#150: when you root
Claire Vogel Camargo
Melissa Joplin Higley
Founder/General Editor: Dale Wisely
Fiction Editor: F. John Sharp
Poetry Editors: Ina Roy-Faderman, Annie Stenzel, Bill McCloud, Steve Klepetar
Copy Editor: F. J. Bergmann
photo by YEŞ on pexels.com
click on the hands to move through the issue
Happy New Year, y'all.
This is issue number 150 of Right Hand Pointing. Now, one of the things this occasion has in common with Christmas is a bit of arbitrariness about when we mark the event. In exactly the same way we don't know the date of Jesus's birth, I couldn't tell you when the actual 150th issue was published because, along the way, we published some unnumbered issues, and a few that been shut down and removed from the website by some shadowy governmental agencies that continue to control a number of my behavioral and emotional impulses by patterns of microwave pulses relayed from Io, which that same agency wants you to believe is a "moon" of "Jupiter."
What I am trying to tell you is that this issue is posing as Issue 150. It's an impostor. And, accordingly, not to be trusted.
This issue includes a set of collaborative poems. I've wanted to publish some for a while. Knowing that a member of the Ambidextrous Bloodhound editorial staff and my friend, Katherine Seluja, has a special interest in collaborative work, we finally got it going. You'll find this group of poems embedded in the issue below.
Our thanks to all contributors to this issue. All our readers. Thanks to co-editors F. John Sharp, Annie Stenzel, Bill McCloud, Steve Klepetar, Ina Roy-Faderman, and F. J. Bergmann. Special thanks to Katherine DiBella Seluja for co-editing the section of collaborative poems.
Hooves. The trample
in a twilight
is an ocean
of cool black grass
in which the knife lowers its beautiful head
like a horse, rearing and stamping all the while.
it was saying goodbye, I think, to that gory expanse you call a life.
all day and all night I dreamt of returning to you,
despair like oil slicks tumultuous prolonged despicable,
I did not think you would have wanted to see me as I was.
heart, still mourning,
I think I was saying goodbye.
Driving in the morning
alongside the tramline,
toward Tallaght and past,
the city’s fringed estates.
The sun rises fire
on my hammered car
bonnet. On the luas, the flat
tarmac earth of this sub-
urban Dublin, stretched out like the back
of a cat. I love matching speeds
against trains flexing
muscleish over commuters.
We both move like horses
guide cattle on romantic plains.
Young Nepali men
working in those mountains
tote loads on their backs
by leaning into a single strap
across their foreheads.
While I walked
you were on my mind.
Editors: Katherine D. Seluja & Dale Wisely
Jen Bowman, Gabriel Brown, Reagan Davison, Zach Domanski, Jenna Fuller, Emma Hall, Robbie Hess, Andrew Hodge, JoJo Kea, Micah King, Gavan Nolan, Jamelia Williams, and Sara Pirkle
Ode to a Drag Queen
O my Queen, how you sparkle
like a newfound star with eyes
that see my soul.
Soft hands graze my chin as glitter
pierces my heart, and I’m swept
into your strong, sweet sound.
God bless you; God needs you.
Like willows wading in the wind,
I fold easily to your dazzling dancing.
Could I be your groom or you mine?
Whatever shape our love may make,
it won’t be made of straight lines.
You lift me the way fuel lifts rockets
into space, for you are all heat and power!
Miho Kinnas and E. Ethelbert Miller
Let’s hide our poems inside
the pickle jar.
This one is a goldfish feeding on dills.
Claire Vogel Camargo and Scott Wiggerman
liking the way
covid and wildfires
of smoky eyes
shortness of breath
the way air goes in and out
of nature inflamed
Jennifer Burd and Laszlo Slomovits
Below the Empty Sky
where the homeless vet
in single-digit weather
his fingers curled around
the brimming hot cup
just given him
below the empty sky
where the saxophone player’s
notes settle like doves
on the listless street
his hat on the ground
holding only small change
below the empty sky
where months ago
the maple was
felled in full leaf
you’d never know
it had ever been here
except for the way
the birdless air still sings
Réka Nyitrai and Alan Peat
On the verge of a dream, I try to make love with a young poet I meet at a poetry class. Oddly, his body is completely covered in feathers. I sink my fingers into his down and, at once, he becomes the skeleton of a giant flightless bird. Frightened, I try to run from him, but the train of my dress drags and I can’t pick up speed. Even as I falter and stumble, the skeleton assumes its human form once more, though now it looks exactly like me. When I awake, I find that someone has written in my dream diary. Whole pages are covered in a language I do not understand.
