Two Ghazals

Two Ghazals

By Mike James


Cowboys & Cinderellas

I’m waiting for the apocalypse or the rapture. In the meantime, I’m reading Stein.
Also, growing cabbages, Watching John Wayne movies, while I paint my nails.

Some people pretend to live without shadows. Are always perfectly shaved.
Ignore salsa stains, flatulence. Expect worry to be, at least, three houses away.

The best we hope for are angels grown tired of heaven’s many perfections.
Who miss beer, sex, mascara. Who miss a world happy to wake from dreams.

On slow days, I work in the garden. The squirrels seem to like what I produce.
In good years I harvest peppers, cucumbers. Bad years, profanity and (yep) dust.

Art News tells us, second chances are no harder than the first. We just write
Songs about the second. We romanticize failure since we all have practice.



A garden doesn’t make you a farmer any more than boots make you a
Cowboy. Go on and play your make-believe. Go to your fashion show.

Appropriation is the least appreciated art. Going forward, we should
Only speak in quotes from Collete, Betty Boop, and her doe-eyed ilk.

If thievery was legal, where would the fun be? Cat burglars no more
Romantic than postman. Duchamp another man with an extra urinal.

Listen, the whole world practices make-believe. Have you ever seen
A President give an oath with fingers not crossed? That’s was a dream.

Matthew Broderick, once parroted the line, There’s a kind of freedom in
Being completely screwed. Let me an offer an agreement. Give an amen.


About the Author:  Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle)and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.

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The Mark Twain Speech

“The Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau” By Chase Dimock


The Mark Twain Speech

By John Dorsey


The Mark Twain Speech
for mark mcclane

you talk about frontiers
that only dead men
& drunks can see

not about the blood
& sweat that goes
into words that won’t sell
the stories of heartbreak
& what time can do
to beautiful things

everything turned to bone

words careening off your tongue
& down a river
slow to offer amnesty
to those in a sinking ship.


Check out our interview with John Dorsey on his book, Letting the Meat Rest.


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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By Emily Blair:

Today’s poems previously appeared in cream city review (vol. 41.1) and Indiana Review (vol. 39, no.1) and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Emily Blair’s poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, Sixth Finch, Juked, Indiana Review, New Ohio Review, cream city review, Gettysburg Review and the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, among other places. She received a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry in 2014 and in Fiction in 2006, and is the author of the illustrated chapbook Idaville (Booklyn Artists’ Alliance, 2010). Also a visual artist, she creates multimedia books and collaborates with social practice artist Michelle Illuminato under the name Next Question.

Guest Editor’s Note: To begin reading a poem by Emily Blair is to step onto a sturdy roadway only to find halfway along that you are swaying wildly on a rickety rope bridge, your foot’s about to fall through the rotting jute, and there’s no going back. All you can do is rush forward and hope you make it to the other side before it collapses behind you. She pulls you along with brilliant wordplay: “—were the heavens ablaze—was there a topiary maze—” and half-recognized allusions to the plot points of movies you probably slept through while you were babysitting those demon kids across the street. Toward the end of the poem you realize that the poet is cleverly yet subtly addressing some of your most mundane and commonly shared fears and despite all signs to the contrary–is every single sentence a question?–the poet gives us a temporary reprieve from that anxiety in the form of a quirky answer: “Are you going to haunt me forever? I’m free every night this week.”

Want to read more by and about Emily Blair?
Barrel House Mag

Originally from MN, Guest Editor Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology and at She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.


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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The Incredible Bipolar Hulk: A Conversation with Poet Daniel Crocker


The Incredible Bipolar Hulk:

A Conversation with Poet Daniel Crocker

By Chase Dimock


The genius of The Incredible Hulk is that everyone can identify with him. All people have a reservoir of anger inside them, and we all know the painful discipline of managing anger, lest it erupt into senseless rage. The Hulk Smash is the fantasy of acting on our anger with a violent ferocity that mirrors the inner, emotional experience of pain.

