three poems

               They made fun of me on the way

to the psych ward.  The EMTs.  They tied me
to the gurney.  I didn’t know that they weren’t
supposed to do that.  I let them.  Because

I was at the end of the Elm Street of my mind,
the street where I grew up, before it became
a horror film, back when Palmer had mines

filled with ore and not mines empty of ore and
filled with bodies of those who helped get out
all that ore, pouring it into piles, mountains

that I remember would block what little sun
we had, and the EMTs were small and they
were acting tough, one saying to the other

that I was the type that wasted their time,
that they had important medical calls to go
to, except these were just EMTs, not medics;

they had no important calls to go to.  They
were hauling bodies all night, angry at their
minimum wage, and so they took it out on

someone with suicidal ideation, because I
was an easy target, strapped in, dreaming
of my own death, and I remember looking

at them as if they were ghosts, demonic
harmful ghosts who could try to swing at
me, but their fists would go right through

my body.  Looking back, I wish I’d been
kind, asked them if they could just please
loosen the straps, that I wasn’t going to do

anything, and once they were done I would
have gotten up and bashed my way through
the back door out onto the Chicago streets

at 65 miles per hour, because, then, I would
not have had to listen to the nicknames they
gave me for the rest of the ride, names I

won’t say now, because they are filled with
such hate that this poem would be destroyed,
because this poem is about my survival, that

they may have tied me down, may have
laughed, humiliating someone so vulnerable,
but I lived and I write and I write and I write

and I warn the other EMTs out there that, if
they do this too, the patients that you mock
will one day die and they will actually be-

come ghosts and they will haunt you and
your family from now until the end of
every street in the entire world is gone.




               One of my cousins is liberal

but she told me she’s sure not going to date
anybody poor.  Another cousin drowned and my

neighbor drowned and my great-grandmother
drowned and I dropped my phone off a bridge

and it drowned.  And my other cousin did LSD
and told me he thought it didn’t do anything

to him, but then he moved his hand and he
realized that he saw two hands.  He saw his

hand where it now was and then he saw his
hand where it used to be.  So he moved his

hand again and then there were three hands.
There was the hand where it was now and

then the hand in both spots where they were
before, so he moved his hand again, again,

and again, and he kept doing it, until he
realized it was making a wall, so he started

backing up, but there was nowhere to go
because there was a real wall behind him

and he realized he boxed himself in and
the only way to get out was to either bash

through the real wall or else try to bash
through the wall that was made from all

of his hands.  My cousin decided to try
to smash through the wall of all of his

hands and so he just started running with
all of his guts out and he instantly fell

about the length of a million football
fields and he said he landed in what he

thinks was Hell, because it was a land
where everyone was normal except no

one had any hands, all these handless
people and they all turned and looked

at him and realized that he was the one
who could make hands, endless hands

so they all started running for him and
he ran, because he was worried they

were going to try and rip his hands
right off his body and, as he ran, there

was this trail of hands and they all
started grabbing these hands and

shoving them onto their wrists and
I asked what happened next and he

said that he jumped out of a window
and I said that’s awful and asked if

it was a real window or a window
in Hell and he said he thought it was

a window in Hell, but it turned out
to be a real window, and I asked how

many floors he fell and he said it was
on the first floor, otherwise he’d be

dead.  And I told him that it’s good
he’s not dead or they’d all be running

after him, insisting on taking his hands.
Another cousin of mine owned a pet

boa constrictor and my cousin fell
asleep and the snake got out of its

cage and, trust me, you don’t want
to know what happened to him.




                At Standing Rock, A Cop

tackled a grandmother.  It was like
a linebacker tackling a paper airplane.
And he did it with this look like he
was an angry hero.  When a cop kills
a man, he thinks he’s in one of the action
movies he’s seen, the thousand action
movies he’s seen.  Except the man he
kills is a real human being.  At Standing
Rock, they arrested an Abenaki elder
I know.  The jails were full, so they
put him in a dog kennel.  True story.




Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Riekki has edited eight books, including Here (Michigan State University Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book). His poem “Finland” was included in The Pushcart Prize XLVI. Right now, Riekki’s listening to Gustavo Santaolalla’s “Deportation/Iguazu” from the Babel soundtrack.


Back to Issue: Spring 2022