brian rihlmann, three poems


“Die at the right time!”
you said
of course….
you missed yours
you should have gone
when you saw the coachman
whipping that poor beast
and not lived
another 10 years in a nightgown
propped up for visitors and photographs
your mad mustache
covering half your face
nothing but a freak show

then again… did miss
the 20th century
the ripened and rotted fruit
of your prophesies

so maybe it’s always
the right time
and the wrong time

as for me
it’s not yet—
not quite

there’s another book
I think
and then some people
and some places to see

after that
to get laid
get drunk one last time…
maybe I’d skip that

I might actually
want to keep on living

it used to be the booze
that was killing me
now it’s just the sobriety

black sparrow

More than your poetry,
it’s your story I love—
who among us
has not stopped
to stare at the wall and dream
of our own Black Sparrow
to discover us—
to swoop down
and grasp us in its tiny talons,
pluck us from cubicles, forklifts,
from these cinder block walls
these cinder block lives,
and carry us up and away
into a new
and more sublime

don’t try

I’m glad you had it inscribed on your
tombstone, man…I really am.
The implications are everywhere.
It’s really the way—more profound
than we think, yet so obvious we can’t see it…
like strangled air and ozone holes,
like radiated water for three eyed fish.

It’s “try” that fucks us every which way.
It’s “try” that etches our faces into ugly
masks—the permanently constipated
look of the reformer, the broken man
who sees life as broken, the world as
broken, and in need of a fix—his.

Witness the new, more substantial
Christianity—salvation by the fruits
of science, not something as silly
and incorporeal as faith!

We peddle salvation by product,
by symbol and brand, by novelty…
the new and improved, the bigger
and the better.  Nothing is too much
for this bloated beast.  This high tide
has swept away any trace of a line
in the sand. Now we float,
and ride it…all the way.

Yep…it’s a whole lotta “try” that’s
marked us from the beginning,
and will probably be inscribed on
our tombstone as well. We weren’t
ready for all this.  We were too clever
for life, for the mere earth. We should’ve
stayed more beastly, and less “civilized.”
Maybe we’ll get our chance.

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