the sky has your number
Hardarshan Singh Valia
Karina van Berkum
Reina Skye Nelson
Raise your hand. When the year turned, did you say Glad to see that one go? You did. It’s a trick question. So get that hand up. It’s okay.
We have these tendencies to blame the year. Bad year! This is an understandable error of attribution, accompanied by magical thinking. These are the same parts of us that lead many to get drunk on December 31, celebrating a particular cell on a table of numbers and letters we devised ourselves. We are desperate for a better year.
It's as if 2020 is an abusive partner we just threw out. We hope the next partner will be an improvement. The annual step out of the orbit just completed and onto the next leaves us lonely and guilty and tired and longing. (Those aren't the real names for those feelings.) We just know this last one has beaten us. So let's throw 2020 out of the party anyway, because the hour came. Get out.
o o o
I close the front door but I keep my back to the party, my hand still on the knob, my forehead against the wood. My eyes closed, I think of the expired year, just ejected, already halfway down my street in the darkness. Glad to see that one go, we all said. And then some kind of uneasiness falls over the party.
The streetlights are out, and there is no moon.
I want to open the door, run after her, call out, catch up, turn her around by the elbow, and have that long and fearless hug I have craved. You have craved. We have.
I want to say to the year, You have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to feel sorry for. You were just the circle. It’s all you ever are. We were the disease. It’s all us.
I don’t want to blame the year. I want to beg her for forgiveness. But not now. Not now. Not now.
o o o
Let the year sleep. She’s had a long and painful night. I am afraid to interrupt her dream, so let's not.
Let’s walk down for coffee and sit over there and look out the café window at the people and the poodle hybrids and the dusty sparrows in the curb.
Here now falls the sunrise, yellow across the table.
0 o o
Here is our first issue of 2021, our 17th orbit. This issue is dedicated to people who care for the sick and dying to whom we send our love and our prayers.
My thanks to RHP editors F. John Sharp, Ina Roy-Faderman, F. J. Bergmann, Bill McCloud, and Annie Stenzel. And we are happy to announce that Steve Klepetar is joining our team and will be reading poetry along with us. Thank you, Steve!
Thanks to all who submitted and all who contributed to this issue and to YOU for reading.
Peace to you and your household, Happy New Year.
Friend of the Atmosphere
Somebody has threatened and bribed
the vast and mighty sky, but
all they demanded was for
the sky to seek out your friendship.
So now the sky has your number,
and it calls you every day.
When you don’t answer
it calls down lightning.
I blame you for this storm.
Proposed Diagnostic Criteria
for Comorbid OCD & Depression
maybe it’s like being a cat—like
always peering out through the notches
of your eyes, like floating
your collarbones above
the inflexible business of your heart,
and slipping in and out of red
chambers. like pressing your claws
into the bruise of night and
lapping what comes out.
Reina Skye Nelson
The moths drink at the well of your
holy stomach. There are bells in the evening
mosquitos and night bees and the lavender
letting off a faint purple steam, perfuming
the air. Such dainty
white things—the moths. Eyes like
milk Soft with an electric sheen
the false eye, the tender kisses
How fragile. How erratic.
We are like them—not blind nor useful,
but we circle each other vibrating, nearly
touching. That sorrowful intimacy
The feather bed. The dust floating
like amber in the air.
How to Spell Chaos with a K
The Amazon rainforest
is in trouble, and the polar
bears are in trouble, and
the woman shot dead
on a Lower Manhattan
street by her husband
planned to divorce him.
To do all this, many people
have suffered quite a bit.
It’s no use to stage a riot.
After 13 freezing winters
in a row, I still don’t know
who’s holding the snow globe.
Hardarshan Singh Valia
At the midnight hour
wind gushed in through the window
opening the gates guarding his dreams.
With his mask
walked to the Wicker Park trail
that was mostly empty, as if
only a few got the news about the lifting of the lockdown.
Stepped on a hopscotch
drawn by the delicate hands
that used red, white, and yellow-colored chalks.
As he hopped
a hawk in the bushes squawked fiercely.
He woke up coughing.
Hardarshan Singh Valia
The Parting Gift
The odd-looking tree
that brought smile
on the faces of joggers
was blessed with a pebble-companion
painted by an artist
who placed it at the tree’s root
before she left town forever
I Am the Kind of Poet
Who Touches His Face
in the book jacket photo, stroking my beard
as if to demonstrate how to coax some lyrical
sumptuousness to the surface from the depths
of my being, or maybe it’s that I’m cupping
my chin because the panoply of words I carry
in my skull is so great, my neck can barely
support the burden. Or if perhaps I’ve laid
an index finger across my cheekbone to rest
on my temple, I’m pointing the way towards
the celebrated frontal cortex, wherein my
higher functioning works itself out. Yes, I am
the kind of poet who touches his face, like
for instance, A.E. Housman, or possibly
Robert Service, each of us sepia-framed
and wedged into creaking bookshelves, all
burnish and contour, like those unassuming
minor marble busts one sees in art museum
alcoves, ignored by patrons streaming past
on their way to the contemporary galleries.
