The following interview of Carine Topal by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).
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, working 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, and an Artist in Residence Award from Manhattan Beach Schools in California. Twice nominated for a Push Cart 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. Carine’s newest collection, “In Order of Disappearance,” was recently published by 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.
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 high 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.