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

Gillian Freebody

Capture Myopathy

Marked morbidity and mortality in wild animals that arises from human-inflicted stress from intense pursuit, capture, or restraint.

the tawny stag limps immense

       before my idling car


                  we watch

its breath

              cloud its mouth

                     and disappear

movement three-legged delicate

     muscled shoulders yoked

              with massive weight

                     spine stone—

                  straight noble blade

              unlike mine bent, shattered

           into so many stippled shards

              its quiet acceptance

       stoically splits the street

          across arterial by-ways

     back left leg unusable stripped to

            flaking peels of bone

     mine pooled in the ciliatic delta

          sharp as jagged teeth sawed

                     off the trunk

              then tweezered out

       before butchering the cord

     You can’t touch it, you know

              my daughter sighs

                     It’ll die

as it hauls its heavy-antlered head

              around from the dry bank

for now

       in its ink-black eyes

       my face flashes frantic

     forced into trauma’s wake

its waves bashing the battered


of humanity and its spill into all

              the wrong places

                  as I wonder

             who has touched me

                     since the fall

       eager hands moist, willing

     sparking flame from where

          I slapped them away

Roy’s Roadside Diner at Sherman’s Bog (an abecedarian poem)

Ain’t no man pining for an old

bitch like me, I

chortle as Roy’s grill singes my arm hair with grease.

Darlene, the world sure done got its fists into you good, girl as jukebox

Elvis croons a lonely blues, blue as the blood beneath my paper thin

frame while I hum and slop runny sunny-sides with hash in front of a phone-addicted trucker,

giving Roy a wink as my crow’s feet pucker in the

heat and the weight of so many long shifts smacks me broadside with its

isolation afterwards: tiny, immaculate apartment, silence crawling the walls

just past Main where the unfolding of no one just about

kills me. Can’t

love no man when my heart be

maimed and twisted as hoary knotted pine

nine miles deep in Sherman’s bog I sigh to the stone of quiet.

On certain days, I tell Roy: a

piece a’ me already out there, Roy, it ain’t coming back—

quiet, cracked to hell as it is and calling and

Roy says, Hush now. You just tired and wonders if he

should say something to someone but knows

talk is poisoned rough and I’m a’right—probably—

until I run myself empty as a sucked out tidal pool making

very sure everybody’s needs is met, not knowing mine or if I even have ‘em anymore:

waitress, widow, wreck of a woman,

expatriate from herself

yapping to Roy ‘bout nothing and more nothing in a roadside dive

zipped neat and far back from the road, bog behind the screen door beckoning me like a lover.

Ode to My Body in Middle-Age

I want to let a man love my body.

I want to forgive it its genetic miscues,

its deformities,

              its pear-shaped absurdity.

I want a man to know where it’s been—

the night the porch swing broke free from its moorings,

the fragile silver necklace of support meant for a

delicate throat, not a plaster ceiling that would betray,

heave me off the porch, crash into my folded body

like a ship against a fogged-in jetty,

tumbling of vertebral fists

exploding inward in the inky interior until

L1 shattered entirely, lit up the spinal canal with bone

fragments, a dusty calisthenics of acrobats

not meant for exposure,


                                             re-construction from the ground up.

I want the scar(s) deep in my gut to ignite Times Square.

Twice, the same cut—

first girl head-up, stubborn even then,

stuck enough for the doctor to put his foot on the table,

yank her from me so the 9.9 apgar came as no shock,

my body seizing on the table—

seven years before the second, a boy, torn from me the same way

while the surgeons discussed baseball and politics and my sister

covered my ears except when they were silent—

so much blood—

I shook in recovery like steel tracks before the train barrels down.

An absent man for the first.

No man for the second.

And this body, a map of what it’s seen.

Trauma, the scolding nurse said in the ER last week

as I watched the red line of blood pressure

spike on the screen, a second stroke: the elephant pacing the floor.

And you, a ghost at my wedding to a man I didn’t love.

I want you

           to see me—

the roads I have walked beaten back,

                                                      grass dusted, blown flat,

but still, even now,

           budding with the most intricate, nubile shoots.

The Uncivil War of Love


Loving you is a spool unspun:

        my life-long fight in the world’s ring must be forfeited,

                a letting go like air from a pierced balloon,

                   latex body emptied and thrown in a wild release

possibly recovered as mere flash of color on a curve of pavement

        or not—instead swirled down a sewer drain when torrential rains

                                   rush for the nearest decline.

I mean, how can a scarecrow strapped to a spike,

    lips painted blood red with straw pushing up from the neck,

escape its straight-jacket for warmer October sun

    and a view over its left shoulder?

I mean, you must gut yourself for love—

not fuel the battlefield tank each day.

No, all that scarring must be scrubbed away, so I can

                    at least stay clean enough

                                                        for your voice to blow through.


Let’s say your mother stands in your driveway one morning

with a laundry list of your wrongs

                                        as a single parent—

each one a whip-strike to the soul so when you walk away slump-shouldered,

                she cries, Do you want to hear the last one?

Let’s say your NO! hangs in the air like throat-choke smoke

and you wonder when conditions became claws

and the vacant lot she abandons rots and refuses

                                   to be filled

even at rush hour, even with men, even with you.

We still divide ourselves as soldier or supplicant—

I mean how to make myself vulnerable after

                                   a catalog of imperfections is waved in my face

like a flag pinned but pulling

                                     in each furious gust of wind?


The cavern of self dies alone,

a whisper to some perhaps,

                        but not for long as way paves to way,

and the same slant of sun spills over the floorboards each day—

          I mean this uncivil war of love amounts to nothing—

not attachments that strangle or save,

not unmet needs in an unwinnable tug of war.

    It is the trunk and roots of you as you really are

that must satisfy so when what has lashed you to the ground weakens

    and threatens to pull free, the hole that remains will not gape

                          or cave at the sides but instead turn itself

over for fresh growth, plow the earth new

                                                                              and start again.

What We Learn From Birds

When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again.

Slipped from formation, the drag is immediate—

feathers forged in the wake of absent bird:

an envelope of sky: open and willowing.

The warm goose body plummets to earth: an anvil

of dead weight, a force of gravity that becomes its last weapon,

its power in death.

Two healthy birds follow, a dive synced to the sick

and inevitable.

By the time the body cracks against my neighbor’s fence,

the inky muscular neck is bent into itself

like a tributary dammed and forgotten

but for the two who tuck their gristled feet

beneath their wings, hunker down, wait for the body to grow


There’s one on each side, my neighbor texts, sending a picture—

the vigil: a pixilation of autumnal sunset familiar

in its crimson filigree,

belts of black, and total

lack of sound. Three motionless

bodies huddled like boulders, one



By morning, the survivors are gone.

Whatever plagued the body has flown

and the shell of flight rests unencumbered,

feathers resolutely still, no whispery response

to the wind.

Will you help me bag it? she texts.

I don’t think I can do it alone.

Gillian Freebody, a veteran writing teacher of 25 years, finds her lifeblood in poetry. Always teetering on the tightrope of chaos, Gillian only settles on her permanent precipice when formulating thoughts and emotions into poems. She lives with her two children and two cats in suburban New Jersey where a constant state of frenetic energy is the norm. She is indebted to her family and friends who tether her to the ground, so she can mother, teach and write poems.

Dotted Line