Cinthia Ritchie


The great-grandmother

Stockings drooping,
they said she was slow
and taught her to sew buttons,
her chubby hands pulling thread
as she dreamed of silk worms
and the salty sides of rocks.
She longed to see Spain and Mexico,
taste the shaded waters of the Nile.
Instead she married a man
who changed his shirt every Sunday,
when they sat in starched whiteness
praying to the pale mooned god
of their greedy veins.

The grandmother

No one knew
where the green eyes came from,
so she wore them like a mystery,
hissing if anyone stared too long.
They tried, lord help them, sending her
to school after school, but she was wild,
eyes flashing as she ran through the woods,
trees talking, grass humming,
she knew the ground was wise,
could hear murmurs in daisy petals,
taste rain in the shelter of dandelions.
At night she lay in fields with boys,
legs spread, heat filling her veins
until her blood thickened
and her lips stretched
until she longed to crack
open her skin and lick
her bones free.

The mother

Stranger, tangled and dark,
she couldn't sit still
and swam alone across the lake,
crying each time she hit shore.
She dreamed of drowning,
eyes sinking to the bottom,
fish nibbling her cool knees.
For months she ate only blue foods
thinking she could imitate water,
but soon opened her mouth
and swallowed another kind of seed.
I was a water baby, swimming
through her belly, stroking her hip bone.
She saved the placenta
and we ate it,
seasoned with butter and pepper,
the day I turned sixteen,
teeth bloodied, tongue fluttering,
it tasted like the scaly veins
of raw fish.

The other daughter

Takes pictures instead of words,
blurred backgrounds opening
up a clarity she envies.
She hesitates
in front of choices, wears only red
lipstick, loves the smooth jut of her
anklebone and the fluttered space
between her breasts.
At night she stands
in front of the window, knuckles
tense as she dreams of flying
through the dark, the telescopic eye
of someone else's camera.

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Occupation: Features writer/columnist Anchorage Daily News
Publications: Wicked Alice, Sho, Ice Floe: Poetry of the Far North, Slow Trains Literary Review, Conspire, Horse Thief's Journal, Retrozine, International Journal of Erotica, Sunspinner, Poems Niederngasse

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