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

Shellie Harwood

With My Sister,
In a Tornado Warning

You offer me wine, when I come to you.

Red or white. As if today it could matter.

You are the perfect hostess.

Even under a tornado warning, even when

your lip is split and bulging

like a bulb

too late for planting.

Red, I say.

Your face blooms from his hand:

fuchsia, violets, O’Keefe’s dark iris,

an explosion of forget-me-nots.

I think of the photo I have

of your wedding in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

He is dipping you back, with only one hand,

in your satin. Your dark hair raking the sand.

His smile says, look what I can do.

My glass empty, I stare out your window.

Sky is blackening above your sunflowers.

It may be time.

First, I must stitch you up;

thread the needle’s eye and

sew shut every opening: the eyes, the mouth, the heart,

the vulva. Taking care not to puncture,

before I bite the thread and tie the knot.

Then we sit, fists in our throats,

hands grasped across the rough wooden table,

splinters digging through.

Out over your garden, a funnel cloud is forming.

We are in no hurry.

You are sewn shut.

Nothing, now, will ever get in.

Last Train to New Haven

As doors slide shut, he slips through

onto the half-deserted train.

No more than a boy,

carrying the weight of a starving sparrow.

A shirt of magenta, flowered

in periwinkle blue.

Head down, hands empty,

wanting only safe passage home.

A pack of them, hyenas, laughing

as he moves, hunted, down

the lurching aisle.

Kiss, kiss. Isn’t she a pretty one?

A boot out, then, or a sneaker in front of him

in his path, tangling his slender legs.

I see it fast-motion:

boy flying, broken metal seat arm rising

up to him.

Faggot hissing in the air

as the pack of them scatter, screeching,

to another car.

I have nothing. Half-empty bottle of

Poland Spring,

napkins from Ground Support Café.

Up from the floor before I can reach him,

in his seat, shoulders shaking.

Blood trickles down on periwinkle, but does not pour.

I press limp napkins into his hand, hold out the bottle.

I have no language left in me.

He turns his head away.

Ashamed, suddenly, of the smear of human stains

across the window,

I choke on my own uselessness.

A drowning boy does not cry out for water.

No one will stop this train.

On the Line

We wait behind the yellow tape.

Our own arms wrap ourselves in the sticky heat,

as if we could insulate from the heresy of words like active shooter.

I think about the house of women who raised me.

Voices that blanketed me with “Hold back. Be patient. You’re fine.

No, you really are fine. You require nothing.”

Words that assault me now, in this place; stinging me, like a swarm of


And then they are coming out of the school.

Hands over heads, in single file. Some of our children.

Everyone’s children. Snaking in a grotesque conga line.

And, inexplicably, I remember the footage of the camels in Libya.

3,000 camels herded in frantic lines from the Port of Tripoli

in artillery fire.

My son urging them on the screen: Go faster! You need to go faster.

And I see him then. Toward the end of the snake; not lost, but here.

One sleeve of the red shirt is torn and dangling.

It may be possible to mend it. From this distance I can’t be sure.

I want to touch him. I want to lunge and break the yellow tape,

trample every living thing to get to him.

To shriek at that long line of women who wait with me, all the living

and the dead ones:

No. Remove your hands from me.

This day, I will not wait my turn.

Early Evening, Late September

You were just back from the war.

Your eyes were the color of coastal fog,

and you were lost in them.


the aunts and uncles circled you,

anxious to hear news of the jungle, or of the desert.

So many battle landscapes,

who could know?

                I took your hand,

and we climbed up to the roof, sat on the slope

above the flaming trees, away from smothering embraces.

I asked if you would tell me, if you would try.

But your voice was low and level when you said

not yet.

And your eyes never left the horizon,

so I didn’t ask again.

                Not knowing yet

that the moment had already raced between us,

that you would be gone by Thanksgiving,

that my regrets

were already standing sentinel outside the door.

                That there was only this,

this early evening, late September,

where the manes of sugar maples

tossed below us in the wind like the hair of women

who must have loved you long before,

before I loved you; before I failed to rescue,

                before we sat there

on the slope line, cradling your homecoming

between us

like a broken, battered child.


In the winter of twenty-twenty

the virus, they insisted,

slithered through China,

        out from the wet markets

         into the heart of Wuhan

         and Hubei.

                  Only ghosts rode the subway

                  or walked the hutongs

                  in Beijing.

In America,

we coughed into our sleeves,

scrubbed raw our fingers,

                  recoiled within borders

                  to accuse and sanitize.

But the virus, the other one,

was already with us.


tunneling through air vents,

                  exchanged in cold clouds

                  on the avenues.

We passed it, ungloved,

in arenas

and on airwaves.

                  Raised high

                  our cups of steaming malice,

                  shared them hand to hand; lips to lips.

And when abhorrence

pressed its filthy boot down

on human kindness,

                  we drew in close,

                  our mouths uncovered;

                  breathed out the execrations

                  and breathed them in.

Take off your face masks now.

They will do you no good.

If you have come this far,

you are already exposed.

Shellie Harwood, a poet and actress with an MA in playwriting, has written several plays, including Ember Days, and Another Bite of the Moon. She’s taught Theatre/Communication and Literature at universities in Idaho, California, Utah, and Connecticut. Shellie recently returned to Connecticut, after writing for a year in Paris. Her poem, “When She Runs,” will be published in Mudfish22 (Box Turtle Press), and she’ll soon publish her book of poetry, With My Sister, in a Tornado Warning.

Dotted Line