by Dale Wisely
We are pleased that our friend and frequent contributor Brad Rose agreed to guest-edit this issue. Thanks to Brad for his hard work and keen eye.
It's 2017, as you have noted. I would feel celebratory about the end of the painful and surreal 2016, but for my concern that 2017 may turn out to be, as the kids say, even suckier.
I admit that I am increasingly thinking of the world in spiritual concepts, like good and evil. Why spiritual? It's too cheap and easy to say here are the good people and here are the bad people. So, I abstract it into forces of good and forces of evil and, no, I haven't seen the new Star Wars movie. This sort of dualist approach may not represent reality, but I have no idea what is real. I am a believer in the idea that we all have to have a narrative to live by, and so I'm going with this one for now.
One problem with the good/evil approach is that no one gets up in the morning and thinks, hey, I need to get some coffee in in me so I can start pursuing my evil agenda. So, that's how you can get, say, a White House full of people who are pursuing some evil agenda who aren't necessarily evil people.
All I know is that much is at stake. Evil has to be exposed and confronted. My prayer for you and yours—and for me and mine—is for righteous combat and for peace, for confrontation and reconciliation, for fear and courage.
Think knitting: one voice over itself, into itself.
You work through the air where lie and truth pass each other.
Until the thread forgets it was ever alone, believes itself a crowd.
The person who believes and the person you are becoming.
And the other, who first told. Each makes a thing, to be worn out.
Naos Explains Lying
José Angel Araguz
Signs of life in the stark demarcation
of light and shadow, a starfield so dense
it blankets the barren hills like snow.
Fire on the horizon, distant sun
threatening to rise. Signs of life:
whoever visited here stretched a fence
across emptiness, opened a gate
from sun to shadow, walked away.
There is not even wind. Just waiting.
Above the Tree Line
What few leaves
the Chinese tallow still holds
are oxblood as the heads
of corpulent men choking.
Its rickety branches
clack with the frenzy
of doves, jays and sparrows
ravaging its waxy,
Their BB-sized brains
are barely big enough
to tip them off
the last cushion
between the wind
and the nasty,
of their bones.
Larry D. Thomas
photo by Lindsey Thäden
in the market at Marrakesh
has a tray of human teeth
where he got the teeth from
but if you need a tooth
he will fix it
with extra strong adhesive
you can have gold
for five hundred dirham
browse patiently through the tray of grey teeth
a man loses his illusions
then his molars
touch your tooth with your tongue
you shall find the ache
On Human Teeth
Who was I once
and why have I been corrupted?
The mind of an analyst cannot discover
who I once was,
what caused my stride to break
while on leave at the prison yard,
how I had to disappear
until someone from Amnesty came to ask,
Open the guarded doors, I beg,
to where the fronds are a frilly green in the glade,
sky a pampering reprieve.
There flies the weightless crane,
feathered still and negotiating with the winds
about how best to go the vital distance.
I’ll take a tin roof anytime
during a rainstorm
else what is the reason
for these ears?
Said a Very Wise Man
Two palsied underbites in diapers,
said to have minds of infants, flirt
on a first date through a facilitator.
Bracing their wrists, she guides
their hands, like Ouija planchettes,
to letters on the table before them.
M. A. Istvan, Jr.
It's red, of course. Heavy, rather than solid, with a very fifties look. The alarm is loud and shrill and rather tinny. You can't shut it off sometimes.
The face features cheery Chairman Mao, who beams beneficence upon all. He sits in a yellow sky twixt 10 and 11. (AM, one presumes. It's always morning in the New China.) Across the bottom, some earnest Red Guards raise books—the book, Mao's book—and wave them like Red Sox fans cheering on Big Papi.
The clock runs slow, to give the Five Year Plan an extra year to work.
She wants to write about her aunt’s facial hair, but she’s barely finished the first sentence—“My aunt’s sideburns rested on her face like brown sleeping mice”—when the phone rings and it’s her father begging her not to disturb the dead. Next, she decides to write about her brother’s hoarding. She’s typed only “My brother owns 4,000 wire hangers, easily” when his head pops up on her computer screen. “You’re embarrassing me,” he says, before eating all of her words, spitting them out in a paper wad on her Persian rug, and disappearing. Searching far, far back, she remembers hearing of her great-grandfather’s draft dodging, but the story idea is barely formed when the doorbell rings. Outside is a man in a blue suit carrying a briefcase, who says, “I’m sorry, but ‘Great-Grandpa Willard’ is a registered trademark and you can’t use it.” Returning to her desk, she begins to write about a man killed by his brother in a knife fight over their beautiful lover, a first cousin who’s pregnant with their father’s baby. Relieved, her relatives return to their day-to-day, while the made-up family hides out in a motel, hoping she’ll never find the rest of them.
After 65 years of marriage,
she holds his ashes in a tin box
on her lap, while the coffeemaker
sputters and drips in the kitchen.
He wanted to be tossed
into Lake Michigan,
but too bad, she says.
