In the Afternoon, She Smelled Like the Earth
By Marianne Peel

Her shoulders were always burned.
We had smeared ourselves with baby oil infused with iodine
painting our skin a burnt orange deeper than the marigolds
planted in a circle to protect
the lettuce from the woodchucks.

She taught me how to thread
a frenetic worm onto a crooked hook.
Digging around in that coffee can tin
wet with dirt and the roots of the soil
there was always humid mud under her nails.

Sometimes trails streaked her cheeks
after she pushed her hair off her face.
In the afternoon she smelled
like the earth after the sun
went way, way down.

She taught me to cast my line
flinging her whole arm back past her shoulder
all in one calculated, measured motion.
She said the splash on the water should be quiet soft
so we don’t scare the fish away.

And then we waited.
Just the creak of the dock bouncing
in time with the water
moving all afternoon
bobbing us up and down.

Sometimes our toes would touch
splayed off the dock
and I would recite this little piggy went to market
– but just in my head because
we had to be silent soft, waiting for the fish.

She taught me to reel in, quickly,
but with no panic, no surprise,
knowing there would be only sunfish suspended from the hook
little orange sunshines in our hands
on the dock every summer afternoon.

And she taught me to unhinge the mouth
to pull the mouth slowly from its worm feast
to toss it gently back into the water and watch it,
still hungry,
swim away.

“In the Afternoon, She Smelled Like the Earth” previously appeared via Silver Birch Press and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Marianne Peel is a poet who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey. She taught English at middle and high school for 32 years. She is now retired, doing Field Instructor work at Michigan State University. She recently won 1st prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine. In addition, Marianne has been published in Muddy River Review; Silver Birch Press; Persephone’s Daughters; Encodings: A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives: Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing; Mother Voices; Ophelia’s Mom; Jellyfish Whispers; Remembered Arts Journal, and Gravel, among others.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is vivid, vibrant, and rich with imagery. You can almost smell the earth, feel it crumble through your fingers, watch the worm wriggle. So alive are the moments of memory that we are swept up into them, unaware that we don’t know who the poem’s “she” is. We are willing to suspend our curiosity, because, “In the afternoon she smelled / like the earth after the sun / went way, way down.” Because the poem leaves us with a feeling, with an echo in the shape of knowledge, because “she taught me to unhinge the mouth / to pull the mouth slowly from its worm feast / to toss it gently back into the water and watch it, / still hungry, / swim away.”

Want to read more by and about Marianne Peel?
Persephone’s Daughters
Muddy River Poetry Review
Jellyfish Whispers

Posted in Marianne Peel, Poetry, Review, Saturday Poetry, Saturday Poetry Series | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment




From the journal Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering, Vol XVII, 1917


By Daniel Crocker

In a 2016 MSNBC opinion piece,  Hillary Clinton wrote, “Flint isn’t alone. There are a lot more Flints out there — overwhelmingly low-income communities of color where pollution, toxic chemicals and staggering neglect adds to families’ burdens.” She is right. There are too many Flints. I come from a town called Leadwood that resides in an area in Missouri commonly known as the Lead Belt. As you might guess from those names, we have a lead problem. Most of them have been knocked down and covered with rocks now, but until recently Leadwood (population about 1,000) and the small towns surrounding it had “chat dumps”–huge mounds of sand mixed with lead waste. The one in Bonne Terre, MO for example was about 160 feet high and 32 acres. I would guess the one in Leadwood was slightly bigger.

The giant mounds have been flattened, but the chat is still there. Miles of it. I’m in my 40s, and we’ve known since I was a kid that the water isn’t safe (though not the toxic levels Flint has at the moment). A few years ago, we got the attention of Erin Brockovich. She came to the area. Her team called it the worst thing they’d ever seen. Tests were run. The dirt in some people’s back yards had 10,000 times more lead than what is considered safe. Promises were made, but not a lot has gotten done.

The biggest detractors of Clinton’s article made two main points—that Clinton is only interested in Flint for political reasons and that her article is race-baiting. It would be naive to think that race doesn’t play a part in Flint and other areas, just as Clinton said. Facts are facts and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to detract from the actual problem. The economy plays a part as well. The Lead Belt is a mostly white,  poor area. I don’t think we talk enough about the similar problems the urban poor and the rural poor face. In fact, we too often separate the two for no other reason than political ideology. Environmental problems like the ones in Flint and Leadwood are not political. They are man-made disaster areas that overwhelmingly affect poorer communities. On this, we should be united.

There are, of course, different circumstances. The lead mining companies from where I live provided good jobs for people for a lot of years (my dad was a miner), but when it stopped being profitable they left a toxic mess and said they didn’t have the money to clean any of it up. This was decades ago, but a lot of people there still have fond memories of those good jobs. Some folks were actually upset that the chat dumps were knocked down. When I was a kid, we used to go play on them.  Finally, however, people there are starting to get it.

