Just One

I walk the headlands path
and descend to a beach
where a hundred or more gulls
sit in the sand

at my approach they stand
and begin to walk
inching away
as though I herded them down the shore
like a sheepdog

as I draw nearer
the “what if?” enters
stage left

(the phone booth scene
remains seared into my brain)

but they’ll never do it
they damn well COULD
they could tear me to ribbons
pluck my tender eyeballs
but they won’t

they don’t think they can
they don’t think

and us?

someone does

and sometimes
someone acts


then a crowd gathers
and the pitchforks appear
their sharpened spikes gleam
amid legions of torches
burning with less rage
than the clenched fists
and shackled hearts
of those who hold them high
against the darkness of the night
the darkness they perceive
behind those high walls and fences

the palaces are stormed
and the heads lopped off
the spoils divided
and balance restored

for a little while

I come too close, now
a single pair of white wings
flashes in the sun
and the rest of the flock
follows him out to sea

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. Read other articles by Brian.