He’ll have to settle
for the pond down the road.
Then she snickers
and wails at the same time:
the strange sound a sea lion
makes while clapping
her flippers, during a show
gone on entirely too long.
Joan Prusky Glass
All evening, I have been considering boxes.
Hand-crafted ones, compelling and impractical,
the sort that jam easily.
I drop my earrings into one of them,
its blue-bird shimmer
gone before you know it.
I have lived in them all my life,
boxes in which I have become,
with a dangerous degree of precision,
this, that, or the other.
I have noted their contents,
Not bad boxes to be in and yet,
I have clawed at their lids
like a death-row prisoner.
Boxes Have That Effect
Envelope, please. The needle, too.
Steamed open, counting clouds. Jumped off
cliffs like mothers warned us
not to. Don’t look back at
any dark horse, dead wife, don’t think
about an elephant in your mouth.
This year’s winner for best mask, most
convincing smile in an adapted history.
so much too-muchness, like magenta bracts
the berries dangle from, pink as the T-Mobile
lady’s dress and motorcycle. Fruit black
as patent leather in long clusters, stems
Fibonacci-twisting up into enormous stalks,
sapling-thick by August, whatever
bitter medicine the shoots have
if you boil them twice is ripened then
The heart goes out,
the heart returns
undone by doubt.
And then unlearns.
The Heart Goes Out
I am hammering this rusty nail
to the shaking tool shed
and I am hoping to make it
and I thought I was a fool
for doing that
but I kept on with the hammer
You were a river, mountain fed,
though you looked at me like you were starving.
For a moment, I held a bucket of you
in my bony hands, fingers laced, watertight.
We had just filled our noses,
and I ran my fingers over the now white woodgrain.
I wanted to tell you then that lies could be beautiful
if they’re told the right way.
I wanted to tell you how
I once killed a man.
I wanted to tell you that the moon had fallen behind you
And never stood up.
Instead I filled my lungs quietly.
That winter gave a brief ceasefire, and we ate
It's All Yours
My cart was filled with juice containers,
and the guy in front of me said,
I guess you drink a lot of juice!
I explained to him I was preparing
for a meeting of Vietnam veterans
and these were for them.
After he left, I regretted not telling
him how we did not want to end up
a bunch of drunks sitting around
regretting everything we had done.
When it came to my turn to pay
the sixteen dollars for the bottles,
the cashier told me, Not to worry, Sir.
The man ahead of you just paid for it all.
An Incident in a Grocery Store
for a few
After Reading the Latest Issue of POETRY Magazine
What is poetry? Galway Kinnell says, “To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.” Robert Frost writes, “Writing a poem is discovering." Madeleine LeCense, an 18-year-old National Student Poets award-winner from New Orleans, describes poetry as, "The art of getting lost. Getting lost and going along with it, being okay with not knowing where you're going.” Yeats wrote,” We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” Emily Dickinson famously remarked, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”
Why write poetry? Jane Hirschfield observes, “One reason to write a poem is to flush from the deep thickets of the self some thought, feeling, comprehension, question, music, you didn’t know was in you, or in the world. Poetry is a release of something previously unknown into the visible. You write to invite that, to make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable.” Jacques Lacan writes “The reason we go to poetry is not for wisdom, but for the dismantling of wisdom.” GK Chesterton said of imagination generally, and I think the same could be said more specifically of poetry, "The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled; so much as it is to make settled things strange." ee cummings exhorts us, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, “…write poetry, for God’s sake, it’s the only thing that matters.”
What’s a good way to proceed with writing poetry? Russell Edson says, “I write as a reader; not knowing what the author will say next… In the first place, I write to be entertained. Which means surprised. A good many poet write out of what they call “experience.” This seems deadened. For me, the poem itself, the act of writing it, is the experience, not all the crap behind it. To quote Robert Bly, ‘In art, I want to see the ‘unknown’ looking at me.’ I want this too, particularly in my own work.” Wallace Stevens said of writing poetry, “It is necessary to any originality to have the courage to be an amateur.”
What should we avoid when writing poetry? Derek Walcott wrote, "If you know what you are going to write when you're writing a poem, it's going to be average." Similarly, the writer, Junot Diaz tells us, “If you are not lost, then you are at a place somebody’s already found. If you feel familiar and you feel comfortable you are in mapped territory. What’s the use of being in mapped territory?”
How do you learn to write poetry? Asked by an interviewer about his “study” of several poets, Phillip Larkin responded, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, one doesn’t study poets! You read them, and think, ‘That’s marvelous, how is it done, could I do it?’ and that’s how you learn.” Rather bravely, T.S. Eliot avers "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one has to go,” and as Wallace Stevens reminds us, "All poetry is experimental poetry." David Byrne, playfully reminds us, “If you dance, you’ll understand the words better.”
