I was small and half-believed I could disappear
just by closing my eyes—no,
I wished for it fervently:
that my scarred hands, red with itch,
would become the hands of ghosts, of saints;
the dark oval of my face dissolve,
transparent as the air.
How does a child fit a body she hates?
How does a child learn to hate what she is?
At school I was wool-locks, chink-eyes, freak;
each slur spat—a twisted animal,
some trapped thing thrown back, maimed.
In church, the gravest of my sins
in the hushed confessional: this flesh
which, bead by bead, I prayed might be illumined, changed, erased.
Oh I would have died to be beautiful once
—Saint Cecilia, Saint Genevieve—
wrapped myself in the scratchy sheets
to be buried, and risen again;
to blink and vanish—look:
here’s how the world turns a girl on the wheel of herself,
what wasn’t murdered in me:
a face that stares out from the glass of its longed-for death,
alive, and loves what it sees.
—from Rattle #16, Winter 2001
Tribute to Boomer Girls
Cecilia Woloch: “I’m a poet, writer, teacher, and traveler, based in Los Angeles but happiest living out of a suitcase. I’ve crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border on foot in the company of smugglers, been robbed by a Russian gang in Warsaw and rescued by off-duty police in Paris. I write poetry because I keep falling in love with language and prose because there are so many stories that haven’t been told. I can build a fire in a woodstove, bathe in a bucket, apply lipstick in a rearview mirror, cut my hair with a kitchen knife, drive a stick shift and pick a lock—these are skills I consider essential, along with good grammar and knowing how to fake it until you’ve learned the steps of the dance.” (web)