Ace Boggess: “Flight Risk”



Flight Risk

Prosecutor spoke two words,
froze me with outrage
as if I had won the dirty lottery &

didn’t want the prize: a slow-drip death.
I had no passport, money, friends
living abroad like celebrities—

my world so small it could be a cell.
I locked myself in a room
with anxieties, rarely left the house

except to score dope or cigarettes.
No god opened his doors for me
except the god of powder-white pills

who offered space &
a hard bed, said, Stay here &
 always be close to home.



About the Author: Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—MisadventureI Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It SoUltra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.


More by Ace Boggess:

Rock Garden

And Why Am I A Free Man?

Why Did You Try To Sober Up?


Image Credit: Russell Lee “Corner of attic bedroom in farmhouse. Williams County, North Dakota” (1937) The Library of Congress

Ryan Quinn Flanagan: “Newman’s Own Goons”



Newman’s Own Goons

Remember that guy at the end
of the movie Slap Shot
that does a strip tease on ice
while everyone else is fighting
around him?

That’s how I feel most the time.
But no one gives me a trophy
or parade at the end.

Which is fine with me,
I just want to dance.

Throw off my shirt
and kick off these tiresome

In the movie,
the high school band
provides the serenade.

I don’t need all those instruments.

This is a strip tease,
not an operating table.

And Newman’s Own goons
from that tiny nowhere
factory town.

All with glasses so thick
you can’t imagine anyone ever
saw the puck.


About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


More by Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

Artisanal Birds

Before Evening Med Pass

He Brought His Canvases Over


Image Credit: “Hockey team – P. Shea, De Barr, Myers, Brooks, Comer, Osmum, Smith, Sharp, and Jesson” The Library of Congress

Emalisa Rose: “that stuff that gets passed down that no one wants anyhow”



that stuff that gets passed down
that no one wants anyhow

housed in those boxes
were half scribbled love
letters, the fine china cups
from Grandmother Jean
with chips in Virginia’s ridge
mountains, Lena’s acceptance
speech, the silver plate baby
shoes that mother passed
on from her
old school monopoly board,
sixteen scrubbed silver dollars
and endless embroidered
purple rose parasols, plus Uncle
Nate’s war stamps collection

the memoirs you fear to throw
out..the stuff that’s passed
third cousin hands and fourth
generation aunts that you never
met anyhow..all kinds of trinkets
and wrinkled up memories that
no one had wall space for, or felt
any urge to put in a curio that
they’d have to go out and purchase.



About the Author: Emalisa Rose is a poet, macrame artist and animal rescue volunteer.  She lives by a beach town, which provides much of the inspiration for her art.  Her current passion is birding, which looks forward to weaving into her work.


Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “The porch that confirms the premesis’s name, Old Stuff Antiques, in Nashville, a small south-central Indiana city with a growing reputation as an art and collectibles center” (2016) The Library of Congress

Announcing AIOTB Magazine’s Pushcart Nominees



As It Ought To Be Magazine is proud to announce our nominees for this year’s Pushcart Prize



Mike James: “Saint Jayne Mansfield”

Hilary Otto: “Show Don’t Tell”

Diana Rosen: “Hollywood Freeway”

Ronnie Sirmans: “Sloughing Words”

Bunkong Tuon: “Lisel Mueller Died at 96”

Agnes Vojta: “Everybody Loves the Person Who Brings Muffins”



Congratulations to our nominees and a big thanks to all the writers who shared their work with AIOTB Magazine this year!


-Chase Dimock
Managing Editor



Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Grover Beach Sunset” (2020)

Ten Big Things to Know About Roy Bentley: A Review of My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020  By Mike James

Ten Big Things to Know About Roy Bentley:

A Review of

My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020 

By Mike James




Roy Bentley started out as a poet concerned with his own life and his Appalachian and Ohio upbringing. In those early poems about his fire-lipped mama buying a car and an uncle who joined the navy when his wife sent him out to purchase bread, he wrote like a great and natural conversationalist. Those early poems are handled with subtlety, humor, and clear-eyed toughness.



At some point, Bentley decided he could write about anything. As the book progresses from the earliest work, Bentley’s subjects broaden while he deepens his skill. He has poems about Jim Morrison, Robert E. Lee, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has a poem about losing his virginity in a whorehouse and a poem about listening to a boxing match on the radio. Whenever he is writing about a subject he fully occupies it. He’s not a poet who believes in sprinkling. He is a poet of submersion.



