They Tap Me on the Shoulder and Say They are Going to Ensure My Poverty Will Erase My Last Name and My Homeland Forever (But the Smiths and the Jones Will Live On) | Ron Riekki

Image: Moren Hsu

When I was in the military, we marched over the purple coneflower and milkweed and powderpuff and canna lily until they were dead from the war of our feet and later when they haze-crucified me I aspirated on my own vomit and saw death marching through the undergrass and he was a he and he was not as seismic as I’d come to expect and

when I was on the football team, they installed debt in my chest and they drove their trucks on the swamp conifers and carved encyclopedias into the pines and our homecoming king took a knife to his abdomen to spell the words MINING TOWN.

When I worked in the prison, they concreted everything so that the yard wasn’t, and the smell was of feces and lives frozen as poison and

when I worked in security, they put me in an isolated guard shack where there was no heat and no one else around for miles and I’d listen to the wolves and would wonder if they were coming from inside me.

When I worked on the ambulance, my partner would make fun of the patients as soon as the patients weren’t our patients and he would reenact their pain by holding his body in the distorted positions in which we found them and I’d go home and warn my parents that if they are ever on an ambulance to record everything because God can see everywhere but not inside the walls of piss and pus, and

when I was in middle school, they’d put us in lockers and light little pieces of paper, throwing them through the hole, telling us that we were going to experience what it’s like to be the sun and afterwards I’d go outside and stare up at it in the hope that I’d go blind forever and it didn’t happen because I could never take the pain and instead would go home and swim in the neighbor’s empty pool, me and a buddy, just moving our arms and walking in that big useless pit.

When I was in PTSD counseling, my counselor fell asleep so I decided to go to sleep too except I could see the helicopters on fire when I closed my eyes and so I just sat there, staring at him, watching him age so slowly, seeing the grandfather and the great-grandfather and the grand-corpse just begging to come out and

when I was in high school, we cheered the violence and admired the violence and encircled the violence and awarded the violence and moved back for the violence and watched the violence and the violence did its thing.

When I was dead, I realized that the earth was everything, that all there is is the earth, that the people on it are just dots, dips, dark, that we are spiders, that our arms are air, replaced so quickly.

But the earth.

But the earth.


Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press).  Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited The Many Lives of It (McFarland), And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).  Right now, he’s listening to Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky.”