Brian Rihlmann

Brian Rihlmann lives in Reno, Nevada. His work has appeared in many magazines, including Chiron Review, The Main Street Rag, The American Journal Of Poetry, and New York Quarterly. He has authored three collections of poetry, most recently “A Screaming Place,” (2021) by Cajun Mutt Press.

Scarred For Life

so often we hear
second hand 
about someone’s
strange habits—
their deviant sex life 
or their hilariously 
dysfunctional family
and we laugh and say
to the one who told us—
thanks for sharing that
now I’m scarred for life!
and we are, aren’t we? 
in so many ways, yes...
but even with our
own scars we learn to laugh—
we laugh at the blades
that created them
we laugh at their odd placement 
their quirkiness
those visible ones make for 
great conversation pieces
we like to show them off
we embellish the tale
of how we got them
spin the story into a comedy 
for our audience’s delight
then laugh...laugh
until we cry
and later
in private
trace fingertips 
again across the ones
we can’t show anyone 
or even ourselves see
and we just

Two Blessed Dudes

only three weeks on the job
and they already stick me
with a new trainee—
guess that’s my reward
for competence 
but Rick and I
we hit it off right away
he’s a pretty open dude
we talk up a storm
life stories and such 
and then get onto shrinks—
he’s seeing one; I used to
he thinks I’ve got PTSD
Rick says and I say 
how could you not?
must’ve been growing up 
in South Central 
slinging crack at 13
knifings, shootings
seeing dead bodies...
sirens day and night
like wails of the damned 
he says I’m blessed I made it
only ever did six months in jail
for some silly shit
I say I was only in for
a couple of nights
but it’s a wonder I never
got busted hanging out 
in meth houses
or killed anyone—
drunk as I’d get and 
driving around everywhere 
he listens, nods
I guess we both blessed
he says as he holds up
his fist and I bump it 

On The Attraction Of Poets

I guess the belief is
that we could be
more open and honest
with each other 
than with more 
normal types— 
we already know 
all the dirt 
all the secrets 
we have felt
the other’s pulse 
across oceans, continents 
but oh...
how we can lie, too—
lie spectacularly, masterfully 
(thus spake Zarathustra)
honesty and deceit
kindness and cruelty 
intertwine in us
as in all mere mortals 
(and gods)
like the twin snakes 
of the caduceus 
round the staff
one pair of yellow
unearthly eyes
staring into the other 
fangs out 
forked tongues
tasting the air
a hairsbreadth apart

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