AIOTB Has Officially Moved to its New Site: As It Ought To Be Magazine

As It Ought To Be has moved to its new site: Check us out at our new address! All our new articles and posts will be featured on the new site. So make sure to like the new page so you can keep up with our new posts. We’ve also moved all of our classic articles from this site over to the new one. This site will remain up as an archive.

Thank you again for your years of readership and support. We have so much excellent work in our submission box to roll out in the next few months!

Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

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Announcing the New As It Ought To Be Magazine

We are excited to announce that on Monday, As It Ought To Be will be moving to a new site with a new name: As It Ought To Be Magazine ( But don’t worry, all the old content and features of the classic As It Ought To Be will move over to the new site. It’s still under construction, but feel free to check out our work in progress.

The reason for this change is because after the unexpected passing of our previous Managing Editor, Okla Elliott, the rights to our domain name have been in limbo. The address was registered in his name, and due to some strict rules on domain renewals and transfers, we will have to let the domain expire. His sudden passing left us and his friends without vital information needed to keep the domain. We believe that migrating to a new site is the best way to preserve Okla’s vision and the legacy of As It Ought To Be as we guide it into the future.

As for now, As It Ought To Be will live on as As It Ought To Be Magazine. All of the content from our previous site will be imported and can be viewed on the new site. The old site,, will become our archive site (under the free blog furnished by WordPress, but at some point, old links may cease to work. If you have contributed to AIOTB in the past or have favorite articles you need help finding on the new site, feel free to ask for assistance.

We thank you for supporting As It Ought To Be and we hope we can count on your continued readership as we go through this transition to becoming As It Ought To Be Magazine. If you have any questions about the transition feel free to contact us at

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Dolly Floats


Dolly Floats

By Stephen Roger Powers


Dolly Floats


Pigeon Forge raised Dolly
up on eagle’s wings, and she flew
on those wings of an eagle while
the eagle stared down its nest at the front of the float
and followed it like a donkey after a carrot.
When the parade was over,
Dolly took the stairs through the eagle’s tail
feathers, and popped out the back
like an Easter egg.


Rocks, an inflatable dinghy, and fresco rapids
rushed forth a lifeguard station
with baywatchful Dolly waving a floatation
board and singing along to her own songs.
She lifted the hem of her red swim
skirt and blew one of the cherry
whistles sewn around it. Policemen
blocked the end where she got off,
so I traffic-sulked to Ole Smoky
Distillery, where I drowned
in samples of every flavor.


Ole Smoky was the first stop this year.
The guy in overalls who gave me free
cherries sanitized his hands
with White Lightnin’. By the time
I got to the parade, I was corned
for engine-and-ladder Dolly with blazing
spangle-sparkles on her hat.
Her nieces sat with fake
fireworks at the front of the roller-coaster
float. Some of Dolly’s hair stuck
in her lipstick. She pulled it free
and blew a kiss in one motion.


Dreams came true when Dolly, garnished in red
with gold trim, jack-in-the-boxed from a cake,
her great big yellow wig a flaming candle.
Her beefcake bodyguard hollered at the drone following.
It hovered off backwards like a scared puppy
because she posed her arms at it spread wide
for a picture. Sometimes I wonder if she gets tired
of waggling her hands this way, then that,
this way again, that way again.


My Tennessee cousin, some unknown
number of removes, called my new
Dollywood Gold Pass a roller coaster license.
The woman working the photo
booth took my picture for it a half-smile,
wind-disheveled second before I was ready. Six o’clock,
out paraded laced-up Dollyized lumberjack boots,
icepick heels more honed than usual. Dolly’s fashion
assistant fastened a seatbelt around Dolly’s waist.
A gristmill float or a riverboat float?
Depends how you looked at the paddle wheels
turning on each side. Blue and white
streamers were fluttery water fill-ins. Either way,
Dolly sat high enough to mark twain.


Antibiotics pinholed my right hip.
“If I take it easy do you think I could
go to Pigeon Forge on Friday
for Dolly’s annual parade?”
Steroids pricked my left hip.
“But you don’t understand—”
“Absolutely not.”
No Dolly Parton on account of doctor’s orders.


