Brian Rihlmann (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: 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.


I had a bit of back pain yesterday
for no apparent reason
from no obvious cause
not unbearable, but tenacious
in its ability to find me
no matter how I stood or sat
or twisted myself in bed
(pain’s funny that way)

it’s mostly better today
and I’m grateful for that, but still,
a crooked, shrunken version of myself
stands in the shadows
at the end of a hallway that’s
not quite as long as it once was, saying
“one day some pain will seize you, my boy,
and it won’t go so fact,
it won’t go at all.”

I ponder this a moment
as I review my history—
the varieties of pain I’ve known before
the many flavors I’ve sampled
and reply “No problem—
I already know what that’s like.”
then I smile, but he laughs
and his laugh
is more convincing


leave the blaming
to others
who weren’t in the cockpit
with you
when you missed threading
the eye of that storm

who watched from a distance
screaming instructions
the way you do
at a housefly
who can’t see
the open window

"it's right there!"

their voices meaningless
unheard through the gusts
and the blinding rain
that was yours

the gravity of a ledge is obvious
for the feet that inch along
the white fingertips
clutching granite

for a body in space
perhaps not—
a wobble, a bulge
might indicate a black hole
some unseen dark object
stripping away surface layers of skin
distorting its shape

and there are strange gravities
as inexplicable
as numerous as the souls
invisibly pulled
and torn apart
like spiral galaxies
shredded, dismembered
into a thousand limbs
hurtling through the darkness

no one witnesses this
and believes
this once flawless pattern
intended such dramatic
and irreversible

or that it acted


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