Jaclyn J. Reed: “I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet”

I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet

By Jaclyn J. Reed

The world is not ready for you. Neither am I.

I’m not the woman I wanted to be at 27. I’m still learning to reread my story without reliving it, to write a better tomorrow without losing today, drowning in yesterday, obsessing over what may – more likely, may not – cross my path. I don’t yet know how to replace my broken parts without ending up in pieces – to keep despair from decaying into despondence. Even if I can call myself sane, what then? Where do I fit in when each morning I wake, watch the news, wonder if our country still stands? If, when I find it does, I’m disappointed, frustrated, exhausted by the convenience afforded deviants with deep pockets keeping us apart?

My mother raised me to do / be / experience more than her, so I trek life the long way round, ease into things, cross my T’s and dot my I’s, say please and thank you and apologize – own my shit. Where her wings were built of distressed leather and aluminum, she built mine from steel; knew life would temper me, the way it tempers us all, the way it will temper you.

I do not want to temper you. I want to coddle you when no one else will, lend you my calm when the world gets too big, too polluted, too unfair. Not to shield you from modernity or harsh eventualities, just equip you for real life, provide weapons for an arsenal I hope you’ll never have to use.

You must choose the hills you die on carefully and be brave enough to let things go. Take on midterms, toxic masculinity, racism and bigotry, erratic hormones, and palatine adults with a pleasing smile, a daring gaze, a quick wit. As quick as your draw, if they still wish to fight. You’ll learn that coming to the table cannily creates more conflict than it solves, that intolerance must be intolerable if we want justice / peace / equity. There’s a whole world outside your bubble, and the truth is: people are usually better than they believe themselves to be. Your peers’ personas on playgrounds – virtual and in the real – just shadows on cave walls, more fearsome than the ones projecting them, the children just as dazed and disheartened as you will be.

You’ll be from a different generation than me, see things I haven’t, pick up tricks that took me eons to grasp. You’ll grow up too fast. All I ask is that you take up space and build boundaries of rose bushes, not bricks. Know what you deserve, trust yourself enough to accept it. Being yourself is a constant effort, as is any love – so much harder than hate, so much easier to waste. Do not define yourself by ideas and ideals; such idyllics always let you down. Question your perspectives, the filters through which you experience, the trauma in which you are rooted, the moments that make up your foundation. People change so often, and why shouldn’t they when life grows stranger by the hour?

Fluidity is how humanity survives. I’ll do my best to help you flow, teach you how to move again after long pauses, how to wake up the day after devastation and reintroduce yourself in the mirror without shattering the glass. And when inevitably you cut yourself, I will be there to help you embrace the scar.

But first the world and I have to stop falling apart.

About the Author: Jaclyn J. Reed received her MFA in Writing from Carlow University and her BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adelaide, Northern Appalachia Review, The Sunlight Press, and Prime Number Magazine, among others. She works in e-commerce merchandising and lives across the way from a Hershey’s Reese’s factory.

Image Credit: Mary Cassatt “Susan Comforting the Baby” (1881) Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

Daniel Vollaro: “Robin Hood, Where Are You?”





Robin Hood, Where Are You? 

A personal essay 

By Daniel Vollaro


     On the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Robin Hood appeared to me as if in a dream. There was no obvious reason I should have been thinking of him, no banners in his name from that awful day in 2021; no t-shirts proclaiming that “Robin Hood was Right,” or wrong; no clever Robin Hood memes, pro or anti insurrection. Nevertheless, he was suddenly there, as present in my imagination as he had been when I was a child. I had not seen him in a very long time.  

     I immediately understood why he had come. In my desire to escape from the one-year-anniversary news stories and think pieces and retrospectives, all forcing me to relive that terrible day, I had inadvertently summoned a being who is the antithesis of the MAGA-QAnon-Oath Keeper swamp that oozed into the Capitol Complex that day. That mob was the walking embodiment of cowardice and dishonorable conduct, from its leader promising ”I’ll be there with you” and then promptly retreating to the White House to the chorus of participants who now want to faux apologize or plead ignorance or blame others for deceiving them or deny that they were even there. Robin Hood, on the other hand, is a paragon of courage and chivalry, a righter of wrongs and solver of problems who always looks out for his fellow yeomen. An outlaw, yes, but an honorable one. Robin takes credit for his law breaking and looks his friends and enemies in the eye. Liars are especially likely to feel his wrath. 

