3 Poems by Brian Rihlmann

A TALE OF TWO STARBUCKS 

 

This is the upscale Starbucks

at the base of the mountain, and

they’re filtering in now, dressed in the 

latest ski fashions, eating breakfast 

and sipping mocha lattes.  

 

The conversations are a bit different here, 

than the one by my job.  There’s no 

construction guys bitching about working 

Saturday, about frozen fingertips and toes,

or a single mom telling a friend how she’ll  

probably have to quit coming here,

and definitely get on food stamps now, 

after her landlord raised her rent 40 percent 

in a jump—if she still can, that is…

if food stamps are still a thing.

 

Instead, I get to overhear a guy telling 

a friend how they’re eating at home 

more now, because they were spending 

like three grand a month at restaurants, 

and the other responds how he’s bailing 

his girlfriend out of bankruptcy, again,

but “I finally get resentful, having to

write all these checks, you know?”

 

I’ll just bet you do.

©Brian Rihlmann

THE BEST OF TIMES

 

even in the so-called best of times

there exist pockets of blight 

here’s one now, beside my local supermarket—

two vacant storefronts with darkened windows

 

but between them, a beacon—

a payday loan store

glowing bright

 

a cashier at the counter

smiles as a man shuffles in

his baseball cap pulled low

 

her smile seems genuine 

she’s young, and I’ll bet she’s new

I’ll bet the boss man fed her a line—

how they provide a valuable service

giving loans to those with poor credit

 

“we don’t break bones like loan sharks”

he said, with a wink and a grin

 

though a broken bone would heal

long before this poor bastard

will ever finish paying off these gangsters

 

they’ll chase him for years

with fistfuls of paperwork

more deadly than a Louisville slugger

but nice and legal

 

he stands at the window

staring down at the counter

as he hands the cashier his testicles 

through a slot in the bulletproof glass 

and she smiles, again 
©Brian Rihlmann

 

 

SKINNY MAN AND MR. FATHEAD

 

I hear him from behind the shelves

and I swear

the old bastard

would wither and blow away

unless he was trying to recruit someone

to his side

 

he tells the new kid

about a homeless guy

at the supermarket near his house

about his overfilled grocery cart

how he just walks around

stands there with his cardboard sign

 

totally useless he says, laughing

hehehe

can’t they do something about it?

maybe move ‘em out east….

what’s that place?

sand mountain, yeah…

hehehe

 

I guess out there

they’d have no dumpsters

to eat from

hehehe

 

do they get food stamps?

they probably sell ‘em for drugs

they oughta drug test ‘em

 

and the kid says, yeah…

maybe send them to drug treatment

if they test positive

 

if they test positive, shoot em

says the old bastard

hehehe

 

I leave the area, then

 

I roam the aisles of the warehouse 

pondering the varieties of madness

and circumstance

privilege and free will…

 

I contemplate the widening cracks

we fall through—

are shoved through

when we’re not quite fat enough

 

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