Cecilia Woloch


Cecilia Woloch contributed to the Spring/Summer 2004 issue of Double Room, a journal devoted to the intersection of, and distinction between, flash fiction and prose poems. She was asked to respond to one of a series of questions regarding the prose poem. It is an insightful response, and so, to get some idea of how she approaches the prose poem, we suggest you have a look.






                                              How lackluster the world would be if we didn't die.
                                                                      -- Holly Prado




I decide finally to leave the house in late afternoon, when the sun's less harsh. When Los Angeles, parched with heat, starts to drink its own shadows, forgive itself. I drive five miles to the canyon to walk; park on a side street. Get out. Breathe. The air's turned tawny and cool by now; people are hiking here, walking their dogs. I take the trail skyward, as high as it goes, though scrub and brush, past gnarled manzanita, the whisper of sea grass, then turn to look: the city in miniature, spread at my feet; the first lights of evening blinking on. The horizon is streaked with rose, shot gold; a jet cuts through clouds in a silver arc. I think how my father will miss this world. I think of how we can't kill beauty, how beauty can't be killed. It's nearly dark by the time I walk down. A woman ahead of me, swinging her arms.




We're hanging new curtains tonight. Two of my friends have come to help; they're drilling holes in the walls for the curtain rods and it's taking a while to get right. So we decide to stop and eat. I call for some Indian carry-out. When the bell rings, I dash downstairs with a handful of cash to pick it up. The delivery boy is a fair-skinned female, just about my age. I tip her and notice a shopping cart parked in the street, heaped with bottles and rags; another heap next to it, piled on the curb. Upstairs, my apartment seems vacant, fresh, with all the windows bare. We're passing the curry around the kitchen table when red lights start to flash. An ambulance. Blue lights. Police. We look out to see what's going on. The heap of rags has become a woman who has fallen into the street. The cops are trying to talk to her, trying to get her to come along. The paramedics have pulled out a stretcher; they've gathered around her and lifted her up. "It's cold out there," one of us says. "They're taking a lot of time with her." When I look again, later, the street is empty, even the shopping cart is gone. My friends finish hanging the rods and I hang the curtains, lovely and sheer. "This way, the sky will get in," says Ed. Who is Ed? Who is anyone?




At 2 a.m., I switch on the computer to check for messages. I'm expecting a note from my mother: the report about my father's condition she sends me every night. The blank screen blinks then fills with text. We had to laugh, I read. He was finally awake. He was yelling my name. My father who's lain for days in the ether of sleep between life and death. He pinched us when we were trying to clean him up. We had to laugh. I smile and type our a reply: I'm glad you're having a little fun. I think of my father lashed down in that bed, shrunken and bent: half bird, half man. How they've covered the mirrors with sheets so he won't have to see himself like this. How my mother and sister lean over him, turning, bathing him, laughing out loud. How he kisses the hand that dabs at his mouth, calls LaVerne, LaVerne, whispers beautiful.



Last Words


While he was dying, I sat at the foot of my father's bed reading Rukeyser's poems. He was asleep or he was awake. I looked up occasionally and, occasionally, I thought I saw him smile. Thought there was something he wanted to say. But language had flown from him by then. Language had fallen onto the pages in my lap, like snow, like ash. The other rooms in the house that spring were full of human sound -- loud conversation, TV news, kids banging doors running in and out -- but in that room at the end of the hall, it was quiet, just the three of us: the dead poet, her work in my hands; my dying father; my own caught breath. I read through tears, sometimes, and sometimes just stopped reading and stared into space. The way my father seemed to be staring out from the half-dream of his death. Where was the world we could open and close with a touch, the mind quick as a startled bird? I looked down at the words on the page, read them silently, read them again: When I am dead, even then... i will wait for you in these poems. Who was speaking then, and to whom? I am still listening to you.



"Whose Shadow Has Been Lifted like a Mute Veil from the World"
          -- Dabney Stuart


You wanted me to go everywhere, do everything, be brave. You wanted that sickly little red-eyed girl, your daughter, to grow strong. Bury her heartaches as she went and also live with them. I have. I've dragged my grief across the map you spread our tenderly, and look: I'm facing a window facing a river facing cliffs you never saw. I'm growing old in the world unfolding you had wanted me to love. The way you loved it, even dying in you bed, gasping and mute. From where I'm sitting, I can taste the wind: I'd offer this as breath. Just breathe again. Just make a wish among the dark trees. Be here, too.



"Beauty", "Last Words", and "Whose Shadow Has Been Lifted like a Mute Veil From the World" Previously published in Late. Copyright 2003 by Cecilia Woloch. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.




Cecilia_Woloch.gifCecilia Woloch was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up there and in rural Kentucky, one of seven children of a homemaker and an airplane mechanic. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University L.A. in 1999.

Her books of poems are Sacrifice (Cahuenga Press, 1997), a BookSense 76 selection in 2001; Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem (Cahuenga Press, 2002); and Late (BOA Editions, 2003) for which she was named Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry in 2004. A chapbook manuscript, Narcissus, was chosen winner of the Tupelo Press Snowbound Competition and will be published in 2007.

She is the founding director of Summer Poetry in Idyllwild and of The Paris Poetry Workshop, and is currently a lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Southern California as well as a member of the core faculty of the low-residency MFA Program in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.