Poet Mihaela Moscaliuc—a “Permanent Immigrant”

5 February, 2023

In the February 2023 edition of Poetry Markaz, Mihaela Moscaliuc introduces her latest collection, Cemetery Ink, and shares two poems with TMR.

Mihaela Moscaliuc


Cemetery Ink is available from U. of Pittsburgh Press.


Black Swan

Each day I returned to watch.
Naïvely, I figured nutrients the culprit,
as with flamingoes whose pinkness paled
then settled into solid white
once the state zoo exhausted its carotene pellets.
I waited for the first discoloration,
some aha of transitioning grey,
convinced she’d slowly flush out
gunk fed by idiotic tourists.
This will take time,
returning my swan to myths, where she belongs,
time I have, leftover time
from years of killing time in the darkroom.
For spare change, I’d spin the knob
on the developing tank and blow-dry
orders with expedited deadlines.
The developer, the stop, then fixer baths
I’d rock for pleasure
to watch the world rise
from white photographic paper,
blur swept by certitude in the final tray.
I was first to see her before she met the light,
though of course she’d already been brought into focus
by my father’s precise eye. I don’t know
how many test strips he needed to get the exposure right
or what it took him to learn how to turn
a white swan black,
wanting to prove to his skeptical daughter
they honk and busk in real waters, just outside
the darkrooms of the Eastern Bloc. 


The Fortuneteller


She stole the calling as a girl through a peephole
into the healer’s hut, then practiced on Florica,
the cow with eyes like mine. Technique came later,
in a psych ward where, stunned by this unhinged
stenographer’s knack for decoding her sisters’
nocturnal gibberish, the director, a former patient,
diagnosed her as prescient and, over pots of Turkish coffee,
transferred techniques for which he, spirit-deaf, had no use.
Soon her one-room flat replaced the town’s confessional,
its doorbell a 24/7 hope dispenser.
Folk want someone to know their troubles so bad, she’d mutter,
they’re ready to trade their shoes for a bit of listening.
I grew unashamed of hearing, accustomed
to the blueblack flesh of midnight callers.

This winter, same age as when she bartered
her brokenness, I hold the raddled deck.
We pass the dusk of my forty-sixth birthday
alone, she and I, in a chapel aglow with the agony
of the damned and angels alarmingly pokerfaced.
My galoshes, damp with transatlantic sweat,
cling to the ice-clad floor. Just this one time,
I promise myself as I shuffle the cards
on her cold chest, and only to see
if the cobbler will be there to resole her shoes.


Mihaela Moscaliuc was born and raised in Romania. She is the author of three poetry collections—Cemetery Ink (2021) and Immigrant Model (2010), both from the University of Pittsburgh Press, and Father Dirt (Alice James Books, 2010). She is the translator of Liliana Ursu’s Clay and Star (Etruscan Press, 2019) and Carmelia Leonte’s The Hiss of the Viper (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2014); editor of Insane Devotion: On the Writing of Gerald Stern (Trinity University Press, 2016); and co-editor of Border Lines: Poems of Migration (Knopf, 2020). She is the recipient of two Glenna Luschei Awards from Prairie Schooner, residency fellowships from Chateau de Lavigny (Switzerland), Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and MacDowell, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and a Fulbright fellowship. She is the translation editor for Plume and associate professor of English and Graduate Program Directors (M.A. English) at Monmouth University. Her Instagram is @mdmoscaliuc.

Dominican Republicimmigrantsmigrationpoetry of exileRomaniaUnited States

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