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

Ricky Ray

Death, a Wife, and
a Life of Broken Rules


Is it because

I’m tired tonight

that I don’t want

to think of death,

my lifelong confidante,

the ear in me

that has no flesh,

that never had a drop of blood

to spill

between some crack in the desert—

the ear that,

as far as the eye can tell,

is not here

but is nonetheless wholly listening?


Whatever the reason,

I must decline.

No, my friend, I do not want

a glass of wine with you,

a tray of cheeses

and fine cuts of meat;

I do not want to shove you in my mouth

and savor your descent into my bowels.


I want the simplicity of water

tinged with the minerals

of my hometown,

the familiar blend of sulfur,

iron and arsenic that makes

hotel water taste wrong.


I want a joke

and the knowing laughter

that swells in wit

born of sorrow,

sorrow that bites

and leaves a mark

that mars

every flawless mirror.


I want a broken back that has just experienced

an uncommon day of relief,

a spine stretching toward the heavens

that doesn’t recoil in pain.


I want to know why the pigment in that painting

made me feel the way I do. I want to live

another night in the company of my wife’s skin.

I want the moment when her shades of cream

conspired to teach me what I could never

have taught myself about the complexities of snow.


I close my eyes

and I am there;

she is next to me

and we are happy;

the future

is a condition

apart from

our time together.


They tell me I am foolish to dwell,

that there is no life in death

and no bringing back what’s gone.

But I tell you

they don’t know everything

and life is a breaker of rules.


And what my heart does with me

when I turn myself over to its aims

makes me a firm believer

that love can do anything it wants.


When I want to be with her,

all I have to do

is sit like this

and close my eyes.

Then it’s easy,

it’s like

I’ve awoken in the night

and all I have to do is

peel back the covers

and feel my way

to her

through the dark.

The Music of As Is

Dearheart: forgive the extreme tardiness of my reply—

I meant to reply much sooner, but, alas, intentions

are weaklings who hardly ever muscle their being

into keeping its appointments. Interesting, the notion

that we’re nearly always late to or altogether missing

the meetings set up for us by our desires,

and thereby run around on the stringy detritus

of our potential. Why stringy? I don’t know,

but when I think out the field and walk through its grass,

I envision the shed potential not as flakes of skin

drifting down, but as strung out guts falling in ropes,

though without the gore or macabre mess—no,

these are the guts of something finer within us,

some heavenly-feathered cross-fiber, some

suddening strings of energy that break into music.

When I lie down in that field and feel the wind

make followers of my hairs, I envision us running

over these barely perceptible snakings of failure—visible,

like much of beauty, only if we actively look for them—

and think yes, there’s music in the air, so much music

that the strings beneath us and the strings of us

combine and conduct for the ear that cocks

with ache to hear it, and that’s the music I want:

the music of the way things go, not the way things

could go, if. Oh, I meant to write you a letter dearheart,

but I guess this is as it should be—I was never much

of a correspondent. Still, imagine the possibilities

of all that music, waiting like starlight to be

plucked, threaded through the ears and taken down.

The Blooming Noses

Flowers, these people are flowers who can brace the wind of a winter’s day, but not the wind of a bullet. Most aim is bad despite the years of training and most rubber bullets will miss, but the few that don’t will scatter the majority into hiding, the rebels into hills, while dissidents shiver in abandoned buildings, heating beans over small blue flames. Some of the shooters will want to change sides, but will be bound to ignore their consciences and abide by the pullers of strings. Strings of the purse, not strings of the heart. Strings that say plant the drugs in the pocket and watch the felony grow. Mace the face and watch the dissent shrivel into tears. Rough up for good measure, but not in front of the camera, and not the pretty female face or the old face or the rest of the faces where it’s blatantly visible. A kidney shot for the mouthy ones and a stomach jab to widen the eyes of the poorly dressed and highly educated. Raid the encampment in the middle of the night and make a racket that would make your scalp seeking ancestors proud. Burn the library and break the cookware. Accost the medics, dump their stores into the sewers. Herd them all like sleepy cattle. Hint at slaughter. Make them feel that their life is in danger and tell them that you’re doing it for their own good. Their hygiene has been declared a public hazard and their health is in jeopardy in more ways than one. This is the land of baby powder, not the land of shit and mud. This is the land of tightly controlled chemical stimulation and the doctors are standing by to diagnose your condition. The pharmacists are standing by to fill your orders. It’s time to put away the signs and pick up your belongings and head up the mountain of debt. It’s time to think of your children in the present and forget about a nebulous future. It’s time to face the facts of your position and make your journey along the predefined routes. And if you insist on questioning rules, if you insist on picking at scabs, then it will be time to call in the hounds, and there is nowhere left on earth that escapes our gaze for long. If we have to hunt you down, we will, and then it will be time to teach you a lesson. Then it will be time to taste the blood of a traitor. Then it will be time for locked doors, brutal beatings, and the torturous hands of power. Then it will be time to wake up day after day and smell the bloody, blooming noses. And then, then it will be time to listen to the blood in our bodies, the blood down our faces, the blood on our hands, and feel our hearts pump with the truth of what the blood tells us to do.

