Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Friday, June 14, 2024


by Ron Riekki

Photograph by Angela Callanan

“Chicago shootings: At least 33 shot, 5 fatally, in weekend gun violence across city, police say.” 

ABC7 Chicago, June 10, 2024

“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –”

Emily Dickinson


“Unbending the shape of the pew

from their backs and shuffling

the pooled blood”

Neal Bowers, “Hymns”


I’m writing this fresh as it happened a few minutes ago,

a high-speed chase where the front vehicle almost hit mine,

turning off quickly into the apartment parking lot where I live,

although live isn’t the right word, the car tiny, like a Mitsubishi

Mirage, the back with metal mangled like tentacles, maybe hit

by a cop car, and there are about nine police vehicles directly

behind him—I assume it’s a him, the prisons are filled with hims—

and they Doppler by, police trucks in the rear, a couple unmarked

squad cars in back, almost all with lights on, but, strangely, no


sirens, as if they have all forgot about the sound, too caught up

in this road with its polluted beautiful trees all in a hypnotic

perfect fake line, and I stop there, craning my neck back to

watch cop car after cop car after cop car and then the stillness,

the clouds all leaking into each other so that it feels like one large

pool of cloud that keeps spilling out and two students walk two dogs

and one nips at the other and bark-whines and the silence again

until the gunshots start popping, scattered, quick, then done, gone,

and I park, get out.  This isn’t the first shooting I’ve heard lately.


The last one was a murder.  A sushi restaurant across the street.

They wanted the guy’s watch.  He didn’t give it to ‘em,

so they gave it to him.  That’s what a neighbor said.  The U.S.

has four of the most dangerous cities in the world.  The entire

world.  I live in one of them.  Although live doesn’t seem to be

the right word.  I asked today, before this happened, if I could

get out of my lease, the landlord sitting behind his desk the size

of a corpse.  He talked like he hated talking.  The Lord of the Land.

He said no.  He said I could buy it out.  On Generalized Anxiety


Disorder tests, they ask, Do you feel trapped?  I look out the window

right now, glance, typing this.  The trees are still.  There’s no wind.

There’s an ouch to the landscape, like you can feel the earth itself,

whispering to us, What are you doing?  We don’t know.  In the last

three days, there’ve been mass shootings in Wisconsin (10 shot),

D.C. (6 shot), Alabama and Nevada and Texas and Virginia (4 shot

at each); they only count a mass shooting if it’s “4+ victims injured or

killed,” so that the other 43 shootings where 2 to 3 were shot or

killed wouldn’t have to be counted, and then the eleven pages on


the Gun Violence Archive online that includes the one shot or killed,

so often, when I looked through the “View Incident” option, it lists

the victims as “Teen 12-17,” “rooftop party ranging in age from 14

to 23-yrs old were shot,” “Teen 12-17,” “Park Party” attendants,

“Teen 12-17,” “House Party” teens.  Teens, teens, teens.  Tens

of teens.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  Children.  The repetition.  I keep

writing about this.  History rhymes.  I swear to God, as I’m wrapping

up this poem, more gunshots.  Were those gunshots?  I ask a neighbor.

He doesn’t know, but he heard the cop cars.  He says he doesn’t know.

Ron Riekki co-edited Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press).