Poetry: Selections from Ron Riekki
We were drunk, but it was a good thing, nothing sad or explosive or alcoholic about it,
just a good solid drunk,
and we were the age where you should be drunk,
not the age I am now,
where I should never even consider thinking for a second about possibly even glancing my pinky on a whiskey bottle neck—
and we were in Boston, I think,
or one of those towns around Boston.
They all bleed together.
And we were drunk.
And we started at one party and someone said they were going to another party
and so we got in their car,
forced our way in their car,
and they asked who we were
and we didn’t know,
but we promised we’d be fun
and so they took us
and we went
and it wasn’t that far away
and I remember nothing about the people in the car
because they were safe
and a little rude
and they reminded me of the elves
that Santa refused to hire,
that he was overstaffed for elves,
so they walked away, into the snow, nowhere to go, and so they went to this party
and now we were with them
and there was snow here too,
a good queer snow,
but too thin.
The snow could have used some oomph,
but it was good for what it was.
I wanted to kiss the snow,
so I told them to pull over
because I wanted to kiss the snow,
but they didn’t pull over,
but if they did
I think I would have fucked the snow,
but they didn’t pull over
and so we got to the next party
and the snow wasn’t very attractive at that house
but we went inside
and got more drunk
and we were like birds drunk,
damaging the sky with our presence,
but we were funny,
making the humans there laugh.
I was with Josh.
I’ll name my friend now.
And he was Josh.
And I was Ron.
And we were at the party
and our drunkenness was flying around in our blood
and we were dancing to everything,
even when a girl
We even danced to that.
And we were good.
We were Michael Jackson and Gene Kelly.
We were Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ginger Rogers.
If they were drunk.
Then we’d be just like them.
And we were.
And they kissed us out.
I mean, kicked us out.
And it was their loss.
And the snow outside was even uglier.
How the night can turn you into a mugwort.
How ghosts are only terrifying at night,
during the day
they have their makeup on
and they look good.
And we were mugworts and we were badgers and we were eating frogs and laughing and punching stop signs and walking and
we went to a gas station
and asked a random guy for a ride home
and he ignored us
so we asked another guy,
because it’s all about numbers;
eventually someone will give in
and one of them did,
saying he wouldn’t take us home,
because it was too far,
but that we could crash at his place
until we were sober,
which is a hell of an offer
and we took it
and we got in
and his car smelled like bear piss
and his car looked like it was made in 1874
and he was an ugly guy,
just like us,
and we were at his house in two seconds
and we went in
and he said we could grab the couch
and a La-Z-Boy
and we collapsed
and he fed us water,
which we pounded like it was the apocalypse
and we drank like milkfish
and we bathed in the darkness
when he clicked off the lights
and the room was spinning around like it was made out of yams
and the morning came on like a vampire
and the sunlight was a Kraken
and I wanted to punch the sun in its dangerous face
but we had to get home.
You can’t live at a stranger’s forever.
And so we started to leave,
the owner drowning in his quiet little beautiful nightmares in the other room.
And we got to the door
you can’t just leave.
You have to leave him with
except we didn’t have any money
and so we did the only thing we could do:
we started to turn everything in his house upside-down.
We started with little things, like cups
which he wouldn’t know we’d turned upside-down,
but it was all for a purpose.
We turned the pillows upside-down
and the lamps upside-down
and his shoes upside-down
and the paintings upside-down,
and his memories upside-down,
because he was in the other room
and we needed to ensure he had a wonderful monsoon of shock
when he woke up
and stepped out into the front room
and realized he’d have a story to tell for the rest of his life
and we were good
and we left.
And we felt pride at our work.
And we started the nine mile walk home, so hungry that we could eat children if necessary,
just like the witches in all those old stories.
We’re at Ford Field and my high school’s football team is getting pounded and I don’t care, because we’re lucky just to be here
and I look around
at the cerebral palsy and poverty and obesity
of my hometown, these fans,
and how their signs are cheap and perfect and big and homemade
and one of the exclamation points is misspelled
and we’re gorgeous
even though we’re losing
and on the other side
is the Christian school that can recruit players
and we can’t
and they can
and they’re running up the score
like they’re trying to humiliate us
and they’re the second largest city in the state
and we’re a tiny town in the Upper Peninsula
and they put the camera on their quarterback,
his helmet off,
and he looks like a blonde villain
in a teen karate movie
and you can tell his parents are rich
and his neighbors are rich
and his teeth are rich
and his irises are evil and rich
and his shadows are rich
and I look at us,
not at the screen,
but at us,
and I want to hug the lungs of every person on our side,
and I do.
I go around and start hugging everyone,
even though we’re losing.
I hug everyone.
And we’re crying
and we’re happy
and we can’t believe we’re at fucking Ford Field
and we are.
This is a short poem, because it’s about all of the women who’ve loved me
I start to write this poem,
thinking about how I wish I was married
but I have to get up in the morning,
early as hell,
to work with trauma survivors,
so I don’t have time
to feel sorry for myself.
I’m Single So If You Want You Can Contact Me on Social Media and Save My Life
with just one night
where you sleep with me
and I mean
We don’t have to have sex
or even kiss.
I just want a warm body by me.
And you don’t even have to be warm.
You can have a cold.
I don’t care.
You can give it to me.
I just want to feel what it’s like when the room is singing
with the breath
of another person
in the room.
That’s the only thing
that makes me
believe in God.
The Teacher in the Social Work Class Treats Me Like Shit and
I don’t understand why.
I ask another kid in class
what he thinks
and he says
I’d rather relive my years of addiction
than go through this program again.
And we laugh
and I ask him what he means
and he says
When I was an addict, everyone hated me,
and I deserved it.
I was stealing from them and high all the time
and a dick and I was someone who wanted to burn down the fire department,
but then I got sober.
And I wanted to help people.
So I want to do social work to help people.
So I enter this program,
totally committing myself to helping people
and they treat me like shit,
like absolute shit,
when my whole purpose to be here is to help goddamn people
and I’m clean
and it’s hard as hell to be clean,
it’s impossible to be clean,
it’s easier to climb Mount Everest than be clean,
because you can hire a million Sherpas to carry all your shit for you,
but I’m doing this on my own
and it’s hard as fuck
because the neighbors smoke pot
and it comes in through the vents
and it makes me want to go up there
and beg to join them
so I have to leave my apartment
every time they do that
and go walk by a river
dreaming of heroin
and go stand in the river
and just feel the pain
because I can’t go back
and these assholes can’t
just be nice to me
for one second,
just one second.
Instead they have to call me out
and do microaggressions against me
that aren’t micro-
but are aggressions
and he says,
You know what I mean?
And I say, yes, God, yes, God’s eyes, yes, the testicles of God, yes, the entire body and corpse and breath and pulse of Christ, yes!
Ron Riekki’s books include Blood/Not Blood Then the Gates (Middle West Press, poetry), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, hybrid),Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, nonfiction), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press, fiction).