The Last Good Thing We Do

for Amy King

Turning my day inside out, all I hear is the pounding

that woke me up late last night, or early this morning,

the sound of a hammer to a piece of wood

that makes no sense in a February land of concrete.

The garbage truck it wasn’t, that nightly nuisance

hauling away the bottles of drunks

and the excesses of a culture that prides itself

on purchasing power. If a thing breaks, it hardly matters,

there’s ten million others like it—one of a kind

is a thing of the past and the show will go on without you.

Disbelief is understandable, and also not worth the debate.

Have a look. There’s a line of stars extending out the door,

around the corner and over into undetectable galaxies.

A fiery mixture of redheads and gas giants and blond

ice planets coldhearted down to their greasy, mean-spirited,

middle-aged defiance. Maybe some comet of realization

will undo the habits that harm them, but the chances are

so not good it makes the lottery look like a shoo-in.

We should get together and hash it out, spec a plan

to make amends and stop ignoring wounds,

but who would take such a theory seriously?

When has anyone ever wanted to get together

over a glass of water? We could give it a try

but I bet three flies and a lesson in gardening

one of us would signal the waiter and place the order

to wine it down. And that would be the end of that.

How easy it is to bring hands to the table

in contemplation of work, interlace fingers like the fates

of neighbors and throw them up in helplessness,

or hopelessness, or a botchy, beleaguered despair.

Because nothing can be done. Because no one in this

field of compassion is in a position to do anything about it.

Because it’s out of our hands and we haven’t the calluses

in our nature to grab ahold of the ropes and tug.

The subject is the earth and Atlas has an achy shoulder.

And yet mothers who have no kids are this very minute

teaching rooms of them how to behave. Prophets in

hand-me-downs with newsprint pamphlets are knocking

on doors trying to save as many souls as they can.

Businessmen are buying young men farms to work

and aging bikers are salvaging soup from vegetables

sent toward the compost heap—to feed the foodless,

to serve their country, to show a man that someone, somewhere

cares whether or not you starve. There’s enough good will

in every small town to make even the blond bitch weep.

And there’s enough carelessness in every indifferent heart

to lead us explosives-first into a species-leveling bloodstorm.

And sadly, sadly, sadly, that may be the last good thing we do.

Discomfort and Its Undoing

Discomfort, mere (ha, mere) discomfort, never mind pain, discomfort alone will make of us irritable idiots, men and women who take the easy road, the wrong road, the road that leads to trouble. And we will curse the road for being the way it is, and our feet for having trodden it in such sad, disintegrating shoes.

And when we get to the end of that road, or a stopping place of realization, we will know it was the wrong way, and everything will be met with disgust, revulsion, the inclination to swallow all beauty and spew. The dissatisfaction of living will make our tongues unable to stand the taste of our own mouths. We will spit in the dust and get the spit on ourselves and glare at the sun as though it were the bright idea behind all of this.

Unless. Unless something gets in the way of our anger. Some messenger who intersects us—a tangerine for instance, just a tad overripe, forgotten at the bottom of the bag, might be the hook which untangles everything that went wrong. Then, as though peeling back a rind, the mind will section-by-section come clear. The senses will conduct the weather’s music, and to their liking, even if the clouds hang heavy and low.

A foul wind might dog us, might drive us ever more contracted into ourselves, but we won’t wish it ill. We’ll lick our lips and lower our heads, listen to its whistle and commit it to memory, remember our summer together and say thanks, I know the going is rough, but you breathe for something too, I’m happy to share the road and I have a feeling we’ll get there in the end.

Ricky Ray was educated at Columbia University. In 2013, he was the winner of Fugue’s annual poetry contest, and the second-prize winner of the Whisper River poetry contest. Recent work of his can be found in Esque Mag, Ink Sweat & Tears, and the “literary mixtape” Chorus, edited by Saul Williams. He lives in New York with his wife and three cats, where they dream of farm life in an undiscovered village.

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