Carol Moldaw's books at bn.com:

Chalkmarks on Stone

Taken from the River


Sections #1 and #4 were previously published in Colorado Review, sections #2,#3,#6, in Denver Quarterly and #5 in Threepenny Review . However, this is the first time the poem has appeared in its entirety.


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Carol Moldaw

A Sheaf of Studies in Pen and Ink

"Just because a bird flies over your head,
doesn't mean you have to build a nest for it in your hair."
—Martin Luther


A cigarette tucked at a rakish angle
behind a donkey driver's ear,

a gold coin in the ear's whorl;
a man and a woman bouncing along behind him

in his cart, while a woman in a silk chemise
stands to adjust her garter and black stocking,

one foot up on the cart's nearest wheel,
a man's disjointed arm jutting between her legs,

in his fist a rock, aimed at a rottweiler.
"Krishna" in parentheses—the driver's name.


Taped to a self-portrait:
a news clipping, an AP photograph
of four Croatian soldiers mugging
for the camera, in what was then
Tomislavgrad, Yugoslavia.
The artist looks like herself,
and one of the soldiers looks
like the artist, which must be why
she thought to make the sketch.

Both women's waists are cinched
over bulky camouflage jackets; each
has one foot off the ground,
as if leaping; both smile, dimpled,
exuberant; a pistol handle sticks out
of each one's side pant pocket;
each raises two fingers in a V,
but only the real soldier
has nail polish visible on her thumb.


Bite marks on a bent foreknuckle.
Fingers spread to press flat

a poem's crumpled tearsheet.
Wrists at the center of a pinwheel.

Going clockwise, the crosshatched
overlapping sets of hands

are cupped, relaxed, grasping, clenched,
and then—a knotted rheumatoid claw.

Index and middle fingers raised
in a V; repeated once, turned

sideways, a pair of scissors
snipping, snipping away at the page.


The man and the woman
whose breast he cups from behind
exist on the same plane,

while the sprawling man
whose hand clutches for her thigh,
and the woman who leans over

the edge of the bed, the man
pursing his lips, the one
kneeling to pray, are drawn

at diagonals and the contact
they make is wayward, tangential.
Her eyes are closed. Her hands

are bound. Her hands are
half-erased. She has more arms
than Vishnu. Arching one

behind her, she encircles
her lover's head, and pressing
the base of his skull,

presses his mouth to her neck.
Hands crumple the bedsheets, open
like a lotus. One covers

the hand at her breast, one's flat
at her side. One's crooked
at the elbow, suppressing a yawn.


The strawberry daVinci drew in cross-section
on one side of a notebook page bleeds through

to cushion a fetus floating on the back.
By now, the ink has browned, the paper's cracked,

dimly lit, encased upright and displayed
in glass for us to circle, case after case

of notebook pages we pause before and pass
in accelerating knots and curlicues—

the coition of a hemi-sected man
and woman no more absurd or accurate

than a flying machine. A tube from the testicles,
the seat of ardor, leads straight to the heart.

Once, in a videotape of surgery,
I saw fimbria wafting in the body's fluid

like seaweed under water. The ovaries looked
like sponge or coral. Here, the woman's heart's

a dial. I hear my own timer ticking,
ticking fast, the parts dissected, tagged,

and reassembled, but never yet disarmed.
Or detonated. Here, here's the blueprint,

recto and verso, marked up in mirror script.
The deeper I delve, the more I feel objective.

Pushed by the crowd, we rush through in under an hour:
a living page, one of the studies on water.


Landscape with a corn snake
sunning itself on a husked branch
of a dead tree. Afternoon shade
gloves a left hand. The waterfall's

diaphanous scrawl's a yashmak,
leaves only the eyes unveiled—
the third eye, like a horse's blaze
on the stone forehead. Hoofprints

brand the wet grass. The pool's
scattershot with catkins and leaves.
Rock moss oozes between my toes
as I wade in, testing the water,

the watermark, the ink, the line,
the line of argument, the pen.
—And in my hair, a myriad
of nests, one for every bird.

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