When the Cows Come Home
An elephant sits in the mid-century modern living room,
waiting for someone to ask how do you do?
while someone we love is slipping out a back door
without saying goodbye. We hear a lock click open
before we realize he’s out running with foxes,
silent burrowers, badgers and snakes,
all those smaller creatures that will harm him
as we are getting to know the huge gray beast.
She folds a house from pages
of her divorce decree, cuts out a door,
puts one Peruvian lily, a blue heron
feather, and her wedding ring inside,
then sets it on fire. Their marriage
is in a spirit house now.
on a back porch
in summer with heat
curling all the pages, a smell
of pasta sauce in the kitchen
mixing with that of
flooring. At least
I didn’t have to give
anything up. Didn’t
worry about falling
in the way of ash.
Nothing comes easier
or forgetting the name
of the garage venue
he drove me to
I want to hold it in my palm like earrings
or a baby bird, tuck it damp clenched and shivering
into the blameless ecosystem behind my eyelid;
I want to go home early to feed it
and let it piss in the backyard while I watch.
I could peel it open;
I could spill that stinging nectar from my nose
down my neck, like a flower.
If it weren’t me I’d run away ringing and robbed.
You Didn’t Get Afraid Like That Overnight
Fear is a joint lubricant.
I land back in my body,
leaning to the side like magic.
A twinge in the air keeps me
from falling over the remains
of my whole life:
words bubbling up,
mouth locked shut.
Source: A remix composed using random pages as found in 'A Longer Fall' by Charlaine Harris.
small bodies in motion,
tumbling through the stars,
each orbiting around the other
believing in their continued
suspension only through suspension
the flashes of far-off planets
remind them that
they’re tan lejos de todo,
but tucked inside each other,
they are home
SPACE BECAME MALE, interior spaces female long ago
ratcheting up the pressure,
hawks became feathered shotguns. Snowflakes crystal hexagons.
So the medieval world.
I am a boy.
the lost pianos of Siberia. float before me.
This is gossamer;
voice remaining high
I am not a boy.
Nails raspberry. On the other side of the mirror, is its mercury; winter
A bee in her comb,
A nun in her convent
Honey hived. The cell
the outside world
A geometry away.
The door always ajar
For the sunlit prize, ecstasy.
Sun dips and brightness flows westward.
My eyes drive an imaginary line
from Kansas all the way to Colorado.
My car follows.
I can sleep anywhere.
My signal is heavy eyes, farm lights,
the same song on the radio for the fifth time since five.
Light stretches short grass into long twilights.
Fence-lines run from shirts fluttering on a clothesline
to the mountaintop horizon.
Sameness pauses in small towns named for springs.
Karina van Berkum
My lust has grown
Up beautifully. It started
On rocks and docks
As polyps and now
Lumbers in the places
She might live. Every day
The Words of Poems
I think the words of poems
in the wan milk light
of dawn, when, anxious,
I awake. Frost,
Though nothing gold
can stay, and an old woman
is a paltry thing, and I weep
to have what I fear
to lose, my lips move
in my mind till these human voices
lull me, and I sleep.
Sounds of the lawnmower
is maintaining order.
In the Heart of the City
The sun shines blue over the dome of the church.
Papa paints this scene.
His cigarette glows as he moves his brush
across the white paper.
Mama reads her book by the other window.
They don’t speak.
Across town the Marlboro man swallows stars
and blows smoke rings into the vastness of the universe.
Spring peeper ruckus last night
the Boardman running
full and dark all day
intoxicating stench of marsh
leaves about to pop from mouse-
ear buds brushing
the hills mauve
fiddleheads and ramps
black flies and a few mosquitoes
my father still dead (eight months today)
the lingering cold
I take my mother
to the E.R.
wears a fisherman’s sweater,
a mint nightgown,
her leopard-print sneakers.
We pass Lake Michigan,
her favorite sight.
It’s teal, rambunctious,
but she’s sleeping.
Turning to stone.
Dreaming of light.
