Riekki, Ron

There are No Black Bears in My State, Ron Riekki

There were black bears here, none now.
There were indigenous tribes here, none now.

I was on an elevator yesterday and two people
talked through me, as if I wasn’t even there.

My best friend, Anishinaabe, told me that maps
are comic, maps are tragic, maps are make-believe.

The bonfire was running low, the loons by the lake
no longer talking to the world, and she ripped out

a bunch of southern states and threw them in the fire.
We drank pine-needle tea. Earlier we’d eaten bison

burgers. She threw Kentucky into the flames; she
threw Arkansas into the fire; Missouri into the fire;

they have no federally recognized tribes. We sang.
This is our home. We sang, This is our home

in Anishinaabe. So that the trees could hear.
We sang, This is our home in English, so that

the landlords could hear, the landdictators,
the landmasters, the landtyrants. And we canoed

with canoes we had made, and we slept
with the song This is our home in our arteries, veins.

I am Saami. I am Karelian. I am niiji. I am
in a state with no federally recognized tribes,

but we breathe and our hearts beat and the wind
blows and the sun beats out its heat, insisting.

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). Riekki co-edited Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited And Here (MSU Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).