Laura M. Kaminski
F. John Sharp
F. J. Bergmann
about the editors
stand near the gate
Wendy Taylor Carlisle, Catherine Carter, Sudhanshu Chopra, H.W. Day, Howie Good, H. Edgar Hix, James Croal Jackson, Melissa Fite Johnson, Anna Kahn, Melanie Klein, Matthew Kosinski, Genevieve Leone, Sean J Mahoney, Brad Rose, Scott Stoller, Larry D. Thomas, Barbara E. Young
As I write this, I have finished most of the assembly of this issue. All that is left is The Note. It’s usually the last thing I do on an issue and it can be a struggle. Sometimes I have an idea. Other times, I wait for an internal prompt. There is one that has come to mind which I’ve rejected several times. Oops. Here it is again: “Why I Believe in Ghosts.”
It is odd that this prompt is lately intrusive because I’m not sure I believe in ghosts. I spend almost no time thinking about them. I have not seen one or heard one. But I have an interest in “seeing things.” Seeing angels. Seeing UFOs. Seeing Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster. Statues in churches with bleeding eyes. Jesus at the foot of one’s bed. Snakes that roll themselves into hoops and wheel through the cotton fields. I’m interested in the experience of visions about which others are skeptical and which put people at risk of being seen as psychotic or as attention-seekers.
I have mixed feelings about skepticism. When a politician opens his or her mouth, I’m skeptical by default. When someone is trying to sell me something—and sometimes it seems everyone is—I'm skeptical. When a guy goes home from his shift at the plant and tearfully tells his wife he saw something in the sky—some massive, rotating, glowing thing; or his late mother by the road home, arm extended and right hand pointing; or a pack of translucent wolves on the front lawn of the Methodist church—I’m not so skeptical.
I don’t want to display a patronizing attitude toward people who see ghosts and these other things. I sometimes envy them. I tend to believe them. If their visions come from some psychological-spiritual complexes so rich and powerful that they break through and are experienced as right there, in front of them, then what fun is there in skepticism? Why not regard this as a holy thing? Are we really done with holy things?
I'm also open to the idea that there really could be translucent wolves. It’s not my job to disbelieve and my disbelief would contribute nothing. We want to be assured of what is real and what is not real but, honestly, I’ve never been impressed with that distinction. (Go out in your yard with a compass, face Washington, D.C., and tell me whether what’s going on there is reality, or some kind of collective fever dream. Good luck.)
Many smart people believe the universe is a thing of matter and energy and physics. Period. Other smart people (maybe smarter ones) now believe our world may consist of neural networks. Period. Just like the endless stack of turtles, it’s neural networks all the way down, they propose. I’m sympathetic to this idea.
I believe in ghosts because a person who sees a ghost, sees a ghost, and a ghost is a thing to be seen.
Speaking of things to be seen, here's your issue 113. As always, I thank the RHP team: Laura M Kaminski, F. John Sharp, F. J. Bergmann, and Sina Evans. Thanks to all contributors and submitters.
Larry D. Thomas
I am sopping
with the ink
of a cloistered
monk. When I
inhale, a black
hole is born.
split the skin
of deep space.
Each of my caws
is the sound
a god makes,
Melissa Fite Johnson
Elegy for the Video Store
Where I Worked All Through College
Each night I straightened the new-
releases wall for an hour, longer
than necessary, but I couldn’t disturb
senior citizens and teens lost in thought,
staring at the back of a video case,
the way they might look out a window
in a hospital waiting room
or soon-to-be-ex’s Chevy Malibu,
a one-bedroom apartment,
their eyes troubled, their backs
and legs slack. Just to be somewhere,
just to be gone, they were here
until corporate shut it down, shut them
all down, shut down one more
excuse to walk out our front doors.
In the earthquake days,
I ate gas station food, past its sell-by date,
in no-wrinkle Dockers and navy blazer.
Spent hours on the corners of streets.
Made paintings of nothing,
laborious as science,
witchcraft enveloping bone.
I fell asleep, and for the seventeenth time,
dreamed I'd already dreamed
all the dreams I'd get,
in a village where men taught cormorants to fish
and passenger pigeons flock the sky,
a mile of intangibles between them.
I bribe the day with open windows,
gaze at the sea and think of infinity.
