The poetry of Brian Rihlmann


a geologist once explained to me
about igneous intrusions
and volcanic plugs—
how pressurized magma squeezes
between layers of sediment
and solidifies into dark shapes that remain
long after the surrounding rock
has crumbled away

now, as I drive the Nevada desert
as the hypnotic hum of the open road
sends my mind on a pilgrimage
and the mountains and valleys
become mirrors
that reflect my secret face

I see once again
these recalcitrant beasts
rising monstrously
from the plains
jagged like canines
or smooth as a whale’s belly

they stand as stubborn reminders
of elemental inconveniences
they cast long shadows
and laugh at superstition
at prayers for floods

they mock lifetimes
and scoff at generations
of chipping away
with our tiny hammers
well aware of their reason
and their necessity




Men in Prison

what I have in common with them
is a knack for remembering—
for the details
the nuances
of how you smiled or laughed
or brushed your hair
in that meticulous way

how we stumbled down
Bourbon Street that night
laughing, holding each other upright
hoping we wouldn’t get mugged
on our way back to the hotel

how you held your breath
how your eyes grew wide
and your pale skin flushed
when you came
beneath me

and after it slipped away…
the set of your jaw
the blend of sadness and defiance
in the shape of your lips
when you slipped your hand
from my grasp
and said you couldn’t…
not again

this recall ability
is not some special skill
or a photographic memory
but simply time and practice
and obsession

and the fact
that not much has happened
in the past 15 years
to overwrite these joys
and tragedies

or at least nothing much
worth remembering

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 and is available on Amazon.

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