Ron Riekki, Featured Author

Setting the Landlord on Fire

 

Let me explain something first.

This was by mistake.

Although I remember a motivational speaker

saying something about how there are no mistakes.

And it was only his face.

I was trying to do a circus trick.

I was drunk.

He had a giraffe shirt on

so I couldn’t miss him.

I spit the vodka aflame into his face

 

and he had a beard

and mustache—had

and fell back

into the Christmas tree,

which wasn’t my Christmas tree,

because I’m not Christian

and I don’t own a saw.

I’m Saami,

which is a people

of genocide

 

and maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard of us,

in this poem

about my landlord

rolling around

in the thorns

or whatever

of silver and gold

classic-meets-mod

orbs and beads and crucifixes

that unfortunately

 

do stick in backs

and he didn’t die

or even get wounded

that badly.

It was more embarrassment.

Like every time I go to the slot

and put the check in

and realize I can’t even hear it

hit the bottom.

I don’t even have the satisfaction of that.


 

The EMT Instructor Shows Us a Video of a Man Falling to His Death

 

There is, of course, absolutely nothing

to be learned from this.

Other than I should have spent more money

on the college.

Except this isn’t really a college.

 

It’s more of a basement in need of a shave.

The man keeps falling in the video,

mostly because the instructor keeps playing it

and laughing and he looks like

he’s eaten people’s dreams his whole life.

 

Not the man falling.  The man falling

looks like nothing.  He looks like a flash

of flesh.  He is nameless and he’s not

nameless and I look at the teacher

who doesn’t teach who looks like

 

he was eating a dream last night,

all night long, in his insomnia,

and I wonder what happened

that made him think he can do anything,

say anything, and have no repercussions.

 


Negaunee

 

It’s a city.

You’ve never heard of it.

It was New Year’s Day.

You’ve never heard of that either.

It’s a day in the U.S.

where everyone commits suicide.

I’m defining Negaunee for you.

I can’t explain New Year’s Day.

It’s too complicated.

It’s sort of like Christmas

but with more syphilis.

We went out to go shovel

but the shovel was buried

under ten feet of snow,

because I come from a place

where we have to shovel

a hole up to the sky,

building a ladder

so that we can crawl

out of our homes

up onto the snow banks

where the crows are waiting

to eat our eyes.  But if you’re fast,

you’ll eat theirs first.


 

Typhoid Donald

for Kevin Simmonds

German wonder crook,

wintered why

the talk to the lot of us

could be so lethal,

and yet, even told that,

we know,

 

and don’t even wonder.

Not the women, not the men,

not even when the blood

legs its way over to us.

We turn

 

and blink and four years fly by

on our new island, walled and chained.

Ah, Donald,

from the Gaelic, ‘ruler of the world.’

We hear your magnificent

hard rule

of pus and drool.

 

Ron Riekki

 

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel (Sewanee Writers Series and Great Michigan Read nominated), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book from the Library of Michigan and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award/Grand Prize shortlist, Midwest Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year, and Next Generation Indie Book Award), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes—Best Regional Fiction and Next Generation Indie Book Award—Short Story finalist), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).

 

Alex Hughes

A Seminary Education

 

The most interesting thing I’ve learned while

at seminary was not taught to me in a class, but

something I observed gradually around campus:

 

amid this gluten-free fitness-freak city it seems I’ve

stumbled upon some holy place for women who are obese—

everywhere I turn there’s a thigh as wide as my waist

 

gyrating against its mirror, and I can hear seams

screaming, clinging like lovers being dragged apart—

I cringe, and cannot help but wonder why, what it is

 

about the religious life that beckons to them.

Of course in my heart of hearts I wonder if

I’m being an ass, if just having this thought is

 

offensive—but if I can’t even ask, if I can’t

wonder aloud in my own head, what’s the deal

with all these fatties? then I’ll have sacrificed

 

truth, or the pursuit of truth, nailed it to some

crucifix in favor of a world where young girls

can eat through their sorrow, can gorge with

 

sticky fingers upon words that whisper: doesn’t

this feel good? who needs beauty when you have

the grease of misery? If I can’t ask what all these

 

bowling balls are doing here, can’t wonder how their

wobbly pins don’t snap in half, then the world will

keep spinning and young women will keep turning

 

to Jesus, for he’s the only one to dry their tears

after a binge when the night is empty, the only one to

make them feel loved, the only one to look upon

 

all these obese women on campus who have, at long last,

given up hope, and told them it will be alright—

if I can’t even ask, then nothing will ever change.

