Larry Smith: “Union Town”



Union Town

Once a month for decades
he brought home the Catholic Worker
folded gently and laid it on kitchen table,
where it would be picked up, read, 
folded, and laid back again.
A fabric in their lives,
like the Catholic missals
she kept in rubber bands
folded in her dresser drawer.
He spoke little of the mill,
except of friends, left it
at the mill gate where others
might stop in bars to drink
their bitterness away.

Their children are taught by Catholic sisters
of Charity, Franciscans who share
Christ’s preference for the poor by
having them bring cans of food each month,
and at some secret signal near recess
gently bowl them forward on the wooden floor—
twenty cans of green beans, corn, tomato sauce
reaching the blackboard with sweet laughter,
as the Sister feigns surprise, then bends
to gather them up, and they all
bow their heads in thanks.


About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.


More By Larry Smith: 

No Walls

The Story of Rugs



Image Credit: Lewis W. Hine “Furniture Factory Worker or Printer?” (1930s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

John Grey: “Maud”




The parlor
stands for all of life,
even for those things that most resemble death,
because Maud occupies her favorite chair,
knitting a sweater for no one to wear,
out of the necessity to busy the hands,
relieve the mind of its terrible duties,
retell her story in stitch after stitch
so the end result is something warm and lovely.

A crucifix on the wall,
a husband behind glass,
bestow in silver-plate and photograph
the blessings that remain to her,
from her thick mop of white hair,
to wrinkled but active fingers,
all the way down to
the knitting needles,
the basket of wool skeins.

Jesus is nailed and hurting.
The man in uniform 
is off to war, off to heaven.
She joins them in pain
with a bend to her spine,
a much-broken heart.

But there’s still this 
sheer blood-red dreaminess
to her shapeless eyes
And her breath is like a breeze
continually rousing her aged loveliness.
Yes, it’s more of a winter wind these days.
But the chill can never settle.
And she cannot quite settle on the chill.


About the Author: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and Failbetter.


More By John Grey: 

Move On



Photo Credit:  Gertrude Käsebier “Grandmother Käsebier with Knitting” (1895) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

William Taylor Jr: “A Seventeen Dollar Glass of Wine and the Early Works of Matisse”



A Seventeen Dollar Glass of Wine and the Early Works of Matisse 

I’m drinking overpriced wine 
in the cafe at the Museum 
of Modern Art on a Tuesday 

Summer is done and the tourists 
have gone back to whatever sad places
spawned them.

Everything is quiet and civilized
as I sip the Chardonnay of the day
while reading about Baudelaire
and his miserable genius.

The women are pretty
in skirts and dresses
whispering to each other
as they gaze upon some lesser 
work of Edvard Munch.

Everything is clean, white and pristine
while outside are all the things 
the headlines drone on about:

cancer and freeway crashes 
things on fire and the inevitable 
collapse of every decent 
thing we’ve ever known.

But it all seems so far away 
and meaningless when 
compared to what Matisse 
achieved in his later years

and it feels pointless 
to dwell upon such dreariness
when confronted with Warhol’s 
comic book yellows 
and reds.

Here the mistakes of our past
have been captured and neutralized
handsomely framed and placed 
upon the walls with gilded 
plaques of explanation

so that we might see
and soberly contemplate
for a moment or two
before moving on 
to something else 

and then back downstairs 
for another glass of wine 
before everything


About the Author: William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.  He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The Chiron Review. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award. Pretty Words to Say, a new collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Six Ft. Swells Press.


Image Credit: “Henri Matisse Working on a Paper Cut Out” Creative Commons Public Domain

Chase Dimock: A Review of Sugar Fix By Kory Wells


A Review of Kory Wells’ Sugar Fix

By Chase Dimock


       When Kory Wells sent a submission of poetry to As It Ought To Be Magazine last Spring, I was first struck by her sense of history. In “The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgement”, Wells writes about a census taker in the 19th century whose guesses at the races of citizens become their legal racial identity inscribed in his government ledger. Today in 2020, it took a court battle to resolve the citizenship question on this year’s census. This poem is more than just a historical footnote; its reminder of how the politics of identity and who has the right to recognize it have continually defined American society. In this way, Wells follows the words of fellow southern writer William Faulkner, who famously wrote (and was even more famously quoted by President Obama) “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

       With Sugar Fix, Wells explores the never dead past of today through the personal and cultural memories of sugar. Recipes handed down from generations are clues to her family mythologies, the proustian taste of chocolate ice cream on her tongue is a confessional, the trade in sugar and sweets in the south is a material history of the racial and class tensions of reconstruction to today. It would be easy for a book of poetry centered on the metaphor of sugar to lapse into saccharine sentimentality and syrupy cutesiness, but Wells is a poet who understands the cost of pleasure and the sweat demanded of our brow before we taste the sweet. She knows the personal price of indulgence and the social cost of supplying society with its sugar fix.

