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Ron Riekki

Some People Step into Your Life and Stretch Your Lungs Open with Hope

             You can’t write about love, the teacher told me;

             you can’t write about love, but I do it anyway.

             You can’t write about love, but I can write about prison and when I worked in prison

             here was no love,

             and it’s the only place where I found absolutely no love,

             so I can write about prison as much as I want,

             but I hated prison and I get sick of remembering the barbed wire that made you stay 

where you were forever

             and I hated the prison for the stabbings, stabbings that were so frequent that we became 

bored with stabbings, annoyed with stabbings, sighing before heading to the drawer with gauze

             and I worked in the nursing station in the prison and the definition of no love is the night 

shift at a nursing station in a prison

             and I write about love because the teacher told me not to

             and I write about love because there is a face I can look at and instantly I feel like I don’t  

have to pretend anymore that I don’t have a body

             and I write about love because the world is a motherfucker and she has the same first name as my sister and same middle name as my sister and I hope she will have the same name as my 

sister before my sister changed her last name

I Want to Be Good, Even

             when the helicopter is on                                fire and                   I’m 

trying to stop writing about the helicopter on fire because one PTSD counselor told me not to 

write about the helicopter on fire and another PTSD counselor told me to write about it so often that eventually the fire will have to go out and I want to be good

             when I’m drinking and the only way to do that is to not drink so I don’t drink and instead I promise myself that I’m going to be a father one day and that promise is a hole but it’s a good 

hole, a hole where they draw little baby elk that are begging for food and we watch them and feel 

the hole in our chests, the homeless hole, and

             when those making minimum wage start rioting, then we’ll have a happy 

country, says the poet laureate sitting next to me and he is unhappy because he is not rioting and 

I whisper to him to riot in his poems and he whispers back that he has to wake up 4:30 a.m. 

tomorrow and I whisper back that I am already in bed, the SSRIs kicking in, and

             when you are blessed with a woman in your life you must do everything to continue to be blessed with a woman in your life and that means letting go of the cup in your hand so that you 

can hold her and that means letting go of the mailbox and the book shelf and       everything 

that isn’t her because there are gifts in this life and all of the truest gifts breathe and their pulse is 

the constant reminder,  second by second, that you need to yell her name, yell her name, and this poem is yelling her name, whispering that you are so so beautiful

I’m Sick of Being a Tough Guy When No One is Looking

               We grew up on the Dead River,

which is a river and it is dead

and I see ghosts in mirrors sometimes,

like now—honestly—but I came back to the poem

and it’s good to have mornings, I suppose,

      when you consider the alternative

and I’m Hamlet and

I’m Bukowski, a Bukowski-Hamlet with toes that look

like they have been run over by a lawn mower

because they were run over by a lawn mower,

       how I google mutilated toes sometimes,

What will happen to mutilated toes when you get older?

The strange things we google,

how the Internet didn’t tell me that they will grow into new feet.

Do you remember picking the rabbits out of the barbed wire in the Navy?

Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction(Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic(Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented(Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited The Many Lives of It (McFarland), 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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