Before that, I was a thief. Just little things: costume jewelry, lipsticks, lacy underpants. Before that, I was a girl before my time and, before that, I was a child.

I wrote down everything, so I can’t go back and change it now.

That night you slipped away to make a deal —two men, a beat-up car — you were wearing my best pink nightgown under your winter coat. Smashed-down sneakers on your feet. You’d said you were just going out to smoke.

And when you didn’t, ever, come back, I just stood at the window and watched for a while. There was no darkness in the world you’d disappeared into, I thought. Just neon lights leaking fluorescence into the broken clouds. Later, police lights pulsing, flashing their silent blue. You’d given all of us the slip.

Should I have gone after you? To where? I had a book to read, to write. You were the heroine, a beauty, lost, your children in your eyes.

Come back. Tell me again the story no one else can tell about your life. Your voice a whisper among the signals; my voice caught in the static between the stars. Become, become, be comely, innocent, your black hair shining down.

Before your birth, you were a cinder in my sister’s palm, a wound. There was a clearing in the woods. We try to reach it, even now.
(Title from a poem by Lucie Brock-Broido in Stay, Illusion)
Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009) and Earth (Two Sylvias Press 2015) and 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 New Ohio Review, among others. Based in Los Angeles, she teaches throughout the U.S. and around the world.