Four months in advance Dolly
announces after 32 years grand
marshaling she will step
down. Social media smells
a conspiracy, because Dolly is guilty
of having stood between Lily and Jane
at the Emmys. Cal Ripken Jr.
will ride a mountain-mural
guitar. A giant baseball will roll
behind him. Maybe next year
the resonant frequency of everyone in the
world singing a Dolly song
at once will parade Dolly
out once more.


About the Author: Stephen Roger Powers started writing poetry almost twenty years ago to pass time in the middle of the night when he was too energized to sleep after coming off the stage in comedy clubs around the Midwest. He is the author of The Followers Tale and Hello, Stephen, both published by Salmon Poetry. Other work has appeared in 32 PoemsShenandoahThe Southern Poetry Anthology Volume V: GeorgiaRabbit Ears: TV Poems, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia PoemsHe hasnt done stand-up in a long time, but every once in a while he finds avenues for the performer he was born to be. He was an extra in Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, and he can be seen if you know just where to look.

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Remembering the Great Flood in the Frozen Food Aisle

Photo Collage by Chase Dimock


Remembering the Great Flood

in the Frozen Food Aisle

By Ronnie Sirmans



0 g. Zero grams: No trans fats, according
to the big numeral and letter on the label.
As I rolled my cart past the frozen foods,
I’d first read zero grams as a word: Og.
The giant who died in the Great Flood.
Or did he?  Some say this freakish ruler
accompanied the ark. His anaconda-fingers
holding tight, his oxen-calves wrapped around
any wood that would not break, his walrus-torso
pressed firmly, resisting the rough breakers.
This supercenter — tools, groceries, sundries,
scented candles and oils of deserts and tropics,
live fish for pets, frozen-boxed fish for eating —
could serve as a modern sepulcher to the king.
Did Og relate to the pachyderms? Did Noah’s
daughters swoon? Can sea elephants blow kisses?
Or did this king’s domain and lineage conclude,
not like the dinosaurs in ash, but in a deluge?

I navigate toward an open aisle
in the archipelago of checkouts,
lighted numerals above cashiers
are north stars guiding my passage.
As I wait, I think Og shows: How little
we know about some very big things.
I get lost in some sermons’ sameness.
In church this Sunday morning,
they might even talk about Noah
or the other fantastic seafarer Jonah,
but I am instead listening to the beep
as an infrared scanner says this
is the price I must pay for a case
of bottled water, so much water.


About the Author: Ronnie Sirmans is a digital editor for a print newspaper in Atlanta, and his poems have appeared in Gargoyle, The South Carolina Review, Tar River Poetry, BlazeVOX, The American Journal of Poetry, Deep South Magazine, and elsewhere.

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Creatures of Our Better Nature

Detail from “Peacocks” by Melchior d’ Hondecoeter


Creatures of Our Better Nature

By John Dorsey


Creatures of Our Better Nature

as i stop to watch the gossip of a bluebird
through a dirty glass window
i think it is november
& i’m sipping champagne
on a half built deck
in the woods
that may never get finished

just me & some lonely bluebird
fluttering our wings
like crazed teenagers
mauling each other
in front of some steamy glass sunset
on some makeout mountain
that even time
can’t look away from  

for a few seconds i am that bird
& that bird is me

& we are both beautiful here

when all at once
the sun wraps its fingers
around our throats
& begins to sing.


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 Press, 2017). He is the current Poet Laureate of Belle, MO. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at

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When I Was a Child

“Calle de Guadeloupe, Mexico” by William Henry Jackson Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program


When I Was a Child

By Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal


When I Was a Child

When I was a child
I had no need for tennis shoes.
I walked the unpaved 
roads of Zacatepec in sandals
sometimes barefoot and shirtless.

We ate small green mangos
from the neighbor’s trees
plucked sugarcane 
from passing trucks.
We had no need for money
to entertain ourselves.

Video games were not yet invented.
Shooting marbles was our game.
We played futbol in dusty fields
pretended to ride horses
on broomsticks.

Our black and white television
only had two channels.
I watched the Lone Ranger;
he spoke Spanish like me.


