Oscar Moreno: “Fathers”

FATHERS

Your father used
to gasp after every drink
of water, now his ghost
has possessed you
to fill the silence

with his breath. And with every bite
you swallow of birthday
cake, with every scent
of burnt wax, the same scars
and moles emerge, the skin
wrinkles in all the same
directions. And now, after every
drop of water
I swallow,
I gasp.

About the Author: Oscar Moreno is a Mexican writer and filmmaker from the bordertown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He co-wrote the thriller “Kaz” with Njue Kevin for Kenyan television. His short stories have been published in literary magazines and journals such as Levadura and The Wire’s Dream Magazine. His novel, “Hedgehogs” is slated to be published by FlowerSong Press in Winter 2022. He’s currently in post-production of “Ente”, his first feature film as a director.

Image Credit: Willem Claesz Heda “Dessert, still life with cake, wine, beer and nuts” (1637)

AIOTB Magazine’s Nominees for the 2023 Best of the Net Anthology

As It Ought To Be Magazine is proud to announce our nominees for the 2023 Best of the Net Anthology, published by Sundress Publications.

Rocío Iglesias: “The Human Body is a Nightmare”

Joe Mills: “The Scientist After the Operation”

Cord Moreski: “Space Shuffle”

Marissa Perez: “Shark Smile”

Cheryl A. Rice: “Remember the Goldfish Will Be Dead By Morning”

Anna Saunders: “A New Skin”

Congratulations to our nominees, and thank you to everyone who contributed to AIOTB Magazine this year!

-Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

Sterling Warner: “Anthropomorphic Junkyard”

Anthropomorphic Junkyard

Frigidaires, washers, dryers & sinks
lay side by side, on top, or beneath

water heaters, ovens, bar-b-cue pits
& microwaves—some of them

waste away, relenting a lifetime
without celebrity or a past beyond

energy efficiency—utility taken
for granted unless natural gas lines break,

electric coals burn out, or freon pipes
leak; gloved hands load imperfect devices

in truck beds, trailers & trunks— toss them
sans ceremony: brusquely, rudely, callously

smashed by buckets, crushed under backhoe
wheels, picked up and dropped in heaps

that creak as sunlight heats & expands metal
wail as wind passes through hanging glass doors

sheltering rats day & night, providing refuge
from feral dogs & cats always on the chase

untamed creatures appreciative of blazing sky shade,
predatory animal protection, a rain & snow sanctuary

before transfer stations load rubble & dispose it
in empty asbestos mines at the earth’s core.

About the Author: A Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee for poetry, Warner’s works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as  Street Lit., The Ekphrastic ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, The Fib Review,  and Sparks of Calliope. Warner also has written seven volumes of poetry, including Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux, Edges, Rags & Feathers, Serpent’s Tooth, and Flytraps (2021)—as well as. Masques: Flash Fiction & Short StoriesCurrently, he writes, hosts virtual poetry readings, and enjoys retirement. 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Desert Junk Art” (2021)

Renwick Berchild: “Newspaper on Rainy Day”

Newspaper On Rainy Day 

Woven. The news today is a patchwork of a human breath. 
Rivers swell with rain. The boughs of timber steadily clap. 

In the wetted dulcet, flumes break then wilt. A denouement 
occurs in the pulling on of seagreen socks. Toes push.
 
Flash! Animation to filament. Tungsten and argon converge 
dancing as spindly mayflies in rapid mating before death.
 
Following the taut yarn to each end; “Engineers say Boeing 
Managers pushed to limit safety tests”; “Shoreline man gets
 
55 years for exploiting girls online”; to another string, alas; 
“Man burned at White House”; “Lots of little bits of plastic
 
wind up inside us”; “Opioid crisis comes to school”. Regret. 
Doubt. Concentrate the emotion until the bulb pops black.
 
The window cascades a drumming, an imbroglio of sounds. 
Susurrous and murmurous. Tinkling. A howl rushes by inured
 
to the violence of people performing. The yowl expounds. 
Torrents, arid scapes. Waters lurching and trees aflame.
 
