right hand pointing #146 prime number
Jeff Friedman and Meg Pokrass
Joshua St. Claire
Vera Kewes Salter
Our fourth grandchild, Charlie, was born in mid-November in Marin County, California, where my daughter and son-in-law manage to reside. (That’s quite a housing market.) Marilyn and I visited Christmas week. We had a lovely time, bookended by shockingly uneventful flights across the continental USA.
For those fortunate enough to have grandchildren and to get to be with them, you’ll have an idea of how the experience fills the heart.
Lately, I have had to guard against the emptying of my heart. Suspecting my experience is common among readers of this journal, I wrote my most recent The Note about the disillusionment I am experiencing, and a creeping cynicism and pessimism that isn’t my usual frame. The ability to give and receive love is fragile and prone to be disabled by trauma.
Maybe enough has been said about the metaphorical human heart. This won’t stop me. It’s pretty simple fluid dynamics. There is a flow in and a flow out. If you close it off, nothing enters, stuff exits and you end up with an empty heart.
Here is why I share this concern. Do you know Antonio Porchia? Argentina, 1885–1968. He worked as a basket weaver for a time and later operated a printing press. Although recognized as a poet, he is best known for his aphorisms.
En un corazón lleno hay espacio para todo, y en un corazón vacío no hay espacio para nada.*
In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.
There is a danger of the emptying of hearts. It may not be the chief danger of our times, but it should not be neglected. I can’t let my heart get so empty that there is no room.
2022, we all know, is likely to suck. Few of us are expecting a great year. We’re hopeful for a less sucky one. Here’s my wish for your 2022. Let your hearts be filled to make room.
Here’s issue 146.
Thanks to all the contributors to this issue and to all who submitted. As always, thanks to our editorial team:
F. J. Bergmann, F. John Sharp, Bill McCloud, Annie Stenzel, Steve Klepetar, and Ina Roy-Raderman.
*I am happy to report that 500 consecutive days on Duolingo has allowed me to actually read and understand this passage.
I was eleven. It was raining.
On the lake the anchored
boats moved when the wind
pushed them against each other.
Something small that spoke to me said
I had never been alone. That old
wood wearied, too, of what it took
to stay above the surface of the water.
Jeff Friedman and Meg Pokrass
Memories of Motown
It makes me sad to think about how my father, the magician, loved to dance with me, how he’d turn me in the living room to “Love Is Here Standing By” or “My Girl.” I’d stare up at him like he was my Houdini, and he’d lead me right into his own haze of smoke, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He danced with me instead of my sister, danced with me instead of my mom, a slippery grin on his face, oblivious to anything but moving with me to the music. My sister cried until my mom held her, swaying together in the living room, slow dancing to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” as my father folded me so far into himself that for the rest of my childhood, I disappeared.
After the storm
butterflies alight in the road:
drinking rainwash from puddles.
See how they span that indelicate
wingbeat of a distance
between what we thirsted for
Joshua St. Claire
sometimes we forget
that we never knew
the scent of yucca
after the rain
the bristlecone pine
speaks in ice ages
gone by morning
invite the hawkmoth for tea
the dew dies on the rocks of your face
the dew was once the sweetness of leaves
August, Thirty Years Ago
I waited for you
in the little brick house
and in the yard, under the pines.
I held your sister’s hand
and tried to walk you free.
I ate spicy food and made love
with your father.
When you arrived, I was ready,
but utterly unprepared
for the bounty of the harvest.
I Saw Her
It doesn’t matter
what they say, I don’t
I saw her.
She was right outside
like something from
blowing a hot kiss
out of the mist.
I want to tell you how the hive collapses
While the pillowcases are bleached beyond recognition
All pattern gone.
Ground in. What can I do? Where can I turn? Honey is sweet, wax burns.
