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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 3

"The Second to The Last Time", and Two Other Poems

written by

Cinthia Ritchie

"The Second to The Last Time"


when the moon was full and I wore my navy silk pants / and my car got stuck in your driveway and I read poems on your rug naked / the space heater warming my ass / and you said I was a cat in another life and I laughed because I knew I was really a dog / willing to be kicked and come back for more / and after the sex and the sounds we walked the mountain roads / snow and silence and darkness all around / we walked fast because my legs were cold / and I thought of a movie I’d seen of a woman wearing a silk dress leaning over a railing to wave goodbye to a lover / I wondered if I’d wave when you left / but I stood in the airport and watched you walk away / then I drove home and drank tequila mixed with almond milk because I was vegan and didn’t want to cheat / I kept expecting you to call and say you’d changed your mind but the phone didn’t ring and I didn’t stop drinking / and the next night I burned those silk pants and peed over the embers / and when you finally called months later I didn’t pick up / I left your voice all alone on my phone / I listen to it nights when I can’t sleep / your voice all alone against my / mouth.

"Beluga Point, Alaska"


The whales are in,


not the gray ones but the belugas,


strange white ghosts


skimming Turn again Arm,


tourists crowding the shore


for a chance to lift a camera and sing


the water smooth, like that first sip of beer, but Alaska is like that, a woman says to her husband as they stand by the side of the inlet, rain gear so new you can feel the tags, they’re from Minnesota or Florida, saved half a lifetime for a chance to stand in this cool, wet wind, the mountains rising like brothers, not the nice one but the other, who roughhouses too hard, people die here all the time, on the trails, the rivers, the treeless tundra, there’s no mystery to death or accidents, only the whales rising up in white purgatory, seeking not redemption or recognition, but the bitter tang of late summer salmon.

"The Weatherwoman Had a Boob Job"


It’s always fascinated you,


hail, torrents of water,


locusts drowning over lawns,


it’s why you watch,


not for sunny skies but for droughts,


floods, tornados sweeping


from the coast and flattening


the neighbor’s house, not the one


that saves your garbage can


but the other,


with the trash cars in the driveway,


the old washer machine,


the rusting furniture that


cuts your property value


to hell.

Each night you turn on the news


Waiting through murders and stolen vehicles to the weather report, that cheerful map filled with suns and raindrops, the high and low temperatures in solid white letters reminding you of childhood security and the salted warmth of your grandmother’s chicken soup.

The weatherwoman wears


Soothing colors that speak of shaded lawns, days lounging by lakes, the comfort of snow boots pulled over woolen socks.


Her voice is calm and reassuring, rising


Slightly to warn of slick roads,


High tides, avalanches in the high country.


“Don’t forget your umbrella,” she says,


a small inflection, a quiver


of concern, that trusted voice you listen to but don’t really hear.

But tonight!

Holy Jesus, a mountainous storm has blown in across the weatherwoman’s chest, two floods of pounding water beneath her tight black sweater, every curve, every soft fold pulsing with rain, thunder and lightning, the sky flashing colors, what storm prompted this, what droughts in her life, what precipitations drove this decisions, these large and new and fake bosoms, so smug, so snug, a necklace hanging down her cleavage as if to draw the eye away from the weather map and down to the storm that’s been waiting inside her chest, for too many years, that sad-eyed betrayal of expecting sunshine and waking to another day of clouds

Cinthia Ritchie is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee who runs mountain trails in Alaska with a dog named, Seriously. Find her work at New York Times Magazine, Evening Street Review, Under the Sun, Water-Stone Review,damfino Press, The Boiler Journal, Panoplyzine, Barking Sycamores, Postcard Poems and Prose, Clementine Unbound, Poetic Medicine, Theories of HER anthology,Into the Void and others. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly has been released from Grand Central Publishing.

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