Leslie M. Rupracht: “The Night I Lost My Souvenir Bucket Hat”

The Night I Lost My Souvenir Bucket Hat 
	
  —Exhibition Game, August 8, 1977 
      MacArthur Stadium, Syracuse, New York
 
We three—
Dad, little brother, and nine-year-old me—
watched from the low-rise, general admission bleachers 
beside right field, a long walk to the concession stand 
and nowhere convenient to shelter from the rain, and 
it did rain that night we visited the ball park to see 
the New York Yankees rival their Triple-A farm club 
Syracuse Chiefs, who, after three innings, were ahead 
on the scoreboard before the rain delay, when Dad said 

the Yanks were letting the Chiefs win, rotating 
bench players while big name starters schmoozed 
at the fence-line, and luckily, that fence was close to 
us fans who sat in nowhere-land just to see our sports 
heroes because, let’s face it, we were there for 
the Major Leaguers anyway, our pounding pulses, 
giddy chatter, and broad grins underscoring delight in 
sort of meeting our favorite soon-to-be 
World Series Champs—

star hitter and right fielder Reggie Jackson, shortstop 
Bucky Dent, second baseman Willie Randolph, pitcher 
Ron Guidry, catcher Thurman Munson, among them—
signing autographs for more seasoned fans with 
the foresight to bring baseballs and ballpoints as 
we stood a mere Louisville Slugger’s length behind 
them, our eyes wide and jaws on the gravel, until 
the rain finally tapered off, antsy fans grew louder, 
and the umpire again declared,

Play ball! and when the ninth inning had barely ended—
the Chiefs having proudly trounced the Yanks 14-5—
our soggy trio mad-dashed through the crowd, Dad’s firm
hands guiding us kids by our shoulders to the restrooms 
for a pit stop, then onward to our trusty royal blue Ford 
van in the crowded parking lot, where I realized I’d lost 
my oft-worn, multi-colored Long Island Game Farm hat, 
too late to buy a Yankees ball cap and keepsake pen,
ask Mr. October to sign the not-yet-broken-in rim. 

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: Russell Lee “Night baseball, Marshall, Texas” (1939) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Cord Moreski: “Casual Friday”

Casual Friday


When the evening arrives
John next door goes by 
the name Lady Flamingo 

and puts away the expensive suit 
for a dress with sequins and feathers

hides his neatly combed hair 
beneath curls of a pink wig 

and trades in the quietness of his dress shoes 
for the authority of eight-inch heels

he works business in the city by day 
until business becomes hers by night.

This morning I hold the entrance door 
for him while we both leave for work 

sporting another Brooks Brothers suit 
he tells me it’s Casual Friday 
as he points to the pink flamingo on his tie.

About the Author: Cord Moreski is a poet from the Jersey Shore. Moreski is the author of Confined Spaces (Two Key Customs, 2022), The News Around Town (Maverick Duck Press, 2020), and Shaking Hands with Time (Indigent Press, 2018). When he is not writing, Cord waits tables for a living and teaches middle school children that poetry is awesome. His next chapbook Apartment Poems will be released by Between Shadows Press in late 2022. You can follow Cord here: www.cordmoreski.com

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “LA Flamingo” (2021)

Beth Kanell: “Do the Next Right Thing”

Do the Next Right Thing

Between the calendar and the task list, most mornings
I’m chasing paper before my first cup of tea. Or paper
is chasing me—sheets of it rustling, as if a breeze woke
at the sound of my alarm, rising, gusting across the desk

flicking the edges of the note I wrote last night: Plant seeds.
Clean the tub. Buy more oats, milk, butter, life. Wait!
I remind the page, “You can’t buy more life.” The breeze laughs.
Across the room, the calendar rustles in amusement.

I really don’t think it’s funny. I talk back. I argue. My tea
that steamed in its sturdy green mug gives up, chills out,
and a stray tear sneaks down my right cheek. Only one
way to keep love alive: Plant more seeds. Let something

tender, something vulnerable, something miraculous
(none of which could ever describe paper) grow.

About the Author: Beth Kanell lives in northeastern Vermont, with a mountain at her back and a river at her feet. Poet, novelist, historian, and memoirist, she shares her research and writing process at BethKanell.blogspot.com. Her novels include This Ardent Flame, The Long Shadow (SPUR Award winner), The Darkness Under the Water, The Secret Room, and Cold Midnight; her short fiction shows up in Lilith and elsewhere; and she takes pleasure in documenting life stories of older Vermonters in features in the North Star Monthly. Look for her memoirs on Medium, and her mystery reviews at the New York Journal of Books.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Small Bloom” (2022)

Jon Bennett: “Winter Apples”

Winter Apples

The powdery mildew killed my eyes
but I’d climb it anyhow
an ancient Gravenstein
with a pine tar patch
in the vee of two trunks
My dad’s friend was a jazz guitarist
and a tree surgeon
to my kid ears ‘tree surgeon’
was as good as Dr.
he did the patch
and later died of vodka poisoning
in his mobile home
I picked up the guitar myself
and wondered what dad thought about it
My dad and the tree
look worse each year
sooty blotch and flyspeck
liver spots and basal carcinomas
but big, sweet Gravensteins
as if the tree knows
these are the last
they’ll ever have.