 

 

Lost & Found

 

Or at least that’s what the sign says.

I watch the severed hand

scuttling and rummaging through

diamond rings and key chains and

Kodak cameras, through sunglasses

and eyeglasses and pocket-sized maps,

through coffee cups and baseball caps

and phones too stupid to find their way home.

 

The sleepy-looking boy had looked at me

in mild disbelief when I told him I lost

my soul in room 3-3-0—it must have

slipped between the covers when

I wasn’t looking and hid, listening,

or else it dove into the crack

between bed and wall—I don’t know

why it left me but I know I want it back.

 

And now it could be anywhere,

anywhere except here in the blue

bin at the concierge.

 

 

Alex Hughes

Alex Andrew Hughes lives and works in Los Angeles. He splits his time between his training in clinical psychology, his research in existential crises, and his fiction, poetry, and sketching. Sometimes, however, he does absolutely nothing, and he enjoys that time the most. His poetry has recently appeared in Thin Air, New Plains Review, Firewords Quarterly, and elsewhere.

 

Richard Weaver

The Monkey of Anger

 

does more than fling poo. Sure, he’s a master craftsman
and dead shot, able to fling without being seen,

 

and disappear after the deed is done. And he is careful

to point a finger towards the pack, and wag it suggestively.

 

The monkey of anger is a connoisseur of dung, a fierce,

biting and snarling competitor for the best excrement

 

available. No matter whose. He plays no favorites.

He hoards it near his banana stash, mixes it

 

with small stones and chewed straw until its consistency

is firm enough to remain a ball in his hand, and balanced.

 

Only then does the monkey of anger reveal his intentions.

Does his anger unveil itself, and his need for a target manifest.

 

The monkey of anger has his sights on you. You wrongly

assumed your umbrella will shield you, your reflexes

 

are superior. Your awareness of environment and superior

knowledge will not grant you poomunity. You are doomed.

 

Your fate complete, and ignominy your new name.

 

 

The Giraffe Who Swallowed Wrongly

 

died while gargling, a slow death, exacerbated

by allergies to pollen, a fear of heights, knocked knees,

 

a too-keen awareness to the nearness of stars

and the moon’s atavistic nature, as well as complications

 

of multiple herniated discs caused primarily

by Acute Peeping Tom Syndrome. The service

 

and feast were held the same day: all who attended

enjoyed a long repast.

 

 

The Aardvark of Unwanted Adverbs and Unwelcoming Adjectives

 

has taken up residency in the Swedish embassy, having sought asylum

after uploading a smorgasbord of grammatical impurities

to every English Department and laundromat on the planet.

 

He/she, no one knows or is willing to suggest, has demanded

nothing, suggested less, insisting they (the sexless they) are not

the arbiters of language nor the ambassadors of lexicography.

 

The rotation of the earth has slowed noticeably, due, possibly,

to the collective breath intake of all English majors, and minors,

not to mention Endowed chairs, Professor Emeriti, and tenuously

 

tenured faculty members. Committees have been formed worldwide,

and are meeting on days that begin with W, and months ending in E.

There is hope yet for a solution, or at least a truce. A partial withdrawal.

 

Untutored minds are quick to realize the End has come ‘round.

 

 

The Speed of Dark

 

has challenged you to a race, a duel of sorts,

a journey beyond the universe’s edge.

Winner take all. Loser required to pay

 

God’s outstanding tab. In your defense

this challenge arrives every year exactly now,

at the High Time of Golden Impatience,

 

when most everyone else has fled this galaxy

or the next, bored with weather patterns,

bothered by an influx of tourists (you never know

 

where they have been), being fleeced by balding

gypsies. Bad timing can never be made good.

But bad decisions, that is another story.

 

Just not this one. This one will lower the net

so that all shots land safely in play. It even allows

for Mulligans. What do you have to lose, I hear you

 

say to yourself. And truthfully I say to you,

God’s a teetotaler. Never goes on a bender.

Never buys the next round, or drinks for the house.

