October 12-18, 1998: Cecilia Woloch and Robert Arroyo, Jr.

Week of October 12, 1998-October 18, 1998

Cecilia Woloch and Robert Arroyo, Jr.

Cecilia Woloch


Cecilia Woloch is a poet and teacher of creative writing who lives in Los Angeles but makes frequent trips to Shepherdsville, Kentucky, and Paris, France Her first collection of poems, Sacrifice, was published by Cahuenga Press in 1997.

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by
Cecelia Woloch and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.

Burning the Doll

I am the girl who burned her doll,
who gave her father the doll to burn “
the bride doll I had been given
at six, as a Christmas gift, 
by the same great uncle who once introduced me
at my blind second cousin’s wedding
to a man who winced, A future Miss
America, I’m sure ” while I stood there, sweating
in a prickly flowered dress, 
ugly, wanting to cry.

I loved the uncle but I wanted that doll to burn
because I loved my father best
and the doll was a lie I hated her white gown stitched with pearls,
her blinking, mocking blue glass eyes
that closed and opened, opened and closed
when I stood her up,
when I laid her down Her stiff, hinged body was not like mine,
which was wild and brown,
and there was no groom “

stupid doll, 
who smiled and smiled, 
even when I flung her to the ground, 
even when I struck her, naked, against
the pink walls of my room I was not sorry, then,
I would never be sorry “

not even when I was a bride, myself,
and swung down the aisle on my father’s arm
toward a marriage that wouldn’t last
in a heavy dress that was cut to fit,
a satin dress I didn’t want,
but that my mother insisted upon “
Who gives this woman? ” wondering, Who takes
the witchy child?

And that day, my father was cleaning the basement;
he’d built a fire in the black can
in the back of our backyard,
and I was seven, I wanted to help,
so I offered him the doll I remember he looked at me, once, hard,
asked, Are you sure?
I nodded my head.

Father, this was our deepest confession of love I didn’t watch the plastic body melt
to soft flesh in the flames “
I watched you move from the house to the fire I would have given you anything.


I snagged against my love and then I married him for the ragged tin of his
arms For his bulletproof heart For his shocking hair Every night of our
marriage we dreamt and woke with the taste of the sea in our mouths The sea
which is grey in this part of the world, when it isn’t green A handsome man
with a spine I could kiss like I once kissed the beads of the rosary or the
links in a chain link fence Because I believed what I read with my lips:
that between what we love, we are loved And the sparks of silver we see from
the corners of our eyes when there’s nobody there are not hallucinations,  at
all, but trails of light from one world to the next That’s what I mean when
I say: I have given him up That he got away.

The Pick

I watched him swinging the pick in the sun,
breaking the concrete steps into chunks of rock,
and the rocks into dust,
and the dust into earth again I must have sat for a very long time on the split rail fence,
just watching him My father’s body glistened with sweat,
his arms flew like dark wings over his head He was turning the backyard into terraces,
breaking the hill into two flat plains I took for granted the power of him,
though it frightened me, too I watched as he swung the pick into the air
and brought it down hard
and changed the shape of the world,
and changed the shape of the world again.

Robert Arroyo, Jr rharroyo@pacbell.net


Robert Arroyo, Jr is a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets Reading Series.  He is a winner of the Academy of American Poets Award and the Associated Writing Programs INTRO Award, and the author of one previous chapbook, Amidst Hissing Machinery (Inevitable Press).  A second chapbook, Truant Light will be published later this year by Mille Grazie Press He has had work published in Cimarron Review, Georgetown Review, Puerto del Sol, Poetry International, rivertalk, Blue Satellite, as well as other journals He recently received a M.F.A degree from Vermont College, and presently lives in Culver City, CA with his wife, Heather, and their cats, BC and Shale.

The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by
Robert Arroyo, Jr and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.


