by Dale Wisely
The Note is on vacation this week. It is a much-needed and overdue break. The Note has been recuperating from a gunshot wound to the abdomen she incurred while working at a bar in Indianapolis. The shooting occurred during an aborted robbery attempt. The authorities have made no arrest and have no suspect.
The Note is my lifelong friend and a former pediatric dentist. To me, she will always be "The Note," my nickname for her since we were children. Many years ago, the aftermath of the death of The Note's daughter in an accident had moved The Note to abuse her prescribing privileges to supply herself with drugs. This and subsequent complications caused the loss of her professional license and much more. Much more loss.
Her physical recovery from the gunshot had been brief and, according to her physicians, remarkably free of typical setbacks. Emotional recovery has been another matter. She recalls how a kind hospital nurse had warned her to anticipate symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A skeptic about psychology, and overly confident of her mental toughness, she had ignored the warnings.
Speaking of mental toughness, I interrupt this narrative to supply an explanation of the nickname “The Note.” When she and I were 13, The Note’s mother had grounded her for reasons The Note regarded as entirely unjust, causing her to miss a birthday party. Mother’s Day happened to roll up. Instead of a gift or a Hallmark card, she had written her mother a note, decorated with a heart, made glossy and bible-black by heavy use of a black crayon. “Dear Mom,” the note read, “I think you are a bitch.”
After her discharge from the hospital and a week at home, The Note had returned to work at the same bar in which she had been murdered, but for the detail that she had not died. After a few weeks of shrugging off regular customers’ expressions of worry about her doing a bit too well, The Note neglected to put the carafe in the coffeemaker while making a fresh batch. She returned to find a flood of coffee dripping down the bar and puddled on the floor.
“I stood there and started crying,” she told me on the phone. “I’ve been crying for 2 weeks.”
Here is your Issue 124. Our thanks to all contributors to this issue and to the fantastic editorial team: Laura M Kaminski, José Angel Araguz, F. John Sharp, and F. J. Bergmann.
After the long convalescence of winter,
white, blue and black, when you cook
all the time in a parody of abundance,
and let your house grown unkempt,
as if it could be someplace wild and lush,
I hope spring never becomes a tedium,
after all we had endured. That will be the cue.
Any Other Crocus
Early spring afternoons—
blackbirds in the willows,
a few dirty hillocks of snow.
I forget, in all this life,
if I'm even alive, have ever lived,
or if I’m just acting out a story
written in some grammar
beyond pain or joy,
like any other crocus.
Half the people in the nursing home
where I work are on a medicine
called warfarin. It’s a blood thinner
for people who’ve suffered strokes,
the same chemical in rat poison—
they bleed out from the inside, cured
from this life by a million cuts.
There are always rats in the basement
of the place. Once, hungover, I slept
my whole shift on the concrete floor
of the janitor’s closet. The cold
of it on the side of my face
was good medicine.
It’s raining this morning, first as a mist, then mini-waterfalls off the eaves. “Eavesfalls” isn’t a word, but it sounds neat. The online dictionaries tell me “eavesdrop” is, however, as is “anti-eavesdropping.” In the other room, Miriam and Bea argue over the use of the single hairbrush we can find. “Do you want waterfalls?” Maisie asks them. That’s their word for French braids. They like the way they look but don’t like how the tangles hurt brushed through. They scream. End scene. They both walk over to me and start pushing my head from one side, over and over as I spring my head back. I look like I’m dancing to New Wave when I wore handkerchiefs around my neck and I couldn’t bear to get my hair wet.
inside the heavy room of the lake
the rust-bucket god
blisters the water
heats fish to shine
we wait for one
to jump out
and drop back
into the hands of vanish and mystery
we talk about it
in ignorance and faith
like it was designed
just for us
Larry D. Thomas
Hovering above a sheet
of Cherry Red Spectrum
she clutches the glass cutter
and readies it for scoring.
She thinks herself a surgeon
stilling scalpel and nerves
to slice the red,
glass skin of an angel.
a seedling will give you shade
if you have patience
look into the eyes
of the dead
are your words there?
dreams and loss
occupy the same cup
light of gentle moon
from his face
to close at night
Alle C. Hall
The Summers of Carefully
Lifeguards in the surf town of Tyee, Georgia, ruled bare-chested from their tall, red chairs. To Cara, they smell like the reason girls were supposed to be careful around boys, but once she smelled them, Cara lost track of the reason. From her towel on the sand, Cara told her cousin, Traci, “They smell like wind.”
