F. John Sharp
Associate Editors, Poetry
F. J. Bergmann
The Note is on vacation. It's been a long time since she took time off from work, if you don't count intervals in hospital. She has lately been reading about physics and told me she has been obsessed "with the very big, the very fast, the very far, and the very small."
For those of you new to Right Hand Pointing, this introductory column is plainly named "The Note," but also named for my childhood friend who I have called "The Note" since we were children. A string of events many years ago precipitated the loss of her marriage, estrangement from her family, and the revocation of her license to practice pediatric dentistry. She worked for a long time in a bar in Indianapolis, was shot in the gut by inept robbers, and recovered physically. Not so much mentally. She will read this. She will be irritated that I made such a bland reference to her emotional state. She would be irritated because she's irritable. Unless she is in a phase in which she speaks to almost no one except me, by telephone, and the people at the veterinary clinic where she now works. And the latter only when she must.
The Note rented an eighth-floor condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama for 4 nights and took a stack of books on quantum mechanics—the type written for bright, curious people who aren't physicists. Jim Al-Khalili, David Griffiths, Robert Lanza, Rosenblum & Kuttler.
"I go in to eat and go the bathroom and sleep for a few hours" she told me when we talked last week. "Otherwise I sit on this balcony. During the day I read about the very small. I look up and look at the water and the sand and the people and then go back to my book. At night, there's not enough light to read. I can see the stars."
"The very far, the very big..." I said.
"The very fast," The Note said. "Do you know roughly how many atoms there are in a grain of sand?"
"I'm going to go with about eight. Maybe as many as 12 or 13."
"Shut up, Dale. Do you know about the double-slit experiment?"
"I do. Which interpretation do you favor..."
"Let me tell you about the dream I had last night."
"Oh, Lord. Are you going to really tell me..."
"I keep thinking about that day when everything started to go wrong for me. So, all I'll say about the dream was that I was moving very fast, going very far, becoming very small. In total darkness. And instead of moving toward one light, I was moving toward two. And just before I had to go to one light or the other, I dreamed I was sort of smeared out in space. That I just existed as a smear. But then I was a body again. And through one of the lights. And I hit the wall."
"So," I said, and paused. "Is that the Copenhagen or the Many Worlds?"
"It's the beach, Man. I'm at the beach."
Our thanks to all contributors to this issue. All our readers. And special thanks to co-editors F. John Sharp, Annie Stenzel, Bill McCloud, Steve Klepetar, Ina Roy-Faderman, and F. J. Bergmann.
your paper flat
against the giving tablecloth
turn the paper over
the written mounds
show in braille
your real desire
Because you’re alone and in desperate need of an echo.
—Harkaitz Cano, from the Basque
Take the children to Europe the bleakest, most violent winter since World War II.
What has embattled me remains the question
“What did Mummy do during the war?”
This is my secret history: my body has become a barrier between us.
Living after the blade.
The fog has learned my name, like smoke over low-lying roofs.
Lie low now
You learned in the ward
To lean & forgive forward:
Take the children of your heart to safer places
Desperate for an echo, wearing red woolen stockings
B. Fulton Jennes
While Picking Spring Flowers for My Dying Sister
A sudden rain
fuses my clothing to me—
an unbearable reminder
The Broken Mother's Prayer
The shameful prayer stalls behind my lips, snaking down my throat. In the room upstairs, she cries. “Mama! Mama! Mama!”
I rise from where I knelt on the watermelon pillow before the dark, ashy fireplace. I open my mouth, but the prayer is stuck too low, coiling in my stomach. Nothing comes out but a wet cough. Now she is shrieking. How long since she has eaten? How long have I left her tied to her crib with only a mobile of stars to entertain her? She can crawl now.
“Mama!” Her first word. She’d been only six months old. “Guess she’s inherited my smarts,” my ex-boyfriend said. He lives with another woman now with another baby on the way. I look at the watermelon pillow at my feet. Someone had made it for me, a cousin or a neighbor, and had given it to me at the baby shower. Earlier today, after I’d put her down for her nap, I’d placed the pillow over her face. But then the doorbell rang. I’d snatched the pillow from the crib, stumbled downstairs, flung open the door. No one was there. The unshoveled snow on the stoop was smooth, undisturbed.
Now I lift the watermelon pillow, stare into the dark, ashy fireplace. I press the pillow against my face, inhale its baby-spit-up smell, and the molecules of that sour odor attach to my prayer like a claw, shaking it free. My prayer releases into a sob-drenched howl. “Lord, save my baby from me!”
I march to the kitchen, scrub dirty dishes filling the sink, toss shriveled cheesy pizza slices growing mold on the table, empty the saucer buried under cigarette butts. I stuff the pillow into the overflowing kitchen garbage can under the sink.
