Ways to Struggle
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
John Del Peschio
H. Edgar Hix
Sarah Dickenson Snyder
photo by Ina Danila
This The Note is going to be a bit dark. But most of you readers are poets and so, hey. Dark.
For those of you new to The Note, this is an introductory note provided by RHP’s founding editor—that’s me—Dale. From time to time, The Note is also about my childhood friend, a retired pediatric dentist who fell on hard times after getting addicted to drugs and losing her license. “The Note” is my nickname for her. I know this is confusing.
The Note recently called to tell me she had been thinking about Colossus: The Forbin Project. This is a 1970 science-fiction movie which The Note and I went to see together when we were in our early teens. Probably because of that terrible title, a strange and confusing movie poster, and the absence of any major movie stars, Colossus: The Forbin Project is not exactly a household name. But it got pretty good reviews and has the respect of a lot of science fiction fans. Ron Howard wanted to do a re-make but it never happened.
Here are key components to the plot. The USA and allies turn their nuclear-weapon systems over to a supercomputer, Colossus, located deep within a mountain and protected from any attack. The computer will analyze information and make a rational decision about the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. To prevent meddling by emotional humans, once activated, there is no way to prevent Colossus from acting. Colossus, of course, is programmed to benefit mankind. Shortly after activation, we learn that the USSR has developed a similar system. Colossus surprises the crap out of everybody by demanding that it be linked to the USSR system. Yes, demands. When the USA starts to push back a bit, Colossus responds by nuking an American Air Force base and a Soviet oil field. Uh-oh. The rest of the movie is about humans trying to take back control and the big computer engaging in brutal methods to remain in control and expand its power.
(If this plot seems a little familiar, recall that it was produced in the late 1960s before the idea of computers taking over things became a deal. It was probably also in production about the same time as 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
I’m not surprised that The Note had been thinking about the movie because, 50 years later, so have I. Spoiler alert. The movie ends with it becoming clear that the big computer has got humanity by the shorts. Everybody is baffled, of course, because the computer’s programming requires it act to benefit mankind. That’s when Colossus gives a little speech to let everyone know that’s exactly what it is doing. It’s taking control of humanity, who has shown itself incapable of governing itself. Colossus will end war, famine, and do all kinds of good things. The trains will run on time. At first, humanity will fight back, Colossus says but, in time, humanity will come to love Colossus. Turns out it's not the typical science fiction vehicle after all. It's another thing about totalitarianism vs. human freedom.
All of this to explain this exchange between old friends.
The Note: So, listen, about Colossus.
The Note: Do you think he was right?
Me: You mean, that humanity can’t govern itself?
The Note: Yeah.
Me: I don’t know. What do you think?
What do you think?
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this issue and everyone who submitted their work during the last couple of months. Thanks, as always, to the self-governing, rational, and good-hearted editorial team, Laura M Kaminski, F. John Sharp, José Angel Araguz, and F. J. Bergmann.
John Del Peschio
Just past toddlerdom
two boys discover tag.
Some blocks later—
a man’s sudden eyes.
John Del Peschio
Miniature mahogany armoires
and Superman comics
were what I wanted.
I’d buy comics,
where heroes came to call.
I’d open the tiny door.
John Del Peschio
Whatever you held up,
I wanted you.
The old, the odd
seemed barely there.
Your arms were gold.
cool sweat at Kaaterskill Falls,
the creek’s hush,
my friend’s food,
the lightning bug above this bed—
There’s no way to dodge
all of this dark matter.
You wear it like a hat.
You step in it like a puddle.
Just because you can’t
see it doesn’t mean it
hasn’t got enough gravity
to change an expected orbit.
It drags in everything
you were sure was never
coming back, stuff you’d
mentally sent into space.
You’re crossing the street
when memory descends
on you like an asteroid.
You wake up in a crater.
What you did, what someone
said someone said: thinking
about it all makes it a little
harder not to go extinct.
