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
In the Days of Drones
“And it came to pass that each of them
Were given their unique mark, a familiar,
A spirit drone following on each action
Made by them, as one with their thoughts.”
There is no satisfactory term yet
for the size of these personal drones,
not nano-sized, micro nor mini.
They are not the size of the tiniest
domesticated animals, teacup Yorkies,
for instance, but indeed visible.
Let us say, somewhere between
a large dragonfly and a fit swamp frog.
These are, of course, non-technical terms.
Some hybridized ho-hum miracle
of organic-electronic-philosophical flesh,
most resemble agile, fragile insects.
They are very near indestructible.
They crawl. They fly. They hover and hide.
They do not belong to us. You belong
to them essentially, assigned
by the Office on Personal Safety.
It is not a choice. You turn fifteen,
you get a monitor drone. A third eye
some call them. There is no fanfare, no
happy party, no article in the local news
crawl, no culturally significant ritual
with drums, dancing.
across a stage, no bowing, transferring
of drones from one hand to another,
no mutilating of body parts, no gifts,
handshakes or hugs from an official,
no new names imagined by a shaman,
no vision quest, sweat lodge, no songs,
cards with cash. No cake. No ice cream.
You just wake up from a night’s sleep
and your drone is with you, in sleep mode
on your chest, having already finished
merging with your brain however it must.
Who, or what, exists on the other side
of these creatures, monitoring, recording,
watching, listening, or not, or whatever,
remains a great mystery to most of society.
But there are rumors. Always rumors.
About the Author: Larry D. Thacker’s poetry is in over 150 publications including Spillway, Still: The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The American Journal of Poetry, and Illuminations Literary Magazine. His books include three full poetry collections, Drifting in Awe, Grave Robber Confessional, and Feasts of Evasion, two chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the folk history, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. His fourth full poetry collection, Gateless Menagerie, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: www.larrydthacker.com
Image Credit: The Library of Congress
The river once flooded the K through 8
school in my hometown. When the waters took
weeks to recede, they held classes in the
town’s only peach-colored outlet mall. Lunch
in the food court. Economics in a
house of commerce. Recess playing four-square
in the parking spaces painted white on
greying blacktop, dodging cars. But it won’t
become a storied place. The town let the
mall fall apart, torn down for a Super
Wal-Mart where I once bought crusty bread and
salad greens with my dad on a health kick
and this was the cheapest produce in town.
I attended the new elementary
and middle built out of the old school’s kind
of red brick, Frank Lloyd Write Prairie Style (it’s
the Midwest) built further from the river
bed. In the sun-soaked nook of the middle
school library I read a book written
about those kids in that mall during that
flood, going to school. I wonder: Next time
the waters rise, what incongruous place
will house our learning? The second amendment
in a Bass Pro Shop, hunting rifles on
the walls. Gladiators in a professional
football stadium after a hurricane.
Science experiments in a farm-to-table
restaurant. A while back, people just called
that home economics.
About the Author: Caroliena Cabada is an MFA candidate for Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. She serves as co-managing editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Her poetry appears in Eunoia Review, The Orchards Poetry Journal, and Lyrical Iowa.
Image Credit: Carl Mydans “Ohio River in flood, Louisville, Kentucky” (1936) The Library of Congress
A NAMELESSNESS OF STARLINGS
Down hollows I go walking, nine years old,
as nameless as starlings on far-away fence posts.
To what larger world do I feel myself drawn?
I thirst after ripples dying out on an inland pond.
I dream a circumference of wandering along
until an answer blooms forth from the call of an owl.
Maybe already I have disappeared, a creek stone
no morning light falls upon. Sycamore leaves
drift and touch down and slide the sky along.
Syllables, too, can lengthen how we listen
to an afternoon of wind through sage grass
leaning toward so many moments still unknown.
A sapling rises through the dawn come down
to find another fallen cedar, its privacy just one
more face I’m happy to have mistaken for my own.
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 Revolution; No Other Kind of World (X. J. Kennedy Prize), and A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being. The 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.
Image Credit: James W. Rosenthal “Close up view across stream to fallen tree – Middle Bridge American Sycamore, Near former site of the historic middle bridge, U.S. Route 34, Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD” (2006) The Library of Congress
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
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
it was a golden time
been on the road
long enough now
to feel like three
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:
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