faccia dopo faccia
nell'occhio di una libellula
An ekphrastic haibun based on Marion Adnams' painting Alter Ego (1945)
Jane Lin, Heather Nagami, and Sharon Suzuki-Martinez
Bad News, Good News
summer shrivels us
flash floods carry us away
climate change is here
mosquitos in the desert
weed whacker battles waist high
our dear friend the Sun
but we we our enemy
clear and build and burn
years of feathering our nests
leave the birds naked and low
stinging fire ants
the summer’s bullies are gone
hello mellow bugs
hello mini woolly friend
September is our passage
kneeling in the dirt
hello single-antler buck
frenzy of crickets
o October round and sweet
butterflies flock to slurp you
black and orange gems
journeying for generations
fluttering like leaves
Lynn Blickensderfer and Dana Stamps, I
Quilt of Snow
The land during winter tucks in
Beneath a quilt of snow, and as if curious
Why we shiver and ache when
The wind is cold and constant, Sirius
Shines brightest in the frozen night.
Sleep with me now with faith in light and spring,
Though Canus Major holds us in his bite.
Still, we are two and that is everything.
And when that child April comes and takes
The quilt away, and hibernation ends
We'll rise to watch her charm the world awake
And feel the sunny heat, and be, again.
Lost and Found
There’s an intimacy in books—feeling the paper between our fingers, the occasional rise of a scent, maybe musky like she’d been sorting through the library, maybe the fragrance of lavender she rubs over her body, her lovely body, after a long bath, earbuds bring Shostakovich.
I knew her when we were young, or should I say met her then. Five years older, a trilling laugh as if she heard the nuance no one else noticed.
But I get beyond myself, leaving her stranded in a story without context. I’ll move back in time, that arbitrary point becoming faint with age.
She was seventeen. I was twelve. Our mothers belonged to the town’s book club, the local literati. When they gathered, she stayed at our house. We didn’t call it babysitting because I was too old for that, already wore an A cup.
Her name was Ana. “In Hebrew Ana means grace,” she whispered. “I think I’m Jewish but hide it in Presbyterian.” I liked her being somebody else.
“Here’s a National Geographic. Cut out your favorite picture.”
I thumbed through the pages, glossy and colorful, till I found someone with dark eyes like hers—a mother nursing her baby.
“Ah, for seeing into things.”
She was my love, though at twelve who knows what love is? But I knew those Wednesday afternoons with her were full of delight. She told me things my mother dared not mention.
“I did it last weekend,” she said, looking past me at the lava lamp.
“Did what?” I knew or thought I knew what it was.
“Had sex with Billy,” she said, spreading her legs into the splits, jeans sliding up her ankles.
I sat on the floor across from her, squeezing my cold coke, no words coming.
“It hurt, but I didn’t tell him.”
Years passed in a small southern town.
Ana left for college somewhere in Ohio and never came back.
I grew into a teenager with anger issues.
Boyfriends, girlfriends—I tried to find something always absent.
In Atlanta I turned forty, teaching high-school English and browsing bookstores for new friends—fiction, poetry, nonfiction. Any writing that spoke to me.
And there she was, standing on the shelf above Margarite Duras: Negative Space by Ana Dickel.
A muted gray dust cover with the silhouette of a woman doing the front splits, her head tilted up toward the title.
stops to see a tree whose leaves
are only on one
side. It was the wind,
he says. I’m
over tree roots, leaning down
to clear mossed branches. There’s
a house he knows that has a bleached carved
trunk in the front yard, covered
with symbols. I ask him
about its origin—he
says it was once
a tree. He used
to ski and camp and hike, and once a bear
passed by his tent with its hot breath.
Its hotter heart.
when you root
against the girls you always
win. It doesn’t matter
if you are one, if you’re
Go bat left. Give them
six tries. No matter
what they do, they’re small, they’re slow, more
They can’t help
it, like those birds
on concrete. Killdeer. Killjoys. Fragile
shells. Their wings that might be just
I could slip in the shower
and crack open my skull,
stick a fork in the toaster
to remove a stuck slice of bread
and be electrocuted,
leave a pot on the stove and start a fire.
