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

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

Kory Wells: “The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgment”

 

 

The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgment
—From the Ninth United States Census, June 18, 1870, Macon County, North Carolina

Even though he has read and reread
best he can the instructions
sent direct from Washington;

even though he employs
a sturdy portable inkstand,
quality ink he blots dry
with unpracticed diligence
on strictly confidential,
wide white sheets;

even though important scientific
results depend upon his questionable
Rs and too-short Ls, tedious
recording of Name, Age, Occupation,
and Color;

Assistant Marshal J.T. Reeves, who some call
carpetbagger, now sits amiably on the porch
with one Willis Guy, farmer, age 59,
and reads back to Mr. Guy
all he has written, so mistakes may be
corrected on the spot. The marshal is not
from around these parts, and Mr. Guy, 

previously known as
Mulatto, previous to that known as
Free Colored Person, if asked would claim
Catawba, Cherokee, even the dark Porterghee,
but figures it best to keep his silence
at the government man’s ditto of Column 6. Like that,
Mr. Guy and all his kin become
White. Mr. Guy would admit he isn’t
as good at letters as his children,
but squinting sideways at the marshal’s ledger,
he knows the unmistakable difference between W and M.

 

About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is available from Terrapin Books as of September 2019. Read more of her work at korywells.com.

 

More by Kory Wells: 

Untold Story

When the Watched Pot Boils

 

Image Credit: “Harrison’s Columbian inks, black, scarlet, red, blue” (1846) The Library of Congress

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.

 

Poetry

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”

 

Nonfiction

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

“When the Watched Pot Boils” By Kory Wells

 

When the Watched Pot Boils

You know time is getting by,
and you try to remember
all she told you:

Use both dark meat and white.
Save bone and skin and gristle
for the cat. Roll the dough thin
as a paper sack. Slice it into strips
no wider than your thumb.
You’d give up sweets for a month
to hold again her wood-handled knife,
its old blade so often sharpened
it was almost gone.

You think of these things
as you stand at the stove,
the kettle’s broth rolling.
Think of the stories she told.
That time a door-to-door peddler
tried to snatch her youngest.
That hot night she and her lover
broke every dish in the house.
That Sunday the kids ate
their own pet rooster for lunch.
Reminding you,
chicken and dumplings need
plenty of salt. You taste

that name passed down to her,
Tennessee,
and she is with you,
barefoot, stirring the pot,
one eyebrow raised.
That hard T, that soft S,
the irony she was born
in Georgia and lies now
all too soon, in Alabama soil.

Some things are never right.
Some things are not better with time.
But maybe her name was perfect.
After all, how many of the stories
she told had a happy ending?

 

About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Read more of her work at korywells.com.

 

More By Kory Wells:

Untold Story

 

Image Credit: “Cooking spaghetti and frying chicken for a spaghetti supper at Grape Festival, Tontitown, Arkansas” (1941) The Library of Congress

 

“Untold Story” By Kory Wells

 

 

Untold Story

She was religious     about reading aloud
         Ann Landers’ advice in the Free Press
              Jello salad recipes in Good Housekeeping
                   letters and postcards from cousins
    and one odd relation    all the way in Australia.

         But neither of us ever     said a word about
the National Enquirer
         which she’d pick up in the Winn Dixie checkout
              next to the gum and chocolate bars     
    as if it were essential           as milk and sugar.

Back from the grocery
              on a summer afternoon
         she’d start supper
              and I’d slip away
          to the over-warm sanctuary
                             of her modest living room:
                   thin floral carpet   knotty pine walls
                       and a nubby mauve sofa where I—
                                  a sensitive and impressionable child—
              would spread the tabloid
and kneel before it

              to absorb    cover to cover
                           and back again
                                           until my knees ached
the gospel of my disbelief:
                    a moon-landing hoax    
         an alien abduction     a two-headed
                                 motherless kitten nursing
                           a domesticated squirrel
              and of course the secret
                                             lives of stars.

What is it that makes us want to swallow
         a story whole?      To think
                   only one version can be true?

We were not          true disciples
    but my grandmother      tended the altar of
                             narrative possibilities
         this woman with an eighth-grade education
                           who I never saw reading a book.

 

About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Read more of her work at korywells.com.

 

Image Credit: John Vachon “Grandmother MacDuffey with blackberries she has picked from nearby swamps. Irwinville, Georgia” (1938) The Library of Congress