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

Greg Hart

Leo of St. David

Tonight at dinner in a little Greek restaurant, my wife Vicki said, “Have you seen my husband lately?”

“Yes, I have. I am your husband.”

And she laughed a little, and said “I must be losing my mind.” And, of course, she is. Even though she can’t always put our relationship in context, she still speaks to me as her most trusted friend, and that is maybe the most important thing right now.

At dinner tonight she tried so hard with so much courage and humor to contextualize her life, our life together, with our sons. “Where do they live,” she asked? “Do they come to see us?” Are they married? I know I have known them a long time and I did my best, and did a lot of things with them. I was with them. I know I love them.”

“You were a wonderful mother, they were everything to you, you gave them everything and they are happy and good men because of you.”

“I am happy I can talk to you this way. It is important for me.”

“Me, too.”

Please help me,” she said,”if I do anything stupid.”

“Like what?”

“If I hurt them in any way.”

“I will.”

Last weekend we went to see the sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw in southeastern Arizona with our friends Jerome and Sue. They have been at our side, unfaltering in the face of this change and the loss and the harbinger of more loss it represents. The Sandhill Crane migration is one of a dwindling number of mass animal migrations, and watching it is as awe inspiring as it is a sad reminder of what we have lost and are losing. We went last year, too. I wrote a poem about it with the refrain “We are here . . .” which I think sounds like the cry of the cranes as they come down to land on the water. Here it is.

Coming and Going of Cranes

Sandhill cranes, elegant

as the concubine’s kimono,

forming at first like barely visible

wisps of smoke undulating

over the mountains

in the eastern

desert haze of mid morning

and then and coming and coming

in wave after

wave, hour after hour

to this desert wetland,

fed by water

flowed down

from the mountains

that had been

still, at rest in the

aquifer for 4,000,000 years,

cranes coming and coming

with their jubilant, insistent

cries, we are here, we are here,

we are here, in the world

come to this resting and feeding place,

just like the 10,000 generations

before came, and came.

and came.

We are here. We are here.

We have been married for fifty years.

Not so long. It does not seem at all long.

There are moments now when she does not

remember the names of our sons.

We are sitting side by side

on the edge of the wetland

looking up into the gyre of 1,000 sandhill cranes

descending in striations from

above, some moving clockwise, others

counterclockwise, we are here,

gliding down, their gilded underwings

sliding through the cloudless blue,

so elegant, so much more here that is true

in this golden, trilling whirlwind

than can be described and codified

by deadenders, poets,

philosophers, priests and gurus.

We don’t know where we’ve been,

why we are or where we are going.

The cranes see us better than

we see them, know what we’ve done,

what we can do.

It is all so ancient,

so maddeningly real,

this jubilant swirl,

so familiar, but

so very brief.

Yet, we are here.

We are here.

On the way back this year from the cranes, we stopped at a little roadside stand in St. David, Arizona, which was founded in the 1870s by Mormon settlers, or Latter Day Saints as they now prefer to be called. It is just a little bit down the road from the much better known town of Tombstone. There are now about 1,600 people living there. It sits near the banks of the San Pedro River, one of the last living, perennial rivers in Arizona. But it is only a river by desert standards, which means it has water in it, albeit just enough at times to get your feet wet.

The largest building in St. David is the Stake House of the Latter Day Saints just off Highway 80. Just down highway 80 a bit on the other side of the road is the Catholic Holy Trinity Monastery.

We pulled up to the roadside stand beneath the winter-bare cottonwoods. The sun was getting lower, and it was soft on the pond behind the stand and we had the barest of breezes. The stand had one pound bags of seasoned pistachios for sale, salted, unsalted, garlic, peppered, chipotle, and more with free samples so that you could make an informed choice. Leo was the proprietor, a diffident but approachable man in a beaten up straw hat and a hard used T-shirt and a pair suspenders holding up his jeans. He would lift his hand a little as the cars passed, a little gesture, but I suspect an effective one.

Leo had some pecans, too, and a sign advertised honey for sale, but I didn’t see any honey on the table. “Do you have honey? “I asked him.

“I do. Can’t sell it on Sunday.” I didn’t think I heard him correctly.

“What? What do you mean?”

“Can’t sell it on Sunday. Can’t have it on the table.”


“Man who produces the honey’s wife died, and he married a younger woman, 15 years younger, and she says we can’t sell it on Sundays. We used to, but then the first wife died and he does what the new wife wants. There’s no law in the Bible that says you can’t sell honey on Sunday.”

“Oh,” I said, “well do you have any around?”

“Yeah, over in the trailer.”

And then we walked over to the trailer and Leo reached in took out a bottle of honey for me. I asked him if he would mind if we had a little picnic behind his stand, and he said go right ahead. Help yourself. Later when we were having our picnic on the soft tree duff and in the dappled shade and I could see Leo lifting his arm in a little diffident wave at the passing cars, I put some of the Sunday honey on a slice of apple, and I had the thought that this was the best honey I’ve ever tasted.

I went back over to the stand to get a bag of pistachios, and Leo and I talked a little. He didn’t eat the pistachios, he said. “Don’t have any teeth,” and then I noticed that was a fact. He didn’t smile at all. “My dad had the same problem,” he said, “lost his teeth early. But he ate pistachios anyway.

“How’d he do that?” I asked.

“He gummed ‘em to death, I guess,” he said, and Leo almost smiled.