     Robin would have been mystified by the insurrectionists. There was no one to champion or rescue and nothing of value to steal. No archery contest to win or good sport to be had. You tased a police officer in the neck, he would ask? What did he do to you?  You broke into the Capitol building to hunt down and possibly kill an elderly woman named Nancy Pelosi? Where is your chivalry? You rifled through some papers and took a shit in someone’s office. What does that accomplish? You built a gallows to hang a man because he refuses to say what you want him to say about an election? Really? Robin would not be opposed in principle to the idea of mischief or property destruction or even a little violence, but he would wonder, who actually benefits from this? What is the point? What injustice was crying out to be righted on that day? Was it really nothing more than the fact that one of the most pampered, silver spoon-fed men in America was thwarted from realizing his political ambitions?  

*** Continue reading “Daniel Vollaro: “Robin Hood, Where Are You?””

Cody Sexton “Diary in Reverse: Boys Will Be Boys”





Diary in Reverse: Boys Will Be Boys

By Cody Sexton

“Are you going to cry?”


“You know you are.”


The boy sat in silence not knowing what to say or do in response to this comment. He had fantasized about hitting the boy, several times, or any of the other children who made fun of him, but he knew he wouldn’t do it. Not really.

Another runner was batted home and took his place on the bench among his peers, being sure not to sit too close to the boy — the “pussy” — wearing the off-brand cleats.

He felt alone. He was alone. But it was the kind of alone where nothing anyone could have done would have changed anything, would have made a difference. He was just different, and how do you change that?

That boy was me. And this was the summer I, for whatever impulsive reason, decided it would be “fun” to play on our local little league team.

I’m still not sure why I decided to play. At the time the school I attended didn’t even have a little league team so I had to go to the next school over to sign up. I guess it just seemed like a good idea at the time, it’s what my “friends” were doing. I wanted to quit practically as soon as I started. 

“You start something you finish it.” My father told me.

I’m guessing he thought that it would help build or reinforce strong character traits? He couldn’t have been more wrong however. The experience taught me precisely nothing, except maybe how to hate someone properly.

Even the coaches seemed to not like me. I obviously wasn’t like any of the other boys, introverted, perhaps even a little shy, so they never understood know how to interact with me. Either because they didn’t know or simply didn’t care to know. With the other boys it was easy, with me it was hard. So they ignored me as much as they possibly could, silently wishing I’m sure, that I would quite the team.

Once during a particularly bad game for the opposing team, the pitcher had managed to walk the first two batters at plate, I was one of them, and as the next batter stepped up to the plate he caught a low one inside grounding it out to right field. That’s when I got the signal from the third base coach to run home so I took off, and crossing the home plate, managed to actually put another point on the board for our team.

However, back inside the dugout I was met with silence. My other teammates had ran the exact same play as I had, several times over throughout the season, making it across home plate either by hitting a home run themselves or were batted in as I was and whenever they did they were without fail met with applause from both the team and the teams coaches. Triumphantly greeted as hero’s with high fives and ass slaps. But there I was sitting at the end of the bench like an uninvited guest at a bridal shower. I actually began to question if I even made it home:

Did I even score?

Did I imagine the whole thing?

Had I never left the bench? 

As my doubt grew I sought to release it by asking our teams statistician if I had in fact made it across home plate, putting us ahead by another two points. She pulled herself away from the game long enough to say:


And then promptly returned to cheering for her son. (Who, surprise, surprise, was also our teams pitcher). She never even turned her head to look at me.

So much for team building.

So much for camaraderie.

I got the hint and found my spot on the bench again. I had expected as much from my teammates, but at that age was still too naive enough to expect it from the adults.

I’ve likewise been told for years to “be the better person” towards people who’ve treated me like this, like shit, most of them have been relatives. I get told this because they of course know the other person won’t do it for me. (And why is it that we always demand introverted children to be more outgoing? Why can’t the extroverts at least meet us half way for a change?)

Still, I stuck it out and when the season was finally over I was more relieved than I’d ever been in my life. As I said I learned nothing and never meet anyone that later became a “lifelong friend” as my father had assured me would happen. One of those friends with which to share a few beers and talk about the “good ole’ days” when we played out on the same field as our fathers had before us and as our sons would after us.

You might remember the quote about how parents will usually let their children become anything they want, except themselves? I think about this a lot. And I think this is maybe why I was always so ashamed of who I was as a kid. I was never allowed to be myself. As you might imagine this can lead to ever varying amounts of resentment over time and as a result anger has been one of the only guiding sources of encouragement in my life. I could always count on anger. Anger was the only thing that made me strong enough to leave the only home I knew. I held onto it and nurtured it every night, reciting the litany of offenses over and over into the darkness of my room. I needed to leave. I needed my anger to help me leave. Anger has been the only thing of use my father has ever given to me. (And I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone take that away from me).