Paste the clippings along the wall and try to oust the ghosts. 
Veiled, bucolic odors of the immediate world start to return. 

Circling insects. Droplets begin short burps and gulps. 
The ink and paper seem to decompose, life is recontained
 
in the light seeping, in the bright outdoor backdrop rolling 
out a dewy virescent carpet—how cold was the island there?
 
That past, where I concluded nothing but rapacity and cloud? 
Soil in the bed, I make way to the hillside of things rising. 
              “Woman wakes after 27 years unconscious”.

About the Author: Renwick Berchild is half literary critic, half poet. She is lead editor of Green Lion Journal and writes at Nothing in Particular Book Review. Her poems have appeared in Porridge Mag, Headline Press, Whimperbang, Free Verse Revolution, Vita Brevis, Streetcake, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. She was born and raised on the angry shores of Lake Superior, and now lives in a micro-apartment in Seattle, WA. Find more of her work at www.renwickberchild.com

Image Credit: Harris & Ewing “Newspapers coming off press” (1936) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Marc Janssen “The Wooden Cross”

THE WOODEN CROSS

That old beaten up cross 
Slowly disintegrating 
In a planter 
In the early morning,
Dark;
At the corner of River Road and Chemawa.
Illegible name
Behind a Dollar Tree sun-faded garland.

Are you here in the full throated rumble of five AM delivery trucks,
The buzzing crackle of streetlights,
The ordered red and yellow and green signals,
Are you in the rain slanting in from the west cold and callous?
Is this broken memorial your bequest
Or is there a shadow on someone’s heart somewhere 
Who will move away, go to college, 
And slowly release your face?

Streetscape or mountaintop it’s about the same.
The intimacy of a vista
The formations of clouds
Naked stones
Incomprehensible in each
Namelessly ingrained in the old wooden cross,
The kind that doesn’t speak. 
The way words cling to meanings
The way letters cling to sounds.

About the Author: Marc Janssen started writing many novels but didn’t finish any of them. He’s a sprinter. Janssen did complete a poetry collection, November Reconsidered, published by Cirque Press. His verse can be found scattered around the world in places like Pinyon, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and Poetry Salzburg. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, and was a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Desert Wood” (2021)

Michael Gushue: “Valley of the Dolls”

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS

The town I came from was in the middle 
of nowhere. It was a small farming 
community until the locusts showed up.
I suppose you’d call us a tight knit bunch—
we knew what hour it was by the colors we wore,
and we didn’t follow Daylight Savings Time
because it was the work of the devil.
In other words, we were a god-fearing people
but we only believed in the fear part, 
and we might have been patriotic but 
had no idea what country we lived in. 
We loved our children, though we knew
their picnics were really for the yellow jackets. 
Adult parties we saw as soap operas 
decaying from conviviality to terror.
We had our ups and downs, booms and busts. 
There was the time the birds decided 
to attack us like they did like in the movie—
we couldn’t have cared less. We were that
kind of town. Our library was a point
of civic pride but the head librarian 
kept our dirty fingers away from the books. 

In the town square we erected statues 
to the unknown soldier, the unknown 
conscientious objector, and the unknown
guy in a recliner who doesn’t give a fuck.
And, boy, did we like our drugs or what?
We had parades on holidays. You can
take a wild guess how we handled that.
When you moved away the whole town
gathered at the train station to say good-bye
and warn you to never come back. 
There was a rumor that’s where Thomas Wolfe
got the idea for the title of his book.
Fact is, Thomas Wolfe never heard of us.
Of course, people are the same everywhere: 
badly carved marionettes jerked about
by a drunken, spastic puppeteer.
I guess looking back it seems kind of idyllic
compared to what I woke up to today.

About the Author: Michael Gushue is co-founder of the DC-based nanopress Poetry Mutual Press. He curates the BAWA poetry reading series in the Brookland and Capitol Hill neighborhoods of DC, and writes the Vrzhu Press poetry & arts blog, Bullets of Love. His books are Pachinko Mouth (Plan B Press), Conrad (Silver Spoon Press), Gathering Down Women (Pudding House Press), and—in collaboration with CL Bledsoe—I Never Promised You A Sea Monkey (Pretzelcoatl Press). He lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Image Credit: Untitled (Amish Doll) Public domain image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia Sue Smith

Leslie M. Rupracht: “Slow Denial”

Slow Denial

Years passed since I witnessed 
MS fracture Mom’s neurology, stealing 
her calligraphic hand, stilling her walk 
and independence, robbing all recollection. 