About the Author: Jon Bennett writes and plays music in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. You can find his work on most music streaming sites as well as here. His new chapbook, Leisure Town, is available on Amazon here.

Image Credit: Image originally from The apples of New York Albany :J.B. Lyon,1905. Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

John Macker: “The Gentle Hours”

the gentle hours
                   ⸺to John

a felt bluebird perches on the purple
orchid on my kitchen table
a broken heat wave
elixir for the skin
these are the gentle hours
at 6 am I’m up and around the place
shedding the shortened sleep

I haven’t yet grown into my windows, 
the few flat bottomed clouds have 
nested under my eyes, dawn is an 
obsessive safecracker     vault of blue 
sky wide open dreams wide open morning 
broken like an egg and opened      no one at 
this hour seems shocked at the sounds of life. 

I think of my friends present and long gone
as interstellar rainbows, sun-kissed 
children of beauty     no one but everyone 
ends up a stranger, they are my muses 
my runes my river. When I think of them
I think every star inhabits the soul of a 
desert flower, every soul a signal fire.

First news of the day will rattle some 
empty cages, no doubt, it’ll take more 
than imagining the contents of Thoreau’s
haversack to gentle the earth. At my age I 
become something I’m not all over again 
and it fits me like a glove. Fate is a direction 
that won’t let me lose my way. 

About the Author: John Macker grew up in Colorado and has lived in northern New Mexico for 25 years. He has published 13 full-length books and chapbooks of poetry, 2 audio recordings, an anthology of fiction and essays, and several broadsides over 30 years. His most recent are Atlas of Wolves, The Blues Drink Your Dreams Away, Selected Poems 1983-2018, (a 2019 Arizona/New Mexico Book Awards finalist), Desert Threnody, essays and short fiction (winner of the 2021 Arizona/New Mexico Book Awards fiction anthology prize), El Rialto, a short prose memoir and Chaco Sojourn, short stories, (both illustrated by Leon Loughridge and published in limited edition by Dry Creek Art Press.) In 2019, his poem “Happiness” won a Fischer Poetry Prize finalist citation, sponsored by the Telluride Institute.

Image Credit: Image originally from “The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands”. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Mike James: “Howie Good’s Path of Most Resistance: An Appreciation”

  

Howie Good’s Path of Most Resistance:

An Appreciation

By Mike James

“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”
     - Bob Dylan

During his brilliant and destructive youth, Steve Earle (singer-songwriter extraordinaire) once proclaimed, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Later, older and sober. Earle recanted such unorthodoxy and admitted that Van Zandt was not as good as the forever mutable Dylan.

What does this story, which sounds almost apocryphal, have to do with the prose poetry of Howie Good? Well, like Steve Earle talking about Van Zandt, Good’s prose poems summon similar hyperbolic and unorthodox statements. In his varied landscapes which encompass the political, the personal, the pop, the historical, and the surreal, Good’s prose poems are unique in American literature. 

Unlike the masterful prose poems of Robert Bly and James Wright, his work is seldom vatic. The characters which occupy his poems believe in horror more than transcendence. The god he comes across is “absorbed in his own thoughts” and acts “like he didn’t believe he ought to exist.”  Within these poems, as in life, the mundane and the awful happen side-by-side. People die or climb a tree to survive, but hope left on a train to an unnamed camp long ago. 

The world Good creates is both visual (he loves to reference painters) and apocalyptic. His work does not re-state the commonplace. A reader will not think, “I have also felt this way.” Instead, Good offers a kaleidoscope view of another reality which often bleeds into our own. 

None of this is to imply that his work is without humor. Good often laughs at himself, but his humor is not like vaudeville. It is like the existential jokes of Steven Wright or the ironic jokes of Franz Kafka or the exit door jokes of the patient in the cancer ward. Even his many book titles like The Bad News First, The Titanic Sails at Dawn, and The Death Row Shuffle display his dark humor. Sometimes Good’s characters laugh until they cry and then they keep crying. 

It’s important to say characters since these poems are occupied by various figures. There’s no self-willed persona in Good’s work as there is in the work of Bukowski and his acolytes. Only the constancy of themes (fear of the unknown, the certainty of pain and death, the cruelty of existence, and the occasional redemption of art) reveal anything about the man behind the writing.  

