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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.



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


with the streetlight


by melanoma shadows

and the radio

recites to me

the pulse

and b.p.

and pulse ox

of geriatrics


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



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



the way that they have



and they show off

their everything


and write about

their everything


and receive awards

that they dedicate


to those

struggling flowers



in the gardens


of the wild down-


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.

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