Readiness Is Nothing

I remember when Joe’s old girlfriend
came back around
the “crazy bitch” he told me
so much about
he’d rattle off the same tired stories
until he passed out on the bar
and I‘d mop up the spilled beer
and whiskey around his head
as though he was a chalk outline
on the sidewalk
a crime scene I didn’t dare disturb

we all knew
how this would go…

and I think he probably knew it too
even as he sat smiling beside her
on his regular stool
he was about the same age then
as I am now—mid 40s
an age where he should’ve known better
maybe he was preparing himself
for the inevitable
maybe as his eyes looked
across the bar into mine
they were really saying—
I know….I know this is bad…
I know this won’t last…
but you don’t understand, kid—
how many chances do you think
an old drunk like me
has left?

and when the inevitable came
all that knowing and preparing
was useless—
useless as it was in the aftermath
trying to talk him into pacing himself
to stick with beer only
and leave the whiskey
and the memories
alone

 

A Faster Runner

feared throughout our school
he went on to be a star halfback at Colgate
and then on to Wall Street—
the Big Time
while I skipped college
and moved out to Reno
worked a string of
minimum wage jobs

Wall Street must’ve been perfect
for a lying scumbag like him—
I heard he worked
at Bear Stearns back in 2008

I hope that hurt
but it probably didn’t—
his reward for pushing junk securities
was probably a golden parachute
and a feather-soft landing

we were about 13
when I’d had enough of his shit—
his getting-me-in-trouble-
by-blaming-me-for-what-he-did-shit
and told him I wanted to fight

we met after school
behind the church
just down the street
from his house

standing face to face
him a few inches taller
he asked—
You wanna fight-fight
or you wanna Fight

I wanna Fight I said
and he said All right
as he half-turned to disarm me
then twisted back
and sucker punched me
right in the nose

he ran as I chased him in circles
through the tears and the blood

he was always
a faster runner than me, too

 

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and now lives and writes in Reno, Nevada. His work has appeared in many magazines, including The Rye Whiskey Review, Fearless, Heroin Love Songs, Chiron Review, and The Main Street Rag. His latest poetry collection, Night At My Throat was published by Pony One Dog Press.