PORTLAND, Cinthia Ritchie

by Cinthia Ritchie

I fucked the UPS man that summer
I spent in Portland and the pavement 
glimmered in the heat and the cement looked 
so white it blinded me until 
I suddenly knew how it felt to walk in clouds.

I was living in the psych ward
but out on day passes, and all the aides
said how well I was doing, isn’t she doing well,
I was a model patient, except
in the afternoons when I knelt
in the bathrooms of post offices
and blew off the UPS man,
his skin damp and sweaty 
because the air conditioner in his truck
didn’t work worth a damn.

Heat in my veins, my mouth, my blood,
he made me taste and smell flowers:
blood reds and pinks, peach the secret shade
of the skin between my legs. I would weep
when I came, my wrists stretched
tight over my head, palms opening 
and closing around all those colors.

He never knew my name,
only the way my hair flowed around my face
and the songs that leaked from my mouth 
when I came. I told him I was a plant,
a petal, that I opened when he touched
me, but we both knew
it was a lie, that I was nothing more
than flesh, bones, a tongue
that waited flat and heavy between my lips.

When I got out, I spent the first night
in his bed, awake all night listening 
to his chest rise as if the secrets of my life 
might be hidden inside his throat. 
When the room began to lighten, 
I slipped outside, stuck roses inside 
my clothes, those cool, damp petals
kissing my skin as I walked away from him,
down toward the river, where I could only dream
of jumping now that I knew flowers 
grew from the ground and not from  
my greedy, yearning mouth.

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