Jason Baldinger: “hymn to groundhog day”

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hymn to groundhog day

this café is contrary
a strange anomaly in a land of diners
walls paper brick with watercolor mustangs
one calendar, two posters of the hulk
one hulk decal on the cooler
I wonder about the calendar to quality ratio
    an equation mastered in blue highways
then wonder how many hulk posters equal a calendar

the waitress says her son raises groundhogs
I don’t know what to say
maybe she’s fucking with me
I look deep in the hulk’s eyes
this year he has forty-two groundhogs
I say, that sure is a lot of groundhogs

bessemer tunnels and carbon snow
a few towns away
my mother’s family settled in the 1850’s
dropping the A and E
dropping the family crest
marrying into a family with a township named after them

a yellow sign juts from the snow in surrender
I miss the america I grew up in
I want to believe this is a statement
on a widening gap in equality
on the erosion of class
on the working persons giving everything away
on the ways we allow government to fail
     in not mandating social responsibility

instead, it’s another absurd conservative screed
about the good old days that never were
times when people went to church
family values happened and abortions didn’t

the stop signs have addendums
one says stop touching me
another stop, hump me
the last stop and dance
these winter messages so conflicted

I hunt frozen snakes along the kiskiminetas
here in the bleak of february
I fill myself with enough gray
to crush the restlessness that grows each snow

punxsutawney
ten hours after the groundhog
he saw his shadow
so did this town

there is no evidence this civilization
still tries to understand weather
through the eyes of animals

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About the Author: Jason Baldinger is from Pittsburgh and looks forward to roaming the country writing poems again. His newest books are A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery Press) and The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press). A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010- 2020 (Kung Fu Treachery) is forthcoming later this year. His work has been published widely across print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lp’s by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.

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More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambience

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing

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Image Credit: Image originally from The quadrupeds of North America. v.1. New York,V.G. Audubon,1851-54. Courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library. Public Domain.

Poetry Soundbite: A Reading and Interview with John Dorsey

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Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s second Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome John Dorsey, who will read from his book Sick, a collaborative collection of poems with Daniel Crocker. Dorsey’s poems explore growing up with cerebral palsy and the challenges he faced in an era before our present day accommodations for young people with disabilities.

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About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

John Brantingham: Five Poems About the Santa Ana Winds

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Still for a While

We get a Santa Ana
and wake to streets
full of branches
and trash and a palm tree

that’s crashed down
through the wrought iron fence
around the city yard.
Today, the air is still

for a while, but the winds
always come back,
or they have so far.
The train tracks are

covered in tumbleweeds.
This air that has come down
from the highland deserts
smells clean.

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News of the Weather

The first weather report I get
is when the airport shifts
its flight pattern directly over us,
and I know the winds are coming.
The breaks in our conversation
as the engines pass above
soon become natural and unnoticed
unless one of us points them out.
The eucalyptus across the train tracks
looks shaggy today. I wonder
what it will look like tomorrow.

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Just Us

The flags on top of the tax service
and immigration building are torn
to feathers by the Santa Ana winds,
and that feels like a metaphor

for something, but I’m not sure what.
The winds have always felt
more symbol than real to me.
They’re so dry they suck

the water right out of you.
We can see for miles across
the normally smoggy sky, and at night
we get stars. All of these things

might mean something like someone
is out there telling us something
with great clarity that I could see
except that I am limited to being just who I am.

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Baldy Winds

After the winds
have died down
here in the valley,
they are still rising
a mist of snow
blowing it off the top
of Mt. Baldy,
which I can see
headed straight up
Euclid Avenue.
It’s still early
on a Sunday morning,
and I’m the only one
out in the world
made clean
by the Santa Anas.
The dawn has no transition
through filtered air.
One moment it’s night,
and the next it’s full day.

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The New Neighbors

When the Santa Ana picks up,
some long haul truckers
pull off the freeways
and park in the neighborhood.

We can see their cabs
in the pale blue lights
of their computers
as they wait out the winds.

When we walk the dog
down the street in the evening,
we invade their space.
This is now their backyard.

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About the Author, John Brantingham: I was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and my work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. I have eleven books of poetry and fiction including my latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). I teach at Mt. San Antonio College.

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Image Credit: Impressions of Southern California by Chase Dimock

Jason Ryberg: “Never Enough to Go Around”

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Never Enough to Go Around

6am, and the world is just about
to fire up again and

over across the way
there’s a black dog straining at its chain,
barking and barking at a starless black sky,

black sky fading to a sheet metal grey,
then, a pale powder blue,

hot black coffee starting to cool,

sixteen Redwing Blackbirds
sitting on a wire,

right above a rusted-out pick-up
that’s missing its front driver’s side tire.

