Ron Riekki

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for Sharmila Voorakkara

I don’t know why, but I get so much more sick
at night, a dream of my wife in the middle of
contractions and the midwife collapsing, needing

CPR, and I press on her manubrium and the sickness
comes, coughing me awake, to see the room that
shows I have never been married, slaps me in

the center of my headache, and I blink up to see
the crucifix fixed to the wall, high, flickering
in moonlight, leaves being blown back and forth,

haunted, this chronic pain that screams that I’m
alive and this burning, this sharp, this aching, dull,
stabbing throbbing radiating thing is nothing in

comparison, but it’s hard to accept this, so self-
centered, so concerned with what I feel, and I
pray, how fast a cloud could block everything,

the darkness, so immediate, the ballooning pain, and
I pray, softer, so soft, saying it’s probably best to
either kill me or save me. And the moonlight returns.

“Sundowning,” read by Sharmila Voorakkara.

I’ve Found That When People Proselytize

I want to do the opposite, something so salesman
about it, a pastor pulling me aside, telling me that
I was being a child by not believing, when, in my
mind, I wondered how he assumed I was a non-
believer, how heavily he non-ed me, turning me
into nothing, no interest in my history, how he
cornered me, his body so large, lit like a lemon
in the church light, this feeling like God’s so far
in the distance, blown away in the wind, that this
is really about him, small h, this man who has no
idea how intimidating shadow can be, torso can
be, telling me who I am and what I believe when
it’s wrong,
and years later I remember sitting
with my grandfather, under the fireworks, and
the pastor, at the hill’s bottom, me watching him,
and he was looking down at the ground, every-
one else looking up in awe, but how he was
looking down, in this sort of hunched way, and I
tried to get inside his head, imagining his realizing
that he should have traded all of that anger for love;
all of these brocades in the sky, so spider-like, how you
could watch them explode and feel nothing but fear,
or you could look up and see nothing but beauty.

“I’ve Found That When People Proselytize,” read by Ron Riekki.

“I’ve Found That When People Proselytize,” read by Sharmila Voorakkara.

(nonfiction) Negaunee

When we were young, age eight or so, we’d walk
around the ledge of the church, it starting with

a one-foot drop, then two-, then four-, then eight-
until it was a sixteen-foot drop, a survivable fall

if you fell the right way, but falling doesn’t have
a lot of control, the body going in any direction

it so chooses, and so we’d go slow, clinging, our
hands pressed into the brick like it was mother’s

hands, and the concentration, where nothing else
existed in the world, so that the mines were open

again and the unemployment was reversed and
the bars weren’t all packed and our homes were

peaceful and the rivers weren’t all ore-oranged
and my grandfather was still alive, his hearing

not lost, his fingers not lost in the equipment
that was so good at taking the ore out of the guts

of this land where we looked down and feared
and felt our bodies plummeting down into the depths

where our fathers would submerge, earth-drowned,
homes soot-owned, all our lives immersed in mining.

“(nonfiction) Negaunee,” read by Jonathan Johnson.

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). Right now, Riekki’s listening to The Bad Plus’ cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

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Photo Credit: “crucifix” by Ben, Modified by Veronica McDonald.

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