Roy Bentley knows how to end a poem. Here are a few random last lines. “The only rising we do is out of the body.” “That awful need to believe in God or nothing at all.” “The hardest part is living without hope.” “Something a boy says to no one in the night.” “Even shadows want to leave here.” (It’s good to be able to quote lines which speak for themselves and need neither footnotes nor back stories.)



His last lines can wallop or kiss, but he never takes short cuts to get there. Bentley might be a good guy to play cards with because he doesn’t seem to know how to cheat.



He is an Ohio poet. There must be something good in the Ohio water. Other Ohio poets include Kenneth Patchen, Rita Dove, Larry Smith, James Wright, Sherwood Anderson, Jeff Gundy, Hart Crane, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Oliver, Paul Zimmer, and George Starbuck. That’s a partial list. There must be something in the Ohio water.



This is poetry without pose. His beer poems and pharmaceutical poems are matter-of-fact. He follows the poem wherever it takes him. He never sounds like anyone other than himself. His voice is distinct and only muddied when he is gargling with river water.



Filmmaker genius/artist/raconteur Jack Smith once wrote, “The title is 50% of the work.”

Based on that, Bentley’s poems are half-way successful at the start since he never provides boring or lazy titles. Some invoke curiosity about happenings, such as “Why William Earl “Bill” Hagerman Carried the Casket” or “Coal Town Saturday Night.”  Some place the reader in a landscape, such as “Body of a Deer by a Creek in Summer.” Others are more musical like, “Eggs and Butter and Milk and Cheese.” (Do you notice how that title starts and ends on the “e” sound? Do you notice how a grocery list becomes a short litany a child might chant to her mother as she helps put groceries away?)



Most of these poems either relate or create an anecdote for the reader. To call them narratives might indicate they are longer than they are. (His average length is one or two pages.) Some don’t so much tell a story as create a scene where a story might take place. Think of an Appalachian David Lynch driving through small towns, past closed drive-ins.



Bentley’s references are wide ranging and fun. He loves Jerry Lee Lewis as much as he loves Salvador Dali. He likes Walt Whitman and Arthur Rimbaud. He loves Elvis (who doesn’t?) and Batman and zombies. Did I mention strippers? He loves those too.



Bentley has not only grown more skillful with age, but also more productive. Six years passed between his first and second books. Then fourteen between his second and third. Then seven more to the next. Then only five passed to the next two! And now this robust selected appears two years after the last two collections. Bentley is bending time in his direction these days with his well-told reckonings and his joyful, verbal leaps.


My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020
Lost Horse Press, 2020
Poetry, $24




About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines throughout the country in such places as Plainsongs, Gargoyle, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Chiron Review. His fifteen poetry collections include: Journeyman’s Suitcase (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He served as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review and currently serves as an associate editor of Unbroken.



More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

Peggy Turnbull: “The River’s Gift”




The River’s Gift

Once a girl found her way
in the evening, down a grassy path
that sloped and stopped beneath a bridge,
where she kneeled
on a beam of concrete shaped
like a mother’s apron
and dipped a jar
into the river’s mouth.

When her sample revealed
its pig-sty aroma,
the boys in seventh grade science
crowned her their goddess of gross,
admiring her
for the rest of the period
as she leaned to her notebook and microscope.

That was enough.
What did she care about adoration?
She’d just discovered microbes.




About the Author: Peggy Turnbull is an academic librarian turned poet who makes her home in the Great Lakes ecoregion of the U.S./Canada. Kelsay Press recently published her first chapbook, The Joy of Their Holiness. She has poems in recent issues of Poppy Road Review, Bluepepper, Mad Swirl, and Writing In a Woman’s Voice. Her favorite hobby is to take long walks.


More by Peggy Turnbull:

Night Ferry


Image Credit: Carol Highsmith: “The 225-foot-long Saco River Bridge, a covered bridge over the Saco River in Conway, New Hampshire. Built in 1890, the Paddleford-style truss bridge includes added arches and has a posted six-ton limit for crossing vehicles.” (2017) The Library of Congress

John Grochalski: “ridiculous male bravado”



ridiculous male bravado

used to have these standoffs
in high school

we’d go to some undisclosed location
like a bus stop or the park

the combatants would stand face to face
glare and try to look hard

maybe one pushed the other
and the other pushed back

to tell the truth they looked scared
like they didn’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt

but were caught up in this ridiculous male bravado

kill or be killed in america

there were never any girls there
they were off being told a different kind of lie

after about fifteen minutes of this sideshow
all the hoopla began to die down

the fighters couldn’t remember
what they were mad about anyway

and one by one
we walked away from the stalled melee

slinking back into our own
little internal dramas

pacifists anew.




