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 
                                                                              glory.

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

Dandylion Riot: An Interview with Poet and Artist Jeanette Powers

 

 

Dandylion Riot:
An Interview with Poet and Artist Jeanette Powers
By Chase Dimock

The problem with writing an introduction to Jeanette Powers’ work is that by nature, an introduction presumes that you can define your subject and contain it in a rough overview. It also presents the reader with the assurance that you have prepared them for what you’re about to subject them to. I’m not sure I can wholly achieve that because Powers’ art is consciously transgressive of definition and containment. Powers’ poetry explores identity and the language with which we express it, not by defining it in a way that pins down or immobilizes, but by pushing at the seams of what these words can hold. 

Powers identifies as a hillbilly, but stresses how this identity can be reclaimed as subversive, queer, and ecologically progressive. And yet, for all this rebellion against expectations, their writing is never isolating or cold. There are so many deeply personal stories and intricate descriptions of their relationships with nature, family, and one’s self that it’s easy to connect individually with Powers’ work. To simultaneously challenge and intimately connect with a reader is the toughest, yet most powerful move a poet can make. In short, Jeanette Powers is heckin’ rare.

Chase Dimock: What first drew me to your work was how you locate expressions of queerness and gender non-conformity within the nature and culture of the midwest. As someone who has lived on both coasts and the midwest, I feel that the coasts tend to overlook how the midwest cultivates uniquely queer communities and identities. How do you feel that living in the midwest has shaped how you articulate queerness in your poetry?

Jeanette Powers: I’ve never lived on the coasts, so I can’t speak to the real differences between the queer communities, but I can definitely say that I find a lot of interest on the coasts and abroad in specifically the Midwestern and MW queer experience. People sometimes are shocked to find out about large and thriving queer communities in the Bible Belt, people want to know how we are surviving in MAGA America, and they are very interested in how our communities thrive. 

I am born and raised in Kansas City, both sides of the state line, so Kansas and Missouri. I’m a Pure D Midwesterner and that experience shapes the paradigm from which my ethics and art both arise. I am a poor, “white trash”, river rat, polite to a fault, redneck hillbilly; farm loving, meat-eating, off-leash dog having, bonfire building, corn eating, hot plate cookin, truck loving, camouflage wearing radical. I want to de-stigmatize some of those traditionally derogatory words I used there. For me, being a hillbilly is directly related to the subversive attitudes I have: an idea of living “off-the-grid”, a belief in the value of our indigenous cultures, an anti-authoritarian ethic, a deep value of the land and resources. I reclaim being poor white trash as being something beautiful and an agent for change. In some ways, class struggle and connection to nature supersede my queerness even, and I think my heartland upbringing are part of why.

So from that perspective, queerness is an underlying fact and lens through which my connection to the rest of America happens to occur. My art is less about being a non-binary, pansexual queer human than it is about loving nature, discovering the inherent self, abhorring oppression, seeking equity, and striving for healing or reconciliation. In that way, my location becomes less visible because folks all over the world share those values. But the Ozarks, the prairie, rivers and state fairs are the context from which all the metaphor arises. And being a hella queer who lives for performance art, challenging the status quo, and being a deeply intellectual human is all in there, too. 

I do question sometimes if the queerness being an underlying rather than leading component is a reflex of preserving my safety. I pass as straight, cis as long as I restrict my language, and that is powerful here in the Midwest, where hate crimes against queer folk are common. Many of our families reject us, discrimination is still happening. These thoughts have caused me to lead with the queerness more often, and to shake the chains which hold all non-passing queer folks in danger. That is using my privilege as a tool for change rather than as a mechanism to keep just me safe.

 

Chase Dimock: To go a little deeper in exploring where your poetry comes from, I’d like to bring up the role family plays in your work. Your new book, Dandylion Riot is filled with childhood memories of your grandparents, aunts, and other family members. You also have a tendency to connect your memories of family with objects: a yellow rotary phone with your grandparents in “Hearts Break All the Time,” a stuffed monkey with your aunt in “The Mon Chi Chi,” and a Buddha statue with your grandfather in “The Laughing Buddha.” How do these portraits of your family fit into the objectives of your art that you talked about in your previous answer? Why do certain associations with people and objects stick with you as you depict them?

