Friday, May 31, 2019

Under the Desert Sun

Brian Rihlmann
—Poems by Brian Rihlmann, Reno, NV
—Anonymous Photos of the Nevada Desert


I dreamed I was perfectly happy
my head was a quiet place
I sat in a room with people
who talked and smiled
someone laughed
and it struck me funny
so I laughed too

the tv was on
a show about a family
they argued a lot
but they loved each other
I just watched and felt content

then a voice said
“It’s a nice day, let’s go outside!”

someone wiped the drool
from my chin
ran their fingers
across my scalp
and said,
“This is healing nicely.”

then they patted my cheek
and pushed my wheelchair
out the door
onto the front porch

it was glorious—
the sunshine
the blue sky
and the bright flowers
in the little garden

I made happy sounds
grunted and moaned
like an animal
but no words
came from my mouth 


i’ve overheard it referred to
as “bipolar asshole disorder”
and endured a barroom chat
where someone’s big mouth
assured me
that mental illness was a ruse
a hiding place for cowards

“if these people
got a screw loose
or something rattling around up there
they should just keep it to themselves”

i smiled and nodded
and didn’t crush his skull
with my barstool

later i killed him
with hundred-proof shots
and beer backs
until i’d forgotten
my own name


It may be this question,
above all others,
that keeps me from parties
and family gatherings,
particularly the sort
with those semi-estranged
who seem soooo happy
to see me,
and say how often
they wonder about me,
though my phone hasn’t rung
in two years, going on three.

The question bores me,
and the “why not?” that follows,
every bit as much as the ones
about the new job, the new car,
or other things supposedly momentous,
and worthy of discussion.

And I steer the conversation towards
questions about the meaning of things—
the country, the universe,
or even a single, brief blossom
withering under the desert sun.


I’m not very good
at being alone anymore
and I was never very good
at being with someone either

if I could find the place
halfway between “with”
and “apart”
I’d happily live there...

Oh, maybe I have—
It’s called “the internet.”


you just want an honest man
you say
one that won’t play games
like the others

you don’t

trust me on this

as for me
i now realize
i can be a poet
or someone’s boyfriend
but not both

i suppose i could
write in secret
use a pseudonym

or else write nothing
but love poems
praising you
and us

or about strangers i see
on sidewalks
at the supermarket
imagining their truth
their joys and sorrows

i could write about anything
but my own guts
and marrow
the heart that sometimes feels
like an alien presence
inside me

that tugs me
down strange roads
past signs that read
“do not enter”

all those shocking
and seedy tales
which drew you in
but now...

you’re having second thoughts 


face it, my friend
they don’t want the real you
and they never did

your inner truth
was a thing they laughed at
like a clown

an absurdity that
made them feel
less broken, more whole

they want clever memes
idiotic videos
and photoshopped reality

they want cute pictures
of kittens and puppies
and hallmark cliches

they want the regurgitated opinions of others
more famous and successful
and even dead

the last words of a suicidal celebrity
on a meth bender
are worth more than yours

they don’t want your heart
they treat it like a half-eaten rat
dragged in by the cat

they may smile politely at the gift
but when you leave
they grab it by the tail

and with pinched faces
carry it outside
and drop it in the trash


Today’s LittleNip:

If a poem isn’t emotionally honest…then what the fuck good is it?

—Brian Rihlmann


Brian Rihlmann was born in NJ, and currently lives in Reno, NV. He writes mostly semi-autobiographical, confessional free verse. Folk poetry... for folks. He has been published in
Constellate Magazine, Poppy Road Review, The Rye Whiskey Review and has an upcoming piece in The American Journal Of Poetry. His work can also be found on Welcome to the Kitchen, Brian, and don’t be a stranger!

Today’s a busy day in poetry readings in our area as we celebrate, among other things, Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday. For more about that, see In our area, there will be a reading in the Old City Cemetery on Broadway in Sacramento at noon, followed at 7pm at the Sac. Poetry Center with more reading from area poets, 7pm.

Also tonight at 7pm, and also on Broadway in Sacramento, Speak Up: The Art of Storytelling and Poetry meets at The Avid Reader with a reading on the theme of Summertime. And at 7:30pm in Sacramento City Hall, 915 I St., Renegade Literati features readings of fiction (Jodi Angel), music (Ross Hammond), poetry (Chad Sweeney), along with visual art (Daniel Schoori). Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Today is another birthday worth noting: Medusa’s Kitchen was born on May 31, 2005. Happy birthday, bad girl, and thank you to all the hundreds of contributors who’ve graced the Kitchen with their work in 14 years!

—Medusa, celebrating poets from today and from the past!

 Happy Birthday, Walt!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.