Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2015    fiction    all issues


Cover Peter Rawlings

J. H Yun
& other poems

Colby Hansen
Killing Jar #37
& other poems

Melissa Bond
Freud's Asparagus
& other poems

Jane Schulman
When Krupa Played Those Drums
& other poems

Susan F. Glassmeyer
First Moon of a Blue Moon Month
& other poems

Melissa Tyndall
& other poems

Micah Chatterton
& other poems

Emily Graf
& other poems

Kate Magill
LV Winter, 2015
& other poems

Michael Fleming
Meeting Mrs. Ping
& other poems

Richard Parisio
Brown Creeper
& other poems

Jennifer Leigh Stevenson
Circe in Business
& other poems

Laurel Eshelman
& other poems

Barry W. North
Molotov Cocktail of the Deep South
& other poems

Charles C. Childers
& other poems

Ricky Ray
A Way to Work
& other poems

Cassandra Sanborn
& other poems

Linda Sonia Miller
Full Circle
& other poems

J. Lee Strickland
Anna's Plague
& other poems

Erin Dorso
In the Kitchen
& other poems

Holly Lyn Walrath
Behind the Glass
& other poems

Jeff Lewis
Charles Ives, A Connecticut Yankee
& other poems

Karen Kraco
Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
& other poems

Rafael Miguel Montes
& other poems

Writer's Site

Ricky Ray


A man, tired after a day’s long journey, comes to a cabin in the woods and opens the door. The hinges squeak and the sound of wings shuffles overhead. He walks in, waits for his eyes to grow into the darkness, to make out its forms.

He finds a stool by a table and sits to rest, not wanting to try his back on the floor. He has no sleeping bag and does not feel like piling leaves. He puts his head to the table and listens.

It speaks through his skin, his mind, tells him all he can remember of tables, of wood, trees, seeds and growth, of splinters, termites, rotting and soil.

Eventually his mind takes him to the edge of the field where he grows quiet and humble, where his inner voice no longer speaks for the table, and feeling takes over.

He sits there a long time, until his forehead begins to hurt. Then he lifts his arm and runs his hand along the edge of the table, slowing to finger its nicks, its rough spots, stopping at the rounded corner.

There, in the oily smoothness that might be the inner elbow of someone he once caressed in the night, he grasps the part of the table, the part of the tree, the part of himself that, then as now, he does not and cannot know.

In that shadow of time, in the descending darkness he belongs to the cabin and falls asleep, waking when his neck grows hot under the morning sun. If he dreamt, he doesn’t remember.

He listens, not to the table this time, but to the living day—the things he can hear, and the things he can’t. The hinges squeak. His stomach grumbles. A box of crackers, quiet as a skeleton, stales in a hidden alcove behind the cupboard. A small-breasted birdsong slips under the door.

The Crossroads a Pound of Flesh Is

Sun and water become seed and soil

become timothy and clover

sharp and soft in the evening,

lips wet, fuzzy with milk, manure in the barn,

calves the color of gloves and coal

grazing in the rain.

                                  Add years and slaughter:

a block of meat bought from a beef farmer,

blue-green plaid kilt,

splashes of red in his beard, slight New England

twang, an upturn at the corner of his mouth,

neither smile nor smirk, etched, when

he needs to put it on.

                                     Add minutes and sweat:

this block, ten dollars, marbled with fat,

frozen pound in plastic pressed between palms,

freezes the hands I wrap around my dog’s Irish ears

as we sit on the bench, inching back from the sun,

gently rocking in the rise and fall of her breath

as she raises her nose to study

a scent I cannot detect,

folds upper lip under lower canine,

pensive about its statement.

                                                 Add seconds and sense:

come to some conclusion, she crosses one paw

over the other, tufts of cinnamon pluming

between toes, drops her jaw, unrolls

her tongue, lets drip one bead

of saliva and pants the heat away.

Quiet, Grit, Glory

Sometimes I go silent, not intending to,

just following an inclination to be quiet,

and then some shadow will pass

and I’ll think to respond, engage again,

throw voice and opinion,

take the counterpunches they ignite,

but before I do I turn my head aside

and hear the woods calling,

and the pull of that call tugs deeper,

so I go into the woods,

and when I come out to some

road or town or intent to be social,

I feel obliged to live up to the weight

the silence has spread over us,

and I can’t, the word weighs too much,

puts a whole world of gravity in the tongue,

so I stay silent—I sit with it until it breaks.

