Ron Riekki, An Attic in Hell

I Respectfully Request to Decline My Nomination as US Poet Laureate

even though no one has nominated me,
not my mother
or father
or dog
or the houseplant in the corner that is dying the long slow death of the milkman.

I decline this nomination
because I am not a poet.
I write poetry,
but I don’t teach at a university where I make $50,000 a year

and I know all of the grant money
does not go to those of us who make minimum wage
but instead goes to the tenured faculty in creative writing
who have the summers off
to travel

where they write poems
about European countries
where they don’t see any
of the poverty
from their hotel room balcony.

An Attic in Hell

does not get you closer
to Heaven.
It just makes it hotter.
heat rises,
and attics,
as we all know,
are haunted
so the haunted heat
just owns everything.
Even being in the penthouse
in a skyscraper
in Hell
isn’t going to work.
You’ll just have a view
of all of the heads
on fire.
It’ll be gross.
You can try to build a ladder
to Heaven
but everyone will saw off the bottom
over and over
so you just keep collapsing down
to the ground,
landing on some attic roof.
It’s best to just go to Heaven
and take a room in a basement.
It’ll be like living with your parents
but it’s Heaven
so you can sleep in,
just like living with your parents,
except you’ll never be able to have sex
even when they’re asleep upstairs.
Heaven’s pretty asexual.
In Hell,
they have a lot of sex
but it’s all bad.
you’re never able to get it in.
You keep trying,
but she just keeps saying,
“It’s not in.
It’s not in.”
That’s one of the signs they have in Hell.
It’s like stop signs on Earth,
that plentiful.
It’s Not In.

The CPR Instructor Makes Stuff Up

She says, “CPR was invented in 1572.”

She says the heart is on the right side of the body,
on top of the spleen.

She does this over and over.

I teach with her,
except I keep silent,
scribbling in a notebook
every time she says something
that makes no medical sense.

“The best way to give CPR is with one hand.
That way you can use the other hand for breathing.”

After class I ask her why she’s making so much stuff up.

“I want to see if anyone ever catches me,” she says.

“And then what’ll you do?”

“Strangle him.”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. Probably just use the other hand for breathing.”

On the Day All of the Meter Maids Commit Suicide, Everyone is Happy

including the meter maids.
They don’t have to do their shit job anymore,
passing out suicide notes
to empty cars.
Even the cars are happy,
not having to have pieces of paper
stuck in their eyeballs.
Even the eyeballs are happy,
not having to be plucked out in panic
at the overpriced punishments in America,
how capital punishment and capitalism
are the same thing.

The Poets Get Together to Write Me an Email Asking for Me to Slit My Throat

I tell them it’s already slit.
They say they don’t believe me.
They want to see it.
I send them a photo of a fake throat.
My boss joins in the conversation,
says, “That’s not a real throat.”
“What is it then?” I ask.
“That’s a sonnet.”
“No, it’s not,” I say, “It’s my slit throat.”
“No,” says one of the poets.
This poet translates French into English.
She does this even though the world is sick of English,
already has enough English.
“No,” she says. “It’s not a sonnet. It’s a fish.
But either way, it’s not his slit throat.”
I slide my throat. I slut my throat. Whatever the word is.
I take a photo of it, as I’m dying.
I send it out to the poets.
“Better,” they say.
“But it still looks too much like a fish.”

Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book), and U.P.: a novel.

This year he will publish the following: Posttraumatic: A Memoir (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle); Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press, with Andrea Scarpino); and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead: Essays on the Cult Film Franchise (McFarland, with Jeff Sartain).

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