Brian Rihlmann



Art by Peter Ravn; Dialog (2010)

Like a Mother

don’t you know that we’re made to
care what others think? don’t you
know that we survived for millennia
because we followed? do you not
realize that the one who says “I don’t
give a fuck what anyone thinks!” lives
in the most turbulent space of all? his
defiance is the cry of a guilty throat,
snug in the noose. but for some of us,
this is the only way we can survive.
we mustn’t care enough to become
marionettes of a mass consciousness
co-opted by the aims of machines,
of a deadly calculus, of rationality
beyond all reason….this, we
must not do. we must awaken.
we must accept separation and scorn.
we must live with the yawning
rift of this inner schism. we must
learn to love it….like a mother.

How Would I Know?
 
at times, I glimpse the hypocrisy of my
lamentations…about technology, the
loss of genuine human connection…
connection I never wanted anyway, given
how it usually goes. I know I’m not alone
here…or we wouldn’t be so eager, so
hungry for all this. we wouldn’t line up
overnight, to stand and shiver in the
cold, to get the latest device, the newest
simultaneous umbilical cord and barrier
between us. maybe it’s for the best—
people are often damned irritating, face to
face, or on the phone. written words
are easier…and GIFs, and emojis—
I can give my heart a hundred times a
day for the price of a tap on the glass. 
same for my sadness, my pixilated tears. 
I can smile and fool the whole world, and what
more could any of us ask for? it’s possible
I’m being ironic. I’m not quite sure, anymore.
consistency isn’t one of my strengths.
my compass spins. either it’s broken, or
the poles have shifted, and continue to
shift. I’m not sure about that, either.

I, Tetherball
 
ever since your untimely death sometime
in the late 1800s, I’ve been searching
for some tether, attached to a central
point. there are many, of course. we
live in a world where they pop like spring
dandelions in abandoned fields. I find one,
and attach myself for a time. I enjoy the ride
as I swing from my chosen pole, batted
by fists and the wind. I twirl and wrap myself
around it in a serpentine embrace. eventually,
my grip loosens from fatigue, or I
let go of the rope, tired and bored with
what has turned out to be another banal
and silly game, and I’m flung into space—
an astronaut, weightless and clawing at
dark matter and the vacuum…as though I
could swim through it towards something…
something different and therefore better.
but after a number of years of repeating
this pattern, one direction seems as good
as any other. this should be freedom,
but freedom can be an awfully big
prison yard, even an infinite one.

Gone
 
I have no desk
I often write
lying on my stomach
on the carpet
like a little kid
reading a comic book
 
or I do it at the park—
a small notebook
a rusty old bench
beside the river
 
or sitting in my car
in early morning darkness
parked outside the coffee shop
just close enough
to catch the WiFi signal
 
the magic of those hours
before work
before the race
before the earliest birds
are pecking yesterday’s scraps
from the blacktop
 
just me and a few dim stars
as the cold repaints the frost
I scraped from my windshield
an hour ago
 
doesn’t matter where
wherever it is
I’m not there anyhow…
that’s the beauty of it

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently lives in Reno, Nevada. He has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, Ordinary Trauma, was published in 2019 by Alien Buddha Press.

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Interview with Brian Rihlmann at Bold Monkey

Interview with Brian Rihlmann at Alien Buddha Press