I believe in your greatness of soul
While you come back for glasses. Car keys, cell phone, camera in pocket. Memory & language low
above the spoken one
The language that comes to us in sleep
Is like the praise of the bees:
Toward the darkest of the year we veer:
Memorial day clamps the sky with iron: the soldier comes home for sweetness, a smoke, a beer.
I have leapt thru many hoops: wooden, beige, blond:
Some Breughel like in that great painting “Children’s’ Games”
Now with craquelure.
The exodus of many hopes
Thru a darkened
Cathedral door. A call to prayer in a small village. Poppy fields blowing. Heroin.
The lure of healing
Like the brightness this winter morning, a lst day of a panic year, endemic
Which strikes like an arrow, the marrow
Of the bone
& the pupil of the eye: now green, now grown, now rough rouge like a fox running in fear at a final warning.
Appearing from nowhere, like the Northern Lights
A woman’s smile, the hidden history of the apple: cabin fever, floral nicotine-stained wallpaper.
The nurse who said the stench was too strong for her to work the burn ward
The one who left me in a wet bed all night:
Are gathered up in a cup, not of David or Cupid
I have lived a year in my cell at right angles above the library
One story from the street
Beating on bed bars. Not bitter Not sweet.
Time out from untangling:
if I told it straight, pixie-mood. It would break your heart.
Last day of 37
Maybe it is good
to move out of a prime
into something divisible
to let go
to fall apart
to sweep up the dust
of this last year
and throw it away.
Everywhere the snow is melting
exhalation of the old.
Better to count the years
than to count what’s left
better to bruise
than to shatter
to give voice
to the lyric unraveling
Every sentence benefits from a verb. Naturally, this time of year, with everything so seasonal, it can’t be prevented, so I like to be lucky, even when nobody is looking. Yesterday, for instance, I was paid in knives. Today won’t last as long as yesterday, because now I’m doing things that don’t have names. Why stick to my talking points? About half an hour ago, I plummeted into a seething nest of baby rattlesnakes. You know how it always seems like there are more of them than there are of you. Hey, did you pick that outfit yourself?
I Am Here
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway
had been lost.
The BBC news tells of a man who,
drunk the night before,
awoke in the Turkish woods,
stumbled upon a search party
and decided to join them.
After several hours, the searchers
began to shout his name,
and he responded “I am here!”
Half asleep—we long to be a part—
to join in—not knowing
for what or for whom we search.
Who has the courage to awaken
and the humility to answer
“I am here!” when our names are finally called
aloud in the forest dark?
Vera Kewes Salter
The months are going backwards
Time is cut in half
It is June and it should
be getting colder
I saw a firefly last night
A Rose of Sharon bloomed
The hollyhock lies
on the ground
Words become a little clearer
move back to silence
Explosions go off
inside his eyelids
There is a hammer
holding the door shut
Birds of New England, Revised Edition
I bought a book off the bargain table at Costco called Birds of New England. It’s got these detailed drawings of different kinds of birds—wading birds, songbirds, migratory birds. I still haven’t been able to identify, though, the scruffy little dun-colored bird the blue jays always chase away from our feeder. He’s pathetic, like the panhandling wino who limped over to my car at a stoplight on Mass Ave. I didn’t roll down the window. I didn’t even look at him. I just sat there, acting oblivious while I waited and waited and waited for the light to change.
Myth is dead. All that’s left are factory knockoffs, the superheroes in colorful elastic underwear. I had a fixed bedtime growing up. Now I’m up half the night, watching for the appearance of a frightened face at the window, listening for a flurry of anxious knocks at the door. So okay, I’m a doomsayer, a downer, the kind of person most people seek to avoid, intense and bristly and with a brooding apocalyptic outlook. The street fires set by mobs are no less real for that. It’s like I always tell my students, things don’t burn up or burn down, they just burn.
where is the grave of the autumn
from which i never returned
how old is light that cannot support
the weight of falling leaves
when a milkweed path passes in the dark
shall i be lifted up
by what thread will i spin when the sun unravels
will the last of my bodies fly away with the geese
knowing your purpose is the fall of rain
how gently can you live
at the top of your lungs
as you stroll down the street.
at the neighbors.
your open window.
of Venus flytraps.
to the HOA—
there's too much beige.
just to see what they say.
