3 Poems by Brian Rihlmann

Those two…you ever seen
the movie, “Waiting?” Or maybe
more like the real life Beavis and
Butthead…always together,
clowning around, hiding out back
passing a joint before and
after the dinner rush.

Well, one day T shows up by himself,
goes straight to the kitchen, and starts
doing his prep, all quiet and withdrawn.
So I ask someone, ‘Where’s M?”
“T shot him!” “What?”

But it was true—they’d gotten
hammered after work and were playing
around with a nine, and….well,
accidents happen.  But before long
M was back, showing us the hole where
the bullet had passed through the love
handle fat and missed every vital organ.

He held up his shirt proudly, as T
reached over and flicked at the
scar tissue with his finger, then
ran laughing out the back door,
throwing a trash can in his path.
M chased him, and we all laughed.

It was 2009. Mid-recession.  I was
still blessed to have I job I hated.  My
neighbor was enduring the gauntlet of
I’ll-take-whatever-I-can get.  We stood
on our balconies, ten feet away from
each other, drinking tallboys.

“Man…I dunno if I can do this much longer.”
“What?” I asked, “The telemarketing?”
“Nah…I had to leave that.  They wanted me
to bully old ladies into buying their crappy
timeshares.  But this new gig…I’m picking
up bodies for a funeral service.  Last week
they found an old man, dead in his
bathtub for like a month.”

“Jesus!” I said. “What was that like?”
His face wrinkled as he lit up, took a drag,
and exhaling smoke, said—“Like soup.”

we sit around telling war stories
and watching a grainy VHS tape
of a show we played 20 years ago
while the twenty something kids
grin, and roll their eyes when we’re
not looking, and the grandkids
play air guitar and bang their little
heads in imitation of the guys onstage.
guys with less grey. guys who could
play half the night, and party til dawn.
guys who had life firmly by the balls. guys
who could get away with anything, who
stole the reaper’s scythe and ran away,
laughing, and was that us? a resemblance,
yes…but as the night lengthens, as we
stand in the driveway still talking after we’d
said goodnight two hours before…
(It’s almost midnight, and we’re tired!)
as I’m reminded of taking over a small
town, how we terrorized the locals,
how we arrived like barbarians at that
spot on the river yelling and pouring
beer over each other’s heads, how we
scaled the razor cliffs and jumped
50 feet into the icy green water below…
(just how drunk and high was I?)
as I’m reminded of this and other
crazy times I barely remember…
I’m not quite sure, though they
assure me it’s true. I love these guys…
they’re like the living urns for the
ashes of my immolated, completely
taken-for-granted youth.

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and 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,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

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