Ron Riekki

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“Blood Smells Like Pennies”

She says this to a room full of EMTs.  They’re
so young, neonates, eighty percent water, healthy
with their February heads.  I want to shake their weak

neck muscles, how they’re fresh out of quitting high school
or sixth year juniors in community colleges the color of old
toothbrushes, and she tells them that you can’t smell it with

just a little bit of blood, that the room has to be full of it,
and one asks, timid, a little tiny river, if she’s seen a room
full of it.  And she bounds back, Rooms, plural, the scarring

of her voice, how apical it is, and there’s a stocking behind us,
severely post-Christmas, the decorations left to rot in plastic
eternity, and I’ve smelled blood and it didn’t smell of pennies

or nickels or quarters or twenties.  It smelled of poverty, of
absence, of the lack of Lincolns, of convictions, of living
rooms where the dollhouse was empty, speckled reddish-brown.

We Turned the Corner, the Headlights Hitting the Cop Who Was Crouched

blowing into the mouth of a corpse—
he didn’t know, they don’t teach you
medical in police academy, not really—
and he looked up, a deer’s eyes, his

mouth ovaled, and circling it, this ring
of blood, and he bent back down for
another breath, my partner rolling
down the window, screaming, No.

They Drowned One of Us

      for Lee

during training.  It was Rescue Swimming
School.  Held him under.  As a punishment.

I’d stare at his bunk sometimes, the night of
Florida all weak, like it was wanting to die into day.

Artwork by Gene McCormick

I Met Muhammad Ali

at an airport.  My parents took me there
to pick up a relative.  He happened to be there,
the cameras unable to diffuse into the zone
where he was blocked off, sitting alone,
where he looked lonely, so I walked under
the ropes, so small that I didn’t even have
to duck, and this little boy, me, sat next to
the greatest of all time, Ali laughing at how
bold I was, loving it, looking down at me
with a smile like the vanishing of all hate,
how the flashes blinded us.


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).