In his latest chapbook, Gamma Rays, Daniel Crocker identifies with the Hulk as a metaphor for the experience of bipolar disorder. As It Ought To Be debuted Crocker’s Hulk poem “The Incredible Hulk Tries to Write a Poem” last January. For Crocker, the Hulk is more than just a momentary outburst; he is an enduring persona who embodies the manic energy of bipolar disorder. Crocker’s poems humanize the Hulk, and in turn, provide insight into the mind of the bipolar person as they navigate the impulses within them. I had a chance to ask Crocker about the Hulk and how he personifies the bipolar experience in his poetry.


Chase Dimock:  The first question on anyone’s mind when they first look at your cover is going to be “Why the Hulk?” In the past, you’ve written poems in which you take on the personas of Cookie Monster, Skeletor, and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life among others. What is it about the Hulk that made him worthy of an entire collection of poetry? What does taking on his persona uniquely achieve among your pantheon of pop culture icons?


Daniel Crocker: The simple answer is, I love the Hulk. I wrote one Hulk poem, the one where he goes shopping after taking klonopin, and then I couldn’t stop for awhile. I was filtering everything through the Hulk. I originally thought I might end up with a full length, but after about 20 poems I realized I was kind of done with the story I wanted to tell. But, he’s a great metaphor. Any negative aspect of your personality, especially those that center around losing control, that’s basically the Hulk. He’s the things you bury deep. In a lot of ways this books is about coming to terms with that.

So I used it as a metaphor for my bipolar disorder because you never know when you’re going to have another episode. You just try to keep them at bay with medication. Then I started thinking about what it means to navigate love and a relationship when you have this hanging over your head–when you’re not always sure you’re going to wake up okay. Unlike Shit House Rat, however, this is more about coming to terms with it. It is, I think, a happy book with a happy ending.


Chase Dimock: The Hulk has been incarnated as a comic, a cartoon, a TV show, and several movies. I know the TV show version of the Hulk the best because I grew up watching reruns. In that version, he’s somewhat of a loner who tries to manage his rage alone and channel it toward productive ways to help the people he runs into. The show always ends with “The Lonely Man Theme.” It seems like your Hulk is more like the Hulk from the comics, which places him in a romantic relationship with Betty. Why was it important to focus so many of your poems on the Hulk in a relationship?


Daniel Crocker: In the end, it’s a book about navigating a relationship while having a mental illness. In my favorite runs of the Hulk, Bruce was always afraid of his anger coming out. He would do anything to keep the Hulk away–even though it’s a part of him. He was so obsessed with finding a cure that his relationship with Betty would be strained. When I was diagnosed with bipolar, I read up everything I could on it. So, I understand that level of obsession. I also, of course, worry that my symptoms could come back at any time—even while on medication.  So, I hope it shows the impact of bipolar disorder on one’s immediate family as well as just the person who has it. In the end, though, it’s just coming to terms with the monster inside of you–whatever that may be.

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Paul Lynde

Paul Lynde

By Mike James


Paul Lynde

Died on an early January Sunday in Beverly Hills. If he’d been born in early January, he’d be a Capricorn. He was a Gemini. During the 1970’s it was popular to tell people “your sign.” Like shag carpet, that’s less popular now. Paul trusted astrology. Call him a man of the times. Call him Liberace without a piano, add a scarf. Geminis love illusions and music. Prefer light blue and yellow. The great talents of Geminis “are in the social realm.” Does that include cooking? Paul Lynde liked to drink white wine while cooking. He loved to cook.


About the Author:  Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle)and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.

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Under the Tamarind Tree

Francisco Manuel Blanco: “Tamarindus Indica”


Under the Tamarind Tree

By Bunkong Tuon


Editor’s Note: This past week, the nation witnessed devastating images from detention centers and heard hateful rhetoric spewed about immigration. Now, more than ever, it is important to humanize immigration and emphasize empathy. It is in this spirit that we are proud to present the final post in a series of poems about the immigrant experience in America.

Our late Managing Editor, Okla Elliott, featured Bunkong Tuon’s work on As It Ought To Be back in January of 2017. Okla was particularly concerned about the anti-immigration rhetoric heating up in the country and he hoped to showcase the voices of immigrants on our site. In honor of Okla’s memory, Tuon has allowed us to feature more of his poetry about his experience as an immigrant from Cambodia in the United States. All of the poems from this series can be found linked at the end of this article.


