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Tuesday, July 30, 2019


by Ron Riekki

“Law Enforcement is at the scene of shootings in Gilroy, California. 
Reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended.
Be careful and safe!”
tweet by T***p, July 29, 2019

“Which amendment?
The Second.
Number two?
Like number two?  Like going number two?
—conversation overheard on Bay Area Rapid Transit line

“During the Civil War, poetry didn’t just respond to events; it shaped

and the shape of the U.S. right now is a toilet,
or a gun,
a toilet-gun,

and—swear to God—

this morning
my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy
or the Kite Festival in Berkeley
and we chose the Kite Festival
because it was closer
and after 5pm, when the massive whale kite was lowering,
the kite she said she loved,
it was the same moment when
another shooter—
and there are so many shooters now—
in the U.S.,
because this is T***p’s U.S. now—
let’s call him T.P. for short—
T.P.’s U.S.,
which resembles the worst horror of Peele’s Us,

violence as normal,

and be afraid when

violence is normal,

and we need to repeal

and I’m tired of the violence

and the White House is filling with ghosts,
all of the ghosts
of those
shot and killed

and in EMT school, the best student in the class had a kid who was shot,
a child who was shot,
in Orlando
and she did CPR in the back of the ambulance
and the boy did not live
and she left
the class, because she couldn’t take the violence of America,

and this was a few years before the Pulse nightclub shooting,
which my old ambulance unit helped at—
with 49 killed, 53 wounded,

and I had a guy pull out a gun on me
when I was delivering pizzas
in Charlottesville
because he thought it would be funny
to see my expression
and my expression
was nothing

because my counselor asked,
“Have you ever had a weapon pulled on you?”
And I said, “Yes”
And she said, “When?”
And I said, “Multiple times,”
And she said, “Like when?”
And I said, “Do you want me to list all of them?”

And I had a student at Auburn
who told me he used to get down low
and shoot his gun
so that he’d try to skip the bullet
ever so gently along the water
and I asked him if he thinks he could have killed someone
doing that
and he said, “No, of course not”

and the gun that was pulled out after the basketball game

and the time in Detroit when the guys who were all in line
started sharing their bullet holes,
pulling up shirts and pant legs

and the guy in class who said he shot himself once by mistake
and he can still feel the bullet under his skin
and someone asked, “Didn’t they take it out?”
and he said, “No,”

and the guy who pulled out a gun at a party
and said, “Relax, it’s not loaded”

and my old poetry teacher
in Virginia
who told the class that he shot and killed his brother
by mistake
when they were both little boys

and the guy from my Religious Studies class
at Central Michigan University
who showed me he keeps a gun under his couch
and he slid the gun back under the cushions
and tried to start talking about God again
but God was overshadowed by the gun
where I couldn’t think about God anymore,
just about what direction the gun was pointed right now.

Ron Riekki’s most recent book is Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press).