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 mustache—had

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.

I’m Saami,

which is a people

of genocide


and maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard of us,

in this poem

about my landlord

rolling around

in the thorns

or whatever

of silver and gold


orbs and beads and crucifixes

that unfortunately


do stick in backs

and he didn’t die

or even get wounded

that badly.

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.


Typhoid Donald

for Kevin Simmonds

German wonder crook,

wintered why

the talk to the lot of us

could be so lethal,

and yet, even told that,

we know,


and don’t even wonder.

Not the women, not the men,

not even when the blood

legs its way over to us.

We turn


and blink and four years fly by

on our new island, walled and chained.

Ah, Donald,

from the Gaelic, ‘ruler of the world.’

We hear your magnificent

hard rule

of pus and drool.


Ron Riekki


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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