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When I hated myself, she loved me

Two poems by Cecilia Woloch

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia
Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia

Whose River

  • And then one day, so many have gone
  • to wherever they go, and the river shines —
  • a slurring of green between the trees;
  • a faint gold light on the other side.
  • The breeze here, a soft breeze, but dark
  • — one spirit flies in as another flies out —
  • as if someone’s hands you can’t quite see
  • but remember exactly pass near your face.
  • A kind man whose memory slips, whose mind
  • keeps slipping, he says — toward what? —
  • tells you, The hardest thing is stepping across;
  • to let go, and go, to be let go of.
  • And those you’ve loved who’ve disappeared
  • — more rain sometimes than the ground can absorb —
  • want your tears no more than they want
  • to turn back in their leaving, the clothes they wore.

My Mother Is the Poem I’ll Never Write

  • When I hated myself,
  • when I sulked and bled
  • and had no god to call,
  • she loved me;
  • she called me back.
  • Her strength was the wren’s
  • plain strength
  • but my mother was beautiful,
  • more beautiful than I saw,
  • more delicate.
  • Really, I don’t want to tell you
  • or anyone —
  • what’s to tell?
  • Her crooked hands.
  • When I was hungry,
  • I was fed.
  • When I was sad,
  • I just lay down
  • beside her in her bed,
  • or when I was glad,
  • exhausted from joy
  • from working beside her
  • in the garden
  • or in the kitchen
  • she swept and swept.
  • When I had wrecked my life,
  • she told me, “You don’t have to
  • fall apart.”
  • When I was wrong
  • she taught me
  • how to forgive myself.
  • When she died
  • I took the flowers from her grave
  • and scattered them.
  • When I want her voice,
  • her face again,
  • I have only
  • to look in the mirror.
  • Gone like the sparrow,
  • gone like the wren.
  • Gone like the blossoms
  • blown into drifts
  • from which her name
  • was gathered once.

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009) and Earth (Two Sylvias Press 2015), as well as a novel, Sur la Route (Quale Press 2015). Her awards include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and prizes from the Indiana Review and the New Ohio Review, among others. Based in Los Angeles, she spends half of each year on the road and teaches throughout the U.S. and around the world.

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Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia
Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia

Whose River

  • And then one day, so many have gone
  • to wherever they go, and the river shines —
  • a slurring of green between the trees;
  • a faint gold light on the other side.
  • The breeze here, a soft breeze, but dark
  • — one spirit flies in as another flies out —
  • as if someone’s hands you can’t quite see
  • but remember exactly pass near your face.
  • A kind man whose memory slips, whose mind
  • keeps slipping, he says — toward what? —
  • tells you, The hardest thing is stepping across;
  • to let go, and go, to be let go of.
  • And those you’ve loved who’ve disappeared
  • — more rain sometimes than the ground can absorb —
  • want your tears no more than they want
  • to turn back in their leaving, the clothes they wore.

My Mother Is the Poem I’ll Never Write

  • When I hated myself,
  • when I sulked and bled
  • and had no god to call,
  • she loved me;
  • she called me back.
  • Her strength was the wren’s
  • plain strength
  • but my mother was beautiful,
  • more beautiful than I saw,
  • more delicate.
  • Really, I don’t want to tell you
  • or anyone —
  • what’s to tell?
  • Her crooked hands.
  • When I was hungry,
  • I was fed.
  • When I was sad,
  • I just lay down
  • beside her in her bed,
  • or when I was glad,
  • exhausted from joy
  • from working beside her
  • in the garden
  • or in the kitchen
  • she swept and swept.
  • When I had wrecked my life,
  • she told me, “You don’t have to
  • fall apart.”
  • When I was wrong
  • she taught me
  • how to forgive myself.
  • When she died
  • I took the flowers from her grave
  • and scattered them.
  • When I want her voice,
  • her face again,
  • I have only
  • to look in the mirror.
  • Gone like the sparrow,
  • gone like the wren.
  • Gone like the blossoms
  • blown into drifts
  • from which her name
  • was gathered once.

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009) and Earth (Two Sylvias Press 2015), as well as a novel, Sur la Route (Quale Press 2015). Her awards include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and prizes from the Indiana Review and the New Ohio Review, among others. Based in Los Angeles, she spends half of each year on the road and teaches throughout the U.S. and around the world.

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