Poetry: Selections from Ron Riekki

(pour Aviva) I can’t afford heat, but I can afford cold, so it’s cold as

fuck in here right now,
a cold where I expect to go piss and find out my dick is now an icicle
and my gut
is snowman gut
and my butt
is snowman butt
and my rent
is fucking paid
but it’s not
and I’m worried about the extinction of eviction and how in the fuck
does anybody survive
in this heroined world
and a girl is coming over
so I’m baking a potato
because I have to eat
trust me
I know
it’s the one thing I can do that can turn this ice castle
into a temporary pseudo-home
where a 450-degree oven
will make you not
commit suicide twice tonight
and I do pushups
for warmth
but I can’t ask her
to do pushups for warmth
and then
she’s knocking
and she’s early
and who the hell comes early?
except me in bed
and she looks goooooooooooooood
and I mean
and she sits on the couch
like she’s a reptile
and she doesn’t understand
the embarrassment
of everything
and I apologize
and she says
I don’t have to apologize
for nothing
that she’s hood
and that
if I want to see
what cold is like
she can show me what cold is like
because there’s rent-cold
but then there’s homeless-cold
and I ask if she was ever homeless
and she says,
well, I’m home
and less
because I work nonfuckinstop
and we talk
and chitchat
and drink bad wine
and we kiss
and it’s a hot kiss
and a good kiss
and a rum kiss
and a brilliant kiss
and a dharma kiss
and Jesus Christ
who ever invented this moment
should be crowned the King of Mankind
and I ask why she was interested in me
and she says
You never said any of that chocolate shit
and I ask what the hell that means
and she said
You should see the guys
they say shit like
“how you doing tonight my little mocha honey”
“I love that chocolate skin”
and I want to fucking knock out their white teeth
and I ask if she wants to knock out my white teeth
and she says
You’re a knockout already
and I say I want to marry her thoughts and her breath and her teeth
and she says if I say the word marriage again tonight she’s going to barf all over my neck
and so I don’t say the word marriage again
and we get in bed
and it’s too cold to fuck
but it’s the perfect temperature
to just lie there
and hold each other
like we’re choking the poverty
out of each other’s histories
and she’s a goddess
and I’m an elevator
and she’s a cryptologist
and I’m a vibrator
and she’s a thousand warm blankets in the Arctic
and Christ I want to say the word marriage to her over and over and over for thousands of years

I remember reading Kerouac and thinking, my God, I want that friendship, really,
it was the friendship I craved,
just to be idiotwriters
where you have salad in your beard—true story—the first time I met Allen Ginsberg in real life was at Naropa and he was talking to us with pieces of salad caught in his beard, but let’s back up decades and decades ago when they were young and lived in black-and-white
and sped around America in shitbeautiful cars
and Burroughs was shooting his wife in the head
and somehow getting away with that
and Ginsberg was a prom queen
and Kerouac was Kerouacing
like a world conquerer
and the seduction of that
the goddamn howling history of that
this vision
that you could be The Rolling Stones
but not know how to play an ounce of music
just write books
about doing heroin
and fucking sunflowers
and driving
that’s it
just driving
as if that’s enough
to be heroic
but no
to now
with my right elbow
all fucked up
and my lonely as a dump-truck teakettle apartment
in Detroit
of all places to end up
a city with trees
like mice
and the writers I know
are hermits
and don’t drive
can’t drive
because of their eyes
or their alternators gone
or they live in the depths of the igloos of Alaska
and have gone off the grid
because the grid sucks
and so it’s just me
as if
there is no generation
at all
no generations
just the beat
being beat
where I was jumped
a dozen of them
and they shattered my collarbone
and I couldn’t sue
because I had no money
have no money
but I’m writing
that Burroughs is in my elbows
and Ginsberg is in my cock
and Kerouac is my skull
as if
I’m a generation
by myself
one of my poems
and thinks,
Well, that was fucking odd,
let’s read another,
and they do
and that
is as good
as impregnating half of Connecticut.