Lost days, when the sun was beneficial,
my twin sister and I lay on our stomachs
reading Agatha Christie mysteries.
We couldn’t imagine being anything
but seventeen and slender,
just in case, as a hedge
against age and thickening,
we drank Tab, ate salads, smoked
Marlboro Lights, smeared Bain de Soleil
on each other's backs.
The days were endless.
The days were always the same.
We lay in our fenced backyard, desperate
for something violent, interesting.
Neither of knew yet how sunlight
can disappear, that we might spend years,
decades, trying to find another place
that would hold us, would say,
now, you can turn your backs, safely.
The children’s playset
despite its girth,
its spreading roots,
its challenge to the sky,
to the wind.
The soil beneath
is full of stone.
When I’m in church
I see my father
his arms crossed,
his faded Levi’s,
and the chocolate leather
coat he wore
I hear him
call church a whoop-de-
and ask about
and I feel
in some adjacent shapeless soul
the way he cried
after his mother died
his tears turning
the same color
I Keep Reading Apocalyptic Fiction
Shorthand — fast food
The whole freeway stiff
My son sniffles
in his room,
H. Edgar Hix
Cancer Ward Jack-o'-Lantern
They cut me up,
took out my seeds,
even put a candle in me.
I still rot from the inside.
I am full of black mold
where they put the light.
you start out
wanting to write poetry
and you end
just wanting someone
to read it.
Sarah Dickensen Snyder
Drink tea in the morning,
let it move through your veins
the way you imagine your heartbeat
did in those first weeks of a first love.
Eat fresh figs, maybe with a little crumbled
cheese, & chopped walnuts, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
Beware of spidery cracks in the ceiling;
in fact, look up more. See cloud formations
with child-eyes, find things in other things—
let leaves become tongues, pick one
from the tumult in wind, don’t let it touch
the ground and stay away from worms
for as long as you can.
Hand-me-downs feel different
within the disabled community—
people don’t outgrow their crutches,
their wheelchairs, their oxygen tank—
they just don’t need them anymore
and this is either very good, or
very bad news.
The walker I use belonged to a man
beloved by his wife—widow who
gave it to me, when my legs went out,
after they lost to cancer. Daily I think
how lucky, how unlucky I am
to have it.
Small Town Living
My heart is a town so small it doesn’t have a doctor or a cop or a priest, doesn’t even have anyone on standby to plow the roads in winter or fill in the potholes in spring, and maybe that’s why people say all those teeth-rattling, bone-jarring things about me, but you ignore what people say and undo your buttons and unpin your hair, and then it’s like daylight at night, the light streaming in on a soft slant, poking at the black seeds in the corners and the weeds in the flowerboxes, stirring the town back to stunned life.
Gregory Corso was sitting in the window of Allen Ginsberg's East Village apartment—two, three hours, just sitting in silence. He had vowed to himself not to be a willing participant to any further chaos. Just to be every day, it took everything. You could be having a really nice time at the beach or the park one minute and in the next minute there could be cops with meaty red faces gassing and clubbing you. Once at a reading some lady asked him, “What’s an id?” and he thought a bit before answering, “Eighteenth-century sea captains carousing in Surinam."
A lot of people around here have no idea this sort of stuff goes on. They haven’t heard about Syria. They say, “Where is Syria?” Some think it’s Siberia. Several pieces of evidence show it must be Van Gogh’s suicide gun. Night stretches on for days. There are guys with their dicks out. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if sometime soon all packaged items come labeled: “Do not insert in rectum or vagina using fingers or mechanical device.” Only the little birds out back seem to know what’s what, darting, gliding, fluttering, then sharing battered space on a leafless branch.
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Out of This World
I see green for miles and miles.
I do not see you. I do
not see things out of this world
like green Martians. I just
see trees, grass, and leaves. I used
to get carsick when I
was small. Then I got used to it.
I got used to going
on long drives. With time I hope
I get used to living
without you in my life.