“They smell like dead fish.” Traci was visiting from Wiscaaansin.
“Not enough to matter,“ Cara said. She watched their muscles move under their skin. She knew there must be a word for the way those muscles made her mouth feel full. When the guards climbed down at the end of the day, they stretched into long-sleeved t-shirts with Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax printed across the front. Traci blushed.
Cara glistened with knowledge. “Zog’s is surfboard wax.” They were so cool, those shirts.
“They look faded.”
Traci shopped at malls.
Next summer, Traci came back, still fourteen where Cara had turned fifteen. From their towels, the cousins watched a guard rescue a puppy. He was a junior guard, only sixteen. The older guards sent him in as a joke. Cara thought Remi was totally cute before she saw him take the puppy into his lifeguard arms, then bodysurf a wave to shore with the little guy held aloft. Cara imagined Remi’s hands under her pelvis, his one-handed lift as he made her soar. It took Cara two weeks to convince Traci to tell Remi what Cara wanted her to tell him. Then Traci came back with what Remi told her to tell Cara, and Cara and Remi met up long after the too-long day. He had been holding his breath, too. He smelled like her first kiss.
hangs on the end of the rack
its green silk
an artificial breeze.
It’s nothing like the sea
but I think of
the sea anyway—
its coolness and its waves
edging ever closer
then emptying all the pearls
from its pockets
into depths where no one
Big Wood River
This house I’m living in
Has a river out back
Each spring it threatens
To rise and destroy
Water leaking through
faded wooden cracks
Filling up the dog’s bowl
Until it takes the entire little town
Mountain valley a bathtub to fill
6,000 feet in the middle of nothing
where nobody knows me
just my name
but the river rising
won’t be a change
we’re all drowning
in this valley
John L. Stanizzi
Water Meter Reader
xxxxxIn my 20s, I was a water meter reader. One day, when I was supposed to be reading meters, I was hiding in the library, reading Othello.
xxxxxSummer flowed through the open window.
xxxxxMy brain got you all mixed up with Desdemona. I remember being blindsided by my own weeping.
John L. Stanizzi
xxxxxThat silent opening, spring, unlocks so gradually that it is not until the faded print of fall comes and goes with the same measured turning that we will say, The birdsong we waited for, for what seemed a long time, and that we didn’t even hear arrive, is now gone.
We were double-parked in a Mercury Cougar that was old enough to live up to its name. The windows fogged up from the humidity that lapped in waves. He moved closer to me; the neon-lit cross of the church’s parking lot glowed behind him, giving an almost angelic light to the situation. I wanted to kiss him right there. On his neck. On the curve of sinew that ran into shoulder. On the curve of his jaw. On his lips, so he’d stop talking about the stars.
“The stars are going to be falling soon. That’s where we get our license plate from you know? ‘Stars Fell on Alabama?’ It actually happened.” That’s the thing. He could talk about anything and make it out to be the best thing you’ve ever heard. But I wanted him to stop talking. I wanted to lean forward, scoot across the front bench of the car until our knees touched. Then, I’d lay my hand on top of his, or maybe I’d place it on his shoulder, or around the strand of hair that was bathed in backlit, holy neon light. Whichever one would lead me to his lips first.
I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t lean in to kiss him because God’s stare was like sweat dripping down my back even if he was my boyfriend of a couple of months, even if that made it okay. My eyes focused in on the church’s sign, then traveled down to the floor. Fabric was wedged between the seat and the floorboard.
“So it was 1833 when the stars fell, and everyone thought that the world was ending.” I leaned down as he spoke and unraveled the fabric from its spot. “They didn’t realize it was just a meteor shower.”
My fingers clamped on the thin, satin fabric. “I don’t wanna interrupt, but what are these doing in your car?” The panties unfurled from my palm like a victory flag. Or perhaps a flag of surrender. He laughed it off until the sound of his breathing littered the car.
“Oh,” he tried to smile but his brain wouldn’t let his eyes match his mouth, “my brother, he borrowed my car a couple of days ago to go on a date and I guess he must have forgotten… those.” His eyes darted down and he chuckled. The awkwardness echoed off the car’s walls.
“So,” I breathed in, “tell me more about those stars.”
I am haunted.
Autumn smell. The marsh behind Julia’s house. Longing bone deep to run, run and keep on running, run till I’ve escaped the brackets of time.
I am mired in sweat and panting. Bittersweet pain stitches me tight to the fabric of now.