 

Truth be told you could throw the race, and find a way

to come out ahead. It’s clear you are leaning

towards accepting this farce of a proposal. Science

 

is in your favor. Always has been. Most likely will be

after the sun has imploded. So what’s the problem?

You worried about your streak of perfection?

 

Unbeaten since…always. It’s not pride that beckons,

or ego that prods. You are simply bored with the unchanging

all-ness of it all. And know that rubbing Dark’s nose in it

 

will give no satisfaction, offer no closure or resolution.

You are the rock and the hard place.

Alpha joined at the hip with garlicky Omega.

 

And worse, you know without a doubt

this slow death will never end.

 

 

Richard Weaver

Richard Weaver is an unofficial snowflake counter (seasonally) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Recent poems have appeared in the Southern Quarterly, conjunctions, The Little Patuxent Review, Gloom Cupboard, Red Eft Review, The Literateur, Five 2 One, Steel Toe Review, Crack the Spine, StoneBoat, OffCourse, and the Stonecoast Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merridawn Duckler

Girl of the Lower Forty-Eight

 

Burying my nose in the old sweatshirt

smell again the lonely armpit of afternoon bar

where whisky and I fought

for the attention of that New York woman;

soaked in her aroma of clean reason

prim, drunk, authoritarian, alert, erect

as I waved the prism

of my glass to over-state: we’re the minority here, I mean, people

thinking how the sweet nicotine night never

really comes home, or conversely, it is ever milky dawn

in Valdez, rainbow oil on the uneasy streets

built for solo stampede of the scared, brown bear.

Again, I stumble to the toilet reeking of confused urine

like that mountain man

who fell asleep in 1896 but staggered back in 2014

for his cell case.

In my rental, again the seduction stevia of stolen Rocky Road

slurped under exhortatory, totalitarian posters: be happy!

love! live!  You fuckers.

In studio, the black piano smelled of true lilac

where the pimply young girl sang

quando rapito in estaci

her roundmouth

open trance of the frontier, how later our lunch smelled of starving tins

and when I walked outside the smokers exhaled the green that lives forever

 

 

Brother Movie, Sister Film

 

One night we jumped the rope at the multiplex

to catch four feature films in a stretch.

 

sure, I’d once seen “Mother and the Whore” twice in a row

all 450 minutes but these were ordinary action flicks.

 

At hour six I wondered how we’d climb back on that carousel,

to borrow the metaphor, you use to explain evolutionary biology

 

your field of study; you, a proud atheist who designates us

not leaders of nature but more like that popcorn machine

 

that keeps churning kernels whether or not anyone buys;

by the third film I felt crazy, there was no telling land from dream sky.

 

Goodbye! I hugged your pale and exhilarated self as you returned to the snap back

seat not longing for the old velvet that use to hold our print, maybe, for one more night.

 

 

Merridawn Duckler

Merridawn Duckler is a poet, playwright from Portland, Oregon. Her poem from TAB: Journal of Poetry and Poetic’s was nominated for 2016 Best of the Web. She was runner-up for the poetry residency at the Arizona Poetry Center, judged by Farid Matuk. Her manuscript was a finalist at Center for Book Arts and Tupelo Press. Recent prose in Poetica and humor in Defenestration. She was a finalist for the 2016 Sozoplo Fiction Fellowship. Her play in verse was in the Emerging Female Playwright Festival of the Manhattan Shakespeare Project and other work was a finalist at the Oregon Play Prize. Fellowships/awards include Writers@Work, NEA, Yaddo, Squaw Valley, SLS in St. Petersburg, Russia, Southampton Poetry Conference with Billy Collins, others. She’s an editor at Narrative and the international philosophy journal Evental Aesthetics and co-owner of the artist promotion company, 2B Writing.

 

Donna Davis

Department Store Mannequins

 

. . . look terminally serious,

lips pursed, mouths pouting slightly

with corners turned inward.

They seldom smile

or display the smallest pleasure,

even when meticulously dressed

in the most sublime couture.

One hand is on the tilted hip

to show off the flow of fabric;

cheekbones flat and thin

without the fleshy apples

that tempt eyes away

from the neutrality of brand.

Lackluster, emotionless,

sometimes headless or abstract;

no delight or euphoria here.

After all, smiling mannequins

might scare customers

if they flashed teeth,

seemed to be eavesdropping,

or appeared to have an opinion

about the cut of a cardigan.

Mannequins have nothing to say

but everything to show,

with their blank runway stares

fixed on some obscure,

indifferent world

that reflects our own.

 

 

Removing the Wallpaper

 

She’s scraping, scraping,

wondering who did this,

whose hands set traps for her,

whose bad taste caused

a conflagration of orange mums

to engulf the bedroom walls.

 

Will she ever peel away

this gaudy scrollwork

emblazoned with thumbprints

and flecks of red crayon?

Time has burned its emblem

into the garish flowers—

an umbra oily with hair gel

from her careless ex-husband

who read magazines in bed.

 

Hours pass; the room

is a mess of wet petals;

her shoes stiff with glue.

She will not be satisfied

until paste melts to the floor,

fresh paint is spread on plaster,

and her new life begins

with the stroke of a fiery brush.

 

 

Donna Davis

 

Donna M. Davis is a native of central New York. A former English and creative writing instructor, she currently owns a résumé writing and book design business. Her poetry has been published in Third Wednesday, Pudding Magazine, Slipstream Review, Poecology, Carcinogenic Magazine, The Centrifugal Eye, Red River Review, Ilya’s Honey, Gingerbread House, Red Fez, Oddball Magazine, Aberration Labyrinth, Halcyon Days Magazine, The Comstock Review, and others. She was a special merit winner and finalist in several of The Comstock Review’s national awards contests.

 

Danielle Hanson

Burial

 

When Uncle was buried,

it was on top of Great-Grandfather

for the cemetery had long been full on the ground floor.

Uncle was able to meet Great-Grandfather

for the first time since he was seven.

Uncle was surprised by Great-Grandfather’s gingham dress,

which, Great-Grandfather explained, was Great-Aunt’s.

Being buried next to each other, they had

mixed together during their melting period.

 

They were looking forward to what Uncle would bring.

Would he ante up a new toe for the ones that were lost?

(Such is the absent-mindedness of the dead.)

Great-Grandfather/Great-Aunt also needed a belt

and memories of a colorful bird in a green, green tree.

They wanted again to see what the eyes see as they rot away,

the beautiful distortions of the earth.

 

 

Answer

 

Your hair is an answer to the light.

It is “no.”  It is “scat!”  It is “don’t

come sniffin’ round here no more.”

And so the light

must find another place to scavenge,

to curl into a ball and sleep restlessly.

The light sinks into your eyes,

nests in your mind,

casts shadows as words and nipples,

flickers and twinkles and sighs.

 

 

God, An Autobiography

 

I arrived in the town when it was dark.

The place was quiet.

The people hid in closets, unable to sleep for days.

What’s come before has changed this place forever.

There were accidents and an epidemic.

The blood turned to dust in the veins, stopping the heart.

This didn’t affect everyone—there were survivors.

Dirt in a flowing stream can remain suspended for eternity.

The bodies, as always, flowed down the river,

Were buried by more fortunate towns downstream.

The survivors are no longer men,

Only the shepherds in the fields still really exist.

 

 

Things I Remembered After Getting Off the Phone With You

 

The name of the new woman at work who dries up pens with her touch.

What I need from the grocery store.

There’s a movie I should tape for Rachel.

There was a sad note in your voice.

 

Ryan said to tell you hello.  He’s thinking of getting a cat.

I never finished copying the cake recipe.  All is incomplete.

I need to vacuum behind the couch for the needles I dropped there last night.

Your voice was a bright light—startling, beautiful, oppressive.

 

The litter box needs changing.  There are bones in there.

You never finished your sentence on your reason for calling,

The reason your voice was 1000 miles out and sinking.

 

Danielle Hanson

 

Danielle Hanson received her MFA from Arizona State University and now lives in Atlanta, GA. Her book Ambushing Water is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press. Her work has appeared in over 45 journals and anthologies, including Hubbub, Iodine, Rosebud, Poet Lore, Asheville Poetry Review, and Blackbird. Currently, she is on the editorial staff for Loose Change Magazine. She has edited Hayden’s Ferry Review, worked for The Meacham Writers’ Conference, and been a resident at The Hambidge Center. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

 

 

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