Jeanette Powers: It is interesting how much my family plays into my poetry, when in reality I don’t have much of a relationship with them. Except for my son (and bonus kid, and an aunt and cousin, and my sister), who I actually write about very seldom. I guess I’m tracing back the lineage of my emotional being, trying to reconcile what one is taught and how that shapes one against what one wants to be, or maybe really is. It’s part excavation, part commemoration, part study. It’s all very interesting to me and does tell the story of the culture I was raised in, which of course shapes the person I am today. In some ways, I’m dismantling the cognitive dissonance that I’ve experienced trying to reconcile the love with the trauma. And I hope I do that respectfully. I know my family is upset with me talking about the darker aspects of our family culture, but I’m committed to not being silent about what made me, I don’t feel that helps anyone. And maybe, some other folks will feel the solidarity and in some way that will help them feel less isolated, or consider their (and my!) own problematic, learned coping mechanisms.

Those specific examples you bring up speak so much to the life of poor, emotionally unavailable, working class white people. Well, everyone had rotary phones once, so maybe not that example so much, but that memory is so powerful because it’s the only time I ever heard my grandfather say I love you to my grandmother. Ours was not a physically (or verbally) loving family. In fact, I’d say I grew up in a atmosphere of neglect. So what makes the phone so powerful is hearing that affirmation. I am very affirmation seeking, really, a natural born optimist and creature of love. 

Much of my early work is about the negative, trauma informed memories and objects, but Dandylion Riot begins an exploration of the other moments, too. The Buddha opens a door to acknowledging the racism of my family. I’m in a space where I believe strongly in adding that element to my art, not to shame me or my family, but simply because it’s true. I hope the love of my grandfather shows through still, I think many of us struggle with reconciling our family’s problematic views and behaviors with our love and appreciation for them. The Mon Chi Chi was an object which felt unattainable as a child, much too expensive, and the monkey is a device to illuminate how my aunt was never stopped from eating sugar, an object to orbit a wider story around. As an adult I look back and realize the price that consumerism and denial had on my aunt, potentially anyway. It’s also a call to why her adopted kids were abandoned by my family after she died. The same way I’m abandoned? I’m not recording precise history here, I’m recreating vast emotions that span decades and working to encapsulate them in a moment. 

Continue reading

Richard Houff: “When there’s Nothing Left to Say”

 

 

When there’s Nothing Left to Say

Picking a stone from the bed
beneath his feet, he skips them
over quiet water and counts
the rings before they sink.
At other times, he pays them
no mind. Stooping for a nice
flat one and a final throw;
he feels the texture of the stone
interweaving with his own sense
of being. This cold wet rock
carrying significance and belonging
to the nonessential; bending sunshine
hints into shadow
—moving forward

 

About the Author: Richard D. Houff edited Heeltap Magazine and Pariah Press Books from 1986 to 2010. He is also a journalist that’s comfortable in writing both poetry and prose. His work has been published in Academic and Arts Review, Brooklyn Review, Chiron Review, Louisiana Review, Midwest Quarterly, North American Review, Parnassus, Rattle, San Fernando Quarterly, and many other fine magazines.

 

More By Richard Houff:

Naked Machines

 

Image Credit: Eadweard J. Muybridge “Lake Tenaya. Sierra Nevada Mountains” (1872) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

John Grey: “Downsizing”

 

 

DOWNSIZING

So little of this furniture
has any meaning beside comfort.
It can be donated,
along with the clothes 
we haven’t worn in years.

And do we really need 
all these documents.
There’s such a thing
as the statute of limitations.
That rule gets all excited 
when it spies an attic.

So tax returns from twenty years ago
can feed the shredder.
Along with report cards,
job reviews, receipts for items
long since sent to the dumpster.

Even the photographs can be thinned.
Too bad the ones posing
can’t be thinned also.
And there’s so many letters.
So many postcards.
It’s like sending memory’s work offshore.

We’re stuck with the family heirlooms
like we’re stuck with the family.
But ceramic dogs, crystal angels,
can’t even get nostalgia right.
I say green-bag them.

We’re moving into a condo.
Much fewer inanimate objects.
We’ll have to fill their roles.

