Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Fall 2013    fiction    all issues


Chris Joyner
Wrestlemania III
& other poems

Carey Russell
Visiting Hours
& other poems

Marc Pietrzykowski
Cabinet of Wonders
& other poems

Jonathan Travelstead
Prayer of the K-12
& other poems

Jennifer Lowers Warren
Our Daughter's Skin
& other poems

Jeff Burt
The Mapmaker's Legend
& other poems

Patricia Percival
Giving in to What If
& other poems

Toni Hanner
& other poems

Christopher Dulaney
& other poems

Suzanne Burns
Window Shopping
& other poems

Katherine Smith
Mountain Lion
& other poems

Peter Kent
Surliness in the Green Mountains
& other poems

William Doreski
Gathering Sea Lavender
& other poems

Huso Liszt
Fresco, The Forlorn Virgin...
& other poems

Clifford Hill
How natural you are
& other poems

R. G. Evans
& other poems

David Kann
Dead Reckoning
& other poems

Ricky Ray
The Music of As Is
& other poems

Tori Jane Quante
Creatio ex Materia
& other poems

G. L. Morrison
Baba Yaga
& other poems

Joe Freeman
In a Wood
& other poems

George Longenecker
Bear Lake
& other poems

Benjamin Dombroski
South of Paris
& other poems

Ryan Kerr
& other poems

Josh Flaccavento
Glen Canyon Dam
& other poems
& other poems

Christine Stroud
& other poems

Abraham Moore
Inadvertent Landscape
& other poems

Chris Haug
Cow with Parasol
& other poems

Mariah Blankenship
Fiberglass Madonna
& other poems

Emily Hyland
The Hit
& other poems

Sam Pittman
Growth Memory
& other poems

Alex Linden
The Blues of In-Between
& other poems

Bobby Lynn Taylor
& other poems

D. Ellis Phelps
Five Poems

Alia Neaton
Cosmogony I
& other poems

Elisa Albo
Each Day More
& other poems

Noah B. Salamon
& other poems

Suzanne Burns

Window Shopping

Whether or not we ordered the same cup of coffee

in two different ways or punctured the skin

of a ripened fig with two separate nails

to unlock the jewels clasped inside,

on that Saturday afternoon in late March

we loved each other over the forced majesty

of charcuterie plates wondering where their hearts went,

valentines even the sort of people

who talk about eating kumquats,

standing in line to buy kumquats, leave behind,

always excusing life’s bloody things.

The butcher tells us on Tuesdays he slices open a pig,

unfurling a roll of pink silk to expose the puzzle beneath.

The Sturm und Drang of his tattoos pitch and yaw

as he sharpens a knife I imagine plunging into you

in front of that Sylvia Plath mural we passed.

I once saw a bell jar descend over a village scene,

Swiss Christmas, reindeer lawn, ribbon candy

tripping on its own psychedelic stripes.

You replaced my dream of either skiing the Alps

or becoming the next Sylvia Plath,

who even wanted to die each spring, forgetting

how with Ted Hughes at Court Green

she once churned among the butter of daffodils.

You never need to pick me flowers or write poems

when your close body makes me forget my words

and what happened to all the boys in school

who thought kumquats were obscene

and W.C. Fields beckoning his “little kumquat”

to him, the newest and youngest blonde girl

unlocking more puzzles on the silver screen

while I wait to cut open and climb inside of you.

It is more than wanting to know your view of things,

what you stand in line to eat,

how to erase the times you shared crackers and cheese

in another woman’s picnic scene,

how she understood the provenance of gourmet eating

while miles away from both of you

I sharpened the edge of my lonely knife

and waited to start the kind of romance

that does not need a plate of figs and honey

or you dipping a finger in her empty wine glass

to mark that one sweet spot that will never wash clean.

Having a Gelato with You

is maybe what Frank O’Hara really meant

because these years sitting across from you

have made me rupture with presumptuousness.

People like summer because for a few months

they no longer smell death tying itself into their shoes.