Under the Tamarind Tree

The child sits on the lap
of his aunt, under the old tamarind tree
outside the family home.

The tree stands still, quiet,
indifferent. The house sways
on stilts.

Monks in saffron robes,
and nuns with shaved heads,
lips darkened with betel-nut stain,

sit chanting prayers
for the child’s mother.

Incense perfumes the hot dry air.

There emerges a strange familiar song
between the child and his aunt that day—
a distant one, melodic but harsh,
as if the strings are drawn too tight—

Each time the child hears prayers
coming from the house, he cries;
each time he cries, the aunt, a girl herself,
pinches the boy’s thigh.


Previous poems from Bunkong Tuon’s series on the immigrant experience in America:


Our Neighborhood in Revere, MA

Snow Day

An Elegy for a Fellow Cambodian

Halloween, 1985

Dancing Fu Manchu Master

Fishing for Trey Platoo

Lies I Told About Father



About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books, and a regular contributor to Cultural Weekly  He is also an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.

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It Ain’t No Lie, Baby

“The Bi Mind” digital collage by Chase Dimock


It Ain’t No Lie, Baby

By Daniel Crocker


My first boyfriend killed himself. We didn’t call ourselves boyfriends, but we went to the movies together, went to dinner together, and had a lot of sex. Part of the reason we didn’t call ourselves for what we really were is that it was the ’90s and things then weren’t what they are now. More than that I think, even though he was out of the closet, was my insistence that I wasn’t gay. And I wasn’t and am not. I was a bit of a coward, though.

I didn’t realize at the time that there was another option or, as it turns out, countless other options. And who knows, maybe I’m being presumptuous to think that he would have wanted to call me his boyfriend. He was beautiful and wild and unpredictable. He had a lot of suitors. Still, I do sometimes wonder if things would have been different if I, at that time, could have just went all in so to speak.

It wouldn’t be until several years later that I came out to my friends as a bisexual male—something seemingly as rare as a unicorn. That’s when things got weird. Some of my friends shrugged, and said, “So?” That was the best response possible, and I appreciate each and every one of them. Others weren’t sold on the idea. How is that possible, they wondered, you’re married to a woman.

The reaction from my gay friends could be even more baffling. I heard the old standby, “Bi now, gay later” plenty. That one didn’t bother me at first because so many gay men I knew at the time did go through a period where they told people they were bisexual. They were just testing the waters. But, five years later, it started to get a little old. When I agreed to sit on a panel hosted by the university I attended as the “representative bisexual” most of the questions I got were variations of, “What does your wife think about you cheating on her with men?” My relationship is monogamous I said . . . over and over and over.

My oldest friend, a guy I grew up with, went to church with, love like a brother, had one of the hardest times believing it. His dad was a preacher. Once, when we were young, we were having a conversation about homosexuality in my bedroom. He had not yet come out of the closet and wouldn’t until his early twenties, but it was something we’d talk about now and again. Maybe he was seeing how I would react, but I believe him when he says he just hadn’t been able to admit it to himself yet. We lived in a community that was violently homophobic.

“Look,” I said. “If I was gay I’d march up and down the street telling people. There’s nothing wrong with it.” I don’t know where I got this attitude. Not from my parents, any adult I knew, and certainly not from my hellfire and brimstone church. A church where, mind you, I made the mistake of wearing an earring. The preacher, looking right at me the entire time, went on a rant against homosexuality before saying, “When I was a kid, if a boy had an earring it meant one thing. It still means that today.” Amens all around.

I think what my friend meant when he told me I wasn’t bisexual was that he really expected, if I were, that I would be marching up and down the street telling people. I still love him. He’s incredibly accepting of who I am. We’ve been friends for thirty years. We Skype on Sundays to watch a classic episode of Doctor Who—a tradition started when we’d watch it Sunday nights on PBS. But, I digress. However, I wondered that if he, someone who knew some of the men I had slept with, didn’t buy it, why, I thought, would anyone else?

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