And sometimes that breaking is heavy,

the shattering of metal, lead, hammers,

brick you have to chew until

the teeth work it down to grit,

then the tongue resumes its fighting shape of yore

and lashes like I’ve always been in the ring,

even when I left all buildings

and said nothing but what was said

by the ring of the horizon.

And sometimes that breaking is light,

a feather let loose in leaves,

the day’s simple rituals—

telling how something tastes, 

how the bones have felt their marrow—

sometimes a curtain blows aside 

and the good of conversation announces itself 

like the good of morning

in unachievable, everyday glory. 

Sometimes the lips part, the wind of the woods

rises from the lungs, the tongue begins

its dance against the teeth and,

with one person in the presence of another,

the truth—long-stirring, time-sifted—

finds the mouth parched and prepared to speak it.

A Way to Work


Good morning.

A body is not just one body.

I inspect every part I can, touch parts that rarely get touched.

I feel the aliveness of being on both sides of the touching: toucher and touched.

I can’t depend on this to continue, but I do.

This body will fail me, and when it does, I won’t mind, I think.

Whether mind or mine or I survive the body: shuts me up.

It opens me at the same time, parts the air as if somewhere in the back of my eyes, I could turn on another frequency of vision and see the insides of being.

As if seeing the insides of being weren’t what we’re doing, us innards.


Now the cells constrict, the blood slows, the skin screams against going numb.

It is really fucking cold. Brr doesn’t begin to describe it.

Breath crystalizes on my glasses. It hurts to wipe them off.

I remove them and thread their arm through a hole in my lapel.

Hello, blurry world.

Dogshit, I can still see you coming for my shoe.


There is attention and there are kinds.

The weather has a hand in it: twenty, a hundred and four, fifty below.

The blessed seventies, before heatstroke, before dementia?

I have thirty-some years to find out. What an assumption, the future.


Desire is the greatest liar I know.

It even gives us the want to believe in its visions. Says see, you want this. And we do.

It will be warm when I get home.

There will be water in the pot and the stove will work and the tea will raise my core temperature.

I will sip it thinking of my wife’s soup and eat her soup letting my thoughts dissolve in flavor.

She will ask me how I like it and I will have to think to tell her.

She will question the level of salt.


I arrive at work. The office is cold. There is no stove. My colleagues say hello.

We generate warmth for one another because this is our chosen family.

We will either choose or be forced to leave it.

If death is the force, and gravity’s here, the ground will take us back.

I mean the force that makes us leave each other could be the end of earth, in which case gravity may not matter, the ground may not be under.


My mother wants her and her mother’s ashes blown from the tops of the Cherokee mountains.

I hope when I get to the top the cold doesn’t drive me down.

I’d like to watch where the ashes go.

I’d like to live long enough to offer them to the wind, intact enough to climb.

I imagine them blowing back on me, sleeping up there, waking up sore and comfortably dirty.

The kind of dirty one can never wash clean. The kind of dirty one wouldn’t want to.

The kind of dirty that becomes the residue of family lore, whether that family is one’s bloodline, one’s loveline, or the line of sentient being.

Or the line of being, sentient or not.

Poems That Are Poems Even Though They Aren’t Poems, I Swear It

A poem doesn’t have to be etched on the page,

warm in the mouth or caught in language;

it can be unspoken in the course of your day,

it can be the unspoken course of your days;

it can be the way you conduct attention,

emotion, the way you treat someone,

the way you turn toward an echo down an alley

that sounds like some long-sought call

from another version of your soul;

it can be your heart as it lifts almost

out of your chest in response,

your voice as it strikes your throat

as an organ of the body

and an organ of the earth;

it can be work, streaks of pain,

the undetectable merger of days,

rust-heeled nails, unanswered mail,

wild strawberries in the mouths of cats;

it can be the way you look at

the light, the light filtering dust

and all that comes to dust

onto your window

and down to its ledge,

the black granite ledge shining,

the stormgates of your pupils shining;

it can be the way you reach out your hand

to wipe away the dust

and wonder how it all comes to this.

Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. In 2013, he received the Ron McFarland poetry prize, and second-prize in the Whisper River poetry contest. In 2015, he won a Cormac McCarthy write-alike contest. He has performed alongside such luminaries as Saul Williams. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog, where they dream of farm life in an undiscovered village.

Dotted Line