If a pocket is a bag sewn in place
to hold stuff and keep it safe,
and if one example is the womb
out of which we are all kicked,
and another is our colander-like memory,
then we might as well admit
right here and right now that life is
a loosely stitched together patchwork
of holes, and for this reason
no place is safe.
H. Edgar Hix
St. Peter the Apostate
The window washers are out today,
hanging on skyscrapers tall as our sins
and as unlikely to clean.
In my cubicle at work,
like a monk in his cell;
icons on my computer screen.
I see them cleaning the outside,
leaving the sepulcher full
of dead men's bones.
She Explains Shelter
Our clothes are leaves.
We have relationships with windows and doors.
We manage light.
We connect and disconnect.
We ebb and flow, come and go – our lives are maps.
We dance at times.
We need the sound of water.
Our neighbours know us.
Nature’s rhythms can be ours.
We are trees, she states, with attitude.
We are at the traffic lights, waiting,
when she whispers into car-smog:
I want to skip on grass.
But crouched on the backseat
is a profound lack of green,
the light’s still at red,
everything ebbs as we wait,
and we have no idea when or whether.
Anna Butcher is a junior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She has been published in Cadence Literary Magazine and Right Hand Pointing and has participated in The Adroit Journal’s summer mentorship program.
Kevin Casey is the author of And Waking... (Bottom Dog Press, 2016), and American Lotus, winner of the Kithara Prize (forthcoming, Glass Lyre Press). His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry.
Aidan Chafe is a Canadian poet and author of the poetry collection Short Histories of Light (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018).
German Dario resides in Tempe, Arizona with wife, two sons, two dogs and sometimes a fish. Recently published at The Friday Influence, and The Blue Collar Review, Summer 2017 issue.
Anna Dunn is an undergraduate student studying creative writing and psychology at Sarah Lawrence College in New York City. She graduates next year. Anna currently lives in Idaho. She recently completed a journey around the world on a ship and hopes to travel in the future.
Alle C. Hall is the Senior Nonfiction Editor at JMWW Journal. Her work appears in Tupelo Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity (blog), Treehouse, and Word Riot, among others. She is a Best of the Net nominee, won The Richard Hugo House New Works Competition, and was a semi-finalist for the Hippocampus 2017 “Remember in November” Memoir Contest. allehall.wordpress.com
Ashley Herzig is a bibliophile, an art lover, and a chocolate addict. She is currently taking far too long to complete her degree at Cornell. She has never before been published.
H. Edgar Hix is a Minnesota poet. Recent publications have been in Mutuality, Pyrokinection, and Time of Singing. He is a retired office worker still not entirely sure about not having anywhere anyone is expecting him to be.
Lori Lamothe's new book is Kirlian Effect (FutureCycle, 2017). Her poems have recently appeared in Cider Press Review, Hayden's Ferry and Ilanot Review. She is a writing instructor and an assistant baker who can make 27 baguettes at a time.
Daniel Nester’s latest book is a memoir, Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects. Previous books include How to Be Inappropriate, God Save My Queen I and II, and The Incredible Sestina Anthology, which he edited.
Ben Sloan is from Missouri via NY’s lower east side. His poems have appeared in Tishman Review, Ozone Park Journal, and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. The Road Home, a chapbook-sized collection of his poems, is available from Thirty West Publishing House. He teaches and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Much as she loves her students, K. Srilata hopes one day that she can spend her days writing her own poems rather than teaching other people’s. She has four collections of poetry, Bookmarking the Oasis, Writing Octopus, Arriving Shortly and Seablue Child, and a novel, Table for Four.
John L. Stanizzi’s books are Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, and High Tide-Ebb Tide. Besides RHP, John’s poems have been published in Prairie Schooner, The New York Quarterly, Cortland Review, and others. He teaches literature at Manchester Community College, in CT.
Brett Stout is a 38-year-old artist and writer. He is a high school dropout and former construction worker turned college graduate and paramedic. He creates controversial art while breathing toxic paint fumes from a small cramped apartment referred to as “the nerd lab” in Myrtle Beach, SC. His artwork has appeared in a wide range of various media from small webzines like the Paradise Review to the University of Oklahoma Medical School Journal.
Lesley Synge is an Australian writer. Her poetry collections are Organic Sister and Mountains Belong to the People Who Love Them. The film, Slow Days on Old Pathways is on YouTube and her novel, Cry Ma Ma to the Moon, about poets in love, is on Amazon Kindle.
Larry D. Thomas, a frequent contributor of poetry to RHP, has published several collections of poems. His As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems received a 2015 Writers' League of Texas Book Awards finalist citation. His website address is www.larrydthomas.com