Ron Riekki, Silent

I Once Fell Asleep in the Back-Patio Area of a Bar

a friend of mine finding me lying there
with a man
looking down at my body,
studying me,
startled by my friend.

He told me this.
The next day,
the person arrested,
in the papers.
My friend calling me,
telling me.
A murderer.
How he was looking at my body,
as if trying to figure out
how to carry something so big.

I saved your life, he said.
I didn’t feel anything.
I’d been asleep.
Who’s to say?
All I know is
this was decades ago, back
when they had papers,
when I had friends.

In Class, I Say that My Family is from Finland

and it’s met with silence.
So, in the silence, I think of silence.
I think of the term ‘silent silence,’
how most learning is just repetition, the same repetition.
I wait.
Weeks later, I gab with another student about lit,
casually mentioning Finnish writers I like,
ask him his favorite Finnish writers.
Silence.
A couple weeks later, it’s film, mentioning Finnish films,
asking her favorite Finnish film.
Silence.
Towards the end of class, I open up.
I force the room open.
I open everything.
I twist the jar hard, ensuring it’s open, talking about the ‘liquidation’ of Finns by Stalin,
how they’d walk up to someone, anyone, anyone Karelian, ask if they were Karelian, and if they said yes, they would be executed on the spot.
I talk about the Saami, the forced sterilizations by Sweden that happened for decades. Decades. Decades.
I say all of this, to the class,
in my mind.
Only in my mind.
Silent.

Frankenstein

When people tell me I look like Frankenstein,
I thank them. There’s nothing quite like humility.
As soon as I get a poem published in a good magazine,
I’ll think of the Frankenstein comments. And there’s
a lot of them. Maybe it’s the height. Maybe my forehead.
I’m not green. So it’s not that. If I were green, it would be
all over. Nonstop. It’d be madness. It’d drive me insane,
so that I’d just grunt mad sounds so that townspeople
with pitchforks would haunt me, hunt me. And I did get some good poems
in some good magazines too. But the Frankenstein comments
were even better, said with such passion, one woman at a party—
not a Halloween party, a Christmas party—telling me, “Don’t
take this wrong, but do you know who you look like?”
Let me guess. Bradley Cooper? Brad Pitt? One of the other Brads?
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania web designer Brad Frost? How would you
rate my eye position? My nose length? My lip width? My spleen density?
Drum roll, please. Yes, she said the three syllables. Not ‘I love you,’ but
Frankenstein. A word like three knocks in Macbeth. I asked if she was talking about
the monster or the scientist. There’s a huge difference between
monsters and scientists. It’s like the difference between lobster and chefs.

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. (Ghost Road Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press). Read more of Ron here.

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