Carine Topal was born in New York and earned her MA from New York University. She has lived in Jerusalem, Israel, where she worked with Palestinian merchants in the West Bank and Bethlehem. She was also employed by the Office of Assimilation, and worked with new Russian immigrants. She has lived in Heidelberg, Germany, and travelled extensively. Over the years, Carine has anthologized the poetry of many special needs children. She participated in the grassroots organization California Poets in the Schools, was the Poet-in-Residence for the City of Manhattan Beach and Poet-in-Education for Manhattan Beach elementary schools. In 1994, her first collection of poetry, God As Thief, was published by The Amagansett Press.  Her work has appeared in numerous journals throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2005 Carine was awarded a residency at Hedgebrook as well as a fellowship in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is the recipient of numerous poetry awards, including 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, 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. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she is the recipient of The Briar Cliff Review Nineteenth Annual Poetry Award of 2015, and Tattooed, her collection of Holocaust poems, was the winner of the Palettes and Quills 4th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Contest of the same year. Topal’s 4th collection, In Order of Disappearance, is forthcoming from the Pacific Coast Poetry Series. Carine lives in La Quinta, California and conducts poetry and memoir workshops in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs area.


I have amused my body, lord
I have come whole through the fire of a kiss, lord, leaving
the dishes, swathed in syrup, edged in crumbs, lord, left
the love of home and wept in his mouth with hope, lord, wept
in the entry of lust, until he, too, moaned, and I swear, lord, it was all
we could do to contain ourselves, lord, to keep us alive as we
repeated the sin again, (heaven help us), and though the angel above
my bed glanced down and winked, (I believe this), her ancient holy
eye, lord - a product of age, ashes, and dust - it made me question the very act,
lord, and accept the wrath, that might come to me from you. Forgive me,
forgive the hands which tied me down, tied me up, lord, so that Adam, so that Eve-
resurrected in this room -could see the light, understand the mystery of their hopeless
beginnings, welcome the immense sacrifice which they made from the fruit of a simple tree.
I have waited, lord, years, to revile myself in such a way. Give me hope with a word,
his word, that soon, another time, we will again, one upon the other, close to you lord,
close to the heaven that we made this time, sin.

Published in Hinchas de Poesi

Night Fishing.

My brother loved to fish, just as the sun rose and cast a silver fog across the water, haunting the
slow pink salmon up their tired ride to the surface. He had time each summer in Maine, when
the earth ponds dried up, to climb up to Russell Pond and fish brown trout. There was a valley
and there were low ridges where moose moved slowly, if at all, and waded in the pond with the
fishermen. A stand of white pines stood watching beside an unmarked trail. At dawn, at dusk,
he fished. And like an old star that shines out of habit, my brother fished at midnight.  For years
he was half in, half out of water, trying to enter it deep in its beginning, like the first
enchantment, a homecoming.

Published by Iron Horse Literary Review

Mother of Moses

We are named by our mothers. Named so we’ll know who tumbled forth from the temple —
barefoot, fevered: the kings, the holy widow working the heels of her hands. What of
Yocheved, her infant son hitched on her hip, soon to be hidden among reeds in wicker
water-tight with slime and pitch, thrust down a river and named Musa, one drawn from water.
What of the mother who gives up what’s most adored? We must learn mercy as we watch her
swaddle the infant, setting him into the basket like a loaf of risen bread — then slide him to the
bottom of the world. We must forgive ourselves for what we are about to do. Our mothers for
what they did.

Published by Tiferet

All the Birds are Back Again (Alle Vögel sind schon da)

                               Children's song played immediately before execution

In the kingdom of heaven’s sake, we played so we could live. Lavender moths the size of our
hands bobbed in the vines outside.   We were ordered to sing and we sang. We danced and
carried on as though there were lines that could not be crossed, crimes that could not be
considered.  Wanting to hold on and let go, we startled into a waltz, into the leaking moonlight
slowly sucking up the sky. German Shepherds wound through the SS feet. Men marched. A
few carrying a body. No one begged for air. The pink twilight was hours gone. Never a bird —
just a fugitive sorrow that followed. Everywhere.

Published in Tattooed


Carine Topal



© 2018 Carine Topal


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