Ace Boggess: “Rain/Snow Mix”



Rain/Snow Mix

Don’t know whether to wear my gloves
or grab the cobalt umbrella 
with its one bent, awkward arm.

I’ll get wet, but maybe it’s one of those dry wets.

If the temp were ten degrees cooler,
every question would have an answer
rather than another question:
should I stay home? risk it for a quick trip to the store?

The meteorologist mocks & prattles, 
goofing like an Auguste clown.
I think it’s funny we never see his shoes.


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: “Unidentified man with umbrella standing in street with building in background” (1921) The Library of Congress

Fabrice Poussin: “Getting Old”



Getting Old

She stared into a worn-out mirror
familiar motion of early morning rises
seeking the imperfection born of the darkness.

Uncertain in the first hours of early frosts
she Passed her personal inspection
with the gaze of an unmatched surgeon.

Robed in the purity of the soft cotton
she caresses the gentle envelope of the years
complete in the glee that life still loans.

Remembering birthdays of another century
she wonders at the purity of the white satin
where not a line yet has written a somber destiny.

The certainty of time has gone into another realm
where dimensions come together into space
and she smiles even when they call her granny.


About the Author: Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.


Image Credit: Jacob Byerly “Portrait of an Elderly Woman in Matron Cap” (1844) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Geoffrey Heptonstall: “One for Sorrow, Two for Sorrow”




The bird that sings a stolen song 
leaves echoes of another sound 
from a tongue bereft of voice.
‘Pica, pica,’ the magpie cries, 
naming its nature in air.
Joytaker, heartbreaker, 
what it sees it steals 
in glistening desire, 
feathered with wildness 
to plunder the beauty of things.
The joker in a pack of lies, 
it lives on sorrow alone.


About the Author: Geoffrey Heptonstall is the author of a novel, Heaven’s Invention [revised paperback edition Black Wolf, 2017] and a collection of poetry, The Rites of Paradise [Cyberwit 2020].


Image Credit: Australian Magpie courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Tony Pena: “Birds of a Feather”



Birds of a Feather

The black birds caw
as I hobble to my Honda
CRV noir like Mister
no meniscus on the lam
from hard boiled critics
who put Clarice Starling
on my case for killing
so many of my darlings.
In my standard literary
issue of charcoal satin
shirt and dungarees,
I ask of the evening
in iambic slang,
if the crows consider
me an accomplice
to their murder
or just another
Edgar Allan wannabe.



About the Author: Tony Pena was formerly 2017-2018 Poet Laureate for the city of Beacon, New York.  His work has appeared in several publications over the years. Recently, poems have appeared in 1870, Museum of Poetry, and the Rye Whiskey Review. A volume of poetry and flash fiction, “Blood and Beats and Rock n Roll,” is available at Amazon.  A chapbook of poetry, “Opening night in Gehenna,” is available from author. Colorful compositions and caterwauling with a couple of chords can be seen at:

Image Credit: illustration from A synopsis of the birds of Australia, and the adjacent Islands. London: John Gould, 1837. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Leslie M. Rupracht: “Brothers”




The phone call behind him,
shock still fresh in his ears,  

the surviving brother    
reaches for memories 
long archived in the depths 
of a cerebral vault, 

untapped for a half-century 
and more until this unending night

Images of two laughing brothers 
upon hand-built rafts forged of scrap 
barn wood, frayed ropes and faith, 
floating on creek waters 

into the rapids of his 

a pair of young captains, 
made of invincible braveness, are
summoned into this sobering moment 
to placate a suddenly lonesome man’s 

shattered hope to bond and build 
more durable craft with his brother

In irretrievable youth 
as in this irreversible hour 
and the tomorrows of his mourning, 
he realized 

he always wanted more 
of his big brother’s time


About the Author: Leslie M. Rupracht is an editor, poet, writer, and visual artist living in the Charlotte/Lake Norman region of North Carolina since 1997. Her words and artwork appear in various journals (most recently Gargoyle), anthologies, group exhibits, and a chapbook, Splintered Memories (Main Street Rag, 2012). Longtime senior associate editor of now-retired Iodine Poetry Journal, Rupracht also edited NC Poetry Society’s 2017 and 2018 Pinesong anthology. Swearing off a corporate work relapse, Rupracht co-founded and hosts Waterbean Poetry Night at the Mic in Huntersville, NC.


