Troy Schoultz: “Abbotsford Cemetery”

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About the Author: Troy Schoultz is a lifelong Wisconsin resident. His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in Seattle Review, Rattle, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Fish Drum, Santa Monica Review, Steel Toe Review, Midwestern Gothic, Palooka and many others in the U.S. and U.K. since 1997. He is the author of two chapbooks and three full-length collections.  His interests and influences include rock and roll, vinyl LPs, found objects, the paranormal, abandoned places, folklore, old cemeteries, and the number five. He hosts and produces S’kosh: The Oshkosh Podcast. For more information check out https://troyschoultz.wixsite.com/website

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Crow on a Fence” (2021)

Susan Cossette: “The Persistence of Memory”

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The Persistence of Memory

If novelists die before they finish their stories
whole worlds evaporate.
Snowy trees at grey solstice sunset,
bare branches twisted with awful secrets.
Sad lines of cars inch home,
tiny ants high over the I-394 overpass.
Each with its own self-contained history.

Twenty or so mourners, some in person, 
others on webcam, gather for a pandemic-age wake.
Families open Christmas presents
in front of the TV Yule log instead of a fireplace.
Everyone stops existing.

I am not afraid 
because I write poetry 
and once I finish a poem it is done.
The next one is a zygote in my mental ovaries
that hasn’t found a sperm cell to coax it to life.

Left behind like overripe cheese,
or ice cream melting in the sun.

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About the Author: Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and MothVita Brevis, ONE ARTAs it Ought to Be,Anti-Heroin ChicThe Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press) Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press),and After the Equinox.

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More by Susan Cossette:

She Waits Behind the Drapes

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Image Credit: Marjory Collins “Washington, D.C. Salvage drive, Victory Program. Books and old lantern stored in District wholesale junk company warehouse” (1942) The Library of Congress. Public Domain

Laura Grace Weldon: “Butternut Ridge Cemetery”

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Butternut Ridge Cemetery 

From the back seat my six-year-old asks
about the grandfather who died
when she was four months in the womb.
She wants to know about his favorite color
and what he likes to eat, correcting herself
to say “liked” to eat. She wants to know
what being dead means, for real.

I know children ask full force till
they get what they need, like the time
my oldest asked why people have skin
darker than his, and seconds into
my big-wattage answer
interrupted to ask
why faucets turn “this way”
twisting his hand, “to make it hot.”

But she doesn’t stop asking
and since we’re driving past
the cemetery that minute, I pull in.
She skips around his gravestone
as if in a park, touching dusty
pebbles and leggy buttercups, before
announcing to air and ground
and everything between,
“I’m sorry you’re dead Grandpa.
You would have loved me.”

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About the Author:  Laura Grace Weldon has published three poetry collections: Portals (Middle Creek 2021), Blackbird (Grayson 2019), and Tending (Aldrich 2013). She was named 2019 Ohio Poet of the Year. Laura works as a book editor, teaches writing, and maxes out her library card each week lauragraceweldon.com

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Small Sunflower” (2021)

John Dorsey: “Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum”

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Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum

past lives are all we have here
the grass kept green for golf tees
& billionaires in a space race with mortality

smoke coming from burning buildings of the dead
& the stained glass ears of a technicolor mouse
who makes us all feel safe.

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About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: John Margolies “Mouse hole, Mauro’s mini golf, Hazel Park, Michigan” (1986) The Library of Congress

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

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

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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

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

-Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

Imran Boe Khan: “A Thousand Miles from Your Bedside”

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A Thousand Miles from Your Bedside

I’ve watched you lose life
in measures I cannot grasp.

Distance was the only way to escape
the time loop back to my origin story.

I’d like to say I travelled
to reinvent myself

though I know I just wanted a reason
to not be the one closing your eyes.

They are emissaries from your conscience;
I fear the contradictions they carry.

I have spent my years pursuing an unreachable remoteness,

knowing my life has been yours to roam through
like a mother tasting her own poisoned milk.

While I cower beneath a son’s first day at school,

a daughter’s graduation party, I can feel those eyes
fumbling their ways softly across my face,
lighting a wick beneath the chiselled brow
they cannot read.

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About the Author: Imran Boe Khan has work appearing in places such as the Rumpus, Sixth Finch, Cosmonauts Avenue, Yes, Poetry, and The Bitter Oleander. A previous winner of the Thomas Hardy Prize, Imran is a lecturer at Bournemouth University, and lives in Christchurch, Dorset.

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Image Credit: Broncia Koller-Pinell “A Bedroom Interior” (1895) Public Domain

Jeremy Nathan Marks: “Edgemere Road”

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Edgemere Road

-for Ruth and Milton in memoriam

When there were pictures
on the wall
the house seemed larger
end tables in the hall
and someone answering
the phone

Telemarketers and fundraisers
would call but now no one does
because mail and bills are forwarded
to next of kin.

I remember both of you
moving from room
to room
creaking floors
and chiming clocks
every one of which spoke
of a particular purchase
or repair
work histories and earnings
wood grain walls
appliance doors grasped with a turning
of plumbing fixtures foot prints in linoleum.

