Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2023    fiction    all issues


Joel Filipe

Kristina Cecka
& other poems

Gillian Freebody
The Uncivil War of Love
& other poems

LuAnn Keener-Mikenas
Skunks at Twilight
& other poems

Alyssa Sego
& other poems

Anne Marie Wells
Forest of One
& other poems

Brent M. Foster
Ode to Darwin
& other poems

Jack Giaour
trans man is feeling blue
& other poems

Alan Gann
how strange
& other poems

Richard Baldo
The Privilege
& other poems

Michael Fleming
& other poems

Holly York
As it turned out, there was no bomb on board
& other poems

Celeste Briefs
Late Poppies
& other poems

Kayla E.L. Ybarra
Goose Song
& other poems

S.E. Ingraham
Leaving to Arrive
& other poems

Rachel Robb
Molting Scarlet Tanager
& other poems

Bruce Marsland
Sauna by a Finnish lake at Midsummer
& other poems

Ellen Romano
Seven Sisters
& other poems

Greg Hart
False Coordinates
& other poems

Greg Tuleja
& other poems

Corinne Walsh
Southern Charm
& other poems

Writer's Site

Richard Baldo

New Patient Appointment

Minutes into the session,

holding myself frozen at my desk,

my spine shivers in its confinement,

unable to bolt for the door behind me,

only three feet, too far for safety.

I discard the impulse to run

and attend his fist, pounding

on my gray Steelcase desk.

My heart answers with blood pulse

pounding in my ears.

The man’s senseless shouting

continues to shake my office.



master the bullied boy inside me.

The shouting continues,

now ready to kill.

He shouts he will:

                            He will.

                                          He will kill.

His face red,

              his voice hard,

              too real,

scenes of blood on the walls,

              bodies in the sagebrush

              pass through me.

Who has he killed already?


My young therapist heart calms,


                            wait . . .

Hold firm with steady eye contact,

just let the threat pass.

He gradually tires of his own helpless rage.

I watch as the angry shield gives way.

My therapist self acknowledges 

how much misery and helplessness

feeds that scary outer rage.

As the conversation continues,

he agrees to sit down.

He starts his real story.

I suggest,

              Just raise the recliner footrest.

At the end of the hour with parting words

he turns to leave the office.

I see the wooden grip of the revolver

sticking out of his back pocket.

How afraid must he have been

to need that.

The Privilege

How does one decide to call a dying patient? But

a family member called to cancel her appointment.

Thinking of her lying unconscious in a distant city, dying;

Her urgent need helped overcome my shock and helplessness.

We had worked so hard to heal such near-deadly wounds

that bound her at the stakes of childhood brutality.

There must be something I could do to overcome

the indignity of life’s new assault against her.

Could she not have a moment of comfort, to be at ease?

The ICU doctor answered and said there was nothing else

he could do,

her husband and children on a plane,

expecting to be too late.

There was only enough 02 getting through

to keep her brain alive for a short time.


              You may think this weird,

              but would you put the phone?

              to her ear?”

He replied,

              “At this point, I’ll try anything.”

and ran a line to her pillow.

The one-sided conversation reached into her life,

asking her to choose it with all its pain,

with her children, the hard struggle to heal,

anchoring memories lived in our shared years,

desperate reaching for moments of innocent light.

Perhaps I was there,

somewhere among the pulsing screens,

beeping machines, I.V. poles

and tubes of precious air,

There, in that white automated room

two thousand miles away.

Twenty minutes later,

someone picked up the phone.

Something had changed.

The pulse of life was quickening,

oxygen piercing inflammation,

being metabolized.

In the chart, a change of heart was noted.

They put the phone back to her ear,

an hour longer and she breathed stronger.

I put down the phone,


The Prowling Man

Contact is the trigger for the man

and the young boy who knows

his home is not safe.

He runs.

The man chases.

For this primordial reptile response,

there is no cause.

There is only the immediate:

Two hundred pounds of man charge.

Fifty pounds of boy cower.

Both would say,

“I don’t know why.”

Just the meaningless replication

of generations,

the nuclear disaster

of so many nuclear families.

Psychologist Returns to Therapy

Leaving my office to sit in the other chair

in her office to ask another human

to hold up the mirror for me, despite the fear

that a bright shield might make me stone.

Here, sitting in my limitations to try to answer

the question of the Sphynx on the road to freedom. 

Can I crawl to contentment through necessary pain

to rise from four and stand on two legs?

Will she see a case of Orpheus without his harp?

Is there a new rock to push up the hill—again?

Stuck within life’s latest labyrinth,

a part of me knows the way out of any maze.

Just to put a hand on the wall

and not take it off until I am through.

I ask her to be my steady wall, 

to keep this shaky hand,

and look into her mirror.

But, Oh,

the persistent problem 

of that Minotaur.

Drama in the Office

There are exhilarating sessions

for a therapist.

The patient furiously storms in,

sweeping all the books

from my table,

crashing across the floor.

Perhaps once every five years,

Ordinary People bring

that explosive moment

of their lives into my office

igniting a mechanism into metamorphosis.

For these few, their denouement

makes me the blood-spattered audience.

The therapist can only be awed by the power

of cathartic leaps my patients make.

The method of these actors 

demands they speak

their scalded soul truth

of anguished guilt,

secret betrayal,

of righteous anger for freedom.

At every moment, my job

as therapist is to contain the space,

safe from judgment and interruption.

Emotions of emblazoned lightning

sears nervous systems—endured together.

We may be shocked,

but never broken by the power

that overwhelmed their defenses,

until now.

The room moves in storms,

with waves of light and shadow.

As they see their therapist standing safely

in the nightmare brought alive here,

they can survive it.

I stand witness to any chaos

of catharsis freed.

We feel each wound together,

healing whatever bleeds.

In the quiet after the storm, 

we are exhausted and cleansed.

We part in calm with much

to talk about in our next meeting.

When alone again,

I pay the smaller price,

stooping to pick up the books

as if replacing the props

for the next scene.

Richard Baldo is a recently retired clinical psychologist. That experience informs much of his poetry. He has been writing poetry off and on since college beginning serious study a few years ago. He won the UNR English Department’s Award for Best Poem in Spring 2020 and has poems published in The Meadow 2021, 2022, and Sixfold Poetry 2022, 2023. He is currently a second-year MFA student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Dotted Line