Unhurried decline gave rise to stroke that denied 
her swallow, silenced her song and motherly words, 
her last breath at age 74. Today, with each successive 
phone call from seven hundred miles away, 

I learn how my father’s eyes betray his art. Potter’s 
wheel not recently turned, blank canvases on the easel 
sit untouched, despite Dad’s nagging urge to paint, 
to create, before his waning vision decides 

it’s too late. Now 83, he also fights COPD. Worries 
over his final arrangements, forgets again and again 
to follow through. I gently remind. I politely nag— 
it’s a father-daughter round dance. Correspondence 

penned by an unsure hand and our déjà vu discussions 
underscore his blurred attention to details, numbers, 
and words—macular degeneration in cahoots with his 
mind’s random disposal of clear thought and memory.

Tonight, I call Dad. I wrote a poem about a ball game 
we went to when I was nine. This holds his attention. 
He says he looks forward to hearing it. Calls me a true 
artist for my writing craft. Mostly, I want to reminisce 

for fun and distraction from our legal to-do list. Tough 
topics simmer on the back burner as Dad cites the same 
Major League players I named in my poem—
Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Willie Randolph, 

among them—our famous sports heroes who 
stood at the fence between first base and bleachers, 
signed autographs as we lingered in joyful awe, 
drenched in the summer rain.

Check out the previous poem referenced in stanza 6 “The Night I Lost My Souvenir Bucket Hat”

About the Author: Leslie M. Rupracht has poems appearing or forthcoming in Aeolian Harp, Asheville Poetry Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Chiron Review, K’in, The Ekphrastic Review, Gargoyle, Anti-Heroin Chic, Kakalak, a chapbook, Splintered Memories (Main Street Rag), and elsewhere. Editor, poet, writer, visual artist, and rescued pit bull mama, Leslie cofounded and hosts the monthly reading series, Waterbean Poetry Night at the Mic, in Huntersville, NC (on Facebook/Instagram @WaterbeanPoetryNightattheMic).

Image Credit: “Baseball game at Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals are playing the Philadelphia Athletics” (1925) Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Tohm Bakelas: “the nonhuman from polaris”

the nonhuman from polaris

he was deemed no longer a danger 
to himself, others and property,
and therefore he was eligible for discharge

i referred him for group home placement 
and prepped him on all the things
he should and shouldn’t say

he placed his hand over mine
and said “tohm i love ya”

during his intake meeting he said 
“i don’t need no group home, i’m 
going to israel to be crucified… you 
see, i’m not human, i’m from polaris”

they looked at me, 
then he looked at me,
i put my hand on his shoulder
and said “i understand”

“what do you do for fun?” they asked

“hang myself” he said and laughed

“umm, what?” they asked

“that’s a joke,” he said, “i think...”

after the meeting we took our time
walking back to the ward

“tohm i think that went well” he told me

“yeah, we’ll see what they say” i said

i let him inside the ward 
and waited until the door locked

after that i went for a short walk 
and stared outside a window for a while

About the Author: Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. He has published 18 chapbooks and 2 collections of poetry. His forthcoming collection “The Ants Crawl In Circles” will be published by Whiskey City Press in Summer 2022. He runs Between Shadows Press. 

Image Credit: Edvard Munch “Melancholy III” (1915–1917). Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

Christian Paulisich: “Whale Watching”

About the Author: Christian Paulisich is an undergraduate poet at Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, but is originally from the Bay Area, California. His poems have appeared in Neologism Poetry Journal, Orchards Poetry Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Monterey Poetry Review. He enjoys nature walks, drinking Yerba mate, and spending time with loved ones. 

Image Credit: Original image from Icones rerum naturalium. Copenhague,Chez E.A.H. Möller, etc.,1805-1806. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library