I remember how you fed squirrels
picked beetles off of your plum tree
admired that flaming sugar maple
across the street

You cultivated tomatoes
and were proud to be
the first and only owners
of your house

You paid your bills and cut your grass
did all of the things responsible home owners do
taking a particular joy in your obligations because

They were yours.

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About the Author: Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in Canada. Brand new work appears/is appearing in Unlikely Stories, The Pangolin Review, Every Day Fiction, Bluepepper, Sledgehammer Lit, Ginosko Review, and New Reader Magazine.

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More by Jeremy Nathan Marks:

Plus Ten

Frontiers are Frontiers but Once

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Image Credit: Marion Post Wolcott “Mr. and Mrs. Elvin Wilkins (Rosa) discussing whether or not they will buy this linoleum for their kitchen floor. They decided it was too light and not wide enough and that they would wait. They came to Durham, North Carolina from their farm near Stem, Granville County, to sell their tobacco at auction and to do some general shopping” (1939) The Library of Congress

Melody Wang: “When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow”

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When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow

Tread lightly near the clearing in fading
light; there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy-smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice striated pink-purple flowers
strewn about the forest floor — unsuspecting
creatures pulled from their nesting
place and tossed aside as an afterthought

Seek and find near a clump of irises: the cold
sparrow, cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted and
sleep-softened eyes closed eternally

Revel in the sacred realization that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living

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About the Author: Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.

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More by Melody Wang:

All that My Mother Cultivates

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Image Credit: Illustration from “Coloured illustrations of British birds, and their eggs” London :G.W. Nickisson,1842-1850. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Maryfrances Wagner: “Losing Cousin Carolyn”

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Losing Cousin Carolyn

The news came via Facebook.  Simple Obit.
Immediate family only.  This is the age of Covid.
This is the time of dying alone.  Grieving alone.

We sat in a funeral home pew the last time I saw
Carolyn, cousins lined up together as we always are
when we say goodbye, in this case to our last uncle.

Despite opposite views, we shared a life together,
weddings, reunions, death.  A time to share family
stories or photos we found in a parent’s basement.

I imagine her sons graveside with their father,
no chairs, no flower sprays, no family circling them.
Her brother hundreds of miles away, kidneys failing.

I drive past the house where they lived when we
played Fish or paper dolls on her bedroom floor.
It seems so small.  The shutters and window box sag.

A vacant birdhouse sways near an empty feeder. A clump
of limp jonquils wave, and their old Dragon Blood Sedum
I loved pokes through the broken arms of a gargoyle.

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About the Author: Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, The Silence of Red Glass, and The Immigrants’ New Camera. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America:  An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al.  She co-edits I-70 Review and served as Missouri’s Individual Artist of the Year for 2020.

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More by Maryfrances Wagner:

Dreaming Through Covid

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Bird on Wire” (2020)

Sue Blaustein: “Rest In Peace”

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Rest in Peace

Forsythias come into bloom. Then magnolias.
This is the week it happens.

Early evening  – radio drivetime – I
head south on Holton Street.

The ad on the back
of the bus I’m following

is CALL 411-PAIN.
That’s easy to remember!

411 is kind of like 911, and PAIN
            is self-explanatory.

The whole bus – for this ad – is a puke pink.
Puke pink 411-PAIN. The bus and I

cross Auer Avenue, where a magnolia
            rules the northeast corner.

Timing! The blossoms, the bus, the blossoms…
            pink, puke pink, pink.

The tree fades in my rearview.
I still follow the bus, puke pink PAIN for my eyes.

For my ears and tender heart –
drivetime reports of celebrity deaths.

An NBA legend’s son lost at 33,
from asthma. Asthma? With all the drugs they have?

Steroids, non-steroids, inhalers…
On TV, asthma is vanquished. Or at least tamed. 

Then, an actor. He was in his eighties –
old enough to go. Notable because,

as the deejay explained, He played
Cousin Itt on the Addams Family. 

Rest in Peace, Cousin Itt.
The deejay spoke with respect, 

yet you could tell it was fun for him
to say Cousin Itt so solemnly.

Blossoms, a puke pink bus, 411 PAIN
for my eyes. And, for my ears

and sore heart Rest in Peace, Cousin Itt.
It gentled an April afternoon. 

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About the Author: Sue Blaustein is the author of “In the Field, Autobiography of an Inspector”. Her publication credits and bio can be found at www.sueblaustein.com. Sue retired from the Milwaukee Health Department in 2016, and is an active volunteer. She blogs for ExFabula (“Connecting Milwaukee Through Real Stories”), serves as an interviewer/writer for the “My Life My Story” program at the Zablocki VA Medical Center, and chases insects at the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center.

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More by Sue Blaustein:

A Song for Harvest Spiders

A Song for Noise

The Old Ways

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced illustration from “Annales de la Société royale d’agriculture et de botanique de Gand” Société royale d’agriculture et de botanique,1845-1849. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Creative Commons License 2.0.