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Sunday, July 21, 2019


by Ron Riekki

“By 2050, the Northeast can expect approximately 650 more deaths each year because of extreme heat, the [National Climate] Assessment found.” —“Dangerous heat wave brings misery to 195 million from New Mexico to Maine,” CNN, July 19, 2019

for Robert Francis, Mark Strand, Hayden Carruth, and Reiko Redmonde

Heat and the colors of heat, like coal-mine hells,
and it gets so hot that the moon looks burnt
and the horizon itself is now a broiler pan
and my girlfriend in Lille says, “The fan broke.”
What about the AC?  “What AC?  We don’t have AC.”
And she tells me a neighbor died.  I say, “How old?
as if that’s an acceptable excuse, as if degrees
represent years.  And I remember a line from
Shakespeare: “the very birds are mute.”  And
I remember a line from a newspaper article today:
“June of this year was the hottest June on record

for the world.”  Temperatures climb and I think
of the moment in Free Solo where the guy fell
and we gasped until the parachute opened up
and we aren’t the ones gasping now, but we're
the ones falling.  And when I broke my ankle
in the military, one of the corpsmen said,
“Put heat on it” and there was another
corpsman there and he said, “No, put ice
on it.”  And they argued about it while I looked
down at the purple and brown and orange
under my skin, wondering if I’d ever walk again.

Ron Riekki's latest book is Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice.  On August 25, he appears at Revolution Books in Berkeley with Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Jesus Gonzalez and Sacramento Poet Laureate Julia Connor.