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
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.
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.