Ron Riekki

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when I pray, I catch fire. When I’m on fire,
I pray. When there’s no fire, I catch fire.
When there’s no fire, I pray. This life,
I’ve found, is chronic pain. This pain,
I’ve found, is chronic life. For now.
For no one knows the pain you have
felt. Except One. The two. How
you are always linked. You are
always linked. Even with all
of your pins and needles,
the stabbing pain. Even
with the loss of this or
that. Your son. Your
legs. The way my
mother’s hands
shake so much
that now she
can’t paint.
How she
sits and

“trauma,” read by Nathan Xie.

“trauma,” read by Ron Riekki.

The woman who I counsel asks me if I will pray with her

That’s it. She just wants prayer. I ask if
she wants anything else. No, she says,

just prayer. So we pray. Her hands are
as prevalent as the walls. That is all

the room is: hands and walls. Her
fingers cling to her fingers, as if she

is trying to hold an angel cupped in
her hands. We delve into prayer. Dive

into prayer. I had an ex- tell me that
she was leaving me because I wasn’t

“Christian enough.” A measuring cup.
I think of a measuring cup. How much

singing in church would I have needed
to have performed for her? How large

of a crucifix would I have needed around
my rural neck? How many Christian

channels would I need to have programmed
into my car stereo? It was stolen. I have

no cross to wear. I don’t go to church any-
more. Not with this plague. I sit at home.

Alone. Doing what the two of us are doing
now, so intensely. So simple. This fury

of prayer. How nothing changes. And yet,
how devoted we are in hope. Such hope.

“The woman who I counsel asks me if I will pray for her,” read by Kris St. Thomas.

after being shown pictures of dead children

“Then the prince sent for the cobbler. And he came. And they took
out one of the cobbler’s two eyes.

And justice was satisfied.”
–Kahlil Gibran,

by a man I am counseling from a war-torn country,
I drive home, the night so early, a rebellious night,

the sky combed with peace, the moon shut off
in some corner of the sky, punished. I pull over.

A cornfield. Daunting stalks. I sit there for so
long. There are changes in our brains that happen.

I sit there for so long. The headlights lighting up
the world slowly moving in the wind. I sit there

for so long. I look to my left. All along, there
had been a graveyard right there. I stop, turn off

the car, and walk, in the dark, the moon invisible,
this halfway point on my neuropathic commute

that numbs me, but I feel now. I feel the world.
I go to the middle of the graveyard. Are they

everywhere? Are the dead everywhere? It is so
quiet that I can hear the moon. Even though it is

trying so hard to be silent. I look up. My father
told me that if you are in the dark and look up

at the night sky, that is God looking straight down
at you. That hugeness, that world of sky, that is

only the aqueous humor of God. The Milky Way
as just a blink in the eye. That, our roaring God.

“after being shown pictures of dead children,” read by Mary Katharine Parks Workinger.

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). Right now, Riekki’s listening to The Mountain Goats’ “This Year.”

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Photo: “Votive Candles,” Public Domain.

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