       In “Still Won’t Marry” Wells takes on the persona from the traditional Appalachian song “Angeline the Baker,” envisioning her as weary of the constant propositions of trading sugar for skin:

He says a little taste of sugar will cure
my weary back, my aching shoulders, my
singed arms. Like I don’t know what that man wants.

Angeline’s side of the story is wise to the after effects of the sugar fix “The bed a pleasure too short. Babies Chores./ His wants ahead of mine.” Wells connects this folklore of indulgence in sugar and flesh to her own past in a poem whose title conveniently saves me from having to summarize its premise: “He drove a four-door Chevy, nothing sexy, but I’d been thinking of his mouth for weeks.” During a date at a Dairy Queen Drive in, Wells is fixated: Continue reading

Alex Z. Salinas: “Chicano Poets” and party snacks



“Chicano Poets” and party snacks

Not gonna lie, 
After I read “Chicano Poet”
On the cover of Reyes Cárdenas’ book of poems,
I cringed,
As if his last name weren’t enough 

But I’m lying, 
It was actually the painting of a 
Half-naked Latina that elicited my reaction 

As if the point of Reyes’ being a
“Chicano Poet” was to point out 
The doubly poignant swells of a brown woman

So, if I understand him correctly,
It’s probably that “Chicano Poets” 
Just wanna have fun

And for Christ sake, 
After Chris Columbus,
Cab de Vaca
And all them, why not?

When bastard runs in 
The blood, 
Bust out the Chex Mix
Cuz it’s gonna be a rowdy party 

And “Chicano Poets” should know,
At rowdy parties
It’s always a bright idea 
To have salty, corn-based snacks 
(that almost sound like Chex Mex) 
Available to munch on.



About the Author: Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He serves as poetry editor of the San Antonio Review. His debut feature-length book of poems, Warbles, was released by Hekate Publishing in fall 2019.


Image Credit: Public Domain from Wikipedia

Daniel Romo: “The Main Event”



The Main Event

The man standing behind me in Target tells his buddy 
his workplace is creating a fight club.
And I wonder if hands will be thrown in the name of
middle management and manhood 
or if the employees will simply be arguing back and forth,
pointing fingers like political parties stressing 
just how wrong 
         the other one is. 

I recently read about a man dying immediately after
entering a taco-eating contest.
The coroner officially listed choking as the cause of death,
but what are the odds the autopsy would also show 
ego and competition are 
kindred spirits?

           I understand the dynamics of blowing off steam.
           I’ve studied how the mouth forms a shape just small enough 
           to free the air from the toxic body,
           but large enough to proclaim and pronounce 

I struggle with how much of my personal life 
to share in a poem.
Should I say how the fissures from my own darkness 
spread until I was ready to stop lamenting 
the curvature of imperfect lines, 
finally ready to plug the cracks 
and resurrect the foundation?
Or should I just say,
    Earthquakes suck, man.

Is there a Richter scale that ranges from self-pity to rehabilitation?
How well can you withstand 
what is eating you alive?
It’s often a case of self vs. selfless, 
the poet vs. the person,
picking your punches 
as if the next uppercut to the gut
           could end it all. 


About the Author: Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives and teaches in Long Beach, CA

Image Credit: “A Boxing Match” (1890) The Library of Congress

Jason Baldinger: “it was a golden time”


it was a golden time

been on the road
long enough now
to feel like three
mummified frogs
dried in a tejas mudpuddle

a woman in a wal-mart
parking lot shouts
I don’t believe you
should leave a baby
in a car, even if its running

I’m gonna steal what I need
some scoundrel hunter
gatherer from ancient time

there’s a dead bear in an irrigation
ditch, it left me with the strange
feeling I’ve been here before

the windshield grows
a mustache, I see the world
clearer in my dreams
problem is, I never
remember my dreams



About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was recently a Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, and is founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He has multiple books available including the soon to be released The Better Angels of our Nature (Kung Fu Treachery) and the split books The Ugly Side of the Lake with John Dorsey (Night Ballet Press) as well as Little Fires Hiding with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.


More by Jason Baldinger:

“I forgot the earth and heaven”

“When Cancer Come to Evansville, Indiana”

“blind into leaving”


Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Deserted truck stop in Sierra Blanca, made a virtual ghost town when the interstate highway bypassed it in Hudspeth County, Texas” (2014) The Library of Congress