Poetry from Brian Rihlmann

ARTISTS, ALL
if we cannot leave behind
poetry
a garden
or children
wiser than we were

then we will leave daydreams
of an ideal world
like traces of music
unheard
reverberating across the sky

and etch the scars
of our separation
like bathroom wall vandals
onto other bodies and souls

and the earth

leaving our denuded
and scorched masterpiece
with not a creature left
to piss on the ashes

CASTING OUR NETS
On New Year’s Eve,
a young woman writes in the sand
with a stick of washed up driftwood
faded white as bone:

“Joy”
“Love”
“Empowered”

and then lets the ocean
pull the words into her depths,
as though casting a net
to draw from the universe
the desired things themselves.

I remember writing our names
on a beach somewhere,
inside a heart,
with the word “forever,”

and how we stood
on the cliff above,
looking down on it,
wrapped in each other’s arms.

The waves took that, too.

You know
how this ends.

Maybe I should tell her about that,
but she probably read about
this inscribing-hopes-in-the-sand technique
in some bestselling book,
and I am just a nosy guy
walking alone on a beach.

WE LONERS
we loners
drift far from the harbor
of family and friends
solitary buoys bobbing
on a swollen sea of time
too much time
riding relentless waves
of contemplation
mad surfers with
but one life
yet unafraid of what
curiosity
did to the cat
we pursue threads
of memory and imagination
through crooked passages
howling and dark
snipping the pieces
that stick to our grasping fingers
stuffing our pockets full
and with these
invisible fibers
weave a cocoon
to huddle in
over the years
adding layers
patching holes
and inside
echoes of echoes
swallow the original voice
as their volume swells
a whirlpool of static
mistaken for self
as burly white coated men
drag shackled sanity
off in a padded van
alone
one’s madness
becomes the truth
of a god
whose whims
are chiseled
in stone
we kneel before
our mirrors
then destroy them
THE ROUGHEST DRAFT
You were my roughest draft of all,
a piece written
and rewritten
until my brain smoldered,
and the pen
grew too heavy
for my fingers to hold.

We’re a story
no one could write,
though I tried.

Pages upon pages of you,
of angrily slanted scrawls
and wild loops
crossing lines into margins,
sometimes plunging
off the sharp white edge
like a 2 a.m. drunk
driving off a cliff.

I keep them
in my bedroom closet,
their futile ink fading
inside a cardboard coffin,
buried beneath a pile
of old clothes
that don’t fit anymore.

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