Jerry Dennis earns his living writing nonfiction books (The Living Great Lakes, The Windward Shore, etc.) and likes to compose brief works that appear in places like PANK, Michigan Quarterly Review, Right Hand Pointing, and New World Writing. He lives on a former cherry farm in northern Michigan. (www.jerrydennis.net)
Andy Fogle is a Virginian living in upstate New York, a poet studying education, a musician teaching English, and a collagist assembling histories.
Howie Good's latest poetry collections are The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).
Robbie Gamble’s poems have appeared in Cutthroat, Poet Lore, RHINO, and Rust + Moth. He was the winner of the 2017 Carve Poetry prize. He divides his time between Boston and Vermont.
Jozie Konczal reads and writes from the South Carolina side of Lake Hartwell. Besides poetry, she feels passionate about music, nature, and the protection of the world and its people. She considers herself to be an amateur yogi and an experienced napper. You can find more of her work at joziekonczal.squarespace.com.
Groaning and Singing, Judy Kronenfeld’s fifth book of poetry, will be published by FutureCycle Press in early 2022. Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in over two dozen anthologies.
John Kropf is a Washington, D.C. area attorney who likes short poems, fall weather, and crayons. He's currently working on a history of a family crayon factory called The Color Capitol of the World. He keeps a blog about books on an unscheduled basis at https://compulsivelyaimless.blogspot.com/
Reina Skye Nelson is currently working on her first collection of poetry as well as an ongoing 'zine project, "Love Letters from Fairie." She has been published in multiple journals including Alexandria Quarterly, SAND Journal, and the Underscore Review.
Elan Radousky lives in California, where he writes poetry, juggles objects, and sometimes remembers to put books back on bookshelves. Some of his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Eunoia Review.
Shloka Shankar is a poet and visual artist from Bangalore, India. A Best of the Net nominee and award-winning haiku poet, she enjoys experimenting with Japanese short forms and found poetry techniques alike. Shloka is the Founding Editor of Sonic Boom and its imprint Yavanika Press.
Lynn Strongin has twelve books of poems and stories published. She was nominated for the Pushcart, a LAMBDA award, and the Pulitzer in literature for Spectral Freedom, which deals with her experience of polio which left her paralyzed from the waist down, at age 12. She lived in Berkeley in the sixties where she worked in her twenties for Denise Levertov. British Columbia Canada has become her second, adopted country where she has found inspiration from old English and Scottish voices.
Maddie Ticknor's poems have been published in Lewis & Clark College's Literary Review, The Mantle, Susie Magazine, and Sorry Press's Love Letter to My Therapist.'Her poem “American Loneliness” was nominated for The Meridian’s 2020 Best New Poets Anthology. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and works at a literary agency.
Peggy Turnbull hails from the Great Lakes eco-region. Her debut chapbook, The Joy of Their Holiness, was published by Kelsay Books in 2020. She studies writing at The Mill and has co-curated poetry readings at Kathy’s Stage Door Pub in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Hardarshan Singh Valia is an Earth scientist. His poems have appeared in Wards Literary Journal, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, Poetic Medicine, Who Writes Short Shorts, Dove Tales—Writing for Peace—an anthology, Caesura, Sage-ing, Literary Veganism, and COVID tales journal.
Penelope Weiss grew up in New York City and now lives in Shrewsbury, Vermont. Storiana, her collection of stories, is available on Amazon. Her poems have been published in Otoliths, Star82, damselfly, and Dream Catcher.
Natalie Wolf recently finished her BA in English and Spanish at Kansas State University, and her work has appeared in Live Ideas. She currently lives in Kansas City, where she enjoys writing poetry and fiction in her free time.
Lily Beaumont is a freelance curriculum and study guide developer; she holds an MA in English and Gender Studies from Brandeis University, and currently lives in Central Texas. Her creative work has appeared in publications including Open Minds Quarterly, Young Ravens Literary Review, and Rise Up Review.
Karina van Berkum is an editor and poet whose work has appeared in Ploughshares and Five Points, among others. She lives with her dog Macbeth in Massachusetts where she edits for MIT Sloan Management Review and spoKe, a poetry annual. Her first book of poetry is forthcoming from MadHat Press.
Pat Bingham obtained a degree in Psychology in an effort to understand her dysfunctional family. She should have gone with the Art degree. On a youthful impulse she moved from Chicago to Idaho. Her family followed her. Her art is therapy and she is immoderate in its production. Her art has been accepted by Arc Gallery, Woven Tale Press, and Trillium. New work will appear soon in Tiny Spoon, Beyond Words, and Double Back.
Robin Dellabough is a poet and editor with a master’s degree from UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Her poems have appeared in Stoneboat, Fifth Estate, Lines + Stars, Maryland Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Negative Capability, Gargoyle, Westchester Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Friends Journal, and anthologies.