Ken Hines: “Expiration Date”

Expiration Date 

In the dream we all had one. Some were subtle, 
the back of an earlobe, the sole of your foot. Pale 
digits in a delicate Roman font. Others more brazen, 
a numeric ring on a middle finger. Nobody got  
to choose. It was the first thing new moms checked  
after counting fingers and toes, tiny numbers and dashes  
in folds of still damp skin. No point trying to get rid  of 
them. Like the chemistry teacher who scrubbed  her skin 
raw with a concoction boiled up in the lab.  Her 
tattoo-artist boyfriend, undeterred,  
wielded his needle magic to give her a few more years.  
But the merciless 2022 was still there. Many  
tried to ignore it, the way third graders in July 
refuse to think about September. A few made it into a party,  
their birthday’s morbid cousin, where black balloons had a 
whole new meaning. 
                                               Later I wondered if they  
were any better off, those people with indelible dates,  
taking their personal time bombs with them as they  
went about their lives. At least they were never  
surprised by death, foretold as it was from the start.  No phone 
calls that drop you to your knees. But you’d  still have to face 
the appointed date, wouldn’t you? Alone  in your den, blinds 
shut tight, listless ceiling fan stirring above.  Feeling the 
seconds squeeze through you like cigarette smoke  through a 
menthol filter. Realizing as you wait—the end is still the end 
even when you know its schedule. 

About the Author: A 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Ken Hines has written poems that appear in AIOTBVita Poetica, Ekphrastic ReviewPsaltery & Lyre and other magazines. His poem “Driving Test” won the Third Wednesday Journal Annual Poetry Prize. All this scribbling takes place in Richmond, Virginia.

Image Credit: Reijer Stolk “Anatomical study of the neck, arm and leg muscles of a man” Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

AIOTB Magazine Announces Our Nominees for the 2021 Best of the Net Anthology





As It Ought To Be Magazine is proud to announce our nominees for the 2021 Best of the Net Anthology, published by Sundress Publications.


Nadia Arioli: On “I Walk Without Echo” By Kay Sage

Frank Gallimore: The Shape of My Name

Ken Hines: What the Children Know

Dan Overgaard: Drifting Off

Ilari Pass: Delayed Rays of a Star

Melody Wang: All That My Mother Cultivates


Congratulations to our nominees, and thank you to everyone who contributed to AIOTB Magazine this year!

-Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

Ken Hines: “What the Children Know”




What the Children Know

On a concrete bench in a hospital courtyard
I wait while my wife gets an MRI,
her own personal snapshot of the future.
The only painful part, I was assured,
is the thinking.

Nearby, cries erupt from children
at the hospital daycare center—
one of their parents, perhaps, now sliding
my wife in the lamprey jaws of the scanner.

The children’s sorrow spreads like a stomach bug.
A teacher’s voice wafts across the playground
Shhh y’all … What’s the matter?… C’mon now.

But the wailing only swells
filling the courtyard with birdlike
shrieks and hollow moans.

Nurses on break look up from their phones
a man in a wheelchair opens his eyes
nuns carrying lunch trays pause mid-stride
all of them wondering, like me,
what the children know.



About the Author: Ken Hines writes essays and poems on matters he finds puzzling. Some of those pieces have found their way into Philosophy Now, The Millions, Barrelhouse, and Mocking Heart Review. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.


Image Credit: National Photo Company “Playground” (between 1918 and 1920) The Library of Congress (public domain)