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Ron Riekki

Prison Sonnet

 

You make double at the prison.

Of course, every once in awhile

you get the wonderful fist on your neck,

knocking your Everyman into Detroit;

you can work overtime in prison,

the hours thick with nothingness and then

filled with the cold of chaos.  The people I talk to

at parties raise their eyes and glasses and feet,

levitating to the stories I tell about prison.

I tell them that the prisoners are like nothing

that they’d think, that their stars have gone out

and their only hope now is the electrocution

 of church, or maybe nothing.

 Yes, probably nothing.

Whiteness

 

A man kicked a wall.

This was in a hospital.

The wall was already a ghost,

 

so his kicks were dead wives

falling in love with dead husbands.

I asked him if he was trying to break

 

free, but he cursed me with scandal.

Others rallied around,

institutionalized their stares.

 

The man killed the wall.

He roared old school, mimicking

the wall’s death,

 

the way its soul collapsed

or rose or whatever it is

the soul does when it’s done with its body.

My Night Shift in the Back of the Ambulance, Unable to Sleep

 

When I wait

for the next heart

to fail,

I do it

in the scrubbed clean

night

with the streetlight

strangled

by melanoma shadows

and the radio

recites to me

the pulse

and b.p.

and pulse ox

of geriatrics

scared

in their final moments

where night

will permanently own

the lungs

of their lives.

Chicago, Metro

 

I once sat on a needle

on the blue line

from Forest Park

to Wrigley,

not going to a game

but to see a friend

who’d attempted

suicide in a such a weak

way that the CNA

at Northwestern Memorial

laughed, telling

her that the best way

to kill yourself is by waiting

for life to do it for you,

that if you rush it

you’ll only end

in more failure.

I asked her if the nursing

assistant really

said that or if she had

embellished it all,

and she asked me

if I’d merely sat on a pin,

if my worries about HIV

and hepatitis were just my way

of wanting to feel the pain

of having to breathe

in a smog town

with its smog whores

and my smog job

with its smog pay.

The Privileged Talk about their Privilege

 

in the room

with busts

 

and windows

with a view

 

of the snow

below

 

so old

in this winter.

 

They have cups

in their hands,

 

these teachers,

and their scarves

 

are made

of light

 

and life

and they acknowledge,

 

in such luscious

wording,

 

the way that they have

everything

 

and they show off

their everything

 

and write about

their everything

 

and receive awards

that they dedicate

 

to those

struggling flowers

 

buried

in the gardens

 

of the wild down-

pour.

Plotting the Rebellion at Work

 

I love the Nat Turners of the world,

the way they try to shit on deceit

during the calms of water coolers,

 

rallying the sullen to strike out,

to take a line-drive to the skull

so their children won’t be the thin slaves

 

or part-time cannonballs for the yachts

of the rich, the billionaires’ fodder—

the mothers who turn mops to pitchforks.

Ron Riekki's books include U.P.: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. His play “Carol” was in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012, The First Real Halloween was best sci-fi/fantasy screenplay for the 2014 International Family Film Festival, and "The Family Jewel" was selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler for The Best Small Fictions 2015.