Brian Rihlmann

3 Poems

Out Of Our Collective Asses

from the little waiting area
I can look out into the shop
and see they’re working
on my car now, finally

I let the oil get way too black
these days
my old man
would be appalled 

there’s a woman in here with me
standing, pacing
she’s on the phone
evidently with a lawyer
talking about wills and trusts

it seems a private conversation 
to have in front of a stranger
but maybe it’s better
to vent around strangers—
no need for decorum 

one is the good daughter
college educated, successful 
the other’s a mess, a drunk,
and what can I do? she asks

I don’t want to cut her out 
but if I leave her all this money
she’ll just drink herself to death...
she’s already halfway there, and 
her boyfriend is a fucking leech, too

then she’s silent, listening 
she squints at the wall
as though seeking
an answer written there
in some very fine print

I imagine the lawyer 
as he squirms in his chair
pulling attempted solutions 
out of his ass

I bet I know 
just how he feels
Your Daily Koan

one old school weightlifting coach
said that if he could 
whittle a lifter down
to making only one mistake
that was the best
he could hope for

(when whittling wood
it helps to know
when enough’s enough
or you’ve just turned a horsey
into a doggie)

and it’s true—
many of the greats
have had idiosyncratic technique—
Dimas threw his head back
Pocket Hercules yanked the bar
off the floor...

things no sensible coach would teach 
nor try to fix
not when an athlete is 
breaking records
and bringing home gold

but now I wonder
were they great
because of these flaws
or in spite of them?

it’s something to consider
if not to answer
as you stumble 
through another day
wielding your little pocket knife

you’re welcome
Westbound Greyhound Blues

a flat-yellow sunbaked dump, Amarillo
and yet an hour layover 
at the bus terminal is a blessing 
despite clouds of flies 
missing stall doors
and overflowing toilets

a blessing because 
at least for the moment 
I am no longer sitting
a temporary reprieve 
from that torturous seat
the fire in my ass and lower back
the endless war stories of Vietnam hat guy
who's maybe 50 in 2010

I wander the building 
and study my fellow travelers
see the prison ink like faded bruises
the hard lines, dark circles, scars
the eyes brimming or empty
some stretch out and sleep
spooning duffel bags 
hugging suitcases like lovers

outside it's hot and still
and the flies are here, too
they've mistaken me for a corpse
I walk around the block
and encounter no one
and feel blessed, again

back at the terminal the call comes 
too soon and I climb aboard
find a window seat about halfway back 
and watch as they file in
I pray for an empty seat beside me
the answer is no and I get an obese woman 
with B.O. and 5 o'clock shadow
she chatters, I pretend to sleep
kick myself for not bringing a bottle

eventually, I doze but am jostled awake
after 5 minutes or two hours
I don't know and it doesn't matter
all I know is I'm still here
it's nighttime and I'm aching to piss
I squeeze past my cellmate
who hates me for waking her
ruining her dreams

I stumble up the aisle
tripping over feet in the darkness
voices grumble or curse 
I finally give up trying to step over 
and boot them aside

in the bathroom I sway at the urinal
as the bus rocks along the highway
I stand there long after I've zipped my fly
listening to the hum of the engine
I stand there until someone beats on the door
says Come on, man

I sigh, a deep sigh
low-down Charlie Brown deep
I've been on the road about 16 hours now 
only 30 more til Reno

Brian Rihlmann lives and writes in Reno, Nevada. His poetry has appeared in many magazines, including The Rye Whiskey Review, Fearless, Heroin Love Songs, Chiron Review and The Main Street Rag. His latest collection, Night At My Throat, (2020) was published by Pony One Dog Press.