Smolensk
  • Smolensk

Over the Town

Chagall looks down at the work he’s done, 1918

  • In Liozna— the town at the end of the world—
  • blossoms spread to the edge of heaven,
  • the little River Moshna weeps over its banks,
  • orange windows stare back at us as we float across the Kirov.
  • In the town at the end of the world,
  • a bearded man in a black suit rides a bicycle. He is selling trousers. Loaves of rye.
  • You, my Bella in blue, wave farewell and do svidanya
  • to Pokrovskaya Street, beyond the bridge and the milky sky,
  • beyond the railroad tracks at Smolensk. Adieu to the end of a soft wind
  • and our childhood’s pogrom. Adieu ruination, though we move through the narrow lanes of love,
  • the bridled and the groomed, the Baltic handing us to another country in another time.
  • In the town at the end of the world, an unbearable weight
  • floats up, a man in love wearing green, a woman in azure,
  • feet sky-writing in delicate smoke above the town—
  • leave, along with the laddered roofs to heaven, the lone horse, the carriage
  • on the goat path, and the distant trains. We leave.

In Order of Disappearance

  • Because I feared losing sight of them,
  • I watched closely as they moved, eyed their reels
  • looking for small, unlikely revelations.
  • They knew the insects working their way up
  • the flanks of birches and linden. Knew the pine,
  • maple, beech and oak. Knew where they stood, how tall
  • and what, in spring, would change.
  • The rod, the line, the hook stretched from the small boat.
  • The pond a trove of prehistoric swimmers.
  • My brothers dressed in rubber shoes and fishing vests. Pockets
  • bulged with colored trinkets—tackle stock— our dinner.
  • Small bits of bait stuck to their fingers. Soon, freshwater
  • fish would be in my hands. Trout squirm in the silver seat box.
  • Soon, our voices carrying through a hedgerow of linden
  • lining the dirt drive to an old farm house. I was crying or laughing,
  • impossible to tell one voice from the other, calling me, but,
  • I was busy with things: rod rings, night crawlers, minnows,
  • and I should have watched while the boys emptied their pockets:
  • white and red cork bobbers, coils of line. The barbs.
  • Russell threw a lit match into the brush to start the fire.
  • Brian blew until the rocks glowed. Night was coming on,
  • bringing early signs that this was the last light they’d make,
  • they who passed long ago into the thousand lakes of Maine,
  • vest pockets alive with lures.

Carine Topal, 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 Review, Iron 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. Her latest collection, In Order of Disappearance, from which these poems were taken, 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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