Captain Ahab’s Daughters

by Matthew Ridley

Maggie is the lucky one, the one born inside
of antediluvian prayers and polyester palms.
Walking, she sings lullabies through the gaps
in her teeth, open closets into a hall of bird baths.
The golden chains and slant you could only imagine
in those pop culture magazines. Like the sparrows,
she twirls her way through the marketplace, eyeing
and bobbing at the produce. Once, after two months
of thunderstorms, she picked up a basket of oranges
to remind her sisters of the sun’s consistency.

Leslie has her father’s eyes. Known as ‘the shipwreck’,
she cries out tears of vodka and moonshine during
those indie concerts her boyfriend plays for her at the park.
A kaleidoscope vision and a taste of chameleon’s breath.
“The oceans,” she said once (and only once) in geography class,
“are never the same.” In her world, the rain is only a metaphor.
The shards that accompany it, truth. Through the windows glazed,
you can hear a rag doll crashing like the fragility of horse mirrors.
“Glass does fall sideways,” says her superego.

Charlotte is dead. She now absorbs the Mississippi
River and lets the deltas run through her veins, a liquid
mermaid. She is found inside all of our drinking glasses,
our bathtub faucets, in our air conditioners. Also in the
condescension of the after-rain, which Leslie thinks
is also a metaphor. Charlotte could haunt us all if she
wanted to, but she does not. Sometimes, we wonder
if she even really existed, or if she was just another myth
in the folklore textbooks passed down from the 1700s.

Sophie is the runt girl, the baby of a sperm whale.
She wears tiny glasses to make her face look fuller
and torn stockings to prove that she can, indeed,
pick up the chili-peppered boys from those NRA
meetings. She thinks of trains the color purple
and smiles a little smile whenever her sister Maggie
brings home Chocolate Royale ice cream. She
keeps her mouth drooped to feed the stray cats
stumbling in the backyard a good five minutes
before they arrive. Maybe a time traveler. Maybe
a ghost. At night, Sophie dreams a little dream
of her father as a retriever, paddling to her
under a ceiling of rosary nebulae. “Save yourself
from this world,” he pleads. “I want you to trim
the blubber.” She then takes all the family pictures
left that she hasn’t burned, puts them in bottles
of her favorite vintage wines, and flushes them
down the toilet. Away from herself, from everyone.