Monday, May 18, 2020

Ron Riekki


I stopped believing in Berkeley probably right after
I moved to Berkeley, a city that promises to hold onto
all these supposed ideals but then sings the rent out
of your guts until your chest caves in, so I went to
the park to shoot some hoops, the rim locked with
chains to discourage exercise, arriving to find cops there,
multiple. When the police arrive in Berkeley, they drive
up in droves—a sleuth of cops, a sloth of cops, a litter
of cops, a pack of cops, a cowardice of cops, a drift
of cops, a sounder of cops, a team of cops, a passel of cops,
a grist, a hive, a swarm, a nest, a lounge—I don’t know
how you want to call it. You decide. Based on your
feelings, your opinions, your oppressions, your troops
and scourges and waits. All I know is there was one perp,
one person, one perturbed perplexed personage with
peripeteia and petechiae aching and perched on a park bench,
one cop temp-checking the guy in cuffs, and so I shouted
to the cops to see if they needed an N95, because I was willing
to give them mine, and one cop pointed to the homemade mask
wrapped around his neck, as if his neck was where he breathed,
and I think that meant, “nah, we’re good” and another cop
came out of the woods nearby—this was down by the water,
which is where a helluva lot of crime happens in Berkeley
and Oakland and Albany and El Cerrito, as if H20 stands
for Homicide to Open container, as if water and manslaughter
go hand-in-hand like rhyming—and when I’d go down there
I’d see all the broken glass from all the smashed windshields
from all the smash-and-grabs, homeless desperate for change,
for quarters and nickels, pennies and lint—and I yelled to the cops
asking, “Can I play basketball?” because it was the pandemic
and all the rules change during a pandemic, where even
the basketball courts are locked and chained and imprisoned
and malnourished and PTSDed and there were helicopters over-
head, as if helicopters and pandemics go together like chocolate
and romance, and the cop yelled back, “I don’t know. Can you?”
And I think that meant yes, because I started shooting and the guy
was hauled off hog-tied or beagle-tied or bear-tired or whatever
the term is and then a homeless-y looking guy came out of the other
side of the woods, all clumsy, clumsy trees, clumsy guy, and he had
a ball in his hands, a basketball, and he walked straight at me,
until he was six inches away, not six feet away, doing his asocial
distancing, saying, “You’re done, my turn” and he turned to shoot
and I said I was almost done and he said, “You’re done now”
and he shot and I said gimme ten minutes to finish and he said,
“Get off the court or I’ll kill you” and I said, “What?” and he
said, “Shoot you,” and park guy with his yellow vest biked up
on his bike and I yelled, “This guy just threatened my life and
the park-vest-yellowy guy stopped and I repeated it and he said,
“Then leave,” and I said it’s against the law to threaten some-
one’s life, and the bike guy said, “Follow me,” so I followed
and he went down a path and I went down a path and he was
biking quickly, too fast, so that I started jogging and he stopped
and I said it’s against the law to threaten someone’s life and
the guy on the bike said I should leave and I wasn’t threatening
anyone’s life and then the park-vest guy biked away and I yelled,
asking if he could help me file a complaint against the guy
and the park-bike guy yelled back, “There are police everywhere.
Find some” and he was gone, down the path, on his bike, with his
vest, whistling, his whistling fading, his bike fading, the park
fading, and I walked towards my car in the parking lot, stepping
on glass like fire flickering from the sun, a hundred little bonfires.

Keith Snyder reads "CA":

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Ron confesses: "I've always been intrigued at how often I hear males threaten other males with death when just those threats alone are assault misdemeanors, so I wanted to write a poem on the topic; it's based on some actual events but with fictionalizing."

Image by Amelie Jumel
RON RIEKKI’s books include U.P. (Ghost Road Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press).


Rachel Lynn McGuire said...

The tone and voice of this one make it so approachable.

Unknown said...

Wow. A riveting piece.