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

Kristina Cecka


In the middle of Lake Superior, a ghost

mountain stands impediment to

kaleidoscopes of monarch butterflies

rushing south for the year.

The mountain is gone. Only the butterflies remember;

parting, river-like, around the emptiness

where it once stood, just one more step on the long

journey their ancestors carved over ten thousand years.

Do they know they won’t see it again?

The dark, wild forests and the deep canyons,

the frothy rush of the great rivers?

The trip is only one way.

There is no looking back.

They land in Mexico only days

before Día de Muertos.

The Aztecs looked at the black, open

eyes in monarch wings and named

them spirits of the dead. Tiny ghosts,

they rest in the arms of the fir trees,

huddling together, wings beating in unison,

until they can lay their precious, starry eggs

on the tips of the dusky milkweed leaves.

When death takes them on their last long journey,

their children will crawl into the world,

encoded with escapism, restlessness built in their

twitching antennae and tiny, sticky feet.

They will carry all their ghosts with them;

generations of the monarch rabbles

who made those endless, cyclical paths whispering

as they take to the sky in one huge leap,

bound for home.

Look: one perches on a skull’s empty eye

socket. Veined, velvet wings beat once, twice:

a slow blink of tiger’s eye and amber.

Six fiber-straw legs bend at the ready,

grasping cool, solid bone. Eyes

always open—faceted, fractured,

watching the world with the hunted’s attention.

Tiny Thing

The crushed bird on the sidewalk, smaller than my palm,

has its beak open to the sky. Tiny thing. Gray now after three days

crushed into bone pulp and sinew, but its feather might have been blue, once.

The hopping brown pigeons down the street don’t recognize it.

I barely do, only stepping around it at the last second. I hate to see

dead birds. I always look away, like they need privacy.

It’s not just the meat-and-gristle grisliness of an unclean death—

it’s the pitifulness. Aloneness. Left to die-ness.

In the space between recognition and avoidance, my soft

heart aches for a little bird who can’t sing or hop or fly. Dying on the sidewalk,

left to rot—not even in a green place, where rot might become life again,

but on cold concrete, where nothing grows and corpses are left behind

for the sun to pick clean. For more people to step on instead of around.

Tiny thing, once-upon-a-time blue bird: you deserved better than that.

The Dentist

My dentist appointment is in an hour and

I have to go—my teeth ache. I made it

four months ago, two months before you died

and your empty shell descended into

inky earth.

I can’t call. The phone and I are enemies these days.

It rings to remind me of the world and I, wise to

the perils of befriending the enemy, ignore it.

Besides, what would I say?

I pantomime the conversation to myself:

Hello, good morning, I can’t make my appointment;

I lost my heart.

I’m sorry, but even my teeth

miss her and I can’t stand to expose them to harsh light.

No human eyes should witness them.

I’m sorry, but my home is now in the warm,

soft quilts of my bed where I lay

entombed as in the womb.

(I dream of existing before infancy,

when heartbreak, tears, and grief

were not yet born.)

I can’t say it in reality. I know I can’t pick up the phone and

tell the sweet-faced secretary the fog has

subsumed me, and when I will emerge, cleansed, is

anyone’s guess. I can’t rage against her for reminding me

that even as your body cools and decays, there are still doctor

appointments and electric bills and dentist visits.

I can’t say it. So I put on my jeans. My unwashed sweater.

I go to the dentist.

to the boy who reached for me with both hands

You reach, feather-fingered,

to cradle my heart in your

unblemished palms, but

I am not a person. I am a

war zone, walking.

Bones dense with land mines;

tears, more gas than water.

Those breasts? Ticking grenades.

I have an atom bomb

heart—one wrong touch and

we both go up.

I believe in taking my enemies with me.

I warned the ones who came before.

They thought that if they rained down fire

I would be baptized: instead,

I burned.

They left me spiderwebbed,


I’ll give you what you need, not

what you want: the truth of me.

I am lacuna, that avaricious maw



So reach, if you want.

Your touch may bloom

galaxies or birth stars but

you won’t make a garden out of me.

Notes on Building Human Beings

Teeth first. Blunted, not sharp.

Killing is too easy for them anyway.

Bones should follow: femur, scapula,

zygomatic, wishbone tibia-fibula;

all the knotted, tender vertebrae.

Detail work next. Caged ribs,

delicate hinged phalanges, metacarpals,

the all-important interphalangeal joints.

Fill them with marrow.

Thicken for seven days and seven nights.

Humans need to be sturdy.

Braid together muscle, sinew, nerves.

Drop in organs: the odd pear spleen;

wing spread lungs; coiled snake gut: gray, pulsing.

Pack tightly. They need them all—except the appendix.

Add it for fun, and to teach:

even useless things can be dangerous.

Brain, tongue, heart—no human is complete

without them. Set aside.

Skin, blooming and luscious. Smooth it carefully

over the messy organs, the sturdy bones. Bind your

love to their downy hair, feathery eyebrows.

They’ll remember. Not in the mind, but deeper—

blood and bone do not forget so easily.

Knit in the tongue, bless it with speech.

Settle the heart in the ribcage, cloistered

as a monk. Massage until it thumps.

Finally, the brain—hinge back the frontal bone.

Lower it into the deep bowl of the skull.

Gently. Gently.

(If you pray, pray.

Your thing of darkness has come alive,

and may need the guidance.)

Kristina Cecka received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. After several years living overseas and traveling, she returned to her hometown in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her two cats and a ridiculous amount of books. She has been published in Sixfold and Crosswinds Poetry.

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