John Timothy Robinson
Mark Danowsky, Howie Good, Ali Grimshaw, H. Edgar Hix, Kyle Hemmings, Catherine B. Krause, Bill McCloud, Corey Mesler, Heather Newman, John Timothy Robinson, Vera Salter, Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri, Scot Siegel, John L. Stanizzi, Jody Stewart, Brett Stout, Nathaniel Sverlow
Do you know about the quinceañera? The fiesta de quince años is a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday. It has roots in Mexico and Central America and is widely celebrated today throughout the Americas. It’s a big deal. Call down to your local Catholic Church if they have a significant Latinx community. They’ll tell you all about it.
Although North Americans sometimes irritate their daughters by making comments about being “Sweet Sixteen,” any special observation of the 16th birthday pales in comparison to the quinceañera. The bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah would definitely be closer to being on par with the quinceañera for the importance of it to young Jewish persons and their families and friends.
But, not so much for your local Methodists, etc. Granted, Kaitlyn in Charlotte, North Carolina may get a new (or late-model) Nissan Altima when she turns 16, but she’s not likely to get a party quite like a quinceañera. Maybe a party at a lake house, where Ethan, Tyler, and Ryan all would get too much Natural Light in them and one of them, probably Tyler, would throw a sloppy punch at the deputy sheriff, miss, fall, and hit is head on the coffee table.
But the 15th birthday, for the people who celebrate with a quinceañera, marks the transition from childhood to womanhood. Traditionally, in the years prior to their 15th birthdays, girls were taught cooking and other skills that would serve them well in traditional marriages. They learned about childbearing. During the quinceañera, the girl's father would present her to potential suitors. Accordingly, then and now, the girls are decked out. Beautiful dresses, hair, makeup, nails, all done to perfection.
The celebration of a quinceañera party is an enduring tradition for the majority of Mexicans, and this is especially among families of rural and low-socioeconomic status. Sadly, it is common for girls of middle- and upper-socioeconomic class to dismiss the celebration as "tacky". I don’t really know, but it may turn out that girls from the Mexico City suburbs might prefer a party at a lake house with a few friends. And a new car, but maybe not a Nissan.
All of this to say that this is Right Hand Pointing’s 15th anniversary year. This year, we transitioned from a girl to a woman. We’ve been a little moody about it, but we’re still at it.
To us, this birthday isn’t just a beautiful dress and a wonderful party with all of you. It’s a special day like no other that we get to share with people who are so important to us, who have gathered together to warmly welcome us into the world of young womanhood. This new season of our life is important because we get to put into practice—through our words and actions—the lessons that our elders have taught us. We are grateful for all the guidance we’ve received in our fifteen years, and will continue to receive the rest of our life as a publication. Now, can we please get out of this really uncomfortable dress?
Enjoy issue #135. As always, my thanks to my friends, your editors, Laura M Kaminski, F. John Sharp, José Angel Araguz, and F. J. Bergmann.
It’s a test of some sort, must be,
one that involves black smoke seeping in,
the roof possibly being on fire.
We continue working regardless,
hands pulling levers, hands slapping buttons,
hands making the same demands over and over.
Our eyes start to sting from the smoke,
our throats to scratch and burn,
but none of us is ready to give up just yet.
This is our garden, I guess.
All His Ex-wives Kept His Name
They saved his love letters.
They blamed the breakup
on themselves. They
nodded, sagely, when the
subject of love came up.
He was the best man I
ever lost, was a common re-
frain. And they all gathered
at his casket and cried
with dignity and passion
and their tears were pearls.
And all their tears were pearls.
River of Words
The river is made of language.
It’s made of words
which you and I would have
had we known that they would
soon be gone, gone downriver.
Packing the Willimantic River with thick mist, the river’s profile is
overstated in the landscape between the hill-line and the pond, and a gulp of
ninety or so swallows tosses itself into the air with apparent
delight, looking from here like bits of night or a constellation on the move.
Where Are You Love?
Nick runs through fields of snow in search of love. Dr. Zhivago rises to his mind, love in hilly domains.
His ideal lady: Awkward poise, inappropriate in humor. Wearing big glasses. She must be somewhere.