“Lord,” I pray, “this time let it stay there.” Then I hurry upstairs to my crying child.
Winter root steeple
Thirteen meters of trench—
There are no potatoes in it
there is nothing at all growing in it.
We all can see
there will never be enough rain
to water it.
“Black” as an Adverb
Everything I do is black
(Which is a problem)
So I do not do
I cannot show you the photograph,
the woman’s sad face,
the boy’s frightened eyes,
the man there but not there.
Cannot show you the black and white tones of gray,
gray sky, gray snow, gray house.
Cannot show you because you would not really see.
Cannot show you because you would construct your own—
man, woman, boy,
face, eyes, there, not there.
Your gray is your own.
Your sky is your own.
You live in your own house,
watch your own snow
Amelia Akiko Frank
Oh you poor wet fish. Have
you drowned again. Watch the time:
Grandfather swinging. Oh little shark,
little ginger fin, Oh great
sacrifice to weep and weather.
Amelia Akiko Frank
“I like to live seasonally,” I say, when Marly asks why I don’t buy strawberries in winter. But today, April, it’s twenty degrees Fahrenheit. Sparrows are confused in their love. The bulbs retreat. I’ve put on my winter coat again; the sky is sharp and shale-thin.
Marly is short for Marlene which comes from Mary Magdalene. Marly wears a gold necklace with a small portrait of Mary Magdalene all year round, though she was raised without religion. Marly, that is. Do you see where I am trying to land? It’s always the wrong time for strawberries. Too early or too late, a love letter opens the day.
Amelia Akiko Frank
Blue Whale Instructions
Take a ball of string or yarn take a
ruler or a tape measure measure out
eleven point seven six inches of
string (that is almost a foot) now do
that one hundred times now you
have ninety eight feet of string which
is the maximum length of a blue
whale. You can hang your string
across a couple houses or put it in
Wheatfield after Spring Rain
All I wish for
is a lump of soil
to smell the petrichor
of old days that plow
sunrise up and sunset down
A poem is not an easy chair
I will not put an easy chair in my poem. My father had one, reclining, embalmed
in it already like the clear glass paperweight I found at a yard sale with a
cornflower trapped inside. TV, a knowing glower flowing into him
in the dark. Death is sly, takes us sooner like the flower
while we’re growing still alive.
After the Bone Scan
You blaze with gamma rays,
douse the flames with Evian,
avoid children, pregnant women,
You ignite sewers and mutate rats
with urine bright as Christmas lights,
hot as Krakatoa.
Reclaimed isotopes buzz in water,
fair exchange for particles of hope.
Last Paso Doble
My mother clatters up, twirls sunset skirts, extends her femur, offers metacarpals. Castanets snap, guitars twang, tambourines rattle. "Listen, it’s our music," she says. "Time to dance. I’m the matador and you’re the bull." She thumps her heel in dust. Paces towards me. Teeth chatter. Knees crack. Carpals clang on her pelvis. I know her voice and the music. Step aside. "Let’s face it Mom, skeletons can’t lead." Her skull pivots, eye sockets search. She swivels. Her hands reach, vertebrae collapse. I leave forget-me-nots on her grave.
Emma Johnson Tarp
Jumpmaster sends me stumbling forward with a rough slap and I skitter on the chattering platform, my body doing its animal-best to keep from being consumed in the open maw of the sky, from the wind that stuffs my ears like cotton, from the fleece-fine buzzing I feel in my teeth and the balls of my feet. Crashed on nerves and dry-mouthed adrenaline, I tip forward into the enamel blue, my whoop evaporating behind me like spirit leaving body and it tastes like pennies, it slips like ice up my spine, my neck, until whipped-white nothingsomething envelops me, chilled and wet, and a laugh bubbles in my throat—I’m falling through a cloud.
When she is old enough to know, my baby girl will ask me if I've killed a man and I will tell her instead about Fort Benning and how I bounced from cloud to cloud like the pastel ponies she carries by their icing-froth manes. Only now I am 800 feet from the pockmarked ground and my parachute blooms above me like blood in water, but I will tell her it was like a drop of watercolor on a canvas, a bead of food-dye in buttercream frosting, and that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and she will smile at me with all of her baby teeth and I will know I was wrong.
Emma Johnson Tarp
It’s recess but it’s raining so we’re upstairs on the carpet squares. Amber McQuaid wants to play Lion King 2 but I don’t like that movie—it’s scary and it’s sad—and besides, Amber always kills me early in the game, slobbering and snapping over my body, more hyena than lion than girl, while I watch her pink throat through squinted eyes and do my best to stay still and dead and quiet.