I was stationed on an island
in the military
where a guy
drank himself to death
in his barracks
during the war
and he wanted to die
I think
in the war
but he didn’t
the war
and I put in a chit
asking to go to the front lines
and they denied
I was in a critical billet
and so I had to stay
on that goddamn island
where the B52s took off
and dropped a hundred thousand tons
of a hundred thousand bombs
killing a hundred thousand people
and now
on the top floor of the barracks
with the moonlight fucking the ocean nearby
and the barracks
across from mine
wrapping around the area
where they found his
dead body
and the tape
in the wind
like a swing set
like a ghost
was sitting
on a swing set
rocking back and forth
looking at me
shaking its ghost-head
because it realizes
wasting my life.

This is a poem filled with love and peace and it won’t have that guy from three decades ago
when I was working on the ambulance
and he got both of his feet chopped off
in a car wreck and I won’t tell you how
his feet got chopped off, but he was still
alive, and he was dragging himself across
the road and it was rural Florida, rural as
fuck, and the bulrush was shaking in
the wind behind him and the alligators
all over the state were drooling for his
feet and the pain of the world was like
a Mozart song in the back of God’s big
throat and I remember my partner who
was looking at the guy who kept pulling
his body towards us and my partner was
only nineteen and he looked like he just
now realized we’re all living in hell at
any second, that everything can change
faster than you can light a piano on fire.

We’re at a bar and my friend says his balls are driving him crazy

And this is what alcohol does,
opens you up
like a can opener
and you just spit
everything out
that you’re thinking
in that big cobwebby head of yours
and so he starts telling me about his balls
and it’s rat-a-tat-tat,
no stopping him now,
only way to stop him
would be to kill him,
so he tells me that he doesn’t know
if the madness
of the itch
is coming
from him fucking
a girl he met
on Tinder
or if it’s
because he shaved his balls
for the Tinder date
and I ask if he used a condom
and he says no
and he says he only put the tip in though,
just the tip,
and I don’t explore that,
but he asks me if I think he caught something
from her
or if
the insane amount of itching
is from him shaving
and I ask what the girl he fucked
does for a living
and he said, “kindergarten teacher”
so I said, Oh, if that’s the case,
you’re good to go.
They’re all clean.
All of ‘em.
There’s not one kindergarten teacher
in the world
that has syphilis
or the clap
or maybe the clap
is the same thing as syphilis,
but no matter,
kindergarten teachers
wash their hands
all the time,
so it’s impossible
to catch anything
from their vaginas,
and he says, “You’re no help”
and I say,
If you want a serious answer, well,
is it the first time you shaved your balls?
and he says yes
and I say, if that’s the case,
then you’re not used to the itching.
Shaving your balls
can cause
an itching that’ll make
you want
to cut the fuckers off.
Trust me.
And he studies me
like Sherlock Holmes
looking at a prostitute
who was the only one
at the scene of the crime
in the alleys of London
and I say, But the thing is this:
the hair on your balls
is there for a reason.
It’s to protect you.
People who are hairy down there
are less likely to get gonorrhea
and shit like that,
because the gonorrhea
gets all caught up in the hair.
It’s like a barbed-wire fence.
Pubes are a barbed-wire fence.
So why would you want to chop down
your barbed-wire fence?
and he looks at me
and says, “You’re a weird fuck”
and I look at him and say,
You think that’s weird.
I’m gonna go home
and write a poem about this.
And you know what’s even weirder—
is if it gets published.
And what’s even weirder than that
is if some film director
stumbles upon the poem
and decides they want to make a short film of it,
adapt it for the silver screen
and there it is—
up there,
some actor playing the part of you
talking about your balls.
That’s how fucking bizarre the world is.
And he drinks a whole shitload more
and we go out into the parking lot
and the moon is pregnant
and angry
and diseased
as it should be
and he collapses onto the concrete
and he’s all lit up by the streetlights
and that’s the end of the poem
and that’s the end of the movie
and that’s the end of the world.

Ron Riekki has been awarded a 2014 Michigan Notable Book, 2015 The Best Small Fictions, 2016 Shenandoah Fiction Prize, 2016 IPPY Award, 2019 Red Rock Film Fest Award, 2019 Best of the Net finalist, 2020 Dracula Film Festival Vladutz Trophy, 2019 Très Court International Film Festival Audience Award and Grand Prix, 2020 Rhysling Anthology inclusion, and 2022 Pushcart Prize.  Right now, Riekki's listening to Electric Light Orchestra's "10538 Overture."