Ahreeda Ryter

Last Night, on the Six O’Clock News


a man from my neighborhood—whom I’d never met—
claimed his body had been shrinking for the past few
years. He said his doctor prescribed him ice cream &
pizza but he never gained a pound. An endocrinologist
gave him growth hormone pills but he only got smaller.
Plastic surgeons tried implants & fat grafts to combat
the incessant thinning but nothing worked. “And then,”
he said to the reporter from his little bed, “they told me
there’s no cure, that I’ll just wither away.” The next day
I took a walk down the block & saw a stack of empty
pizza boxes on the stoop of a shabby old brownstone.
I knocked on the door but no one came. Then an old
lady from next door in a yellow bathrobe & slippers
stepped out to get her paper & I told her I was looking
for the shrinking man I’d seen on TV. She peered up
& down the street then leaned toward me & said that
he’d left for the harbor just before dawn to watch the
sunrise one last time before he disappeared forever.

Mama Says the Tongue


is an onion
how it wets the eyes—

bitter as the root
of a radish

a strawberry
gone sour

stains on
a white apron


Mama says
it’s the rudder

of a ship
a wild tiger

the first spark
of a fire—

it dangles
like a leech

on the pink
wattle of a chicken


Mama says
fish don’t talk

don’t walk
but we fought

tooth & claw
to the top

of the Great Chain
of Being—

then Babel split
& scattered

syllables & vowels
to the edges of Earth


Mama says
listen! to flint

& gravel hymns
resounding in the sky

how they fly
like a bird in song

as we folk in Babylon
babble on & on & on