So I say, Let’s play Mermaids, we haven’t played Mermaids in a long time. My eyes stray to the raindrops cartwheeling down the window glass and I can already feel my strong, blue-tailed body thundering through its current. But Amber crosses her arms, and Olivia and Karly and Sammy L. cross their arms, so we play Lion King 2 and I even cry real tears when I die. It’s some of my best work.
The Woman at the Next Table
Someone’s texting back.
I write poems.
Readers don’t know
where to find me.
How These Shades of Blue
remind me of my father’s handkerchief always tucked
inside his pocket, folded over tears and smiles and scraps of days,
memories he’d unwrap on sleepless nights to cup them
like coins in his palm.
My father’s blue sky hovered over black mountains, the sky
he painted before his eyes grew dark, his fingers stiff and his heart
slowed to a whisper.
My father’s handkerchief pressed and never used
will succumb to flame and mingle with the sacred ashes
of his skin, his hair, his fragile bones.
Originally written as an ekphrastic response to Sceaux Park by Nicholas de Stael (France b, Russia 1952)
Flavor of the Year
This summer’s popsicle
is all stick.
My tongue creeps
into the grain
beneath the last
Day-Glo ice shards
and tastes the
traces of smoke
beetles and scat
all pressed together
in a managed calamity.
Finds a splinter
through my spit
and blood the flavor
of last year’s forest.
Amanda Adrienne Smith
Nature vs. Nurture
If I lie here long enough
I can ask my dead dad
to take it out of my chest.
It will be an argument.
I don't want any of his
flowers telling me what
beauty looks like. I don't
want to hold his sadness
as if it's mine. My dad dies
with a shovel and bag of
seed. He can't hear me.
How this life is mine.
How I wake up sweating.
A hole in my shirt.
The shape of a hand like
a ghost I can't remember.
Green Yellow Red
We live in the future, an ambitious developer’s aborted dream. Abandoned shopping malls are being demolished or converted into holding pens and mental health clinics. Streets have been renamed for the streetwalkers murdered by Jack the Ripper: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, etc. Most of the time the police are just amusing themselves. I slip in the door with a sense of relief, as if I’ve shaken off someone who’s been tailing me. Later when I peek between the curtains, I discover children pecking in the grass like backyard chickens. If I had known how things would turn out, I would’ve run more yellow lights.
Audrey Y. Hackett
The ducks kept on feeding
after the milk truck appeared.
rang out against porch steps.
A small boy
white rabbit under each arm
began his long training
for the pulpit.
We wait for waves to rise
purple among green, this
is the swell, no this one
is more godly, and our heels on
the hot granite say
I’m only so thick and you say
how sure you are, how you are sure
you’re gonna marry Owen.
I could nod for days like seaweed.
Unfurl the wild
And does that
break your heart
or ease it?
Here’s the deal:
if you can release me from
my cage of horizons,
I promise I’ll stay.
The odd winter day
when the sky was lilac
and mild as May,
my friend talked cheerfully
about her son at school
in London, her eyes
and wide open.
Her pale hands
were about to touch—
about to touch, I thought,
and did not move.
How I Know the Bees Are Dying
Because someone was arrested for burning
a half million bees. I can hear the buzz
of the flame. It sounds like wings plucked
one at a time. Because no one ever talks
about killer bees anymore. Because
the unpollinated buds of the spirea are a thousand
tiny stillbirths. Because I’m starting
to re-examine my place on the food chain.
Because in a laboratory somewhere a scientist
is christening a tiny mechanical drone.
All efforts to teach it to buzz on command have failed.
Back in My Day
Dad brought home an empty cardboard box from work and put it on the living room floor.
“Why did you bring that home?” Mom asked.
“For the kids,” Dad said.
“You don’t know where it’s been.”
We didn’t care where it had been, but the three of us piled in and sat in a row for a bumpy bus ride across town to Sears’ candy counter, then piloted a swooping jet to drop bombs in the jungles of Viet Nam until we were shot down like our uncle Ray, and then drove a dune buggy to the beach and zig-zagged the wet sand to avoid the washed-up jellyfish, seaweed, and broken shells.
“I’ll put it out with the trash tomorrow” Mom said, not really meaning it.
Dana Stamps, II
There is a season for speaking with the rain
There is a season for speaking with the rain & the sky must know which one. This is where the town once stood; this is how things turn out.
The sky is as big as a sigh in a bag; there are proofs for everything: pick one.
Marie Anderson is a Chicago-area married mother of three millennials. Her stories have appeared in about 50 publications, including, most recently, The Saturday Evening Post, Muleskinner Journal, and Mystery Magazine. She is the founder and facilitator of her local public library's writing critique group, going strong since 2009.
David Banach teaches philosophy in New Hampshire, where he tends chickens, keeps bees, and watches the sky. He has published poems most recently in Lavender Lime Literary, Hare’s Paw, Please See Me, and Poets' Touchstone. He also does the Poetrycast podcast for Passengers Journal.
