“The Crossing” by Phyllis Rittner

I swallow whole without tasting,
scroll for virtual validation.
Water plants, empty trash,
stomp through silent rooms.

Yet I cannot escape the thumping,
belly to throat,
to slog through swamp,
to dredge up buried hope.

It used to be so easy
to masquerade
anonymous under the glow of stage lights.
To become a wicked heiress, a bawdy drunk.
Delicious revenge for an invisible child.

Now, child and adult have merged.
We hide together under a woolen blanket,
curling like a tender embryo.
Inside an impenetrable shell.

I inhale truth, exhale possibility.
Restless, my mind
can sabotage strengths,
dismiss victories.

I have always embraced
the familiar white line of highway,
with its unwavering promise of renewal.
Yet I watch, transfixed to the screen,
the woman with wild, flowing hair
scale the ridge of a cliff-side peak.

I close my eyes, inhale
the reckless beauty
of foamy waves crashing onto jagged rock.
the howl of sea,
the taste of salt.

Last night I dreamed the murky swamp
had transformed into a lush forest.
I followed its dense, convoluted trail for miles,
my bare feet deep in moist, rich soil.

In the distance,
illuminated by beams of setting sun,
stood a battered wooden bridge.
I ran towards it,
thorny branches scratching my knees and elbows.

Halfway across I saw her,
a five-year old in a grassy field.
She was singing to herself,
skipping through crimson wildflowers,
the string of a kite clutched tightly in her fist.

Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative non-fiction. Her work can be found in HerStry, NAMI.orgThisismybrave.org, Friday Flash Fiction, and Six Sentences. She is the winner of the Grub Street Free Press Summer Fiction Contest and a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective. Phyllis lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.rittner.

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