About the Author: Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, born in Mexico, lives in California and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. His first book of poems, Raw Materials, was published by Pygmy Forest Press. His poetry has been published by Alternating Current Press, Blue Collar Review, Counterpunch, Deadbeat Press, New Polish Beat, Poet’s Democracy, and Ten Pages Press. His latest chapbook, Make the Light Mine, was published by Kendra Steiner Editions.

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Robbie the Owl

from A Book of Cheerful Cats and Other Animated Animals By JG Francis


Robbie the Owl

By Ryan Quinn Flanagan


Robbie the Owl

My wife and I watch this show about this owl
who is not fit for the wild
and has imprinted on humans.

His name is Robbie the Owl.
He sits on their arms and eats handouts
because he doesn’t know how
to hunt for himself.

And they take him out to the forest each day.
Beat the ridges of leaves with sticks
to make the rabbits and squirrels run out
into the open.

Hoping Robbie will forget that he is a human
and remember he is a Great Horned Owl.

That his genetics will kick in.

Training him each night in the barn
to fly through impediments.
To learn to locate, manoeuver
and kill.

And Robbie does not disappoint.
When he kills his first rabbit and they
try to approach his kill, he throws
out his wings in dominance.

They step away
and could not be

I tell my wife that I am proud of Robbie too.
That he is resurrecting the good name
of Robbie after that douchebag from Dirty Dancing
ruined it for everyone.

He’s bringing sexy back,
I say.

I think you really like Robbie,
she says.

I tell her I do
and show her my teeth
because it has been


About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

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2018: A Year in Poetry

Eugène Atget “Place de la Bastille” Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program


2018: A Year in Poetry

By Chase Dimock


In 2018, As It Ought To Be proudly to featured astounding work by many brilliant poets. As the Managing Editor, I can say that my favorite part of the job is getting to know our contributors and building a platform for their voices to be heard. It’s an amazing privilege to work with so many talented writers. You can access an archive of As It Ought To Be’s year in poetry right here. Below are some highlights of the year by our frequent contributors.

Our Saturday Poetry Series editors Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Alan Toltzis, and Anne Graue featured some fresh voices in the world of poetry and provided insightful commentary on their work.

John Dorsey mourned with us in a remembrance of Anthony Bourdain.

Daniel Crocker summoned the Incredible Hulk to discuss bipolar disorder.

Margaret Crocker spoke volumes about the silencing of women.

Mike James gave us a preview of the ghazals in his new book and wrote a tribute to one my heroes, Paul Lynde.

Ruth Bavetta glowed in an illuminated desert

Rebecca Schumejda’s series examined the impact of incarceration on communities and families.

Bunkong Tuon contributed a series on the experience of immigrants in America.

Lynn Houston concluded a series of poems about her relationship with a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

Tobi Alfier and Jeff Alfier both whisked us away with their travel poems and intimate landscapes.

Kevin Ridgeway transmitted the golden era of late night television

Tim Peeler wrote a tribute to one of my favorite poets, Hart Crane

Stephen Roger Powers flew us to O’Brien’s Tower on the Cliffs of Moher

Jason Ryberg ruminated on the forms and shapes poetry can take in our lives

John Sweet channeled the pain and brilliance of Jackson Pollock

Sean Karns froze a performance perfectly in time.

Roy Bentley’s pop culture compendium spanned Nosferatu, Steve McQueen, and Ringo Starr

Ryan Quinn Flanagan did the heavy lifting of the artistic process

Steve Cushman reignited the past

Jonathan K. Rice took us on a stroll down the pier

Howie Good reminded us all things are photographable.

Mike Acker charted the cracks in our cultural divisions

Lou Ella Hickman brought new perspective to the Adam and Eve story

David Chorlton explored the mysticism of relics


Thanks again to all our contributors from 2018. We already have some amazing poems waiting on deck for 2019. And, just as a reminder, we are always accepting submissions. Check out our contact/submit page for more information.