Quarters to eighths, francs to dollars
were the problems we worked out in math
Mr Silvern, whose youth had deserted him
so long ago, age droop
over his Marine belt buckle, sat on a table

in front of class like Buddha
Slowly his deep voice emerged, as if
drawn from the exact center
of his belly Words like numerator, 
denominator, reciprocal

filled the room like a way of life
Mona sat to my right, effortlessly
converting the fractions and monetary standards
Rex told me that since she was
Chinese, she’d never grow breasts.

Back then we called them tits and snickered
in the stairwell whenever we glimpsed some girl’s
underwear Whenever Mona spoke, 
I forgot how
much I wasn’t suppose to like

her, how she curled her arm
around the edge of her test paper
when I looked her way
and frowned
when she knew I didn,t know

the answers At home, I sat in my room
checking the odd numbered problems
in the back of the book and worried
how the French were going to cheat me, 
wondering if it really mattered In class,

I knew Mona would never love me
if I couldn’t figure the common denominator
for one fifth, one seventh and one thirteenth

Because His Wife Has Gone (to Michigan)

Just last night
her hair lay
to one side of the pillow
as if it were windy
in her dreams
He watched light
fill the hollows of her
nostrils as the room moved
under the moon

toward this day
where the sun is
a bright hole
that dares to be
stared at All day long

he counts his fingers
sure that one is
or that he forgot
to tie a string
to remember

something Night
already begins
to pepper the sky
and he begins
mumbling, searching
for the word
to stop it.

Song For Terisa

When I think of your fifteen year-old body
as the surgeon opened you to see the damage
six hollow points did; when I think of the one
bullet that ricocheted off your scapula, passed through
a lung, a kidney, then bit a hole in your torso
just to be free of you, I wonder how
can I make you love this world

enough to change how you talk, how you wear
your make-up, clothes? From the seventh floor
of Cedars-Sinai, I stare into the dark
at the end of the light Streetlamps brighten quickly
That’s also how memory works
It was like being forgiven
when my sister brought you home She held you
to her breast and each word spoken
over your bald head recanted
every glass pipe she warmed her reflection in, 
every rival she cut her knuckles on
and left sprawled on a dance floor, every morning
she woke wrapped in unfamiliar blankets, 
every night collaged into the woman she was
on her wedding bed clutching her husband,

being afraid to let go Terisa, here among banks
of telephones, who is there to call?
When you were four, you’d speak into the phone
all the nonsense that made sense
to you, and to me sounded like hope
After all this nonsense

all I want is to hear you
say you were doing nothing
when the four boys approached
the fence When the one, bandana-capped
like a pirate, asked “Where you from?
you said nothing I want you to tell me that
when you looked into the barrel,s black eye
you saw the future rushing at you
in one quick second and it looked
empty as your mother’s arms
when you laid in your crib and she whispered
all the things you were going to do.

(Previously published in Glue L.A )

       In memory of Lynda Hull

If we could speak, bridge two lives
and believe somehow
our shoulders touch, our bodies
trade electrons, spill into each other,

I could know you Remember
the keen pierce of the needle, 
feeling it slide into a vein
like love? And then colors
blossoming through the walls, floors, 
through life itself, like leprosy, 
but you call it holy Remember touching
a friend’s body  thinner than faith, deep
in the perusal of a life shorn of antibodies?
And though in close conversation with death, 
you keep hope on a partyline

ready to cut in
This morning, more than words
drive me to the page, but a need
to be in your body, maybe any woman’s body, 
to feel hunger

twisting below the navel
during menstruation, the tenderness of breasts, 
and know in the open universe
of the uterus time is ending, beginning
pausing in ovulation Here
there are no commandments, but instinct, 
a sign language the body translates
daily and communicates in words

I have no talent to hear
My time is measured in seconds, days, years, 
filaments of existence whittled down, 
made managable, easily catalogued
I want to feel a planet turn in me, 
feel its core burn with knowledge
of dreams passing into something unknown, 
something always spinning away.

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