Image Credit: “Portrait of Two Seated Boys” (1850s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

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


Mike James Reviews

Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems

By Marko Pogacar


Translated poetry is notoriously difficult to critique. Are we judging the work of the poet or the translator or the right combination of both? Even the best translation is a bit like listening to music playing in the apartment next door: we notice some of the beauty, but miss much of the subtlety. 

Ezra Pound famously said he wanted to know, “what could not be lost in translation.” One of the items more difficult to lose is imagery. The power of rhetoric may increase or decrease depending on the translator, but a clear, unusual image is harder to erase. 

Marko Pogacar is a poet well known in his native Croatia; however, this is his first volume translated into American English. Thankfully, for him and the reader, his translator is the supremely gifted Andrea Jurjevic, whose own poetry ranges across a similar landscape of stunning imagery and heart wrenching epiphany. 

Before diving into the poems, there’s a preface which calls out both Pogacar’s age (he’s in his mid-30’s) and the wars which shaped his early years. A good translator’s preface should address the work of the author being translated, as well as provide context on his life, while also addressing the nature of translation. Jurjevic does all of that. 

Her preface does a fine job of setting expectations for the reader. She writes, “There’s no idling in these poems. They’re noisy, mercurial, authentic. Their movement resembles a beehive; it is unpredictable and usually turned inward. The sound offers both a sword and a shield.” 

The last line is telling because much of the imagery throughout the collection is tied equally to violence and protection. Pogacar writes that “death fits into the three dots / at the end of an incomplete sentence,” but, despite that, “beautiful obstacles are everywhere.”  

Pogacar’s world is logic free and completely relatable. His poems exist within a dreamscape of surrealism and black humor. This is illustrated with the collection’s very first poem, the wonderfully titled, “Man Dines In His Father’s Slippers.” The poem begins as a type of love poem with the line, “What used to be borders, is now you.” The narrator then moves to a description of the environment and then back to observations on his internal life. The poem is structured as a jagged, uneven see-saw. Ultimately, it all evens out as the narrator tells us, “not love, stupidity, stupidity is the heart of the world– / and now in those slippers I eat and cry, / only eat and cry in the house.”

If a collection of poems is to be judged not just by the number of successful poems within it, but also by the number of exotically memorable lines, then Dead Letter Office succeeds on every level. Pogacar can take a reader into “a cage for the dreamless owl of the heart” and allow her to live there among “an archive of errors.”


Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems by Marko Pogacar
Translated by Andrea Jurjevic
The Word Works, 2020
Poetry/Translation, $21


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 By Mike James:


Paul Lynde

Oh Daddy, Give Me A Quarter For The Time Machine


Image Credit: “Chief Post Office Mail Room, Wellington 1920” Archives New Zealand Creative Commons 2.0

Victor Clevenger: “Low-Flying Birds”



As It Ought To Be Magazine, in a partnership with River Dog Press and Temple of Man, is proud to feature Victor Clevenger’s Low-Flying Birds, as a free downloadable chapbook of poetry.

River Dog is a small press from Missouri creating chapbooks, broadsides and zines. They are not any sort of commercial enterprise, but simply two friends who wanted to get back to basics, to why they got into all of this to begin with, to offer something from the heart. For more information on River Dog’s publications, inquire at


About the Author: Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry.  Selected pieces of his work have appeared in print magazines and journals around the world.  He is the author of several collections of poetry including Sandpaper Lovin’ (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017), A Finger in the Hornets’ Nest (Red Flag Poetry, 2018), and Corned Beef Hash By Candlelight (Luchador Press, 2019).  Together with American poet John Dorsey, they run River Dog.


More By Victor Clevenger:

Milkman’s Mustache

$5.00 Wok

Bunkong Tuon: “Song I Sing”