He was from Boston, had been in St. David for 37 years. Would have never known that by looking at him, but what do we ever really know by looking at someone? He didn’t make or grow the pistachios, got them from the monastery. He said he had had a rough year.

“What’s going on? “I asked.

“Well, my wife died, then my son died two weeks later, found him frozen behind the courthouse in Boston, and then my dog died, all within three weeks.”

“That is hard. “I said. “Very, very hard. Terrible. I am so sorry.”

“Yes,” he said. “Thank you. Life goes so fast,” he said, looking at me directly, “in a nano second.”

“Yes, I know.”

And we did know that between us there.

“Take care of yourself, Leo.” We shook hands.

“You, too.”

“Take it easy, Leo,” I called back as I walked to the car. And he lifted his hand a bit in recognition and turned back to waving at the cars going down the road in the settling light of the afternoon beneath the winter-bare cottonwoods.

False Coordinates

I love you all,

want you desperately,

but you cannot be

my coordinates.

I can’t set my

way by you,

by what you say,

by your attention,

your tribute,

your disdain,

your adulation

or your pain.

If I am in a dream,

in the womb of a sycamore

above the water

of a sacred river

on the edge

of a pristine frozen plain,

that’s my business,

mine alone.

I can’t have

you doing the calculations

for a way through

that you can’t see

and that only

I can follow, can I?

(When I say “I,”

think “you.”)

If you don’t like

the color of my shirt,

or the part in my hair,

should I pretend

I’m not alone and

brush it over

the other way

so that you’ll

be happy

and someday

I’ll be sad?

No, the truth

is, everyone

is already in

the rearview mirror

and I am going

directly to

the place that


I can know.

You, too.

At the Altar of Being

The Sphinx moths are large,

the size of a delicate hand, say,

my wife’s hand,

the wings black and white

in fractal repetitions,

their eyes aglow in the dark

when struck by light, like a deer,

a dozen of them in amongst

the midnight Cirrus blooms

glowing white, there is nothing whiter

than the desert night flowers

which spend just one night

under the moonlight

in the moist, cinnamon scented air,

the sound of Sphinx moths

slowly undulating wings

the only sound there is,

then the graceful dropping descent

between the velvet, long-expectant petals,

through the powdery mist

of the anther’s saffron pollen

as the long tongue unfolds

and slips between the labia

of the stigma and the stamens

and laps at the sweet nectary.

I think I should pray here,

that if I am to be left behind,

it would be good to pray,

to get down on a knee,

but one knee is not enough,

to get down on both knees

in the gravel and the dirt

here amongst the Sphinx moths

and the Cirrus blooms in

the perfumed moonlit air

is to relinquish any claim

other than to being,

to be suspended between

ineffable grief and

ineffable gratitude, to be

both those in the instant,

to let the heart grow larger

than can be imagined

at the altar of these beings,

of this being.

This is all there ever really was,

all that there really is,

all we ever need or needed.

I read of the last man

of an uncontacted tribe

deep in the Amazon, alone

and hidden for thirty years

from those who destroyed

all that he loved and knew

and understood,

from those who wanted

more than there is.

They found him dead

in his hammock

outside of his hut,

adorned in a rainbow

of macaw feathers,

ready at last

for the moment

when he could

fly to his people.

I understand him

here, with the flowers,

the moths, the moon,

the sound of the

undulating fractal wings.

with this gift of air,

he is my brother,

he is our brother,

and I, too,

and we, too,

when left behind,

adorned in feathers,

will fly

to our people.

Not the Longing

It’s just part of the deal.

Who doesn’t want

a dog that will never die?

A home that will never fall?

A voice that will never crack?

Longing is the heart

of the long dream.

For a lost child,

a kinder mother.

A faithful brother.

A heart that

never skips a beat.

To be taller.

For unclenched teeth.

For health, enough to eat,

a final explanation.

You name it.

For the innocence.

the green fields,

the black earth,

where I lie,

a child humming with

the bees, hidden

in the fields of mustard,

in the life of the grasses,

in the life of the planet,

chewing the milky bases

of the blades

the sunny sweetness

running down my throat

that’s become suddenly

a light sparked brook,

I become the sun,

the black earth, the grasses

and all of the around.

No discrimination, no separation.

I long

the lost nation.

For the high flying

circus life, bumbling,

clowning round the ring,

chasing my hat,

laughing, home with my kind,

my funny, flying friends?

for something upon which

nothing depends,

that will never unwind,

something that always stays.

Laughter is the finest satisfaction.

For a perfect lover

right from the dream,

right out of the sacred fire,

to fill the original

borderless space.

To whisper into

my perfect ear

with her perfect

electric mouth,

you are complete,

you are safe,

in this forever place,

you make me entire.

The ghost consummation.

What is it?

What is it

In this long dream?

Always alone,

finding a way

everywhere, everyway,

in the water,

across the cliff,

through the uncertain crowds,

there, in the dream,

to find a way,

to the culmination.

To be the life,

not the longing.

To be the life.

Greg Hart I was born in 1950 in South Bend, Indiana and lived there on York Road. When I was four, I headed to California in my father’s Oldsmobile. We lived there in Green Valley in a house on Rockville Rd that had been built over the remains of a Miwok village at the edge of what was once the world’s largest cherry orchard. It became a golf course. Now I live on Mitchell St, in Tucson.

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