Tales of Demons and Agony – Brian Rihlmann



i never have nightmares
my demons are not night owls
they don’t sneak out at 3 a.m.
to terrorize me
with their shenanigans

they rise before dawn
when i do
no matter how quietly
i slip out of bed
and tiptoe to the bathroom

there they are
perched on my shoulders
staring back at me from the mirror
as i rub creases from my face

they begin whispering
about the time
i’m brushing my teeth

and waltz through my head
all day long
clomp and stomp
of clumsy steps
on the hardwood

by nightfall leaning
against each other
shuffling their feet
like the last couple standing
in a marathon dance contest

they collapse eventually
they’ve gotta sleep
sometime too

maybe that’s the upside
to all this




the years had changed this town
i could hardly remember
what the south meadows
looked like
before the sea of houses
and mini malls
that now filled it to the base
of those barren hills

a marshy green pasture
in a faded photograph

but you
i still remembered you
vividly twenty-three
waist length blonde hair
coming out from
behind the bar
to kiss me

and how you said
you hated the taste of beer
except on my lips

i thought i’d come back here
across the country
for you

but when i got home
you kept me
at arm’s length

you saw
what i didn’t see
couldn’t see

your agony
that i skated effortlessly across
the fifteen years of you
i’d leapt over

you saw me
peeking at her
over your shoulder




i came home from work
and walked in on you
dancing naked
in front of our bedroom mirror
and you screamed
and covered yourself
but then laughed
because it was just me

i should have laughed with you
and grabbed you
and thrown you onto the bed

but I just turned and walked out
went into the bathroom
closed the door
and sat on the toilet awhile
my head in my hands

because how can you laugh
or fuck
or even smile
when you’re being raped
by life and grinding 12 hour shifts
surrounded by concrete
and cardboard
and people you can’t stand

and the only thought you have
is of running far far away

it throbs in your brain
like a second heartbeat