Poem for Those Who Have No Real Comprehension of PTSD I

Ron Riekki

The military, as we know, reduces 
everything to a few letters and 
numbers, abbreviations and
statistics and when I look at the
statistics in the waiting room,

waiting to find out their latest
medical statistics, I realize that
the statistics are humans, that
stats breathe, that stats have
a pulse, or, at least these ones

do, as the dead are also stats,
have a breath of sorts, in me-
mory, the hyphens of death,
the hyphens of memory, how
we connect the stat with the

heart, the stat with the tomb-
stone, the way that 22 of us
kill ourselves every day
and this beauty of 22, how
it repeats, how the statistic

is repeated, as if repetition
means anything, as if all
the pushups in boot camp
will save us from strange
lung cancers where the doc

says, “I haven’t seen this
one before.” And he says
one, a number that reminds
me of none, how it’s hidden
inside, swallows, the 0 as

a hole that we dove into,
hid, had our youths drain
away doing things like
painting the underside
of stairs and staring at

stars while B-52s started
their engines in the back-
ground, soon to change
the ground from even
to odd, soon to tear into

the earth, and our hearts’
statistics come back—They
scream to us in the waiting
room, screaming out a number:
22.  22.  22.  22!  22!


Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Independent Publisher Book Award), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Michigan Notable Book), and U.P.: a novel. Upcoming books in 2019: Posttraumatic: a memoir—essays & flash non-fiction on the military, prison, iggy pop, the devil, & writing (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press, with Andrea Scarpino), and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead: Essays on the Cult Film Franchise (McFarland, with Jeff Sartain).