Carine Topal – Three Poems

Of the Light and of the Fire

Didn’t the light require the fire?
Didn’t the girl make the wick when the moon was full — the candle,
in the hour of Mercury?
Didn’t the prayers, the benedic anima, the laudate dominum, come then?

Upon whose body, onto which bright fruit did it shine?
    At the far edge of Eden, light begat the petals of the blossoms
    in the orchard, it parted the heavens, godly beyond
    gold and shimmering, halo and marble, tooth and crust.

This blaze called borrowed light, upon what terms
is it loaned? What interest?
    It will feed you without coin or seed.

    For the women clutching reeds, leavened bread and precious wine,
    may there be many birds casting seeds through the wind.
    May each meal be wild with honey melting on the soft muscle
    of your tongue.

    For the one who offers a banquet from the fields of first light,
    may there be beside you many sated with feasting,
    and cattle, and high wet weeds, and unlikely flowering trees.
    May it come from the rise of heat, its blaze, its flame.

Of the Water and of the Hyssop

In the beginning the tremors of thirst and the motif of living water.
…. And 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 and a small cold moon.
…………………… And the deluge
…………………… And the strained hands of the light.

On the first day a face above the water where water sprang.
…. And it flowed over stones and drenched the earth green.
. And the thought was to take it in, that he may 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 unknown to him. And be blessed.
……… And the thought and the action were substantial.
……………….. 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.
……… And he without sin.

And he bathed in the brook and the river.
But he turned his back to the salted sea.
And there was flood and flight.
And the earth was a reservoir.
And the rains fell
…………… and he named it living.


The light is dim. It’s the mass of foliage in a deep place of jade. A cloudy
matter spills above the hills, the hills rolling past. There’s a barn with
broken door. At day’s end what light is left moves down river where it rests
like the last chore in the world. And there are fences where feral horses
once galloped. Grass flourished beneath their mouths, beneath the stars. On
a blanket of clover sheep lay in the glimmer, an unlikely flowering. This
is the hushed awakening. Here is honey to sip, pure light to our mouths.
While reverie remains, let us whittle the linden’s soft timber. Let the rivers
flow toward other rivers and the dreams we use to walk between worlds
keep us close to home.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

It is luck to be beautiful. You have done nothing to earn it. Your DNA did the work. Darling, you’ve inherited a burden: shortly after you evolve and realize that you are beautiful, out come the creams and lotions; the anti-wrinkle solutions, facial acids, derma procedures, until one day you find yourself invested in the youth and beauty market. And you are broke! Broke because you used your pretty self to get by, didn’t study, work, save, and now you can’t afford to be beautiful. All because you were lucky!

There is a solution to physical beauty: passion; a drive to succeed, ambition to work at what you love and even at what you don’t love. Forget about your gorgeous face, the curly full head of hair that is the envy of all. Join the Peace Corps. Volunteer to make someone a sandwich. Move to a remote village where physical beauty doesn’t have a similar standing.

Beauty is a burden that you did nothing to earn and now that you have it you’ve got to keep it going, only, you never worked for it, so how to keep it? plus, you grow old and then what? where is your beautiful self then? Exactly.

I like beautiful things. Most of us do. We are naturally drawn to what is pleasing. Often times, blunders are beautiful, and here’s the thing, when we get a chance to reflect on a mistake, lucky us, we can self- correct, go back and make it better. Now that is beautiful.


Carine Topal lives in La Quinta, California. Her work has appeared in The Best of the Prose Poem, Greensboro Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Oberon, Caliban, and many other journals and anthologies. Bed of Want, her 2nd collection, won the 2007 Robert G. Cohen Prose Poetry Award. In the Heaven of Never Before was published in 2008 by Moon Tide Press. She is the recipient of the 2015 Briar Cliff Review Award for Poetry. Her prize-winning book, Tattooed, won the 4th Biennial Chapbook Contest from Palettes and Quills, released in July, 2015. She teaches poetry and memoir workshops in Redondo Beach and the Palm Springs area.