The busses run without incident. People say,

Well, Goddamn! only to compliment a perfected belly flop

or the way daisies press themselves between novel pages

like Prom corsages, if Prom meant watching bugs

line up on picnic blankets, that forgotten smear of deviled egg

harnessing enough good cheer to last until winter.

I love to kiss you until I forget winter exists.

Even your tongue, cold from scoops

of pistachio or spearmint, asks me

to mouth the words, “summer dress.”

I want you to follow me to our hotel like we just met

and there will never be anything on television

better than watching me brush my teeth

and be extra quiet when I spit.

Having a gelato with you lets me catalog the way

your eyebrows scuttle across your face but never overlap.

You order steaks with that red ribbon middle,

turning blood into a gift more than a predicament.

I want to memorize each of your innumerable facts.

You like museums, so I pretend to like museums

though even in Paris they seemed nothing but dead.

Around you I am glad the way kids are glad

the Easter bunny never forgets cheap candy

tastes better hidden in grass and Mona Lisa

looks better in photographs. Having a gelato with you

is a portrait with your tiny spoon and cup.

Is this how you looked as a baby? I never think about babies

unless I am around your pinked coin face.

I swallow chocolate and wish you could have seen me

once stalk these streets in my plaid 90’s dress

when ice cream meant a cherry on top,

the girl from Twin Peaks who could tie the stem in a knot

and make everyone dream of her snowy skin,

even in summer when the Portland boys got me alone,

disappointed my tongue never learned that trick.

Having a gelato with you is knowing you will say

all the things even men in fairytales forget.

It is okay if your feet are too big.

Who needs that stupid glass shoe?

Having a gelato with you makes me want to call you art.

No museum means more, though I know

what you will say when we seer lilies behind our eyes,

our impressions of sloppy, waterlogged stars,

that French Braille of paint.

Before we met I sat on a bench in front of my first Monet

and held my breath. I can’t remember if I really cried

at all that blue like I said,

but having a gelato with you makes me understand

that if we opened our eyes at the very same time

there would be something more than tears.

Room Service

I have never asked if your wife knows

how we always order dessert,

concoctions of chocolate or caramel,

butterflied sponge cake cut soft on the bias

yielding to the urgency of your mouth

the way I imagine you unzipping my dress with your teeth.

I wonder if I might tell you, in the hotel above where we sit,

to use your hands instead,

that a husband and a father is not meant

to follow me upstairs like the beginning of a foreign film

where the leading man is really a woman

and the flowers symbolize anything but flowers.

No one knows how I once danced with a man upstairs,

a party in a suite, both of us moving closer

than when lovers joke about being thisclose,

my summer dress breezing around his body,

heat steaming between my legs as if something inside me

insisted he knew it was there, how I only said yes

because there was no one to sing along to Black Sabbath

playing on the radio in the next room,

the man never guessing me for a fan

and having no time to love me or the flower pinned in my hair

as I pretended to be some other kind of woman

who would never bake cupcakes for a birthday.

I doubt what you say about staying loyal to your home base

and hope no man ever describes me as a baseball cliché

while a waiter glides past us with crème brulee,

a room service tray meant to entice other diners

away from their husbands and wives.

I have ordered room service with boys

who liked to watch porn and eat sushi off my thighs

and men who designed sugar as foreplay,

a crescendo of spoons eternally tapping for that one sweet spot.

I could have almost loved you if we ate lunch outside,

this time our hands butterflying each other

as we wonder what will come of the day,

the thought of spending time with crème brulee

no more delicious than buying an old record from the store next door,

a former hard rock anthem blazed on its sleeve

as we remember how it feels getting to first base,

that rocketing red glare before we grow old enough

to need secret sugar off a tray,

that edible Cinderella shoe,

to find each other even a little bit charming.

The Light in Your Kitchen Window

You do not know I am standing out here

like something, for once, that belongs in the dark.