About the Author: Chase Dimock is the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his scholarship has appeared in College LiteratureWestern American Literature, and numerous edited anthologies. His works of literary criticism have appeared in Mayday MagazineThe Lambda Literary ReviewModern American Poetry, and Dissertation Reviews. For more of his work, check out


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By Carole Bernstein:


Sunny with the intensity of dream.
Huge balloony graffiti covered the stone
wall at the end of Avenue M,
where Iris Bloom took me to smoke a joint
and we cut Orchestra, second period.

Avenue M—was that it? some
concrete promontory, secret, above the subway
where it burst up into the light—we watched it
racket a while among the green backyards
like a real train from a real place, not Brooklyn,
and sink again.
The passengers, blinking,
would be headed for work, starting their day . . .

What possessed me that morning? I never cut school.
But we would not play that day,
our oboes lying in cases by our feet and books,
the reeds not in our mouths,
the joint passed, sipped at with the breath,
tentative, a new thing to do.
I took off my jacket, the breeze moved over my arms,
we felt lean as boys, we were
dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.

And then returned to the low building
and entered it,
blinded for a few seconds, believing
ourselves altered—the blackboard fathomless,
the passing bell shrieking.
Dull-lipped seemed the faces of the uninitiated.

By three the sun had faded, but
our smoke, its animal warmth, I thought it
scented the spring wind.


Daughter, delivered by an attendant:
silent and watchful in your orphanage smock
with the cartoon dog, and pilled mended pants.
A smell of mildew came from your shock

of sweaty, cropped black hair. Stuck to your chest,
in English and Chinese a name tag read
Happy Springtime: a name pressed
upon you by no father, mother. Closeted

from the world before you came to us, as if
in an ancient tomb carving of a child
rising from the grave in a flowing shift.
Freed from the humid earth, she almost smiles.

You don’t remember, but love to be told
how they brought you through the doors and you were ours.
But buried in you is that place, still. Were you cold,
solitary, left wanting, maybe for hours…

Don’t go there, I tell myself. Instead,
I grab you and inhale your fragrant head.

Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Carole Bernstein’s second poetry collection Buried Alive: A To-Do List is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from Hanging Loose Press. She is also the author of Familiar (Hanging Loose Press)—which J. D. McClatchy called “an exhilarating book”—and a chapbook, And Stepped Away from the Circle (Sow’s Ear Press). Her poems have appeared in magazines including Antioch Review, Bridges, Button Jar, Chelsea, Light, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Yale Review. Her work has also been included in three anthologies: American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press), Unsettling America (Viking) and The Laurel Hill Poetry Anthology (Laurel Hill Press). She lives in Philadelphia and works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant.

Guest Editor’s Note: Carole Bernstein’s work carries an honest and relaxed tone, even as she addresses sensitive and intimate personal experiences. Reading her work is like being invited into her world as a close confidante, if just for a few moments. In “Pastoral,” Bernstein describes the newfound and sensual freedom that came from cutting class years ago in high school, allowing her and a friend to be “lean as boys” and feel “dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.” She resists romantic or sentimental treatment of the most personal and sentimental moments of life. In “Back to Life,” she presents, with unadorned comfort, the immediate love for a new daughter that was accompanied by “A smell of mildew came from your shock / of sweaty, cropped black hair.” Both of these poems are part of a new collection of work, Buried Alive: A To-Do List, forthcoming Spring 2019.

Want to read more by and about Carole Bernstein?
Buy Familiar on Amazon
Poetry Foundation
Hanging Loose Press

Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at


After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

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Small Gifts

“Boy Scouts At Bowling Field” The Library of Congress

Small Gifts

By Steve Cushman


Small Gifts

She held the ball of dryer lint out for me
said this will help you start a fire.  It
was the night before my first camping trip
with my son’s Boy Scout troop.  It’s
important, she said, to appear as if you
know what you’re doing. Thanks, I said,
but what  do I do with it?  She smiled,
took me by the hand and led me outside
lit the match and touched it to the lint ball.
She didn’t say anything else, and I didn’t ask,
As we watched the flame catch and grow.


About the Author: Steve Cushman has published three novels, including the 2004 Novello-Award Winning Portisville.  His first poetry collection, How Birds Fly, is the winner of the 2018 Lena Shull Book Award.

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