A shoebox full of unopened letters,

a black pleather cowboy boot
sprouting yellow flowers,

a piece of notebook paper,
found in a copy of Don Quixote;
a long list of “things to do, Summer 2002
(#14- finish Don Quixote).”

And here, at the center of it all,
an old-school, wind-up alarm clock
chopping out our meager allotments of time
with a tiny, relentless, insectile sound.

Time;
just never enough of it to go around.

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About the Author: Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell (co-authored with Damian Rucci, John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2020). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters. 

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More by Jason Ryberg:

Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner

Sometimes the Moon is Nothing More than the Moon

All of the Above

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Fleener Chimneys, Lava Beds National Park” (2020)

Lisa Creech Bledsoe: “Some Revelation is at Hand”

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Some Revelation is at Hand

“We didn’t believe it ourselves at first. We took 10 years to confirm through experiments that the animals were really actually living without oxygen.” — Roberto Danovaro, deep-sea biologist

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What lives in me craves light. I close my eyes
and my arms are almost tree. This is a trick
I’ve only recently learned. My skin ticks
with sugars, sighs and swells toward sky.

Crow cups the air and mounts up—
the forest takes flight below.

I am working my way up the west ridge to sun,
hard going. The mountain forgives few missteps
and the consequences are dire up here, unwinged.

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Deep in the sea, miles beneath waves
lie dead zones of immense pressure, salt,
and airlessness. Also: tiny fringed cups, alive.
Making eggs, molting, tentacled.
A millimeter of lace in the anoxic dark.

Something like these also lived before
our atmosphere filled with oxygen.
Circles complete themselves.

3.

Emerging from woods to the exposed ridge
Crow stands on a branch, back to the light, wings
extended, warming.

I grab the next buckeye sapling and pull myself
one deer trail higher, laboring to breathe.

How fire rises in the lungs! Life labors toward
origin: to branch and flame and breath, or
sulphides and sediment and delicate waving fronds
built for the solace of crushing deeps.

4.

Crow’s shadow wavers on the forest floor
crosswhipped with shadows of twigs stripped
bare for winter.

I may never be bird. I study the path to wings
but don’t know what comes before. Yet once
we both swam and cleaved to darkness, forsaking air,
unknown to the blessing of sun and thermal, caught
in the widening gyre.

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About the Author: Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Sunset in Klamath Falls” 2020

Jeff Hardin: “How the Day Gets Away”

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How the Day Gets Away

Now that his mornings seem emptier, less earnest
in what they might envision or accomplish,
he sits in the sunroom, staring at the wall.

As far as events in the history of the world,
this one is quite minor, of no real consequence,
which is not to say there won’t be ramifications
for his conception of himself, a man now
dealing with the distance widening between
who he is and who he thought he might become.

If the truth must be known, he no longer
lets his eye, as he once did, sketch each
length and twist, each branching to branch-
again oak limb, as a way to stay focused
on how the least thing said moves farther
and farther from what was first intended.

How easily a discussion of something literal
could turn figurative and vice-versa,
could move from the innocuous to the threatening,
from eternal life to damnation, from what
a moment apparently is to what, inevitably,
upon further inspection, it must be lacking.

In this way the day gets away from him, as usual—
and he minds, of course, for who wouldn’t,
yet after these many years of nothing much
happening he admires, perhaps the task has
become simply to wait on another day’s arrival,
one with more or less of what it already contains.

Sometimes he opens a book to a random page,
if only for the frisson of noticing how one word
conclusion, for instance—lies near another one,
airborne or skeptical or irrelevant, pleased
by how the mind seeks out narratives
it can’t summon or produce, only discover.

Even these, though, eventually come to mean
something else entirely, proving a premise
unforeseen, or beside the point, or petty at best,
the kind that would have come into existence
had no action been taken at all, the kind that,
once it arrives, seems the only possible outcome,
if not the only one the heart and mind can bear.

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About the Author: Jeff Hardin is the author of six collections of poetry: Fall Sanctuary (Nicholas Roerich Prize); Notes for a Praise Book (Jacar Press Book Award); Restoring the Narrative (Donald Justice Prize); Small RevolutionNo Other Kind of World (X. J. Kennedy Prize), and A Clearing Space in the Middle of BeingThe New Republic, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, Hotel Amerika, and Southern Poetry Review have published his poems. He teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN.

