Three Poems from Brian Rihlmann


I watched from across the room

as he stabbed the keys

with his middle fingers

as though every letter

and every word

was saying

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you!”


and I thought—

“A poet!”


I looked closer—

the tailored suit

the clean shaven face

every hair on his head

in perfect order…


then I saw the Wall Street Journal

on his table

and deflated—


a business man


too bad…

I’d have liked to read

some of that shit!


maybe I’ll start typing

like that…

see what comes out




more are hemophiliac

than is usually realized


and it’s not

a recent phenomenon either

despite all the shouting…



even God himself

or the current tough guy

in the mansion


after the first few—

or 10 or 20…

we learn to avoid

the sharp edges


I’ve heard it said

to lean in

to become inured



but I’m a big coward

and there’s already

so much blood


you can’t go anywhere

without slipping in pools


“Oh!  I’m sorry!”

“Is that yours?”

“No…I think it’s mine…”


people stalk and creep

with eyes askance

faces war painted


in crowds

a crimson fog appears


if you squint

you can see it



as it dampens

and unites us


in red





a joke is made

and it doesn’t seem

to cost you much

you smile

or even laugh

along with the others

and it’s a genuine laugh—

even you bought it

and surprised yourself


but later

after the moment’s faded

as you sit in a room


the machine clicks on

so softly

and does what it does


you don’t even hear it

humming along

as it dissects

and analyzes

and feeds you a steady stream

of propaganda

until you’re knotted

until you seethe

until the next time

you see that motherfucker!

Brian R

4 Poems by Brian Rihlmann

men who believe
is taking it all
whatever they throw at you
without making a peep—
90 hour work weeks
even war…
war against the enemies
of soft cunts in suits
with clean hands
with full bellies and wallets
and blood drenched souls
men who swallow bitterness
like double shots
of the vilest rotgut
and pretend to smile
men drilled with the notion
that the good life
is gritted teeth
and white knuckles
and that heaven
always comes later
much later
every spring
he takes his boys to a pond
where they catch dozens
of tiny perch
little creatures
that wiggle and flop
on the grass
having no idea
of the darker nightmare ahead
they don’t know
they’ll be kept alive
to have the rusty barbs of hooks
shoved back into their mouths
to dangle from invisible threads
in a bigger body of water
to tempt bigger fish
to be swallowed by them
to be dragged, half-eaten
into the boat with them
thrashing in the net
and later
to become man
to feed his flesh
his soul
his terrible gods
and their terrible purposes
I wish I was
a fat happy slob
six corn dogs for lunch
and video games all night
caring about nothing
but my next meal
and Sunday’s game
where I’d sit on the sidelines
chili stains on my shirt
and shout out
the quarterback’s
every mistake
I’d waddle and puff
through the days
laugh at anyone
tormented by life
anyone who agonized
about lost love
I couldn’t be broken
and I wouldn’t have
to give up
I never wanted much
I’d laugh
at their anger
not understanding it
at all
I’d laugh
with no inkling
that the one
whose face I laughed in
wanted to murder me
in the night
that he tossed
and tied the sheets
in angry knots
as I slept
a dreamless sleep
the terrors
of the wilderness
or of a room alone
a mind alone
are still preferable
to the terrors
of the crowd
the tiny bites
taken by tiny men
with sharp and tiny teeth
cannibals who nibble
at my soul
to fill their vacancy
I’d rather be
thrown from a ship
and eaten by a shark
Brian R

4 From Brian Rihlmann


we have all suckled
at her plastic breasts
flowing with narcotic milk
sugary sweet

on screen
even junkies
store clerks
and people like us
with something
we don’t see in the mirror

but oh
the weaning
the horror of L.A. streets
the tedium of the office job
the rusted edge of real love
after that

easier to live and die
in that hollowed out space
in the couch cushions
sucked into the sponge
of another’s story

a sanctuary
where every hoarded poison
can be safely spilled




From the warmth
of my driver’s seat,
I watch him shivering
in the cold,
looking young and healthy
but hacking and spitting
gobs of yellow phlegm
in between drags
of his morning E-cig,
blowing mushroom clouds
into the frigid January air.

Before my eyes,
he morphs into a symbol,
and it strikes me just right,
and the laughter
roars from my mouth,
the absurdity bursting forth
like a rush of polluted water
from a fracked and defiled
mountain spring.

My god…
what a marvelous disaster
of a species we truly are,
our big clever brains
like a comet,
a fireball in the sky
growing larger
in broad daylight.



I could post
a poem on Facebook,
words like barbed hooks
festooned with little ribbons
of flesh and soul
and dripping blood…


and get a couple of “likes”
from friends.

Or I could post a meme,
filled with
a dead man’s stolen words
and suffering,

or the pontifications
of celebrities,
movie stars,
silver spoon brats,

or some sentimental, regurgitated,
pseudo spiritual horseshit,
birthed from a mysterious source,

and get a hundred.

You just can’t compete
with the authority
of the anonymous,
the famous,
or the dead…

or the brevity
and neatly packaged,
wrapped up in a red ribbon truth
of the meme.



Things are definitely fucked,

when you read the headline

and your only thought is,

“Shit…another one?”


And you don’t read the article,

because you know the story

like a bad song stuck on repeat.


How everyone in the place

thought it was firecrackers

or a car backfiring

but quickly realized it wasn’t,

and then screamed and ran,

ducking and hiding

in corners and under tables,


while some of the bullets

shattered glass,

and some found flesh,

and the sacrificial blood ran

dark on the floor,


and then one final shot

found its target,

the target

that was the goal

right from the start,


the dead and bleeding bodies

only incidental,

a way to build up to it,

to summon courage

like a better man would have

with whiskey,

like they used to –


a bottle,

and a loaded pistol,

sitting in the bathtub

listening to sad songs

on the radio.


Don’t you guys

do it that way anymore?


Instead, you drag children down

with you into inescapable darkness

to force your own hand,

because how can you

face the world after this?


Now you can do it…

and it almost seems easy.


Brian Rihlmann was born in NJ, and currently lives in Reno, NV. He writes mostly semi autobiographical, confessional free verse. Folk poetry…for folks. He has been published in Constellate Magazine, Poppy Road Review, The Rye Whiskey Review, Cajun Mutt Press and has an upcoming piece in The American Journal Of Poetry.

Brian R