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Cordite Poetry Review, Stardust Haiku, and GAS: Poetry, Art, and Music, among others.
Michael Broder is the author of This Life Now (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2014), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. He founded Indolent Books, a home for work by poets over 50 without a first book. Poems recently in 2 Horatio and Cimarron Review. He lives in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
Jessica Dubey is the author of For Dear Life. She’s been nominated for a Best of the Net. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry and Kissing Dynamite. Her second chapbook, All Those Years Underwater, is forthcoming in 2022.
Richard Fox has been a regular contributor of poetry and artwork to online and print literary journals. Swagger & Remorse, his first book of poetry, was published in 2007. A visual artist and poet, he holds a BFA in Photography from Temple University, Philadelphia, and lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Richard's collages were prominently featured in Allan Peterson's Life At All, which we published and is very nearly sold out. (ambidextrousbloodhound.com).
Amelia Akiko Frank makes big paintings and small poems in New York. She is interested in holes and survival. ameliafrank.art
Howie Good's latest poetry book is The Horses Were Beautiful, available from Grey Book Press. We bought it, read it, and proclaimed it "awesome," as all the kids were saying ten years ago.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Ellipsis. Latest books, Covert, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Washington Square Review and Red Weather. John was one of the first contributors to this journal, back in 2004. He may think we've forgotten but we haven't.
Audrey Y. Hackett lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, she received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council in 2022. Recent poems have appeared in Alba, ONE ART, Green Ink and Twelve Mile Review.
Josh Jacobs lives outside of Boston and is a graduate program administrator at MIT. His critical writing, essays and poetry have appeared in places like The Awl, Contemporary Literature, and Right Hand Pointing. He earned his PhD in English from Rutgers.
B. Fulton Jennes is Poet Laureate of Ridgefield, CT. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. Her poem “Glyphs of a Gentle Going” was recently awarded the 2022 Lascaux Prize. Jennes' collection Blinded Birds (Finishing Line Press), was named Winner of the 2022 International Book Award in the poetry chapbook category.
Emma Johnson Tarp's work appears in Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two rebel-hearted cats. (We wonder if they're Siamese. The cats, we mean. —Eds.)
Miriam Levine is the author of Saving Daylight, her fifth collection of poetry. Another collection, The Dark Opens, was chosen by Mark Doty for the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Other books include: Devotion, a memoir; In Paterson, a novel. Levine lives in Florida and New Hampshire.
Linda McQuarrie-Bowerman is a poet living in Lake Tabourie, NSW Australia. She is just beginning her Arts Degree in Creative Writing. She has recently been published in three anthologies, on Viewless Wings, in The Ekphrastic Review, with a poem forthcoming in the next edition of the Star 82 Review.
Richard Magahiz (https://zeroatthebone.us) tries to live an ordered life in harmony with all but one that follows unexpected paths. He wrangles computers as a day job but imagines a time when life might center around other things. He's back home in California now writing speculative and mainstream poems.
Mia Maisha is a 20-year-old university student studying law at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, though she is originally from the D.R.C. Her work mainly centers around the daily struggle black people have to endure in the face of black oppression and discrimination.
Emily Marcus currently serves as an Academic Advisor and Writing Lecturer at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. She has poetry forthcoming in Eunoia Review, and her travel writing appears in New England Living, Connect, and World Bride among others.
Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in over 450 publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Citron Review, and The Boston Literary Magazine. He is a three-time Pushcart and two-time Best Micro nominee and works for the University of Memphis. His newest flash collection For the Cheesecake is forthcoming by Big Table Publishing.
Gwen Sayers holds an MA Creative Writing from the University of London. Winner of the Magma Poetry Prize, and Forward Prize nominee, her poetry appears in various literary magazines and anthologies.
Amanda Adrienne Smith is a poet and actress living in Los Angeles, CA. Her poems have appeared in Poppy Road Review, One Sentence Poems, and Byline Magazine. You can find her on social media at @amandaadrienne.
Dana Stamps, II is a poet and essayist who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cal State University of San Bernardino, and has worked as a fast-food server, a postal clerk, a security guard, and a group home worker with troubled boys.
Lynn Strongin's homeland is America, and she lives in Canada. She is the author of many books and chapbooks and has work in dozens of anthologies. She was nominated for a Lamba Award, twice for the Pushcart, and for the Pulitzer in literature. Lynn's chapbook from our own Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press, Slow Dark Film, is available. Email Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy.
Jianqing Zheng lives in the Mississippi Delta where flatland is often an eyescape for his photoessays. In 2021, he published A Way of Looking, which won the Gerald Cable Book Award, and Conversations with Dana Gioia. His forthcoming poetry collection is The Dog Years of Reeducation (Madville Publishing, 2023).
Photo above by Olga Subach