Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2020    fiction    all issues

Poetry Summer 2020 cover


Cover Vecteezy

Rodrigo Dela Peña
If a Wound is an Entrance for Light
& other poems

Shellie Harwood
Early Evening, Late September
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
The Deacon’s Lament
& other poems

J. H. Hall
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
Two Aphids
& other poems

Sugar le Fae
& other poems

Lauren Sartor
Shopping Cart Woman
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney
Mushroom Hunting, Jackson County, Kansas
& other poems

Elisa Carlsen
& other poems

Daniel Gorman
The Boy Achilles
& other poems

Samara Hill
I Look for Her Mostly Everywhere
& other poems

Nicole Justine Reid
Returning to Sensual
& other poems

David Ginsberg
Butterfly Wings
& other poems

Katherine B. Arthaud
Café Sant Ambroeus
& other poems

George R. Kramer
Young Odysseus
& other poems

Amy Swain
In Praise of Trees
& other poems

Frederick Shiels
Bad October: 2016
& other poems

Matthew A. Hamilton
Summer of '89
& other poems

Chris Kleinfelter
Getting from There to Here
& other poems

Martin Conte
Ghazal for the Shipwrecked
& other poems

Natalie LaFrance-Slack
I Do Not Owe You My Beauty
& other poems

Susan Marie Powers
Dark Water
& other poems

J. H. Hall

The Hatch

Evening, done fishing, I lay rod and self

beside the river, observe the subtle

surface eruptions, the slow unfolding

of wings, lifting into tenuous flight,

or the sip, the sucking under, of a creature

so delicate, it’s called Ephemerella.

The current wipes the slate clean,

carries the dimples, death’s memory,


Before me, more flies emerge,

as if to say, Death moves on.

Life stays in place.

Then the hatch ends.

The stream’s glassy surface,

impervious as black marble,

moves like solid slab towards the valley floor,

mirrors the darkening sky,

which soon closes like a cellar door.


Though electroshock eased your pain,

it erased our evening’s fishing.

I wish I’d worked harder

to restore that night

to your whitewashed brain,

starting with the plump, pumpkin moon

that pulled the tide nearly into your yard

where striped bass grazed

a pasture of aquatic grass for crabs,

our skiff rising and falling

with the Chesapeake’s breath.

The honor of your excitement

magnified our catch, its size, the moon

and tide to monuments in my eyes.

You, cousin, mentor and friend,

serious commercial fisherman,

who that very morning waded ankle deep

in bunkers, bluefish, spot and speckled trout,

now as excited as I by individual fish.

Surely even the fish were honored.

Months later, when I tried to reminisce,

and that night went missing, I was angry,

first, in my youthful foolishness, at you,

then at those who, meaning well, broke

into your mind and burglarized us both.

Your blank eyes deflated the moon,

lowered the tide, left me flailing

the exhausted water alone,

your illness lurking in the darkness,

mine as yet unknown.

How were we to know

the evening’s real blessing,

was neither moon, nor tide, nor fish,

but our very own obliviousness?


A trout stream’s beauty sometimes

makes falling in seem appealing—

floating silently, weightlessly among

cathedral columns of blue-tinted light.

But when I fell in, there was nothing

spiritual about it. I only wanted out.

I realized, Oneness with Nature

was a figure of speech or a death wish.

Now the stream seemed more human-trap

than holy place: gnarled, boot-grabbing roots,

dark swirling eddies. I scrambled to shore

like a clumsy beaver, lay in the sun, gasping for air.

I wondered, did the trout connect my rude,

roof-crashing entry with the fanged,

phony insects, that tore lips

and yanked fish towards the fatal light?

This whole angling business—

life or death for trout, now mostly pageantry

for me, a re-enactment of a past,

when fish were necessary food.

My need to pursue outlived its usefulness,

more done to me than my own doing.

I never asked for these desires. They were passed

to me by generations of commercial fishermen.

The needs endured, like orphans, seeking friends,

finding trout. An apology seemed in order,

but how do you apologize to flowing water,

when that which you are sorry for is already far away?

From Her Bedroom Window

She heard waves lick the beach

like a cat lapping a bowl of milk,

soon to feast on Mud and Oyster Creeks,

then trees and fields. Unafraid,

she didn’t resist, but submitted.

She loved that body of water

as another might love a man

or woman or cherished pet.

In storms, the Bay slung the beach around

as if playing with a yarn strand.

Wherever the sand came to rest, she walked

in solitude and wonder, but never sorrow.

For she found arrowheads, pottery shards

from hundreds and thousands of years ago,

and in one deep ditch, fossilized shark teeth,

millions of years old.

The fantasy of permanence

was not permitted on her land.

No barriers to the waves advance,

no rip-rap, seawalls or revetments.

And when the Chesapeake

finally wandered up to her old home place,

she’d ruffle its fur, scratch its belly

and offer nourishment.

St. George’s Lake, Copenhagen

Two seagulls settle as delicately as teacups

onto the lake’s green tablecloth.

A light breeze fingers the willow leaves.

A rectangular lake, cut to fit a cityscape,

fringed by gravel and asphalt path,

metal benches, a granite patio of people.

An inner layer of ducks, gulls and wading birds,

but no fish in sight. Unlikely, though,

that herons place faith in a barren lake.

That’s a human trait:

St. George gave his life for Jesus.

In retrospect, was that really necessary?

John said, In the beginning was the Word.

If only he had stopped there,

left well enough alone,

But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

Some call it Good News.

That’s a matter of opinion.

While gulls and breeze seed language,

the lake’s silence speaks volumes.

But, like the herons, I have all day,

I’ll wait.

J. H. Hall My background is in religion, literature, medicine and fishing. My poems, essays and short stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, The North American Review, Gray’s Sporting Journal, FlyRod & Reel, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Fugue, Slipstream, and other places, as well as in six anthologies and several collections of my own, most recently Chesapeake Reflections (The History Press) Raised in Virginia, I’ve lived in Maine for years.

Dotted Line