An automated voice tells me
I've reached a nonworking number.
poem made of fragments from these poems in the November 2015 issue of POETRY: Rosetta Stone Serious Study of Love Song (From the British Museum)- Ed Roberson; Aunt Haint- Ed Roberson By and By- John Beer; The Pier of La Herradura- Javier Zamora; The Earthquake Days- Kazim Ali; An Instance of an Island- Patrick Rosal; On Seeing Charlotte Bronte's Underwear with My Daughter in Haworth- Vona Groarke; The Therapist Asks 3- Camonghne Felix; In the Mouth of a Terrible Toothless God- Lisa Grove; Old Strange Book- Kathleen Ossip; McQueen is Dead, Long Live McQueen- Brenda Shaughnessy; My Father's "Norton Introduction to Literature" Third Edition (1981)- Hai Dang Phan; Taking Aim at a Macy's Changing Room Mirror, I Blame Television- Marcus Wicker
Poem Beginning with a Line by Kazim Ali
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Who has a red phone?
Who answers one and who places a call?
In game theory two wrongs engender a win.
If I am afraid, I grow angry.
If I am angry, I strike back.
We live on trust or
I sue. I punch you out.
I’ll make the call.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Faced with blood-
letting and slaughter, we call it
disaster, silence at its center
the iris in a state of water.
Can we say how many die,
one by one, by gun,
in an ordinary summer?
We’re already qualified
to recognize the gun.
Lock and Load
I don’t feel like I’m leaving the place. I feel the place is leaving me. We want to help countries, but we don't want to be stuck in their conflicts forever. The window of opportunity to escape is about 13-16 seconds. You have to have a bit of an attitude to pull it off. It’s one of those things you’re not supposed to do. I see teenagers and young, cool-looking guys doing it. When it happens three or four times, you realize this isn’t chance. The island has sunk, but it’s still there, just beneath the waves, stranded between one act and another.
Have you ever watched those old clips of Steve Allen interviewing people while he plays the piano? I don’t trust any of these people on TV. That’s why we’re here. A live donkey and sheep will be fed to the tigers. “Wow,” people say, “this is going to be nice.” I feel sorry for them. It gives me a sense of comfort to stand near the gate. You could hear the screech of tires and some screams. You didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t understand what I was doing when I started all of this. Sometimes I still have no idea.
Pigeons are making a nest in the sink. There’s flesh and blood everywhere. Leaving the house, you always grab your keys, wallet, and phone. You going clubbing? I can't keep doing that. The cops are at the door right now. We’re not talking Sherlock Holmes here. We’re not even talking “Murder, She Wrote.” This is history. You don’t want to be caught in those cross hairs. I saw a black mass of smoke. I felt the fire touching me through my window. When I die, I want my clothes to be burned with me, so I can live in them forever.
Ethics in a World of Strangers
It's true that beautiful 23-year-olds
sprout brain tumors all the time.
Let's talk about something else.
A DJ and his pop star looked at one another
and they looked away.
It’s when you blow your own cover.
It’s when the diagram turns out correct.
Die on That Hill
We were on a plane together,
which was in the sky,
and water from some high tide
was lapping at our feet.
A flight attendant pushed her cart through the aisle.
The salt ate at its wheels.
I don’t know what else to tell you.
I think the plane went down.
Dream Involving an Airplane
The green leaves of the plane trees shimmered over her new neighborhood in the humid summer. High cream-colored walls hid stuccoed villas. Outsiders had planted the trees and built the villas, but now the outsiders were gone.
The villas were nothing like the other houses in the city, where people chatted across cramped lanes crowded with bicycles, hanging sheets, broken furniture, sinks.
Meanwhile, across blocks of lots, there was booming.
She walked all the streets. She walked as if across a large stage. Everything felt too far, or too near.
Death is the place you can go when you don’t want anybody to know where you are. Or if you are in trouble with the police. Since the apocalypse is just around the corner, I’ve decided to hold a zebra-print séance, because it’s a jungle out there. Of course, at one time or another, like something from outer space, everybody likes to be watched, even voyeurs. No, I don’t believe we’ve met, but it could be a lot worse. Just ask the survivors. God solves certain problems, but not others. The apple’s seed contains a kernel of cyanide. The polar bear’s skin is dark as the night-black sea. Your tattoos look better on other people. It’s only natural. By the way, it’s not too late to check into Horizontal Towers. There’s still plenty of room on the mezzanine, now that they’ve prohibited vertical mind-reading. At that altitude, there’s not the slightest possibility of losing consciousness. The worst that can happen is you’ll misplace it.
Higher Order Thinking Skills
H. Edgar Hix
I've also gone without a face.
It was fun, rolling it up like a window blind,
revealing not my apple, which is red and black,
but my inner bowler hat: Blank, well-made,
respectable as any Grand-père distingués.
Variation on a Theme by René Magritte
Larry D. Thomas
Archive of light.
Palimpsest of shadow.
Sand was melted
and cooled for your glass.
A thin film of silver
is your only intimacy.
You hang from a nail,
suspended in a state
of permanent worship,
the image your only god.