Guinevere is faithless, Merlin dead,
life narrows to the cold width
of a cairn, where sleep disturbs
enchanted rest, and insects creep
among a pile of itching bones.
Sarah-Jane Crowson's work is inspired by fairytales, nature, psychogeography and surrealism. Her work can be seen in various journals, including Waxwing Literary Journal, Petrichor, Sugar Suites and Iron Horse Literary Review. You can find her on Twitter @Sarahjfc or on her website at www.sarahjanecrowson.art
Jon Densford resides in Memphis, Tennessee. He has had several poems appear in Right Hand Pointing, One Sentence Poems, and print journals. He is a proud grandfather and an awesome fisherman.
Jeff Friedman has published eight collections of poetry and prose, including The Marksman and Floating Tales. He has received numerous awards and prizes.
Robbie Gamble’s chapbook A Can of Pinto Beans is forthcoming in 2022 from Lily Poetry Review Books. He divides his time between Boston and an apple orchard in Vermont.
Laura Goldin is a publishing lawyer in New York. She has studied with Hermine Meinhard, Elaine Equi, Jim Moore, and Mary Stewart Hammond, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Comstock Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and Driftwood, among other publications.
Howie Good is the author of Failed Haiku, a poetry collection that is the co-winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press Chapbook Contest. It is scheduled for publication in summer 2022. Howie is a regular contributor to RHP.
Grant Hackett lives and works in the Yellow Springs of Ohio.
Julia McConnell is a poet and librarian. Her chapbook, Against the Blue, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Her work has appeared in Plainsongs, Screen Door Review, SWWIM, Lavender Review, MockingHeart Review, and other journals. Originally from Oklahoma, Julia lives in Seattle with her Jack Russell terrier.
Jeffrey Park lives in Ebergötzen, Germany, population 1,800 and home of the European Bread Museum (really). He teaches English at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and occasionally writes poetry.
Meg Pokrass is the author of eight prose collections, including Spinning to Mars. Her work has been anthologized in Flash Fiction International and New Micro.
Rick Rohdenburg attended the Writer's Workshop at Brown University, then spent thirty-five years working as a systems analyst. He did not begin publishing until past sixty. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. Now retired, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston where is a faithful contributor to our family of journals. His latest chapbook, Collateral, was recently released by Right Hand Pointing. Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com
Vera Kewes Salter writes poetry in New Rochelle, New York, where she lives with her husband who is living with progressive dementia. She is recently published in Nixes Mate, Red Eft Review, and Persimmon Tree in addition to earlier publications.
Joshua St. Claire is a certified public accountant who works as a financial controller for a small company in Pennsylvania. When he is not busy compiling financial reports, he writes poetry. His work is published or forthcoming from the Inflectionist Review, Blue Unicorn, Star*line, Eye to the Telescope, and hedgerow.
Lynn Strongin’s homeland is America. Her adopted country, Canada. She has twelve books out, work in over forty anthologies, and has been nominated for a Lambda Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Lynn's chapbook from Right Hand Pointing, Slow Dark Film, is available. Email Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ann Weil is a retired teacher and professor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Look for her latest work in The Indianapolis Review, Third Wednesday, Eastern Iowa Review, Shooter Literary Magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs and San Pedro River Review. Visit www.annweilpoetry.com to learn more.
Natalie Wolf lives in Kansas City, where she drinks hot chocolate and dreams of having her own cat one day. Her short fiction and poetry have previously appeared in Popshot, I-70 Review, Right Hand Pointing, and Live Ideas. You can find more of her stuff at https://nwolfmeep.wixsite.com/nmwolf.