Only white hills abound, snow pushing at him.
This is crazy, but he needs illogical joy after dating girls who wore practicality, grace like sweaters.
He trips on ice. Down he goes, slow motion. He lands, pain rushes to left leg. Go back, trees chide. This is foolish, mountains growl.
Yet, he lies. Waits, pain rising. Wind whistles.
He lets pain come.
Exit interview. She’s questioned about her sanity. Has it been won? Will it again be reduced to tiny brittle voices, impossible to shake out of a bottle? It’s been four months in this gray granite institution and she feels her spine has become longer but stiffer. She wants to tell the examiners that she will never arrive where she should. That was always true. As true as the arrival of ghosts in January. But instead, she places her tongue on lock-down. Her teeth draw minuscule gobs of blood that she will swallow and soon forget.
H. Edgar Hix
In Their Rocking Chair
In their rocking chair:
Old lady with
an old tomcat.
She longs to be 18.
He grieves it.
H. Edgar Hix
When I first met death he was six years old.
I wrapped him in an old green overcoat
on the night-covered concrete street.
He lay still as a root while he slowly
quit waiting for the ambulance.
Next day, I rode through that intersection.
The trees at the scene had remained, unmoved.
The sad yellow kitchen towel
knows that you will not be returning.
It sags with grief
folded into itself.
No longer your footsteps
squeak across the floor
to make the house speak.
I sit in your chair to be with you.
We sleep side by side in the same firm bed
loyal to each other for forty years.
I savor the scent of cologne on his chest.
He cannot smell the Joy he gave me.
I gag on the gas left un-lit on the stovetop.
He cannot smell the bread burning in the oven.
I enjoy the flavor of baked sole.
He remembers how it used to taste.
He grows fragrant roses and lilies
We walk by the pond admiring the ducks and cormorants
I imagine green meadows and buttercups.
He sees a battlefield over the hill
and tastes the smell of gunpowder.
The house feels good to look at, but Elsa knows the people inside are wicked! The birds in the hedge sing at a slant. Elsa doesn’t want to spend her life trudging—with book bag, grocery sacks, with a baby in a sling.
The angel in the pine tree says sing, Elsa, sing! The man scraping his dinghy’s hull says don’t go to sea! Others, glancing through their windows, think come to tea, Elsa, we’ll fix everything. The mountain behind the church says remember but Elsa is thinking back to those hours when she stroked the summer air, tilted towards birdsong, touched the trill of yarrow stalks, the heat of a heart ripped across the kitchen floor. Once she’d felt the black-sleeved arm of lust at her mother’s neck, her grandmother freezing shut her mouth. She remembers her father and the huge melon he threw down the stairs. Once she’d touched her fingers to the wrist of the small black girl in her pretty dress; she’d smelled the brown trousers and shoes of the guards walking her to school. Once Elsa had eaten baked potatoes and Franco-American spaghetti, drank milk and tasted family . . .
Just for a moment, that graceful house with its hollyhocks and mysterious round window draws her gaze. But Elsa smells bad weather coming.
I drive alone to work again
I am the culmination of
mistakes that led me here.
In my estimation
the world’s rotation
We measure rain in feet
heat in years.
I practice the word "whatever"
It used to be fun. Now it is some kind of doom.
I try forming a smile (no teeth)
like I’m sixteen again, and it helps—
I think I will make
the next mistake now
and then another.
in a cubicle-shaped coffin
dress business casual
don’t bring a lunch
is ordering pizza
Catherine B. Krause
You are covering the whole bed
but I don't want to wake you,
so I'm writing.
The floor of our tent is too diagonal,
and I don't want to shove you into the void
because it smells terrible.
You look like a spirit when you sleep,
too good to be real.
she was all barb and quip
that summer, quilling
while he hauled
the heavy twigs
to make matters worse
she liked to sing
Chinese New Year
We were sharing a meal called
Seven Stars Around the Moon
and you were crying without
any tears being released
and I had never seen
anyone cry like that before
Of course I had never eaten Seven
Stars Around the Moon before either!
I say goodnight
to those I love
no longer alive
it's a sneak attack
coming for us all