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Wednesday, February 15, 2023


by Ron Riekki

            “a slight obscuration of the lower atmosphere, typically caused by fine suspended particles” 

—Oxford Languages 


“Shortly after the police report was released to KTSM, NMSU chancellor Dan Arvizu announced the men’s basketball program had been shut down for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.” 

KTSM, February 12, 2023



My ex- went to NMSU. I visited it and, 

there, she started singing a song by 


Everything But the Girl, but changing 

the lyrics, so that instead it was, her 


voice beautifully off-key: NMSU, 

like the deserts miss the rain! So that 


‘And I miss you’ became the initials 

for her university, and she loved it there, 


she said. And I asked why and she said 

Because it was affordable. And I asked 


if there was anything else and she said, 

My friends were there. And I felt safe. 


And things change. Time flies. And in 

my mind, I go back in time so often. Some- 


times I think that’s what trauma is, this 

constant forcing of the mind back in time. 


When they hazed me in baseball—no, 

when Scott hazed me, when I just wanted 


to play baseball, came up behind me, 

pinned me to the ground, pressed into me, 


this future homecoming court member, 

the summer sun burning its light in my 


eyes, my arms Christed at my sides, 

and he’d spit, over and over, in my face, 


sucking it back into his mouth, no purpose 

except control, and his father was best friends 


with my father, the sickness of childhood, 

the dirt anxious below us, the tree branches 


trembling in the lack of wind, and when 

they hazed me in basketball—no, when 


Bud hazed me when I just wanted to play 

basketball, in a way similar to NMSU, 


in a way similar to Florida A&M, similar 

to Binghamton, the forced public nudity, 


then throwing me into a pool, and when 

I joined the military, it was like some 


infestation, how you don’t fear the quote- 

unquote enemy as much as you fear those 


around you, in your barracks, the blanket 

party done on a kid ten bunks down from 


mine, how they came in the night and I 

woke to the sound of fists in the darkness 


and it wasn’t me, but it would be, later, 

the “Crucifixions” they did at my duty 


stations, tying you to a fence, reminding 

me of Matthew Shepard, and they’d take 


rotten food they’d left in the jungle heat 

for days, pour it over your head, insects, 


the clock, your wrists, the vomit, and 

the repetition, so often, and so many 


who didn’t even fight, how they came for 

me, in the night, because I did not want to 


reenact hell, how they’d come up behind 

you, duct tape your mouth shut, your 


arms, to the chair, wheel you down 

the hall, clatter you outside, transfer 


you to fence, your body a map, time 

a skull, hate a latrine, and they killed 


one of us, during training, murdered, 

Lee, his name, Lee, Midwestern, like 


me, and the “violent physical hazing” 

at the University of Michigan is VCU’s 


death is University of Missouri’s student 

who’s blind now, can’t walk, can’t talk 


now, and the list of incidents, the copious 

amounts of alcohol, the unconscious-and- 


flown, the hit-his-head, and asphyxiation, 

the collapsed-lung, the polytrauma, and 


this is normative? and I see them, see 

their photos, of those killed, yearbook 


photos, where they glow, dressed in black, 

new glasses, smiles of hope, hair trimmed 


yesterdays, majors of Aviation, Engineering, 

Ecology, Middle East Studies, Social Work, 


and I’m teary looking at their photos, this 

sudden caesura,  the blank page,  knowing 


at least one university hazing death per 

year, from 1969 to now, with hundreds 


of deaths since 1838, with the most deaths 

at Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University 


of Alabama. And this isn’t a poem. It’s 

a warning. And this isn’t a poem. It’s 


a war. And this isn’t a poem. It’s non- 

fiction. And this isn’t a poem. It’s hell. 


And I go to the college to complain about 

this and someone warns me, telling me 


not to do it, that I’m just wasting my time, 

and I do it anyway, and I’m in his office, 


and I explain to him how I’ve been 

harassed on this campus, and how I know 


others are being too, that it’s happening 

here, now, and he listens—no, he doesn’t 


listen, he hears me, sort of, and says, 

Look, I’m drowning with complaints. 


What do you want me to do about it? 

And I tell him that I want it to stop, 


that we need it to stop, and he looks 

at me and says, OK.  How? And I 


tell him that that’s his job and he sighs 

and says, OK, thanks for stopping in 


and I ask him what he’s going to do 

and he starts escorting me to the door 


and I repeat it again and he says, 

You want me to be honest? And I say 


that I do. And he says, Nothing. 

And the door closes behind me. 

Ron Riekki co-edited Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice.