Our Lips Tremble — Three Poems by Brian Rihlmann

Feb 20, 2020

All the way from Reno, Nevada, Brian Rihlmann presents three poems that dig into the quotidian and retrieve from within its uncertain confines the greater meaning of a life lived.

All the way from Reno, Nevada, Brian Rihlmann presents three poems that dig into the quotidian and retrieve from within its uncertain confines the greater meaning of a life lived.

THE SECRET

many men are plagued with a
secret gnawing fear, that their
lives have been wasted. they
hear it faintly like rats in the walls,
termites in the cellar. you have only
to question the value of this world,
this order that they boast of having
built, to discover if he that
stands before you is of this type.

he will inflate himself and raise
his voice. he will deliver a sermon
on the value of a squandered life, of
fealty to tradition, of duty towards
sacred abstractions, elusive as snipe.
he will say to you— go forth, young
man, and do likewise. and smile
goddamn it! smile that I may
sleep at night...

 

TELLING THE TRUTH IS UNTHINKABLE

am I? am I really free?
when I’m hijacked every other moment
when a thousand times a day
a pair of scaly old hands
yanks the wheel from my grasp
steers me off the road
through a ditch
and into the middle of a field
where I sit, confused
spinning my tires in mud
up to the floorboards
wondering what just happened—
of course now I look
and it’s just my hands here

aIl that’s left
is to pound the dashboard
“Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
and after, to sit in silent despair
concocting a story
for the tow truck driver
a deer, maybe

 

LESSONS TOO WELL LEARNED

we learn some lessons
too well
from all our many fathers

like how to flog ourselves
for mistakes
and numb the sting
by flogging others for theirs
and so on

how to numb THAT sting
at the bar after work
and keep a straight face
as we toss back shots
until we can, finally,
laugh at everything
at anything

we learn too well
from all they say and do

and later in life
if we awaken
we learn
from what they did not
say and do

from what they buried
beneath tombstone faces

their zombies claw
the backs of our eyes
and our lips tremble

 

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About the Contributor

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.

Knowledge is like Teher.
A handful of cooked rice
a humble offering
to ward off the grief
from an entire century.
Whosoever receives Teher
does so with blessings
and well wishes.
Today the T in Teher
is the T in Taaleem
just as the K in Kashmir
is the K in your name.
From Teōtīhuacān to Tral
we make a humble offering.

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