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More By Jeff Hardin:

A Namelessness of Starlings

A Word that Means Standing Between Each Moment

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Peacock at Dusk” (2021)

Leonard Kress: “Sedition”

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Sedition

Yes, I did the same thing once.
Eighteen, away from home, establishing
Discipleship—the monk Thomas Merton,
The critic of everything, Paul Goodman,

And the deadpan Buddhist, Suzuki.
Yes, some of my professors too,
Like the one whose son was soon
To go to jail resisting the draft

And the one whose Quaker leanings
Told us all to do the same. The fact
That his psychology consisted only
Of training rats to navigate a maze,

Grading us on our skill in doing so,
Made no difference. The only thing
To do, helpless as we were, ineffective
And frightened, was to disrupt

The student military exercises,
Our fellow classmates, including my roommate,
As they gathered and marched, presenting
Arms (no matter that their guns were

Carved from wood and merely ornamental).
They still paraded to the crowd gathered
In the stadium, and yes, in spite
Of uniforms their marching here

Helped them avoid the draft, and yes,
Except for a few hotheaded devotees
Of war (in theory), most treated it
Like marching band, the outfits, formations,

Comraderie, and break from calc and labs and comp.
Still, we painted our faces and donned rags
And feather dusters, whatever we could salvage
From storage closets in the dorm.

And someone handed me a ceremonial sword,
(Dull blade and fragile, awarded
For a patriotic declamation in high school)
And yes, there I was, whooping and bringing

Up the rear, rushing from behind the stands
And streaming in between the lines
Of bored and stiff cadets, who would
Have rather been tossing frisbees or

Choosing sides for touch football.
Yes, we ruined the ceremony and some Major
Shouted outrage, another of lesser rank rattled.
In the end, we simply wandered off,

Abandoned our arms beneath the bleachers
(Including the sword, whose owner planned
To toss it in the trash), after realizing
That none of our fellow students cared

About patriotism, or centuries old
Overwrought declarations about noble deeds.
And yes, pledge week had just begun,
Soon they’d be dancing drunk and passing out.

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About the Author: Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz were both published in 2018. Craniotomy Sestinas will appear in 2021. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio. www.leonardkress.com

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Image Credit: INTERIOR VIEW, CLASSROOM WITH LECTURE STAND AND DESKS – Smith Hall, Capstone Drive at Sixth Avenue, Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, AL. The Library of Congress

Wesley Scott McMasters: “Bathtub Madonna Washes” 

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Bathtub Madonna Washes

her face with holy water 
from the spigot  

blessed because her hands
lift the water to her face  

her hands which 
stirred soup for her son  

chicken and stars
(the stars taste better) 

hands which wiped down the table
to make room for coloring books 

hands which delivered soup two doors down
for a sister lost to breast cancer  

hands which have always looked
as though they belong to someone much older 

her hands which now begin to 
ache at the joints in the morning 

her hands which have a hard time
coming together in the mornings 

to pray for her son and her mother
to ask why she is so sad at night

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About the Author: Wesley Scott McMasters writes, teaches, and lives in east Tennessee just within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains with his dog, Poet (who came with the name, he swears). 

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Image Credit: Jack Delano “Field of beans on the farm of Gaetano Simone, Italian FSA (Farm Security Administration) client. Westville, Connecticut. Don’t know what the bathtub is for” (1940) Public Domain, The Library of Congress

 

 

Poetry Soundbite: A Reading and Interview with Kory Wells

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Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s third Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome Kory Wells, the author of Sugar Fix, poetry from Terrapin Books. A former software developer now focused on her longtime side gig in creative writing, Kory nurtures connection and community through her advocacy for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. A recent two-term poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, she is founder and manager of a reading and open mic series and a mentor with the low-residency program MTSU Write. Kory’s poetry has been featured on The Slowdown podcast by former U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, and her writing appears in James Dickey Review, Ruminate, Stirring, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. korywells.com

 

Below the video, you can find links to some of the poems on AIOTB Magazine

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The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgement

When the Watched Pot Boils

Untold Story

Max Heinegg: “Service”

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Service 

He’d lifted crystal kernel husks, my malt-
mill’s sweet dust. By night, he must have
heard my antsy steps & fled
the basement’s leaky sink, his fountain.

The fridge’s back a flat, our wires a file
for his teeth. Gifted intermittence,
the current no deterrence.
Worse, his shit ubiquitous.

He brought friends; I bought poison.

We passed a season’s silence, until he fell
unseen—his scent revenged.

He’d wintered in our drafts, heard the girls’
laughter from the crawl space, eking
near our surfeit. Had he lazed
by the furnace in the catless calm, or
fretted each moment, an unnerved squatter?

Typing, my long teeth grind to keep my mind
safe from the point. I’ll speak for him:
the peaceful creatures especially have enemies.

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About the Author: Max Heinegg’s poems have appeared in Thrush, The Cortland Review, Nimrod, Columbia Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry. He lives and teaches English in Medford, MA, and is also a singer-songwriter (whose records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com) and the co-founder and brewmaster of Medford Brewing Company.

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More by Max Heinegg:

Open Letter to Ezra Beeman

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Image Credit: Herman Bencke “Two dogs chasing mouse through open case of champagne” (1878) Public Domain, The Library of Congress