About the Author: John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the part that voted for Trump, so may God have mercy on his soul.


More By John Grochalski:

grape drink and snuff

to abby wherever you are


Image Credit: Wilhelm Trübner Scuffling Boys” (1872) Public Domain

Meg Pokrass: “Blueberry Blue”




Blueberry Blue

At sixteen I lay on the floor of my closet. I listened to music that reminded me of him. I ate salad and danced alone in there. Imagining. My eyes were bright blue blueberries, my mother told me no one was perfect, the salad of my hair spilled out of my crocheted hats. My secret closet life. Making blueberry pancakes while thinking about his body, about the world that was perfect with him in it, the world he made ripe.

At sixteen, living in my closet, thinking of him next to my music.

At sixteen, the world said nothing bloomed for long.

At sixteen, blooming. Because he could swallow me whole.



About the Author: Meg Pokrass is the author of five flash fiction collections and a book of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas, for which she received the Blue Light Book Award. Her work has been widely internationally anthologized, most recently in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015) and The Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019. She serves as Founding Co-Editor of Best Microfiction 2020 and teaches flash fiction online and in person.


Image Credit: Detail from the cover of “Rayner’s Berry Book” courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library, Creative Commons 2.0

Jason Baldinger: “where are you now benny santiago?”



where are you now benny santiago?
(for tony gloeggler)

improbable opening day
the swelter of july
the fate of the season
the fate of the country
hangs suspended
in this unsafe air

it’s been years since
I made it to an opening day
last one so cold
the stadium universally
voted a campfire
as between eighth
inning entertainment

previous year was shirt sleeves
forty year old benny santiago
whacked a triple
even from the upper deck
you could see his eyes wide
digging for second, spare
parts strewn across the diamond
he slides winded into third

I wasn’t thirty yet
I already knew
what that run meant
how each stride felt
benny retired the next day

I look over this year’s opening
day roster, selfish I know
the ‘rona cost a chance
to see a historically
bad pirates team lose
over a hundred games

I’ve sat through seasons
like that before
listening every night
to a roster of aaaa players
not looking for wins
hoping for attrition

I don’t think this season
will ever finish, suspended
in an open ledger like’ 94
no boys of october
the crisp of autumn
ushered in without ceremony

tonight stallings
the backup catcher
drops a single, brings in two
the bucs never catch
the cards though

they need magic
come the ninth
with a couple runners
on, only one out
they get lightning instead

harmless double play ball
game ends, soon forgotten
stadium lights blink out
the dustbin of minutia

I turn off the radio
settle back into a book
breathing water in humid night
sometimes it’s attrition

where are you now benny santiago?




About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and  former Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community. He has multiple books available including the chapbook Blind Into Leaving (Analog Submission Press) as well as the forthcoming Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) & A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.



More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambience

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing



Image Credit: “BASEBALL DIAMOND, LOOKING EAST – Roosevelt Stadium, State Route 440 & Danforth Avenue, Jersey City, Hudson County, NJ” The Library of Congress (public domain)

Ariel Beller “ad interim”




ad interim

the birds went quiet
and the air became static and ticks
all it wanted was to get inside
the shadows began to flutter in panic
and the core swelled shut
a blue jay guided the moon reflected in several kitchen knives
                and this old deep couch
which fits me sideways like a hacked apart machine
                I put my cigarette out in a pistachio shell
look around
everything changed
everything the same



About the Author: Ariel Beller was born in Portland, Oregon in 1976.  His work has appeared in The Bicycle Review, Driftwood Press, Amsterdam Quarterly, Luna Luna, Tears in the Fence, Queen Mobs Teahouse, Gobbet, The Wolf, Exquisite Corpse, and many other places.  He currently resides in New Orleans.


Image Credit: Gemeinnüzzige Naturgeschichte des Thierreichs, Gottlieb August Lange,1780-1789. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library