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

Writer's Site

Christine Stroud


Damp heat rises from the grass.

I sing your name like conjugating a verb:

dolo, dolore, Dolores

until you say Shush,

It’s not polite to call

me by my name.

By the wild grape orchard,

in the backyard,

we stretch out in the hammock

strung between two pines.

You read the Nancy comics aloud

from the Sunday Greenville Times,

while my eyes trace the illustrations.

Your fingers, filmed with cornbread

grease, stain the pages.

I squash a chubby bumble bee

in my fist and wipe

the brown smudge into the white

clover creeping through

the grass. I want you to say

I am brave, but you click

your tongue and shake your head.

My Last Spanking

After church, in my great grandma’s dark oak bedroom, Dad helps me change. Arms up he orders and pulls the yellow dress with white lace collar over my head. One quick movement like he’s peeling off a dried scab. He hands me a bright orange pair of shorts. I am seven, and stand in front of grandma’s large mirror with my arms straight out. Long and thin, I pretend I am a little Jesus on the cross. Head tilted to the side. I poke out my white belly and giggle. Dad, look I’m like one of those little starving babies in Africa. He searches my miniature lime green suitcase for a T-shirt. Hon, that’s not nice. I push out my belly farther. But I do. See, little skinny arms and a big fat belly, I say. He stops pushing around my clothes and looks at me in the mirror. I said stop it. But I’m feeling good and strong, stretching my arms as far as the will go, pushing my belly out as hard as I can. Again I tilt my head to the side. Look, now I’m Jesus. I am over his lap before I can back away or say sorry. The sound is dull, dampered by my shorts. My muscles flex, but I don’t cry.

After, Dad leaves the room, his face the color of a cardinal. I stare into the mirror, puff out my belly, clench my fists, whisper African baby.

From Man to Man, 1973

Somewhere in the house

her bulldog-faced father

is angry. Not at her,

not yet, but at her sister

who’s forgotten to wipe

speckles of toast crumbs

from the black and white

checkered counter top.

Her little brother

is sitting cross-legged

in front of the TV,

watching Gunsmoke.

The cowboys shoot Indians

in varying shades of gray.

Her bedroom door is closed.

She stares into the mirror

of her chalk-white vanity,

parts her hair

down the middle, pulls

it into pigtails.

She braids each side into thick

ropes of oiled hemp. The black

hair against her milky face

and white linen shirt

make her think of Dorothy

before she discovers Oz.

Today is September,

she is engaged.

My husband she says over

and over. Quiet then loud,

mouthing the word hus - band

with exaggerated lips. Somewhere

in the house her father

yells at her mother

who is peeling the husks

off pale ears of corn.

She can’t hear her mother’s reply.

But the girl in the room

doesn’t care. She’s leaving soon

with a man, her husband.

It’s not because he drives

a little orange motorcycle,

or has butter colored hair, longer than hers.

It has nothing to do with the burning

red zits along his jawline

that he fingers like braille,

each pimple pulsing,

ready to explode.

It’s because he is a hurricane

that will breeze out of this town.

Just like her mother says,

He’s going places.

From Man to Man, 2009

In the cream colored carpet,

asphalt-granite counter tops,

a house with no sounds,

she applies the thick

Darkest Dark Brown

to her coarse white roots.

The chemical smell singes

her nose hair, eyes swell.

She stares in the bathroom

mirror, large over the pearly

his-and-her sinks.

Her husband is at work.

His cell phone is off,

always gone someplace.

A husband with a saggy,

pale stomach. His hair fine

like thread, gray as ash. She waits.

Thirty minutes for the dye,

two hours until her husband

comes home. She stares

in the bathroom mirror

and whispers thirty-six

years. Somewhere

in the house, there is a photo

of a boy with butter colored

hair, cut shorter than hers,

in a black tuxedo and white

cake cream smeared on his face.

Somewhere in the house

there is a photo of her

in a wedding dress,

staring straight into the lens.

I Kiss Someone Else at the Party

From my desk I hear liquid dripping to the hard wood floor, steady and deliberate like a leaky faucet. The cat jumps off the bed as I scream, no—goddammit! You come upstairs as I’m yanking off the sheets, she pissed on the bed, I say. You shake your head; let me get the baking soda. The pee leaves the white mattress looking like a smoker’s tooth. We sprinkle the Arm and Hammer over the stain. As the powder dries, it cakes and crumbles, but the stain is still there. I mix bleach and water in a spray bottle and douse the splotch. Every few hours I spray more and by night time the stain is almost gone. You rub my back, good job, you can hardly tell. Later that night neither of us can sleep. We both stare at the ceiling and listen to the fan whirl on low. I whisper, I think I can still smell it. In the darkness I see your head nod up and down, yeah me too.

Christine Stroud is originally from eastern North Carolina, but currently lives in Pittsburgh with her partner and three cats. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and works as an Assistant Editor for Autumn House Press.

Dotted Line