From the journal Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering, Vol XVII, 1917

When you come from a very poor community, it’s hard to get anyone with any power to listen, and the people who do have power think they can do what they want because of it. Luckily for Flint (if you can say there’s anything lucky about this disaster at all) is that Michael Moore was able to give them a national voice, and Rachel Maddow’s coverage had been fantastic, but quickly dropped off after Trump was elected. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Wonder Beans
By Janet Kirchheimer

My father went each morning to his garden.
He taught me to smell the soil to see if it was good,
to feel the dirt slide across my hands, to never
wear gloves, to stay in the middle of the row when planting seeds.
We’d look for work to do in the garden,
and sometimes there was nothing more to do
than watch the garden grow, wait for the harvest.
He thought that haricot vert were the dumbest thing he’d ever seen–
he liked his Kentucky Wonder beans, big and bursting with seeds, leaving
them to grow in the summer sun as long as possible.
Last winter he told me we couldn’t save
the parsley from the snow and ice, even though
we put blankets over it.
He got pneumonia in February.
In April, he asked me if I thought he’d get to his garden, and I told him yes.
By the end of May I brought him
cherry tomato plants to keep on the deck.
He no longer had the strength to pick
the first tomatoes that ripened in June.
August: I bring dirt from the garden
to his grave and scatter grass seed.

“Wonder Beans” previously appeared on String Poet and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of How to Spot One of Us, (Clal, 2007). A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in several journals including Young Ravens Literary Review, Atlanta Review, String Poet, Connecticut Review, Kalliope, Common Ground Review, and several anthologies and online journals. Currently, she is producing a poetry performance documentary, After, exploring poetry written about the Holocaust.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is a celebration of life and a poignant reminder that one day we may be remembered by what we love. Through a daughter’s eyes we see a father, watch him plant and grow, watch him love and tend the earth. Through the poet we know what it is for this daughter to love her father, and what it is to lose him. How touching her remembrance, how bittersweet the sting at poem’s end when father is returned to earth.

Want to read more by and about Janet Kirchheimer?
After – A Poetry Film
Young Ravens Literary Review
Collegeville Institute
Podium Literary Journal
Forward’s Schmooze

Posted in Janet R. Kirchheimer, Poetry, Saturday Poetry, Saturday Poetry Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


The ones we left behind.
My mother’s brother and his family.
The Soviet Union

Language and Loss

by John Guzlowski

My friend the writer Christina Sanantonio and I have been having a conversation about writing about loss. It’s a conversation fueled in part by the suicide of the novelist David Foster Wallace back in 2008. She wrote me a long letter about how we use or don’t use language to talk about loss, and about how hard it is to write about loss.

One of the things in her letter that really resonated with me was something she said about one of my favorite writers, Primo Levi, the Holocaust survivor and author of Survival in Auschwitz, who, like Wallace, apparently took his own life. Primo Levi frequently talked about the frustration of trying to write about loss and suffering, especially the loss and suffering he and so many others experienced in the Nazi camps. He felt we needed a new kind of language to talk about what happened there. Christina wrote that we ache for a language that doesn’t exist.

I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to find words to describe what happened to my Polish-Catholic parents in the German concentration and slave labor camps and what those experiences make me feel. I write about this event or that image; and no matter how powerful the original event described by my mother or father I can’t really describe it, explain it, bring it out of the past. I can’t bring it out of memory into this life. Instead, I’m left pushing around some words, trying to make myself feel what I felt the first time I heard that story when I was a child. Sometimes I think I almost succeed, but most of the time I know I’m not even close.

For me the poems that work best are the ones with my parents’ actual words in them. Those words are the real thing. In my poem “Here’s What My Mother Won’t Talk About,” my mother refuses to tell me anything about the murder of her mother and her sister and her sister’s baby and her own rape. All she will say to me is “If they give you bread, you eat it. If they beat you, you run. Likewise in my poem “The Work My Father Did in Germany,” my dad tells me what he said to the German guards who tormented and beat him and blinded him, “Please, sirs, don’t ever tell your children what you’ve done to me today.” There are bits and pieces of their words scattered throughout my poems, and when I read these words out loud my parents are there with me. I’m again a kid listening to my dad tell me about the day he saw a German soldier cut off a woman’s breast or listening to my mom tell me about the perfect house she lived in in the perfect woods in eastern Poland before the Germans came. My parents’ words are a kind of magic for me.

Continue reading

Posted in John Guzlowski | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Song of the Exiles
By Holly Karapetkova

There never was a garden
only a leaving:
miles and miles
of footprints in the dirt.

In the beginning–
the shattered sun, the wind,
and nothing left but our shadows
sifting through the dust behind us.

When we turned
we did not turn to salt.
When we turned
there was nothing behind us to burn,

nothing to return to,
though who could blame us for turning
with only the long days ahead,
tongues tripping in the dirt.

They said we didn’t belong.
They blamed us
for leaving the garden
which never was or would be.

Where could we go,
we who had come from nowhere
and hence could not

“Song of the Exiles” previously appeared via Split This Rock and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared recently in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Drunken Boat, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Contest and is just out from Cloudbank Books.

