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Ron Riekki

Making Minimum Wage at 50

I’d like to put a shotgun in the center of my locusts,
the way that minimum everything keeps you in minimum
everything, a spiral down where you get burned at work
and they tell you if you fill out workman’s compensation,
you’ll find yourself without a job. You meaning me. Me
meaning I’ve had ten people at my work die. Yes, I know,
it’s over the course of three decades, so it’s not like it’s a lot,
except how many people have died where you work? And
I don’t mean cancer. I mean at work. I mean—let me give
you an example where no one died. A coworker backed up
a haul truck in the parking lot and—let me say that these haul
up to twenty-two tons—he, by mistake, ran over another
employee’s car (by mistake, although maybe not) so that
it was flat. And I don’t mean kind of flat. I mean, the car
was not a car anymore. It looked like the end of Christmas.
Luckily, no one was in there on a smoke break. But now
start imagining what happened with those ten deaths—

the way destruction gets its lips on everything.

One guy melted. I won’t tell you anymore. I told my uncle this.

He started giving me a list of construction deaths,

a story of him sitting on the fourteenth floor

of a building they were putting up,
legs swinging over the edge, not strapped in like he was
supposed to be, when a body fell right in front of him.
This flash. He looked down. And there was the body.

Last Night I Woke Up Screaming Again

My girlfriend said I sounded like a little boy,
like a scared little boy.
It was horrible, she said.
She has trouble pronouncing the word ‘horrible.’
Horrible, she said again, giving another attempt at saying the word.
She asked me what I was dreaming about.
I told her I couldn’t remember.
You can never remember your dreams, she said.
Yes, I said.
I’d dreamed I was being tortured.
During the war, my roommate was a translator when they’d torture people they’d capture.
He’d tell me about how hard it was to translate when someone is screaming.
I’d sit on my bed and stare up at the ceiling
and he’d tell me how hard it is to translate when someone is screaming.

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. (Ghost Road Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).

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