I am not afraid of an errant zombie

lost and looking for brains

or the kind of man who collects fingers in a box,

breath catching the way it does

on the biggest and best carnival ride

at the thought of cutting off the tips

where my composed shadows play against your front walk.

There is a circus in my heart for you.

What I mean is more than the roar of a lonely woman

masquerading as a ghost beneath the streetlight.

You have tried many times to turn me

into your own private ghost

by the way you keep your lips closed now when we kiss,

and how we never kiss,

and how you dropped my nickname somewhere out back,

but this sideshow we exist in is still filled with hope.

There is cotton candy there, too,

electric pink dross of good dreams

before all we did was go around saying,

or refusing to say, I’m sorry.

We have washed and dried dishes in the same sink

so this is nothing to shut your blinds to,

the way I wave before you go to the bed

I have loved you in and out of too many times

to keep hidden in my own special box.

I am standing outside your window

watching you water plants, make tomorrow’s sandwich,

force yourself not to wave back.

I mean the kind of sorry that might sound better

translated into the private language we once spoke

when we liked the same movies we hadn’t even seen,

Laurel and Hardy and that piano

negotiating their thirty-nine steps

onto a list of favorites we meant to sip hot chocolate to,

some certain look shared between us

no other certain looks could compete with.

The look that keeps me anchored in front of your window

long after the lights go out,

long after you tuck yourself in

by negotiating your body to turn from where I once slept,

somehow a little afraid of what will happen next.

The Last Supper

Even the day before Christmas

they bring a slice of lime on a saucer

to float in my Diet Coke like we are celebrating.

The next table over cracks walnuts,

reveals blue veins with their cheese knives

and I wonder if they are also pretending

their brother is still alive.

I want to say, Wait, this is specific.

We are different the way everyone thinks they are different.

Someone orders wine. I can never taste

the chocolate or the leather and wonder

if the aged oak barrel looks like the cartoon

of a man jumping over Niagara Falls.

Those suspenders must save him every time.

To create the illusion of appetite before dinner

we walked past all the downtown mannequins

I once starved myself to look like.

Now we spend too much on steak and lobster

and order dessert in our brother’s honor

that everyone just pushes around on their plates.

Sometimes nights in Portland feel customized for pleasure.

Midnight dirty snowball donut runs, pretending

to get married at The Church of Elvis, 1991,

when everyone good was still alive, like Kelly

and Kurt Cobain and Paul Newman and your mother.

The moments when staring at a bridge reveals

something more than wanting to jump over.

This not one of those nights.

I was reading a book about JFK Jr.’s plane crash

the night you died. This fact feels important,

like how I used to fantasize about watching

the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade with John-John

in the secret window of a penthouse

lined with his mother’s first editions

and his father’s ghost to avenge like our very own Hamlet.

I have never been drunk enough or religious enough

to see a ghost but now look for signs everywhere,

poking my head in Cameron’s Books

to flip through yellow tabloids and wait for a sign.

Something simple, like “Yours til Niagara Falls.”

There doesn’t need to be a barrel. Maybe a recipe book

because in the life we are still stuck in you once cooked

a chicken dish that made me like eating chicken again.

I never thought I would run out of time to tell you

I really liked the way you cooked chicken.

I don’t understand signs enough to know

if that old People magazine photo crumbling

in my hands of John Jr. and Carolyn

when they were still the Kennedys our mothers

ran out of time to pin their next hopes on

was a message about how death meets

older brothers and East Hampton blondes evenly.

Maybe the nights made for pleasure

are the only nights we should remember.

How another brother made sure our waiter

understood the way I like my steak

then told me when it came to not be afraid

of a final toast followed by a first cut

and the tiny bit of blood left dazzling

my clean white plate.

Suzanne Burns likes to write about kumquats. Poems from this Sixfold contest round will soon appear as part of a chapbook from Finishing Line Press called The Portland Poems. She is currently working on a short story collection called Love and Other Monsters, a follow-up to her debut short story, “Misfits and Other Heroes.” She has tattoos of lines from J.D. Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction on both forearms.

Dotted Line