10-10-20 // Poetry - Los Angeles

Ron Riekki

Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn


I live

in heat

a hundred outside

a hundred inside

a hundred on the thermometer in my hand

I’ve taken ten thousand temperatures this year—no exaggeration—

checked the weather hundreds of times this year—

my car covered in ash

the red-orange sky, how my ex- told me greens can’t get through the smoke

“post-apocalyptic” all over the media

a deer with tumors

at the hazmat site where I do night shifts

a man with tumors

at the hospital where I do day shifts

smoke like the entire world has been stuffed inside of one massive ghost

a deer has a seizure when I’m on patrol—I radio this to my boss—

he comes out with his flashlight—the deer stops seizing—

my boss leaves—the deer starts seizing again—

this heat like a fishhook

like a photo of a fishhook set on fire

the man in 7 telling me he’s burning up, tells me to feel his head

I don’t feel it, I say

Here, he says, grabs my hand, puts it on the back of his head

I don’t feel it, I say

next to him, a coloring book of animals—I see a black-and-white owl where all he’s done is take a red

crayon and zigzag back and forth across the page—what looks like he’s done this for an hour, more,

killing the crayon, killing the owl, ripping through the page, the

paper curling up

the ash outside the window floats sideways, horizontal

I look outside, see a CNA out there, the air quality “Very Unhealthy” today

and he’s smoking

in his gown

his face a heat-stroke maroon

he doesn’t even wear his mask anymore

just goes from room to room



Ron Riekki

Ron Riekki’s books include I have been warned not to write about this (Main Street Rag), Niiji (Cyberwit, co-written with Sally Brunk), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited The Many Lives of It (McFarland), And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).