Song I Sing

America, you were brave once,
decent, almost pure, but never quite
the myths you tell yourself.
Is this the karma from centuries of bloodshed,
lands pilfered, women raped, men murdered,
lynching, assassinations, race riots, class inequality?
You name it, we have it.
You want Coca Cola? You want heroin?
You want coke? Me love you long time.
What’s a little bit of sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll,
legalized murders and colonialism in the name
of democracy, which is just a fancy name
for imposing our definitions on those
with a different set of definitions.
A war is a war however you name it,
just like a murder is a murder however
you spin it. Thus anger screams for justice
on the streets of Los Angeles,
Chicago and Minneapolis,
the fire of unfulfilled dreams burning
across your once great land.
Meanwhile the pandemic death toll reaches
100,000 and counting.
They say bodies pile as high
as the flag, not enough plastic bags,
lying against walls of mobile mortuaries,
not enough space in local cemeteries.
There’s talk of making burial grounds
in local parks where children used to play..
There’s talk of reopening the economy,
money valued over human life,
business as usual, the old American way.
Is America going mad or am I going crazy?
I’m tired of reading the news these days.
I’d rather take my daughter to the park,
ride swings with our feet against
the bright burning sun, go down slides
and scream our hearts out, laugh
like the little children we all are.
I want to smoke hash with Allen Ginsberg,
grocery shopping in search of Whitman,
talk poetry, Buddhism, and God,
all of which are the same thing, a celebration
of the human Godhead, the human breath,
the Atman in all of us. Love
ourselves. Take good care.
America, I love you even when you spit
at my Asian brothers and sisters,
throw rocks at their cars, accuse
them of carrying the “Wuhan virus.”
When I speak, you don’t hear.
Some don’t believe that I should be here,
a place at the table, where professors
profess, poets sing, students evaluate.
I have no wisdom here. Only this.
The birds soar high in the bright blue sky.
Everything is blue, crystal clear.
The air is clean. Those birds,
they are singing their songs again.
Oh, I love you all. In spite of it.
I love you all. I just can’t do otherwise.


About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. He tweets @BunkongTuon


More By Bunkong Tuon:

Gender Danger

Lies I Told About Father

Fishing for Trey Platoo


Image Credit: “American Flag” Harris and Ewing [between 1915 and 1923] The Library of Congress

John Haugh: “Thanksgiving Hurt”



Thanksgiving Hurt  

Twelve of us stand, hands encircling 
your granite-topped kitchen island. 
Eleven offer prayers of Thanksgiving, 
while you weep. 

Medicine’s cornucopia failed you. 
Now it’s pain and acupuncture, brutal, 
additive opioids or brain stem injections. 

Later, I take our four sons of two families 
romping through leaves from winter-bare oaks, 
to build driftwood forts by the Flatrock River. 
I can’t remember, in our decades as siblings, 
any prior moment when you openly wept. 

Our four boys imagine riverside wars, 
negotiate play-battle near a small pool 
of Rosyface Shiner minnows, 
separate from the Flatrock’s main body. 
You’re thinning toward gaunt, and tried 
to warn me by phone about your crying, 
but I had no concept. 

The Flatrock chuckles, November empty. 
Minnows flash over rotting leaves in just 
one pool, cut from Mother River by a fallen 
chestnut tree. Now, I admire courage, 
with an Irish respect for all things addictive, 
but please mind the cost of pain. 

One hard freeze or hungry bird 
could kill all those lovely minnows. 
Perhaps we could dig 
a channel from pool to river. 

I check my watch and shout, 
our boys settle final treaties. 
We can wish minnows 
had the life they deserve, 
but it is time to go.



About the Author: John Haugh lives in Greensboro, NC where he works in finance and is trying to assemble his first chapbook, Repurpose Those Ghosts.  Recent other publishing credits include poems appearing in Main Street Rag, Kackalack, the Roanoke Review, Peregrine, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Tipton Poetry Review.  Mr. Haugh was a finalist for the Applewhite poetry award recently, was a NCAA national champion in fencing years ago, and spent untold hours browsing Oxford Books in Atlanta and Powell’s City of Books in Oregon when young.


Image Credit: “Wagon hit with fallen tree” (1922) The Library of Congress



Brendon Booth-Jones: “Van Gogh, Roses, 1890”



Van Gogh, Roses, 1890
—For Mathieu & Rachel

Calendar above my bed:
the harsh grid of days softened
by almost translucent
blue-white roses
so close to dissolving—

how the plague of failure
must have fingered the wound of your gift—

the sad angles of the leaves
remorseful in the fading light
from the transparent evening sky
above of the sanatorium in Saint-Remy in May.

Knowing you had it—
knowing you would be forgotten
before you were even remembered—


About the Author: Brendon Booth-Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Block Magazine in Amsterdam. Brendon’s work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Amaryllis, Botsotso, The Blue Nib, Ghost City Review, Odd Magazine, Peeking Cat, Scarlet Leaf Review, Zigzag and elsewhereBrendon won the 2019 White Label Competition for his debut poetry collection, Vertigo to Go, which will be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2020. Find him on Facebook @brendonboothjoneswriter


Image Credit: Vincent Van Gogh “Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses” (1890) Public Domain