Nevertheless, I never again played any other team sport, having decided instead to dedicate my life to more bookish pursuits so that one day I might be able to live life as I am.



About the Author: Cody Sexton is the managing editor for A Thin Slice of Anxiety. His work has been featured at The Indie View, Writer Shed Stories, The Diverse Perspective, Detritus, Revolution John, Due Dissidence, and As It Ought To Be Magazine where he is a regular contributor. In addition he is also a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee for his essay: The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton.


More by Cody Sexton:

The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton



Image Credit: “SINGLE BRACKET SIGN: “LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD #2.” – Hamilton Field, Base Street Signs, East of Nave Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA” (Library of Congress)


Waiting for the Quiet



Waiting for the Quiet

By Teresa Yang



They just appeared one day, these huge black flies rubbing their legs together as if anticipating a roast beef dinner. My husband accused me of leaving the front door open for too long and allowing the invaders into the house.

These days the front door remains closed. Any opening is strictly as needed and transactional, to grab the UPS delivery. I leave the package on the table near the door, where the hostess gifts used to sit, so any residual virus can die a natural death.

That Saturday, though, the door was ajar for a full ten minutes. I was excited to see my friend Flo. I hadn’t seen her since February, since our last restaurant meal in a crowded, overpriced Santa Monica eatery where the virus was surely replicating as it was being invisibly transported on the burrata salad plate.

Flo’s visit had purpose. She was picking up some medical grade masks, ones that, to my surprise, I had offered to procure on her behalf. Flo’s mother had a heart valve replaced last year.

Mother’s lost some weight, Flo said.

Even though I no longer have a dental office, I continued to cold call my suppliers in search of masks and disinfection wipes. Once I even awoke at 5am to call a national dental supplier on the East coast.

I saved my rationed purchases like lifeboat seats, risking trips to UPS during quarantine to send protection to my children and elderly father.

When Flo’s shipment arrived, I inspected the flimsy boxes for the telltale ASTM3 label and could find none. So, from my dwindling supply, I gave Flo some authentic ASTM level 3’s.

Reclined in the front seat of Flo’s car, her mother said, “I’m going to compare these to my non-medical ones.” I was glad I had switched the masks. Flo’s mother knitted and crocheted, her eyes expert at detail work.

The flies must’ve snuck in during those ten minutes. Continue reading “Waiting for the Quiet”

AIOTB Magazine Announces our Nominees for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology



As It Ought to Be Magazine is proud to nominate the following poems and essays for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology




Rusty Barnes: The Act of Working

Caroliena Cabada: True Story

Leslie M. Rupracht: Hess Trucks and the End of the Double Standard

Anna Saunders: The Delusion of Glass

Dameion Wagner: I Have Returned Home

Brian Chander Wiora: We Might Have Existed





Cody Sexton: The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton

Carrie Thompson: I Don’t Want Your Hug



Thanks to all of our nominees for sharing their work with As It Ought It To Be Magazine!

– Chase Dimock
Managing Editor




Image Credit: O.F. Baxter “Pointer Dog” (1860s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program


As It Ought To Be Magazine’s Nominees for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology


As It Ought To Be Magazine is proud to announce our nominees for Sundress Publications’ 2019 Best of the Net Anthology.



Ruth Bavetta “A Murder”

John Dorsey “Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead”

Mike James “Grace”

Rebecca Schumejda “i don’t want this poem to be about the death penalty, but it is”

Bunkong Tuon “Gender Danger”

Kory Wells “Untold Story”



Daniel Crocker “Mania Makes Me a Better Poet”

Nathan Graziano “The Misery of Fun”


Congratulations to our nominees and thank you to all of the writers and readers who have supported As It Ought To Be Magazine.


Image Credit: Henry Pointer “The Attentive Pupil” (1865) Digitally Enhanced. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

The Final Bakesale


The Final Bakesale


Sonya Huber 

Al Gore did not invent global warming or PowerPoint (I don’t think). He did make a movie about global warming using PowerPoint. And some say it was dull. I was so shaken by it that I immediately started surfing Al Gore’s Internet to buy gadgets with solar panels. I bought a shitty one that was supposed to act as a USB charger for my phone but then I left it out in the rain and it broke. I bought a lamp from IKEA that has a solar charger, but it didn’t really charge through a window, so I had to bring it outside to charge it, and when I tried to use it to read by, its little light bulb was horribly dim, and the light source was probably equally disappointing to the child in Africa who was supposed to get a similar lamp as a result of my purchase. Now the lamp lives on a bookshelf in my basement, its prehensile neck curled around its body in loneliness. I did other stuff and got an energy audit and donate money and stuff. But I did not stop global warming and neither did Al Gore. It is still here, droning on, quietly wanting to kill us, and our demise will be narrated by Al Gore’s droning voice.

