In poems of compassion and social justice, Mihaela Moscaliuc probes borders and memory to work through, and further complicate, understandings of belonging—from places (including her native Romania) and histories, to ways of knowing, loving, and grieving. If the wounded populate these poems, so too do goats, black swans, centipedes, dismembered dolls, and wandering wombs. The ekphrastic sequence on Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy honors stories of Roma people while addressing issues of (mis)representation and epistemic violence. As in previous collections, cemeteries become sites of power, holding the living accountable.
The homeless women of Iaşi
So many shouting at no one, disputing accusations, nodding maniacally, flogging trees with headscarves— their pantomimes re-populate sidewalks with ousted ghosts. They pose no threat but we detour cautiously, afraid their siren voices might awaken the penal colony in our ribcage.
Moscaliuc’s poems are . . . are composed from the atoms of accumulated trauma and joy, from intimacies stored in cells, coursing through nerves and arteries. Her stories are told not through narrative, but through confluence, synthesis, conflation; flesh in words, the soul historicized and vital.
Cemetery Ink takes you on a poetic journey to various places, such as psychiatric hospitals, haunted islands, goat pastures, streets teeming with homeless women, and invites you to reflect on oil paintings, cemeteries, and the history of massacres. The poems pop up like websites, and the readers choose how far deep they wish to surf for meaning.
At the very opening of Cemetery Ink I hit the phrase ‘the penal colony in our ribcage.’ Or rather, it hit me, and I handed myself over to the wisdom, fearlessness, and verbal verve of this poet. Moscaliuc is a poet in the middle of her journey, but an old soul. ‘May you preserve the wisdom with which you arrive,’ she tells an unborn son, and I sense she has taken pains to do just that herself. In ‘Maggot Therapy’ she borrows the personae of three young women in a Romanian psychiatric hospital. ‘I hold the raddled deck,’ she says in the voice of the fortune teller. She admires the ‘silky bagworm nest fastened so ingeniously to the apple branch.’ With a novelist's grasp of a social system and a poet's attention to form and flesh, Moscaliuc has filled her poems with life, death, suffering, pleasure, and power.
Listen for the forward-motion in syncopations that pause only briefly in death-knell, prayer, and spell. We seem to travel in visceral time with the poet’s hands and eyes. Moscaliuc’s gorgeous visual work creates a speeding Bruegelesque world-in-transit: cinematic, yes, but also deeply tactile, in moments which feel somehow stilled in the immortal.
Mihaela Moscaliuc is the author of the poetry collections Immigrant Model and Father Dirt and the translator of Liliana Ursu’s Clay and Star and Carmelia Leonte’s The Hiss of the Viper. Her awards include two Glenna Luschei Awards, residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, MacDowell, and Le Chateau de Lavigny, and a Fulbright fellowship to Romania. She is associate professor of English at Monmouth University.