Three poems by Brian Rihlmann



the first ones that came here starved

and ate rats and leather

and later their dead


so maybe that did it

a horror seared

into our collective memory


but the solution

of more

eventually results

in the problem

of too much


when the solution

to too much

is a prescription

of still more

you have insanity


we call it “America”


but would i dare complain?


i love our megachurches

and superstores

the comforting familiarity

of our corporate brands

arches and mermaids

dotting the landscape

like crucifixes

along the old roman road


and god bless

our gas guzzlers

big screen TVs

and McMansions

and the limitless ocean

of credit at our fingertips


tap and click

and millions of packages

keep moving

and everyone’s working now


our cities spread

like desert landfills

and even the seagulls

grow too fat to fly


so let us praise

our brazen leaders

and businessmen

with their selfless ways


for they are thinking

only of our best interests

when they shout “heretic!”

at anyone who dares

utter the word



because nothing


is worse

than not enough
© Brian Rihlmann








Downtown, across the street

from The Sands,

the yellow claw of a backhoe

tears at the cinderblock wall

of an old flophouse motel,

called home until recently

by people who couldn’t afford

much else, now gone



The cold metal jaws

take bite after indiscriminate bite.

Clouds of grey dust fill the air

as chunks of concrete fall.


A half eaten room lies bare,


its guts exposed:

a dresser, a TV,

cardboard boxes,

perhaps old photos,

love letters left behind.


Tough to fit all that

in a shopping cart,

or carry it on your back.


A gaggle of residents

from a nearby motel,

a motel just like this,

wanders over

for a closer look.


They stare in taut faced silence,

watching the demolition,

the inevitable cost

of progress.


A man places his arm

over his woman’s shoulder,

pulls her close,

whispers in her ear.


In a year or two,

new high rise apartments

will fill this space,

or perhaps a mini mall

called “The Commons”,

with five hundred dollar

shoes and purses

in the window,


looking exactly like

a green pasture

where the poor townsfolk

could graze their livestock

for free.


© Brian Rihlmann





they had set the price

for his hours

for days he would now spend

within a new set of walls


it hardly seemed fair

but he was in no position to bargain

with the unemployment nearly gone

and the rent coming due


and anyway

it was shameful

to be on the dole

(everyone said so)

to spend days in the sunshine

drinking beer by the river

playing his guitar

or staying in bed

with his girlfriend until noon


but here was dignity

a good steady job

forty hours plus overtime

half hour for lunch

to be belittled and shoved around

by the boss man and told

“we’re working twelves this week”

and if he didn’t like it

“there’s the door”


but every two weeks

came the big reward


he remembered as a boy

hearing a man talk about the future

and how machines would do all the work

and everyone would lead lives of leisure


he thought about that

as he worked the first

of many long days

moving cardboard boxes

from one place

to another


© Brian Rihlmann

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