The fact that global warming as an idea is all mathy and graphy and incomprehensibly bleak prompted scientist-filmmaker Randy Olsen to declare the crisis “boring” and a PR disaster, illustrated with “all the same shots of “melting glaciers, polar bears, carbon emissions.” Olsen doesn’t mince words in an interview with Spiegel Online: he calls science blogs posting articles about the minutia of climate change “boredom so putrefied and crystallized it’s in an unadulterated form that could make even a robot want to commit suicide.” I know my science- and journalist and science-journalist friends will leap out of their seats and off of their balance balls and treadmill desks in anger at that quote and also say that this is exactly what makes their jobs interesting and important: bridging that gap and preventing the robots from killing themselves on crystallized boredom. Actually, that is Olsen’s point, too.

Olsen’s idea is that Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, should have told a story, such as the fascinating question of why the world was able to address—and kind of solve—the problem with the ozone hole (yay, us!) but hasn’t done that for global warming.

At first I wanted to hate on this guy, but he’s right. Sort of. And provocative–despite the fact that I love An Inconvenient Truth so much that I bought my own copy to have as a personal talisman to shade myself during the apocalypse, and despite the fact that I give money to anything that Al Gore tells me to in order to throw pennies at said approaching apocalypse.

But, to quibble (which is my only survival skill), Olsen also puts too much on the scientists and science-communicators, and I think he’s missing a bigger point, which is that we (humans in our high-school ways) will go out of our way to look at GIFs of kittens in wrapping paper and give our brains a rest from the thought of mass extinction. It’s not the message that’s boring as much as the fact that we, people, the problem, are boredom-averse and kitten-GIF-prone.

So, without further ado, here are reasons why Mass Death Really Is and Will Be Boring Big Time and why if we’re going to confront boredom, we have to first admit our boredom and take it apart into its component parts, some of which we will recycle and the rest we will use to build solar panels.

1. Death limits one’s social life.

I have never died, so I don’t know whether it would be boring or not. There is the dramatic final moment, the struggle for breath, but really—there’s not much to look forward to. And the lead-up to it can be excruciating and scary, I am told. And I imagine our collective deaths might be very boring, especially with sputtering cable as the brown-outs disrupt our service and our programs. Pain can certainly be boring, and starvation (as one example) has to offer both the opportunity for putting everything in perspective but also takes the cake (sorry) for sheer repetitiveness.

2. No flowers at the funeral. This is a huge problem. If huge swathes of us die together, we each miss out on something we have secretly fantasized about since our parents grounded us for the first time: the idea of everyone being sorry for everything at our lavish or tastefully simple memorial service. We don’t get our playlist and slideshow and moment in the sun if everybody’s crowding the stage. It’s enough to make one feel meaningless, which is BORING. Truly!

3. Zoos will suck, because of all the species extinctions and such.

4. Thinking about all the time I have wasted on “important and painstaking tasks” that an apocalypse such as ours is BORING.

As one example, I have told my son to brush his teeth 5 times every morning, every day, since he was a toddler. In and of itself this was boring, as are many parenting tasks, but they’re made mostly bearable because they seem to be an investment in a developing human who will one day become an adult and invent a new cloud-seeding device that will bring rain when we are all parched and dying. But if he’s out on the edge of some highway scavenging roadkill, his commitment to teeth brushing is only going to be a hindrance that makes him squeamish about his new life on the edge of subsistence. (He’ll be alone because I’ll be dead. I’m fragile—I’ll go quick).

5. Less intellectual stimulation and no “future” to plan for unless I am dreaming of coming back as a cockroach.

I like to read, and reading is interesting. I am a personal essayist, so I get off on esoteric distinctions about the positioning of a narrator in a narrative. I have all this expertise that will suddenly be useless. So that’s a bummer. My main form of intellectual entertainment: gone. Instead we’ll all be living in a world like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Well, some of us will be. I’ll be one of those people who will get eaten right away. That’s who you kill first: the personal essayists. But then again, maybe if I find Randy Olsen, he’d hook me up, because he says that the story of the big Bake-Sale has to be told in a way that’s personal so that people can get it, using “the narrative instinct.” Okay, Randy, this is my audition to be on your team. If I can’t get on Randy’s, I want to be with Bear Grylls.

