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
and

this is a joke,
I suppose,
an attempt, a hoax,
I don’t know

the word.
It’s a gallows humor,
the execution of execution, the way whore
and horror
are just an or

away, here: how gold
holds
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.

What truck?

It’s a white truck,
that’s all she knows.

I ask if there’s anyone inside.

A man.
A white man,
she texts,
in a white truck
and the policeman is yelling
Motherfucker,
excepts she texts
Mother future,
the autocorrect
incorrectly
correcting
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
he’s scared
and she texts me this,
except she says,
he’s sacred.
Who’s sacred?

& 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,
tall representing
survival, the reindeer

herding of my
grandfather and
great-grandfather
and great-great-
and great-great-great-,
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).

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