I told her gratitude is the key. Meaning, if you’re craving a bright red popsicle but the freezer’s offerings produce only orange, grab it while you can and say “thank you” from the deepest gully in your chest. Then say it again later in the day, only this time with eyes closed to show God that you’re not afraid of the dark because you understand how the divine light permeates all even when it can’t be seen. (I once saw it in flashes in a strip club just outside Rapid City, Michigan, but I hardly ever mention that.) And before asking for another new toy truck for little Tommy or a cure for the crud eating away Aunt Betty’s intestines, step outside and notice the pink sunset. And then the first handful of stars trickling in. Gratitude. Inhale so deeply, it makes you cough—cough up all the mess from the day’s loves and losses, the throat made raw and tender. And then say thank you once more.
using only the sparks
from my empty lighter
I cross midnight
was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is a father, chef, zamboni
operator, and writer. His essays, short fiction, and poetry have been published in
journals and anthologies such as Beyond Forgetting (Kent State University
Press, 2008), In the Arms of Words (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2005),
Blood Lotus, Contemporary Haibun Online, Drifting Sands, Dunes Review, Eclectica,
Failed Haiku, Frogpond, McQueen’s Quinterly, Modern Haiku, Red River Review
and Smokebox among others.
He is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Cigarette Butts and
Lilacs (Modern English Tanka Press, 2008), and a chapbook, The Pie in Pieces:
Thirty-three Songs from the Midwest (River Man Publishing, 2006).
In 2011, his essay “The Myths of Manhood” was published in a collection
of essays for National Public Radio, This I Believe: On Fatherhood
(Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons), and in 2012 was featured on Public Radio
International’s Bob Edwards Show. Riutta received the 2008 William J. Shaw
Memorial Prize for Poetry; and in 2007 he won Honorable Mention in the Michigan Liberal
Arts poetry contest (for his poem “Recruitment”).