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
in the rain,
every drop unique.
It was my way to struggle—
large puzzles, complicated designs,
a wild effort to exhaust myself.
Go to pieces.
Large puzzles, complicated designs
(looking larger than life)
go to pieces
in a stage whisper.
Looking larger than life,
a wild effort to exhaust myself
in a stage whisper—
it is my way to struggle.
A pantoum composed from Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews.
For weeks, scientists in Russia lean over petri dishes
and study 40,000-year-old nematodes found frozen in permafrost.
One of these roundworms was discovered deep in an ancient squirrel burrow.
After several weeks of being kissed by 68 degrees Fahrenheit,
the worms begin to undulate and eat. I tell this to Gladys. She’s not surprised.
See, she says, we all pick up where we left off.
I release me.
All I kill
Hugh Anderson is a Vancouver Islander. Sometimes an actor, sometimes a teacher, once even a bus driver, but always a poet. His most recent publications include 3 Elements Review, Praxis Magazine Online, Grain, Vallum, Right Hand Pointing, and The Willawaw Journal, with work forthcoming in The Tulane Review. He has one Pushcart Prize nomination.
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal was born in Mexico, lives in California, and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. Some of his most recent poems have appeared in Ariel Chart, Blue Collar Review, and the Dissident Voice.
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking Pushcart Prize nominee and author of Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press). Disabled with scoliosis her poems often focus on trauma. Kelsey’s poetry is, or is soon to be, published in Rise Up Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and Redshift. Find her at kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry.
Chris Bullard lives in Philadelphia, PA. Finishing Line Press published his poetry chapbook, Leviathan, in 2016 and Kattywompus Press published High Pulp, a collection of his flash fiction, in 2017. His work has appeared in recent issues of Nimrod, Muse/A Journal, The Woven Tale, Red Coyote, Cutthroat and The Offbeat.
Jennifer Clark’s most recent poetry collection, A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven, was released in 2019 by Unsolicited Press. Her two other collections, Johnny Appleseed: The Slice & Times of John Chapman and Necessary Clearings are published by Shabda Press. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her website is jenniferclarkkzoo.com.
John Del Peschio’s work appears in Lodestar Quarterly and modern words. His poetry opens the anthology Queer Dog (Cleis Press). He lives in Brooklyn. He attended Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in August 2018 and was grateful for ten fine days in Vermont without air-conditioning.
Howie Good is the author of three recent collections, I'm Not a Robot from Tolsun Books, A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submission Press, and The Titanic Sails at Dawn from Alien Buddha Press.
H. Edgar Hix is a senior in Minnesota who spends his days reading, writing, loafing, and sometimes even thinking. His poetry appears in a quarterly column in Mutuality magazine and appears here and there elsewhere, including in One Sentence Poems. He's known particularly for looking like Santa Claus.
Michael Kriesel’s 1st full-length collection, Zen Amen: abecedarians, was recently published by Pebblebrook Press. His electronic chapbook of short poems Every Name in the Book is at http://www.righthandpointing.net/michael-kriesel-every-name
DS Maolalai has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco is a new fan of both televised basketball and apocalyptic fiction. She lives in California’s Central Valley and co-edits One Sentence Poems with Dale Wisely and Tony Press.
Trish Saunders writes poems from Seattle and Honolulu, and in her imagination, from the shores of Crater Lake, Oregon. Some of her favorite publishers include Right Hand Pointing, Blast Furnace Press, Pacifica Poetry Review.
Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer and visual artist from Bangalore, India. A Best of the Net nominee, her poems have most recently appeared in weird laburnum, Petrichor, Under the Basho, and others. Shloka is the founding editor of the literary & arts journal Sonic Boom and its imprint Yavanika.
Sarah Dickenson Snyder has three poetry collections, The Human Contract, Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera, forthcoming in 2019. Recently, poems have appeared in Artemis, The Sewanee Review, and RHINO. She has written poetry since she learned about line breaks.