Hometown owned by ore. Red rivers and red hills that originally were Anishinaabe, but now are retired, turned into caving grounds where a child last year walked and then the earth opened and swallowed him hell, I mean whole, I mean hole, I mean hell, same as when my grandfather’s friends were all buried in there, in here, in this hometown now blackdamped, chokedamped, stythed, sooted, scythed, collapse of collapsings, how a neighbor’s front yard suddenly wasn’t there, the news coming, neighbors all standing around staring at absence, the fear. Just last year.
I am a hurricane tarpaulin. My boss’s a sick brick. I’m a minimum-corpsed extra, a background-waged hitman hit. My boss is a boss, so that pretty much says it all. He chests out his chest, his desk like a mall. A maul. I’m a queer quarantined question mark quiz show scandal. I’m called a beast and a breast and on behest of the staff, I am commissioned to scrub porcelain, ceramic, concrete, plastic, every handle until they are properly dark. Would I like to come over here, please? Boss comes from baas, Dutch for ‘master.” I’m a post-disaster sheep lost in the hell of these hills and the holes that are deep. Boss comes from bosse, Old French for ‘hump, swelling, tumor.’ I’m boxed in a box and I box in my free time for the cardio and the head injuries. I’m—let’s be honest—spittooned. Harpooned. A variance of trumped. Meaning I’m iron-maidened, thumb-screwed, dunked, booted, flayed, wheel-broken, cubicled. The rack. Whereas, the boss says he is so beautiful. Beauty, you see, is simply class-based. A thing that you buy, to keep us all ad-faced. Billboard-visaged. I make-up with the boss after a fight from last Friday. He has me paint the bottom of the stairs, pick rabbits out of the barbed wire. He punches me in the neck, because this is all so military-y. You can do anything here. Just like prison. Where the guards guard the guards and the inmates are all in, deep in the heart of American asystole. The boss is the best. There is no safeword. We just clock into the scene. Munch at noon. Uniform. Deformity. Malformation. Disinformation. Is AVM a stroke? The blessed boss. I’m thighed. Boss = blissed. Me—blood l 0 $ $.
I moved across the U.S.
for Wo Chan and Christine Howey
from Berkeley to West Palm Beach to attend paramedic school, its name iambic tetrameter, mentioning this and met with blank stares, un-blank fists, how first thing I noticed was a frowning steroided guy in the corner. The instructor came in, made us do pushups. The complete surprise of this. Then, within five minutes, said the f- word. No, not the four-letter one. The six-letter word. Such nonchalant homophobia, so normative, so unequal, so deadly, the window all tainted, how no one could see us inside, me and these males, all males, shoved into a room with babies stacked in the corner, ready to be CPRed, AEDed, tossed back in their pile, but first, this laughter, this manslaughter, this strange ritual to start things off immediately, the wedding to hazing, and then saying it again, devouring the word, enjoying the word, and laughter. Why laughter? I went to the Dean, explained. She, skeptical. I had it on tape, told we could record lectures, worried about the complexities of anatomy, psychology, documentation, and behavioral emergencies, and the Dean said it wouldn’t happen again. The next class, it did, and how the instructor stared straight at me, saying it to me, almost addressing me as if this was now my name, how then, later, discussing cells, used the term phagocytosis, the class giggling, me realizing I was with children, some actual teens in the class, and the instructor, with the side tangents, war stories where patients were humiliated for their pain, said the word again, stressing the first syllable. All of this, in 2021! I got up, left, all that down payment, that massive cross-country move, the brochure where they made it like we’d be rushing into scenes in uniforms with our purple hearts, those model faces, muscles and brains. How it was all stained. How it repeats again.
Ron Riekki’s books include 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 The Many Lives of The Evil Dead and The Many Lives of The Twilight Zone (McFarland) and Undocumented (Michigan State University Press), and edited The Many Lives of Scary Clowns and The Many Lives of It (McFarland), Here and And Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book). Right now, he’s listening to Millie B’s “M to the B.”