IN HIGH SCHOOL
by Ron Riekki
In High School, We Tried to Light Each Other on Fire
We didn’t want to end lives, but rather to see
how beautiful the direction of flames could be.
We were stupid, very stupid, so stupid
that we flunked clouds, fucked clouds,
fucked up our fueled livers, our fool lives,
our parents who choked the land for every-
thing it wasn’t worth, the worthlessness
of work, the way that we grew up next
to the mine explosions, every noon, dynamite
lunch, how we were always tired, always,
the snow falling upwards, the father coming
home full of soot, a soot-suit, the babysitter
who punched me in the neck, the neck
that froze to death walking backwards
in the blizzards where someone died every
year, like clockwork, like the clerk who sold
us beer when we were seven. Not seventeen.
Seven. The age of traffic, where you run
into streets, where we’d run away from the cops
just to make them chase us, no crime done,
just running, and the running away was a crime,
and we lit a kid on fire, his hair, and it burst
into flame so that he batted his head, battered
his thin skull, the fire refusing to do anything
other than overwhelm skin with melting.
The Emergency Department
On the other hand,
says the man
who cut off his hand
this is a joke,
an attempt, a hoax,
I don’t know
It’s a gallows humor,
the execution of execution, the way whore
are just an or
away, here: how gold
every one of our souls.
(Called It) CPR, Baby
When the baby’s head goes loose I can only see the baby’s head going loose how it’s so loose how easy it is to lose breath to loosen your hold on life to have the muscles go limp go have the muscles go the nurse pointing to the curtain to close it as if that holds importance the insistence that the baby is not stared at by anyone who should not be staring and I am a sea of staring a hailstorm of staring a ton of hail splashing into the eyes of terror where the baby’s head is held in head-tilt chin-lift but so subtle tender as if it’s going to live
My Girlfriend Texts Me That the Cop is Pulling Out His Gun & Pointing It
at the truck.
& I ask what truck.
The white truck.
It’s a white truck,
that’s all she knows.
I ask if there’s anyone inside.
A white man,
in a white truck
and the policeman is yelling
excepts she texts
and I can see in my mind the cop
yelling Mother future!
At the white man
in the white truck
on the Oakland bridge,
an incredible line of cars
trapped behind them,
the Lyft driver
telling my girlfriend
and she texts me this,
except she says,
& then I don’t get any other texts just the white of these walls like we wish for everything to look like blizzard all around us at all times lost in the constant blinding American snow
My Last Name is Saami and You Don’t Know What That Means Because Genocide is the Heat of the Arctic Melting
and I am Arctic,
confused for witch,
my ancestors telling
stories of ice,
of how we are ice
and how ice floats
at all times,
not mad but nomadic,
insisting on canoe,
survival, the reindeer
herding of my
the greatness in that
my last name
is still breathing
About the Author:
Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Regional Fiction), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book awarded by the Library of Michigan), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press).