 

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:  OCULUS WINDOW, ROUND-ARCHED HALF-WINDOW, ROUND-ARCHED CASEMENT WINDOW, AND LOW, ROUND-ARCHED DOOR, THIRD FLOOR, TOWER – Rose Hill, Woods Road, Tivoli, Dutchess County, NY Library of Congress

 

Revisiting 2019: Our 50 Most Popular Posts of the Year

 

Dear As It Ought To Be Magazine Readers,

As we enter the next decade, I want to thank all of the writers and readers who have made our tenth year so successful. I take enormous pride in working with so many talented and inspiring writers. Without your brilliance and generosity of spirit and intellect, none of this would be possible. It has been a great privilege to publish your work on our site, and I hope to continue featuring diverse perspectives, challenging ideas, and unique voices for years to come. As a way to look back on what we accomplished in 2019, I have complied the 50 most popular posts of the year based on internet traffic and clicks.

Thank you again to everyone who wrote for, read, and promoted AIOTB Magazine in 2019. Let the 20s roar again!

Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

 

Poetry

Jason Baldinger:

Ishrat Bashir:

Jai Hamid Bashir:

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal:

Jeffrey Betcher:

Ace Boggess:

Daniel Crocker:

John Dorsey:

Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

Tony Gloeggler:

Nathan Graziano:

Cord Moreski:

Jeanette Powers:

Stephen Roger Powers:

Jonathan K. Rice:

Kevin Ridgeway:

Damian Rucci:

Anna Saunders:

Larry Smith:

Nick Soluri:

William Taylor Jr.:

Alice Teeter:

Tiffany Troy:

Bunkong Tuon:

Agnes Vojta:

Kory Wells:

Brian Chander Wiora:

Dameion Wagner:

 

Nonfiction

Daniel Crocker:

Nathan Graziano:

John Guzlowski:

Cody Sexton:

Carrie Thompson:

 

Reviews 

Chase Dimock:

Mike James:

 

Photo Credit: Fire Works At New Year’s Eve via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I Don’t Want Your Hug: A grieving mother’s meditation on the subject of hugs

 

I Don’t Want Your Hug:
A grieving mother’s meditation on the subject of hugs.

By Carrie Thompson

I’ve always thought of myself as a “hugger.” I’ve offered hugs to say hello after being apart and to say goodbye when parting for a while. I’ve given hugs to welcome, to comfort, to
congratulate, to console.

I never thought much about hugs — neither giving nor receiving them—until my son died of suicide. Now, I can’t get them out of my head: they are my new little mental fascination as I consider, catalog and categorize them into groups and subsets and try to make sense of them. My contemplation is both a distraction and a lifeboat, a way to make sense of senseless loss and colossal loneliness and profound, abiding grief.

First, I’ve realized that the power of a hug depends entirely on the context: who’s giving or
receiving it; the moment or emotion that occasions it. Hugs occur for a myriad of reasons, have many different durations, and are given to many different people. Politeness demands asking first: Need a hug? Can I hug you? Still, I’ve always given them freely if asked, offered, and accepted.

Ever since my son died, I have been turning hugs away with a gentle wave and a deflection: “I can’t right now. I’m not able. Thank you for the gesture; I’ll take a rain check.” It’s jarring to the person offering, but at this point there’s a tenuous dam between a flood of tears and emotion that I am doing my best to hold back. In the darkest moments, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to accept a hug again, but I reassure myself that this is a temporary moratorium and not a permanent state.

I’ve also begun categorizing hugs. While the categories are still fuzzy, the hugs
themselves — the ones given, received, and even refused — stand out like headlights in this fog that envelops my spirit.

The night Ben died, there were hugs to hold us together. These are the ones borne of
desperation, in the moment where the horror and shock are so shattering that the only answer, the only possible remedy, is holding each other, clutching onto someone else so as not to collapse into tiny shards, never to be whole.

My youngest son coming at a run, wrapping his arms around me as shrieks of grief and denial exploded from my body, both of us on our knees, while my husband sobbed on the phone after breaking the news that our beloved son was deceased. He and I clung to each other as we tried to understand, both of our hearts bursting with the shock, despair, and grief. I have no idea how long it was before either of us could breathe, but I remember his presence, trying to be strong for his mother despite his own shock. His arms, his strength even as he too was trying to absorb this awful news, were the only thing that pulled me back from shattering completely. Continue reading