Born and raised in Romania, Mihaela Moscaliuc came to the United States in 1996 to complete graduate work in American literature. She received an M.A. from Salisbury University, an M.F.A. in poetry from New England College, and a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Maryland. Her poetry collection, Father Dirt (winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award) appeared from Alice James Books in 2010, and her co-translation of Carmelia Leonte's Death Searches for You a Second Time was published by Red Dragonfly Press in 2003. She has lectured on Eastern European American immigration literature, Roma/Gypsy culture, the work of Paul Celan, and translation theory at universities in the US and in Europe. Her translations of Romanian poetry appear in Arts & Letters, Mississippi Review, Connecticut Review, America, Absinthe, and Mid-American Review. She has published poems, reviews, and articles in The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, New Letters, Poetry International, Pleiades, Interculturality and Translation, Soundings, and Orient and Orientalisms in American Poetry and Poetics (Frankfurt: Lang, 2009).
"What a waste of space," you murmur as the train cuts
through a cemetery whose halves rest like drowsy wings
between two pine forests, then "spooky" as our window
zips by faces smiling from porcelain plates glued to crosses.
You've crossed the ocean to marry me, so I cannot say
I knew only one of them, but they are all mine,
these dead turned strigoi who'll not return
to their bodies because the earth's too loud
and the town has betrayed them.
But I have to warn you-
We carry cemeteries on our heads,
in our bellies, round our ankles,
we carry them to work
and we carry them to sleepand when we make love
they moan, they rattle, they sing.
When our spine starts sinking we spit
and curse and dance the pain off.
When I bring you to Grandmother's grave,
behind the Dacian fortress, she'll be armed
with questions: how hardy your love, how soft your fingers,
and your dead, how do you spoil them?
"After you cup your hands to catch the soul,"
she'll want to know, "how do you release it?"
Don't tell her about ashes thrown to winds, don't say
you've never spilled red wine onto the earth
to quench your father's thirst, or that you never read to him
the Sunday paper. Do not tell her you love him
but have never seen his grave. I'll translate your silence
and spread a white cloth under the rose trellis. We'll offer
walnut breads and gossip, and she'll forgive, and bless us,
then send me back across the ocean with a saddlebag of ghosts.
from Father Dirt (Alice James Books)
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