I could even look up
into the window glare
and burn my irises.
Every morning when I get out of bed,
I’m at risk for an accident.
Who’s a coward now?
Melissa Joplin Higley
Four poems from First Father
What’s left of you after
forty years under long-healed
grass? A coat of ash? A treasury
of barren bones? Would
the worms lend me an amulet
to serve in your stead?
Maybe a single tooth
I could tie with a thread
to hang around my neck.
Let me be that toddler you saved
when you were fourteen, a Boy Scout,
a hero, when you pulled her limp body
from the irrigation ditch cut between crops.
Let those be my lungs you filled
with your breath. Let those be my eyes
you watched open to yours. Let that
be my body you cradled in your arms.
Let me be the one you saved.
For not knowing I would want
you, after all, for not knowing
I could have asked to see you,
after you gave us away, for not
knowing you collected our childhood
in pictures, for not knowing you
cared, at least in part, for me, for
not knowing how to gather your pieces,
for not knowing, I knew nothing—
I fell from your branch, rootless
tree, when you fell to rot. A lost
daughter scooped up by another,
called by another name, called by
another father—one who served,
who still serves, in your stead, more
than model, amulet, tree. I stand
every day in the fruit of my body,
resisting your decay.
Shadows: A Ghazal
I was once a wild and terrible love,
but now I cast no shadow.
The clouds creep to suffocate the stars;
the moon is fat with shadows.
Mountains meet like lovers spitting fire;
a melt of shadows.
The crow whispers his secret name
to the dove: "Shadow! Shadow!"
Giant Inflatable Jack-o-Lantern with Three Ghosts Attached (Air Pump Not Included) $5
Before you succumb to the inner critic
who says this seasonal decoration
is an oversized piece of early 21st-century
American trash, think about your neighbor
returning home late on a windy autumn night,
the houses in the neighborhood looking
exhausted with their lights off, shades drawn,
all the leaves trembling and falling and
circling and lifting, and falling again.
Now picture this “larger-than-life”
wonder of spirit aglow in front of
your front door. And then imagine
again your weary-eyed neighbor.
Two Old Window Frames $5 ea.
In spite of paint like dry skin,
wood scarred simply by opening
and closing, grime in the crevices
between glass and frame, promise
dwells here if you own your own
imagination. Don’t see only a front
yard, a car, wind spreading leaves.
See instead a table for two, or a gate,
or each pane its own mirror in one
larger mirror: nine ways to see
the answer to that constant question.
An Assortment of Bandanas & Scarves $1 each or 3 for $2
Doesn’t matter who wears one.
Lots of ways to wear them too:
put one on your head on a windy day
like an old matriarch. At night, wear it
long and loose like a soul singer. Just so
like a British lawyer. Like John Wayne.
Like a belly dancer. Like a drag queen
belly dancing. Like the street
is a catwalk and you’re just too
damn sexy for that
bandana or scarf,
who has never written an
touched the stone inside god
who is the garden
disguised as the wind
whose womb is the sum of all our blood
whose dust is an iron bar
how hungry is a wound
that swallows the dark
when do the dead break into light
when did our poems cease writing the sea
how many abandoned awakenings
sleep inside a seed
who drove cemeteries of sight into my eyes
whose sleep is the house of the dead
whose cry cannot escape
the moon sewn shut with rain
Tablescape in an Arid Land
Dried words lie
on the table, a salt field
where nothing grows.
We could throw a few grains
over one shoulder, read them
like tea leaves strewn on the floor.
lie on the table—
so easy to sweep away
with a brush of my hand.
Jennifer Burd’s fifth book of poetry, Fringe, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in May 2023. She has collaborated with Laszlo Slomovits on long-form poems, music-poetry projects, and a play, and has written award-winning linked haiku sequences known as rengay with Laszlo and Michele Root-Bernstein.
Claire Vogel Camargo of Austin, Texas, is winner of the 2018 Sakura Award in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Haiku Festival and has placed or received honorable mentions in other Japanese-form poetry contests.
