Three aunts and an uncle and a best friend all died
By Ron Riekki
“The broad way and the narrow, you see,”
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.
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.