Setting the Landlord on Fire
Let me explain something first.
This was by mistake.
Although I remember a motivational speaker
saying something about how there are no mistakes.
And it was only his face.
I was trying to do a circus trick.
I was drunk.
He had a giraffe shirt on
so I couldn’t miss him.
I spit the vodka aflame into his face
and he had a beard
and fell back
into the Christmas tree,
which wasn’t my Christmas tree,
because I’m not Christian
and I don’t own a saw.
which is a people
and maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard of us,
in this poem
about my landlord
in the thorns
of silver and gold
orbs and beads and crucifixes
do stick in backs
and he didn’t die
or even get wounded
It was more embarrassment.
Like every time I go to the slot
and put the check in
and realize I can’t even hear it
hit the bottom.
I don’t even have the satisfaction of that.
The EMT Instructor Shows Us a Video of a Man Falling to His Death
There is, of course, absolutely nothing
to be learned from this.
Other than I should have spent more money
on the college.
Except this isn’t really a college.
It’s more of a basement in need of a shave.
The man keeps falling in the video,
mostly because the instructor keeps playing it
and laughing and he looks like
he’s eaten people’s dreams his whole life.
Not the man falling. The man falling
looks like nothing. He looks like a flash
of flesh. He is nameless and he’s not
nameless and I look at the teacher
who doesn’t teach who looks like
he was eating a dream last night,
all night long, in his insomnia,
and I wonder what happened
that made him think he can do anything,
say anything, and have no repercussions.
It’s a city.
You’ve never heard of it.
It was New Year’s Day.
You’ve never heard of that either.
It’s a day in the U.S.
where everyone commits suicide.
I’m defining Negaunee for you.
I can’t explain New Year’s Day.
It’s too complicated.
It’s sort of like Christmas
but with more syphilis.
We went out to go shovel
but the shovel was buried
under ten feet of snow,
because I come from a place
where we have to shovel
a hole up to the sky,
building a ladder
so that we can crawl
out of our homes
up onto the snow banks
where the crows are waiting
to eat our eyes. But if you’re fast,
you’ll eat theirs first.
for Kevin Simmonds
German wonder crook,
the talk to the lot of us
could be so lethal,
and yet, even told that,
and don’t even wonder.
Not the women, not the men,
not even when the blood
legs its way over to us.
and blink and four years fly by
on our new island, walled and chained.
from the Gaelic, ‘ruler of the world.’
We hear your magnificent
of pus and drool.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel (Sewanee Writers Series and Great Michigan Read nominated), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book from the Library of Michigan and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award/Grand Prize shortlist, Midwest Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year, and Next Generation Indie Book Award), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes—Best Regional Fiction and Next Generation Indie Book Award—Short Story finalist), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).
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