Editor’s Note: After a moment of silence following the loss of AIOTB’s Managing Editor, the Saturday Poetry Series returns this week with a poem worth breaking silence for. Holly Karapetkova’s “Song of the Exiles” begins in Eden. At once biblical and real, this Eden is a “garden / which never was or would be.” In this world we are storyteller and reader, mythological figure and landless refugee. This is world news, this is human interest story, this is myth in the truest sense of the word. And this, above all, is poetry. Expertly crafted, delicately wrought, brilliant poetry. “When we turned / we did not turn to salt. / When we turned / there was nothing behind us to burn.”

Want to read more by and about Holly Karapetkova?
Holly Karapetkova’s Official Website

Posted in Holly Karapetkova, Saturday Poetry, Saturday Poetry Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As It Ought To Be Announces New Managing Editor

We here at As It Ought To Be are honored to announce that Chase Dimock will be assuming the role of Managing Editor. We suffered a great loss this spring with the passing of Okla Elliot, our Managing Editor of ten years. We know that Okla’s are no small shoes to fill, and so it was with careful consideration that we selected Chase for this role. Chase was a comrade of Okla’s who has Okla to thank for inspiring his writing and publishing. Having been championed by Okla as a writer is an experience so many of us in today’s literary world share, and so this succession is a nod to a man whose greatest legacy, in Chase’s words, “will be how he delighted in providing a forum for others to articulate their voices.” We know in no uncertain terms that Okla would have wanted AIOTB not only to live on but to thrive, and we know of no one Okla would have been happier to pass this torch to than Chase.

Chase Dimock is an English Professor at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His scholarly interests include queer studies and transnational modernist literatures. Chase’s research has been published in the journals College Literature and Western American Literature and he has written chapters about modern and contemporary authors for academic books on subjects such as American writers in Paris, Black Existentialism, and German Women writers. His literary criticism has been published in online venues including The Lambda Literary Review, Modern American Poetry, and Dissertation Reviews. He has previously worked as an editorial assistant on MAYDAY MAGAZINE, Oxford’s Anthology of Modern American Poetry and Approaches to Kurban Said’s Ali and Nino.

Chase is eager to roll up his sleeves and help AIOTB thrive. To that end, he is actively soliciting contributions to the magazine, and welcomes submissions via email at We look forward to this next chapter, and to sharing our passion as readers and writers.

Posted in Chase Dimock | Tagged | Leave a comment


By John Guzlowski:


How do we listen to death?

We listen to the sound of death
The way we listen to the sound of the sea
To the message the waves pound against the shore
Their soft rush of foam upon the sand

We hear the things we forgot to tell the dead
The questions we forgot to ask them
The enigmatic dreams they will never explain
The useless arguments we will neither win nor lose
The mutual misunderstandings
That will never be clarified
The lies for which we forgot to ask forgiveness
The problems death defers
The unresolved quarrels with the dead

And what can we do in the face of death?

We can leave this house
And keep going
Never to return

We will not even take
The things that have meant
The most to us, our books
The plants we have nursed
The children we have raised
Punished and praised
The clothes (the dark
Blue ties, the tweed jackets
The rakish wool caps)
That make us look
More the man
More the woman
More the hero
More the young lover
Searching for love

We can leave this house
And keep going
Never to return

And what is death?

It is the hand of God
The meal prepared with love
Flowers from the pierced breast
Of the Blessed Virgin
The shore that smells of widows
Studying the foam

And should we fear death?

No, we shouldn’t fear death
We should fear the loud man’s coming

The pain of cancer
That does this or that
To the body

That pain that is longer than sorrow
Stronger than love

The tumor that grows like
A child who then learns
To hate you

A child who will not take
The love and joy you give her

What is as difficult as death?




POET’S NOTE: I met Okla on Facebook.

One day maybe 7 years ago, I got a friend request from him. I didn’t know a thing about him. He was just another fellow asking to be my friend. I said sure.

I’ve never been sorry I did.

Reading Okla’s posts, his status updates, his responses to other people has always been inspiring. What he wrote was smart and funny and engaging. Sometimes he sounded like Jean Paul Sartre, and sometimes he sounded like a kid in love with literature and life and friendship and thinking and dreaming. Both Oklas were wonderful.

And even more wonderful was the Okla I discovered when I started reading his poems and his essays and his fiction.

Okla was the real thing.

He was all the writers I ever admired, and he was right there with me on Facebook.

When I heard he was dead, I couldn’t believe it. He was too filled with life, too good, too dreaming, to be dead.

But he was dead.

But I will not let go of him.

Here [above] is a poem for Okla.

As It Ought To Be Mourns the Loss of Our Founder
“Some testimonies to Okla Elliott, 1 May 1977 – 19 March 2017” – Days and Memory
“Requiescat in pace: poet, novelist, translator Okla Elliott, 1977-2017” – Book Haven
“Go Read Okla Elliott’s Stuff, Please. (A Remembrance)” – Great Writers Steal
“Remembering Okla Elliott” – Mildred Barya’s House of Life

As It Ought To Be welcomes art and writing in Okla’s memory. Please email sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com with your submissions.

Posted in John Guzlowski, Okla Elliott, Saturday Poetry, Saturday Poetry Series | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment