by Brian Rihlmann  


never had I seen you
so helpless
as when I put my arms
around her frail body
to walk her down
those three snow covered steps
that thanksgiving

you stood watching
finally extended a hand
but your eyes were wild
and confused
like a cornered animal

until that day
at the hospital
when you glanced toward her
from across the room
then stared at your shoes
and said “there’s nothing I guess”

then you were gone
and by morning
so was she
but you still have
your own helplessness
to face


if only it were as easy
to obsess about the rice paper moment
as the page turns or tears

about how ice water feels
as it trickles down your throat
on a hot summer day

on the subtle scent
of a honeysuckle kiss
blown by a breeze

on the first rays of the sun
as they flash across windshields
and taut sunglass faces

or the vibrations of her voice
the meaning
behind the words

as it is to get caught
in dusty cobwebs
in old doorways

to wander lost in musty
and forgotten tunnels
beneath the city

and to read again
the faded graffiti
on those walls

or be sucked into the endless vacuum
the white space
of an infinite, unwritten page

like someone broke a window
at 30 thousand feet
and there’s no oxygen


a father
spins his little girl
on a merry go round
at the park
as she squeals
and yells “faster”
and finally disembarks
dizzy and falling down
but laughing
and I remember
doing the same
as a boy
on a backyard tire swing
and how I loved
the vertigo
the drunken feel
of the world
turned upside down
now I feel like that
most of the time
but I don’t laugh at it


the sheer mystery of it
like standing
at the edge
of a sheer cliff
is too much
for most of us
we get dizzy
we swoon
and step back
onto solid, familiar ground

we lean on the hardness
of stone tablets
recline in feather beds
of unquestioned faith
soft as angel’s wings

but endure the vertigo
of the view
from the edge
find a home there
and you are home


soon I’ll hear
the last cricket
of summer
sing his song
to the chilly night

and I’ll think
of the last man
or the last woman

there will be one
you know

I imagine myself
in their place

and wonder
what my song
would sound like
or if I’d sing at all

tonight I sit in my room
alone and listen
through the open window

fewer but still several
fiddling in the dark

for now
I smile

About the Author:

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, much of it confessional. Folk poetry, for folks. He has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, Alien Buddha Zine and others.