A Brief Enquiry
Poets on Poetry
I want to thank Dale Wisely and Laura Kaminski, and all their colleagues at Right Hand Pointing for honoring me with the opportunity to edit this issue. I am especially indebted to all those who submitted, as well as to all those who will read this issue. I was impressed with the quality of imagination and skill of the submitted poems and fiction, and wish I could have included more than the selection contained herein.
by Brad Rose
The Guest Note
Hugh Anderson lives on the 43rd largest island in the world, looking after grandchildren, playing with trains and writing not nearly enough. Recent publications include Columbia Journal Online, The Quilliad and Ottawa Arts Review.
José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and author of Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press). He runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence.
Michael Estabrook is retired, working around the yard, and writing more poems—trying to, anyhow. He noticed two Cooper’s hawks staked out in his yard—or above it—which may explain the missing chipmunks.
Joan Prusky Glass holds a B.A. and M.A. from Smith College and is a teacher of intellectually gifted children. She lives near New Haven, Connecticut with her three children. Her poems have recently been published in TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, Gloom Cupboard, Literary Mama, Decades Review, Up the River, Smith College Alumnae Quarterly, vis a tergo, Pyrokinection, the Rampallian, the Griffin, and Bone Parade, among others. In 2013 her poem “BathingScene” was featured on the Saturday Poetry Series: Poetry as it Ought to Be and can be read here. She has work forthcoming in Easy Street and Rise Up Review.
M. A. Istvan Jr., still into extreme shoulder pads, spends most of his time lobbying for the rerelease of BoKu, an adult juice box from the '90s. Visit his page.
Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and two chapbooks. He has won several European awards for his poetry and his poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast and many others.
Layla Lenhardt splits her time between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, and she has had poems published in Third Wednesday and The Wooden Tooth Review. She is the friend of a mischievous Maine Coon named Beauregaard, and she is editor-in-chief of 1932 Quarterly.
Kurt Luchs has poems forthcoming in Former People Journal, Into the Void and Minetta Review. He founded the literary humor site TheBigJewel.com, and has written humor for the New Yorker, The Onion and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. His humor collection, It's Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye, is due in 2017.
Irene Mitchell’s fourth poetry collection, Equal Parts Sun and Shade: An Almanac of Precarious Days is forthcoming from Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press. Formerly poetry editor of Hudson RiverArt Magazine in New York, Mitchell, an ad hoc facilitator of poetry workshops, is known for her collaborations with visual artists and composers.
Lynn Mundell’s work has been published most recently in Vestal Review, Flash Frontier, Split Lip Magazine, Dead Housekeeping, and Drunk Monkeys. Lynn lives in Northern California, where she co-edits 100 Word Story.
Jimmy Pappas served for the Air Force during the Vietnam War as an English language instructor training South Vietnamese soldiers. Jimmy received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bridgewater State University and a Master's in English literature from Rivier University. He is a retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, including Yellowchair Review, New Verse News, Shot Glass Journal, Kentucky Review, The Ghazal Page, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is now a member of the executive board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire.
Ben Rasnic is the author of four collections of poetry, three of which are available at amazon.com. His work includes nominations for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Ben finds sanctuary in a quiet Bowie, Maryland, subdivision where the only sounds at night are the crickets and the lonesome wail of a passing Norfolk Southern freight train.
K Srilata hopes that some day she can hang up her boots and write all day. She has four collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Bookmarking the Oasis. Her novel Table for Four was long listed for the Man Asian Booker in 2009.
Lindsey Thäden (cover photo) is a poet, painter, & visual artist from rural Iowa whose artwork has previously appeared in the Harvard Summer Review.
Larry D. Thomas, a frequent contributor to RHP, has published several collections of poems, including As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems which was selected as a 2015 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards Finalist (poetry book category). His most recent book is Bleak Music: Photographs and Poems of the American Southwest which pairs twenty of his poems with the photographs of Jeffrey C. Alfier, publisher/editor of Blue Horse Press. And recently out here at RHP is Larry's short collection Pecos.
Bill Winter lives in Seattle with his wife, seven computers, and several thousand books. He is a student in the Rainier Writing Workshop low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University.
Gareth Writer-Davies is from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, UK. He was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition, Welsh Poetry Competition and Sherborne Open Poetry Competition (2015). He was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014 and also Highly Commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize in 2012 and 2013. Gareth has been widely published in magazines such as Poetry News, The Journal, Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, A New Ulster, Sarasvati, The Delinquent. His pamphlet "Bodies", was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams; his next pamphlet "Cry Baby"will be published in 2017.
Margaret Young is the author of Willow From the Willow (Cleveland State Poetry Center) and Almond Town (Bright Hill Press).
Whenever I find a spider in the house I leave it
alone but sometimes one shows up in the bedroom
and my wife says “either that spider goes or I do”
and at times I confess I’m tempted
to leave the damn thing right where she found it.
But I never do, and neither would you.
Click on the right hand pointing to move through the issue.
José Angel Araguz
Larry D. Thomas
M. A. Istvan, Jr.
Joan Prusky Glass