Ten people died when I was in the service.
Ten people died and I’m nervous writing this,
nervous that you will not count the two
suicides, that they will be erased, that you will
only want to know the eight, and three
of them were civilians, so then it is only five
and one of them was killed during training
and do we count him? Can we count at all?
What do we count? How do we count?
Who counts? I can count. I can count
to a trillion. I’m sorry, but I can and
the three killed in the helicopter on fire
doesn’t count because we can’t look at it,
the red too bright, the flames too hot,
the war too fatherless, the night too dark,
the wind too still, the memory too haunted,
the food too dry, the milk too non-existent,
the ocean too long, the search-and-rescue
too distant, and there is one body left
and it comes down, falls from the building,
and do we hear it? Do we choose to?
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).