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

Lauren Sartor

Shopping Cart Woman

She was brought in like a stray dog,

one past the use of breeding.

The young men shifted on the beds.

They had never been in this position before.

But she had. Minimally at first,

a way to make the occasional end meet.

Back when she was beautiful, back

when no one let her believe it.

Fending Off Loneliness

There’s always a cliché to cling to.

Hair of dog and keep scratching.

Tie one on and get loose.

Off the wagon and hit your head.

I put a record on the player;

the grooves deepen.

I crack one open.

The singing comes first—

that I understand.

The reading aloud

is reasonable enough.

But this talking to walls?

I don’t know when it happened,

but it’s happened.

Each night my feet paces the distance

from Binghamton to Syracuse.

The floor’s wood is testimony

of this delirium, of this trek, of my tongue

moving like a train full of philosophers.

I’ve answered questions put forth by phantoms,

reminisced at length about my childhood to the face in the window,

drank until I became incoherent.

I’ve sat on the rocking chair to make it nod,

strained my voice at the curtains to make them clap.

Each night is a compulsion for company,

an argument to be put to sleep.


I stare out my bay window, a little drunk

(it is Tuesday but not too early)

at a young girl who tilts her head to the street.

Both her feet straddle the blue-grey stone

that borders my neighbor’s driveway.

She must be the granddaughter

of the old couple I saw planting

yellow flowers, side-by-side,

not speaking, burying roots deep enough

to stand the storms of spring.

This would mean the little girl

recently lost her youngest uncle,

but she does not look concerned.

With her chest puffed out,

she jumps with legs straight

like fresh cut branches

and sticks the landing, a slight give

in the knees. She does it again—again

with the same seriousness of an Olympian.

She faces the street

and seems to consider the weight

of her body on the elevated plane.

Satisfied, she hops off. Heels kick

the space between us.

She dances to the mailbox.

I keep very still so she doesn’t see me

staring like a fool with tears jumping

from my upper lip; a tall boy crinkling in my fingertips.

She comes back from the (unopened) mailbox

and leaps over a bed of black-eyed Susans

onto the lawn. She throws out

her arms and holds a triumph poise

for an imaginary audience.

In the stunned silence, the young girl stretches

her stomach back by the upward

and backward pull of her palms.

Her exposed belly button gathers

a droplet of sun.

Her body is a bridge.

A golden anchor of a leg

shoots from under her—

then falls.

She tries again, kicking

with more force and confidence,

(a touch of desperation).

In an instant, her body is upside-down,

wavering, as if calculating

the distance from sun to toe.

One of the Good Ones

Eileen and I drank from tiny bottles

while dressed in knee-length skirts

and low heels.

         What really bothers me is that he was one of the good ones

Then she goes on about a cousin-in-law—Jimmy—

who had the same addiction. Jimmy: deadbeat,

father and son, a motel room,

maybe an extra woman or two.

Eileen sighs.

Bausch was looking for help . . . There were no

beds available.

Sitting in the passenger seat,

I sip at a 99 cent bottle

and imagine Bausch at the kitchen counter of a one-story house

on his cellphone, trying to make sense of himself

as a teacher and addict while two large dogs busy themselves

sniffing the floor. (I have no reason to believe

he owned two large dogs).

In the coffin, his body looked over-stuffed as if with straw

or like his organs were forgotten inside and engorged.

A fireman’s medallion was neatly clasped in his hands.

His mother, like the other mothers I’ve seen before,

was composed, even smiling as if in satisfaction

as a mother would in any event her child is party to—

if that party is innocent.

When he was little, he was so shy. I always had to push him forward

(the mother mimed her mothering) and tell him to smile.

The plastic teeth to another tiny bottle breaks the silence,

He was one of the good ones.

And that’s a shitty thing to say.

Drinking Cures

by erasure.

Suffering makes us whole;

there are parts about myself I had forgotten about,

the bridges are down,

towns move in.

The whirl of sediment in the yowling mouth

of the toddler,

her fingers clutching her father’s body,

the way she clutched his thumb

as an infant.

The young learn

by touching, the old learn

by being burnt.

I am not ashamed. I cried, that night,

sobbed, rocked myself on the toilet,

begged for the bottle.

Unable to dislodge

the fantastic death

and worse

the image of the girl’s diaper,

squared to capacity

the way my son’s gets

after a long nap.

But whatever urine was there

was washed out by the pull

of the Rio Grande,

forcing both parent and child

face down—dead—on its shores,

as if insulted: these people

are yours.

Dotted Line