6. It is a universally acknowledged truth that nobody likes to fuck up.

Global warming feels like a big fuck-up because it is. I didn’t start the fire, as Billy Joel annoyingly sings, but here I am every day shoveling fuel onto it. Like the Germans alive during Hitler’s reign, we could be wracking our brains with ways to self-immolate and do something drastic to put our bodies in front of the tracks or in traffic or whatever it might take (even Al Gore doesn’t seem to know), but I don’t see many of us lighting up in that way. So there’s the horrible but vague responsibility thing, which leads to a curdling regret in the stomach. I have to say that curdling regret is the least sexy emotion known to mankind. Let’s think about Jennifer Lawrence instead. By the way, if you are beset with this stomach curdling, as I am, please buy Mary Pipher’s book The Green Boat because it is like a temporary antacid and makes you less want to give up.

7. Kids dying: right. That’s not boring, that’s excruciating, but we call it boring because it lives near excruciating in the “Shit, No!” center of our brain. For God’s sake, I was driving behind a pediatric transport ambulance yesterday on the highway and I started to cry. The ambulance was decorated with images of fingerpaint handprints. Put a knife in my eye. And inside was one North American kid who had health insurance and who might have had a broken collarbone or something. But the big Fish Fry would involve lots of kids. White kids, privileged kids who have massive Lego collections, including my son. Just think of the waste of all that money spent purely on Legos. I should have spent all that money on buying a plot of land for subsistence farming (when I couldn’t even raise a head of broccoli in my pathetic two-foot garden). I really should have developed a completely different skill set. And I didn’t. I fucked up. (Back to # 6.)

8. This Story is so Boring Because It Has Happened Before! I Already Saw This One!

Here’s the messed up obviousness: kids die all over the place, every day, of preventable diseases like malaria and dysentery caused by contaminated water. That is also “boring,” by which we mean: Holy Fuck. What the hell can fix that? My twenty bucks, really? Then how come it keeps happening? How much money do you need to fix that forever? Couldn’t you just tax us all and prevent that from ever happening again? Oh there’s all kinds of geopolitical issues involved including the IMF and debt to the World Bank and … naaarrrgggghhhh. Where is Bono? Bono is the closest thing we have to Bat Man. Can’t he just fix this?

Boring is the idea that the same shit keeps happening. Yes, as always, through the recorded history of human existence since colonialism, the brown people near the Equator and on islands and shorelines with smaller capital reserves and fewer opportunities to invest in infrastructure will get it in the teeth.

It’s boring when the sequel is just the same as the first 100 volumes.

9. Uneasy is Boring. Super-uneasy vagueness lives right near the “Shit, No!” brain-center.

Boring is the idea that the authority figures promising security and telling us to sock our pennies away might be wrong: instead of skimming our money into retirement accounts, we should invest in the rest of the world, in a post-currency place where hydroponics and water filters and swamp coolers will ensure some small measure of survival for us and others. But… is that right? I don’t trust the stock market but I don’t know what to do about it. I couldn’t even make a gingerbread house last night out of graham crackers with my kid. And really, I also really don’t even know what I’m teaching next semester or how to get my son to read more. So Super-Uneasy is pushed to the background by Daily-Uneasy. It’s only when I am done with grading that I even really think about the big GW (not the other GW, who is happily making an oil painting as you read this).

10. There are no aliens. If there were aliens with green bile and nefarious shiny outfits to fight, we’d be all over this shit like Will Smith. There would be web-cams and guns and t-shirts and boobs and kitten GIFs and cake and everything good.

And in the conclusion I am supposed to make the Final Countdown less boring, but really, it’s a yawn. I’d much rather watch something else.


Sonya Huber is an assistant professor of creative writing at Fairfield University and a faculty member in the low-residency MFA program at Fairfield. Her work has appeared in literary journals including Sonora Review, Creative Nonfiction, Crab Orchard Review, Fourth Genre, Topic, Passages North, Main Street Rag, Literary Mama, Kaleidoscope, Hotel Amerika, and Sports Literate, among others; in anthologies including Learning to Glow (University of Arizona Press), Young Wives’ Tales  (Seal Press), Bare Your Soul (Seal Press), Reading for the Maternally Inclined: The Best of Literary Mama (Seal Press), Mama Ph.D. (Rutgers University Press), and Campus, Inc. (Prometheus Books); in periodicals including The Washington Post Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Psychology Today, In These Times, Sojourner, and Earth Island Journal. More information available at http://www.sonyahuber.com.