Two Poems by Phyllis Rittner

I Bring My Mother Flowers

A rag doll
in your wheelchair.
Go away, you command,
eyelids shut.

Paper skin, I touch
a bird-like forearm.
Mom, I murmur–
my name is
long forgotten.

It’s too late
for guessing relatives
in black and white photographs,
for drawing tulips
in worn sketchbooks.

Napkin tucked under blouse,
that braided my hair
around a plastic cup,
juice spilling down
your lap.

Lost to you,
succulent mushroom risotto,
Armstrong’s gravelly croon,
the earthy scent of forest
after rain.

Once, you laid
your head on my
ten-year old shoulder,
murmuring secrets
too mature for my ear.

Always the steam beneath
your tight-lipped smile,
mustn’t slam the door,
reject your denial.

Don’t regret
that drink I tossed,
when you lost
the girl you wished
I could be.

A sunflower towers
then tilts,
its petals shrivel to fade,
as you sink into
your seedling self,
without me.

Om Shanti Mother Yogi

Your ocean eyes winked as you
rose from lotus position,
all five-foot, eighty pounds,
to embrace me—yet again.

For twenty years,
twice a week
we faced each other,
you, murmuring Thich Nhat Hanh,
your tingsha bells cleansed my
fitful mind.

Eyes closed, lulled
by cassette waterfalls,
we began our trance,
our dream-dance of
pandiculation, breath
and release.

Oh Savasana!
Reclaiming my sacral chakra–
to breathe orange sunbursts
into my belly and pelvis.

And when my thoughts
strayed dark,
how you knelt beside me,
laying your warm, wrinkled
hands onto my shoulders.

Unhurried, a gentle,
ancient clock, you
rotated around me,
first hip, then thigh,
then head, propped in
your glowing hands,
chanting Om Namaha Shivaya
into my newborn ears.

Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work can be found in the Journal of Expressive WritingBurnt Breakfast, Dragonfly Arts Magazine, Roi Faineant PressPaper DragonVerification, and others. She is a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective and can be reached on Facebook here.

“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,, 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