In his essay, “A Small Note on Prose Poetry”, Good wrote, “All poetry worthy of the name exists in opposition to the churn of mass culture.” The idea of opposition is the force behind Good’s work and aesthetic. He writes as an outsider who makes arguments against the easy and expected.  

Good’s background in journalism gives a clarity to his work even when he seems to take notes from a made up country. Journalism taught him the value of a strong declarative sentence and he is a solid student of the ways a sentence can be shaped.

Good’s outsider status is confirmed in his life and in his poetry. He’s a bit like Alfred Starr Hamilton: tied to no group or school he has few readers and fewer supporters, but many fine poems. His writing career includes approximately 40 books from small and tiny presses in the United States and England, but involves neither a MFA program nor a WPA conference. Since no one told Good what kind of poems he should write, he went off and wrote like no one else. 

Uniqueness is both difficult and rare. Howie Good’s work is not difficult, but it is rare in the quality of the language, the vibrancy of the images, and the challenges of the worldview. What he offers the reader is a tilt-a-whirl ride where the landscape is always changing and where frogs rain in abundance.

For more of Howie Good’s poetry on AIOTB Magazine, check out our archives.

About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His most recent book, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, was published by Red Hawk in April 2022. Mike’s previous poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.) 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Desert Bloom” (2022)

Meg Pokrass: “On My Road”

On My Road

You shuddered and I shuddered and I smiled because of gravity. I moved you with my hands, and then we went to the movies. Full-screen, popcorn, real butter. You say we’ve sinned and our faces have dropped. I laugh and tell you I’ll pick your face up for you. You say you gave up women for an old yellow dog and magazines and a bad lower back. I say I wear a plastic-certainty mask when I greet the young pharmacist who knows my driver’s-license name. Your handwriting was here on my table last week. I’m not giving up on this.

About the Author: Meg Pokrass is the author of 8 collections of flash fiction.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Unfolding Succulent” (2022)

Ken Hines: “Expiration Date”

Expiration Date 

In the dream we all had one. Some were subtle, 
the back of an earlobe, the sole of your foot. Pale 
digits in a delicate Roman font. Others more brazen, 
a numeric ring on a middle finger. Nobody got  
to choose. It was the first thing new moms checked  
after counting fingers and toes, tiny numbers and dashes  
in folds of still damp skin. No point trying to get rid  of 
them. Like the chemistry teacher who scrubbed  her skin 
raw with a concoction boiled up in the lab.  Her 
tattoo-artist boyfriend, undeterred,  
wielded his needle magic to give her a few more years.  
But the merciless 2022 was still there. Many  
tried to ignore it, the way third graders in July 
refuse to think about September. A few made it into a party,  
their birthday’s morbid cousin, where black balloons had a 
whole new meaning. 
                                               Later I wondered if they  
were any better off, those people with indelible dates,  
taking their personal time bombs with them as they  
went about their lives. At least they were never  
surprised by death, foretold as it was from the start.  No phone 
calls that drop you to your knees. But you’d  still have to face 
the appointed date, wouldn’t you? Alone  in your den, blinds 
shut tight, listless ceiling fan stirring above.  Feeling the 
seconds squeeze through you like cigarette smoke  through a 
menthol filter. Realizing as you wait—the end is still the end 
even when you know its schedule. 
 

About the Author: A 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Ken Hines has written poems that appear in AIOTBVita Poetica, Ekphrastic ReviewPsaltery & Lyre and other magazines. His poem “Driving Test” won the Third Wednesday Journal Annual Poetry Prize. All this scribbling takes place in Richmond, Virginia.

Image Credit: Reijer Stolk “Anatomical study of the neck, arm and leg muscles of a man” Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

Rose Mary Boehm: “Sirocco”

Sirocco 

The hot winds blow northwards.
Laboring hearts adapt to a slow-burning rhythm.
Nights find you breathing harder,
dreaming languid dreams dipped in Saharan orange.
Snow melts into puddles, makes
little rapids in the gullies.

Shy bright green unfolds on hitherto
barren winter stalks, like young girls
succumbing to the whispered promise
of swelter, not heeding either calendar
or caution.  Cars covered in red sand
use the roads like go-cart runs. An early
tulip pushes through heavy slush,
a sense of unseemliness in the air.

On a park bench two grey heads,
woolen scarves undone daringly,
galoshes protecting warm shoes.
Old hands stripped of thick gloves,
he holds hers and bends over them as far 
as his stiff back gives him leave.
The Sirocco will hold a few days.

About the Author: Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, will be published by Kelsay Books in July 2022. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Dead Leaves and Landscape” (2021)