H. W. Day
When slain in the spirit,
it is never polite
to peek from the corners
of your eyes
to see if anyone else has finished
surviving the massacre.
And do not,
under the sum of all circumstance,
unless you can place
a cherry stem in your mouth
and tie it in a knot.
I don’t plan on legacy, just space—
between my fingers when I hold them
together—is what I wish to leave behind.
You would think I could have
at least pocketed-out a handful
where you could camp at night,
but believe me places with no parking
are the best: they love you, but they love you
not too much. Naked, they miss
autumn, your footfalls. But they cannot
let you know that. That would require
molecular movement, motes to settle
on your trail.
Sound does not travel in vacuum:
Sean J Mahoney
Fill the room with it, with that air.
Fill the halls and the corridors,
the branches, as it were. Bring us
all the lower explosive limits.
Bird tracks sketch out
a drawing of this year.
If only there were snow,
we might see it.
The hatch marks grow into lines.
Trajectories find themselves.
The view from the air
is where it all makes sense.
The birds sing of what they know
in their thousands of languages.
The news spreads around us.
Sometimes, we look up.
What They Know
If you work behind a deli counter and pay
attention, you’ll keep meeting
couples who shouldn’t be
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don’t—
a mist light enough
that once you’re wet all over
you must not feel it.
Age, coming toward me in the summer
crowd, shouldered past, once,
then again. This time
she missed me
among the thousands, but where
her cool fingers brushed my arm, look,
these mottled spots, these tiny
bruises, brown as fallen prunes.
Barbara E. Young
I have grown
up, out, and old
drinking invisible tea,
into paper vats
of whiskey cadences. Syntax
spoken by no known race curls
around my throat, penetrates my tongue—
layers deeper than mother words. How
can such weird power
buy noodle soup,
James Croal Jackson
I want a mountain
in this Midwest,
to wake and find
a seed of good
in looking up.
I want to drive
into these clouds,
then sew its holes
to hold the rains
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks, and five chapbooks. For more information, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.
Catherine Carter's first collection, The Memory of Gills, came out in 2006 and her second, The Swamp Monster at Home, in 2012, both with LSU. Her work has previously appeared in Ploughshares, Orion, Asheville Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry Review, among others.
Sudhanshu Chopra hails from India. He draws inspiration to write from observation, memories, subconscious, books he reads, movies he watches, and music he listens to. Sometimes a phrase or simply a word is enough.
H.W. Day is an Alabama native and received his Doctor of Pharmacy from Auburn University. Of late, his work has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal & Red Fez. He resides in Birmingham, AL.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press.
H. Edgar Hix does a quarterly column of poems (and occasionally prose) in Mutuality, a magazine put out by Christians for Biblical Equality. This year, for the third time, one of his poems placed in the Evangelical Press Association’s Higher Goals in Christian Journalism for Poetry awards.
James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or at jimjakk.com.
Melissa Fite Johnson’s first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015) is a Kansas Notable Book. Recent work has appeared in Rattle, Broadsided Press, and One Sentence Poems. Melissa and her husband live in Kansas, where she teaches English. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.
Anna Kahn has been a member of the Roundhouse Collective and a Barbican Young Poet. She lives in London with two cats and one human. By day she does something largely inexplicable in tech. Her work has been appeared in The London Magazine, Dear Damsels and The Rialto, amongst others.
Melanie Klein writes, makes things, and teaches in a community college. Her poems have recently appeared in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow and Promethean. She lives in Poughkeepsie and in Canajoharie, NY, with her husband.
Matthew Kosinski is a poet from New Jersey. Recent work has appeared in A Bad Penny Review and HOOT.
Genevieve Leone’s work has been published online in The Curator and Zocalo Public Square. She lives and teaches in Shanghai, China.
Sean J Mahoney lives with Dianne, her mother, two Uglydolls, and three dogs in Santa Ana, California. He works in geophysics. He believes in salsa, dark chocolate, and CBD. Recent work has been published in Wordgathering, Poets Reading the News, Nine Mile Magazine, and OTV Magazine.
Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is the author of Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015.) He has a new website: www.bradrosepoetry.com .
Scott Stoller’s work has appeared in many online and print journals and anthologies including Weave, Prick of the Spindle, Right Hand Pointing, and Best Contemporary Tanka. He lives and works in the Chicago suburbs.
For many years, Larry D. Thomas has been privileged to have poems published at Right Hand Pointing. Recent publications include the Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, Southwestern American Literature, San Pedro River Review, and Concho River Review.
Barbara E. Young likes cats and writing prompts, but won’t try to change your mind about either one. The first poet she found on her own was Ogden Nash, and she still likes her writers sly. The recent (Spring 2017) issue of Gnarled Oak contains two of her pieces.