Phoebe Chu (they/them) hails from Northern California, where they spend their free time writing about the grotesque, the exquisite, the queer, and everything else—when they're not busy staring at birds outside their window, that is. Their work was featured in Beaver Magazine and is forthcoming in Troublemaker Firestarter's third edition.
Chella Courington (she/her) is a writer and teacher whose poetry and fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals including New World Writing and Barren Magazine. Her recent collections of poetry are Good Trouble, Origami Poems Project; Hell Hath, Maverick Duck Press; and Lynette’s War, Ghost City Press.
Nadine Ellsworth-Moran serves in ministry in Georgia. She is fascinated by the stories unfolding all around her and seeks to bring everyone into conversation around a common table. Her work has appeared in Rust+Moth, Ekstasis, WildWord, Pensive, and Kakalak, among others. She lives with her husband and four unrepentant cats.
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.
Grant Hackett wanders the Yellow Springs of Ohio. Previous and forthcoming publications include Right Hand Pointing, Inflectionist Review, SurVision, and Heliosparrow.
Melissa Joplin Higley’s poems appear in Anti-Heroin Chic, Feral, MER, The Night Heron Barks, Writer’s Digest, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-facilitates the Poetry Craft Collective. She lives in Mamaroneck, NY with her husband and son. Visit her at: melissajoplinhigley.com.
Jane Lin is the author of Day of Clean Brightness (3: A Taos Press). janelin505.com
DS Maolalai has received eleven nominations for Best of the Net and eight for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in three collections; Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016), Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019) and Noble Rot (Turas Press, 2022)
Todd McKinney thanks you for reading his poems. Other poems of his have appeared in journals such as Cimarron Review, Smartish Pace, Defunct, Monkeybicycle and others.
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California's Central Valley, where she works as a librarian at UC Merced. She co-edits One Sentence Poems and First Frost.
Heather Nagami is the author of Hostile (Chax Press). heathernagami.com
Sara Pirkle's full-length collection of poetry, The Disappearing Act, won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry and was published by Mercer University Press in 2018. In 2019, she was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry, and in 2022 she was shortlisted for the Oxford Poetry Prize. She teaches at the University of Alabama. Jen Bowman, Gabriel Brown, Reagan Davison, Zach Domanski, Jenna Fuller, Emma Hall, Robbie Hess, Andrew Hodge, JoJo Kea, Micah King, Gavan Nolan, and Jamelia Williams, are undergraduate creative writing students at the University of Alabama. Their collaborative ode in this issue was written in a round-robin fashion in Dr. Pirkle's Advanced Creative Writing class, with each person contributing at least one word to the poem.
Michael Riedell is a former poet laureate of Ukiah, California, where he lives, teaches, and hosts a monthly reading series. The author of three books of poetry, he has been published in various literary journals and in California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology.
Katherine DiBella Seluja (guest editor of collaborative poems section) is the author of Gather the Night (UNM Press, 2018) and co-author of We Are Meant to Carry Water (3: A Taos Press, 2019). Her poem, “November Fruit” was selected to be part of the Taos Poetry in Nature project and is permanently installed on thegrounds of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Recent work can be found in FENCE, Cutthroat, Thimble and New Feathers Anthology. Her third book of poetry, Point of Entry, is forthcoming from UNM Press in 2023. Katherine is a poetry editor at Unbroken journal and lives in Santa Fe, NM.
Kelli Simpson is a poet and former teacher based in Norman, Oklahoma. Her work has appeared in Lamplit Underground, Green Ink Poetry, One Art Poetry Journal, The MockingHeart Review, and elsewhere.
Laszlo Slomovits is one of the twin brothers in the award-winning children’s folk music duo, Gemini (GeminiChildrensMusic.com). In addition to his music for children, he has set to music the work of many poets, including ancient Sufi mystics Rumi and Hafiz, and contemporary poets Linda Nemec Foster and Jennifer Burd.
Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Loneliest Whale Blues (The Word Works) and The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press). SharonSuzukiMartinez.com
Meredith Weiers graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and lives in southern Maryland.
Albuquerque poet Scott Wiggerman has published hundreds of Japanese form poems, two of which have been selected for the annual Red Moon Anthologies of best English-language haiku. He co-edited the 2017 Haiku North America anthology, Earthsigns.