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Three aunts and an uncle and a best friend all died

By Ron Riekki

“The broad way and the narrow, you see,”

--Linda Gregerson,

“Half Light”

this summer and fall, the universe unfastened, and the goddamn

spacebar keeps sticking, the kitchen-past where one aunt was burned

when a bucket of boiling maple syrup got knocked into her lap.

And we’re from Sápmi (not Lapland, the racism of that non-name),

and we would return the bones of fish to their original place, a ritual.

And I didn’t go to any of the funerals, instead, strangely enough,

went to a nearby graveyard (couldn’t make the 451-mile trip),

walked around and touched the necks of the tombstones, the names

slanted, gravestones bowing, their slate exhausted, me too, my body

a birchbark shroud, the aunts who had so many hours (600,000 hours

of breathing on this earth, by my estimate—took 7 million breaths

on this planet, if I’m correct), and the headstones have hair, fungus,

weird mushrooms, a honey-like growth called witch’s butter, its

irregular lobes, used, supposedly, to cast hexes, the old oaks also

in tripod positioning, all of us—revelation—the sun, the dirt,

the road nearby with its complex craters, the growth, just under

the skin, the odd-named ‘Occult Primary Cancer Treatment’ that

didn’t work, hypopharynx, larynx, these unknown body parts

that feel like a bizarre nursery rhyme coming from the doctors’

mouths, their expensive mouths, and we’re rural-poor, like this

place, how it feels, honestly, like my hometown itself, in its

entirety, was a cemetery, is a cemetery, so alive in our death.

trailing-off (Jake photo).jpg

About the Author

Ron Riekki’s books include Blood/Not Blood Then the Gates (Middle West Press, poetry), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, hybrid), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, nonfiction), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press, fiction). Right now, Riekki’s watching U of M play OSU. Go blue.

Up Next: Trailing Off

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