.

And, as you believed — that all travel ends at the center —

the center itself had wings, encircled and circling.

And you rested there, curled to wing-curve, carefully closing the openings.

You did touch down in your own dark corners, uttering, There.

You uttered there. And you dreamed the ground of the Universe,

sounding the trumpet towards the East, conjuring spirits. Elohim, fight for me.

And a gull you never noticed until then — you believed it was a gull —

passed into a fog you never noticed. This is the movement of everything.

It began the world. It is here, as you press into the rise and fall of the dark waters,

the deep circular sea, filled with pulse, the forth and back of the divine, here

that you are cherished. And you release them, the spirits, to depart as you wake to say

Malachim, protect me in the Name of Yod He Vau He.      




Of the Water and of the Hyssop


In the beginning the tremors of thirst and the motif of living water.

The flow from the altar of the Temple to the waters of the

sea — the stony sea and its rocking darkness.

Then the low winter sun is a small cold moon.

And the deluge.

And the strained hands of light.


On the first day a face above the water where water sprang.

It flowed over stones and drenched the earth green.

The thought was to take it in, that he might be cleansed.


So clearly it moved beneath him as he perched on a stone, that it

spoke from his mouth, Messiach and Tzabaoth, that he might

swallow these holy names and be blessed.

And he wept in the valley.


He thought he was draped in the color angels leave behind.

Here, he cupped his palms in the field where he sat

and drank until the stream emptied.


And it cured his wounds, the welts of his shamed years,

stilled the trembling liar who bathed in the hyssop.

And the water was abundant.

He without sin.


And he bathed in the brook and the river.

although he turned his back to the sea.

And the earth was a reservoir.

The rains fell

and he named it living.



from « In Order of Disappearance, » just out from Pacific Coast Poetry Series.












Carine, a transplanted New Yorker, lives in the Southern California desert. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies such as The Best of the Prose Poem, Scrivener Creative Review, Caliban, Greensboro ReviewIron Horse Literary Review, and many others.  Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she was awarded residency at Hedgebrook, and a fellowship to study in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2005. She won the 2007 Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award from California Arts and Letters, from which a special edition chapbook, “Bed of Want,” was published. Her 3rd collection of poetry, “In the Heaven of Never Before,” was published in December, 2008, by Moon Tide Press.  In the same year she was honored with the Excellence in Arts Award from the City of Torrance, California. In 2015 Carine was the recipient of the Briar Cliff Review Poetry Award, and weeks later, won the Palettes and Quills 4th Biennial Chapbook Contest for “Tattooed,” poems in the voices of the perpetrators, victims, and survivors of Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  She has twice been nominated for a Push Cart Prize. Her latest collection, “In Order of Disappearance,” was just published by the Pacific Coast Poetry Series in January, 2018. She teaches poetry and memoir in the Palm Springs and Los Angeles areas.


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