Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2016    fiction    all issues


Cover Joel Filipe

Alexander McCoy
Questions to Ask a Mountain
& other poems

Alexandra Kamerling
& other poems

Debbie Hall
She Walks Into Starbucks Carrying a 2 x 4
& other poems

Michael Fleming
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
Sheet and Exposed Feet
& other poems

Melissa Cantrell
& other poems

Martin Conte
& other poems

AJ Powell
The Road to Homer
& other poems

Paul W. Child
World Diverted
& other poems

Michael Eaton
& other poems

Lawrence Hayes
Walking the Earth
& other poems

Daniel Sinderson
Like a Bit of Harp and a Far Off Twinkle
& other poems

Sam Hersh
Las Trampas
& other poems

Margo Jodyne Dills
Babies and Young Lovers
& other poems

Nicole Anania
To the Dying Man's Daughter
& other poems

Lisa Zou
Under the Parlor
& other poems

Hazel Kight Witham
Hoofbeat Heartbeat
& other poems

Margaret Dawson
& other poems

James Wolf
An Act of Kindness
& other poems

Jane A. Horvat
& other poems

Bill Newby
& other poems

Jennifer Sclafani
Hindsight Twenty Twenty
& other poems

Nicole Anania

In Secret

My mother ran her fingers through my hair,

fever coating my cheeks, sweat beads at my hairline.

She dispensed cough drops and bandaids,

a cool hand against my forehead.

She was an open pair of arms,

a soft chest to bury my face in.

If she cried it was in secret,

in the early predawn hours,

as we slept in twin beds.

Behind the closed bathroom door,

beneath the roar of the toilet.

If she cried it was alone,

in the small moments,

between drop and pick up,

homework and dinner,

laundry and dishes.

Now my mother cries in the supermarket

between the aisles of canned soup and bathroom cleaner.

I stroke the hair she carefully arranges,

trying to hide its precipitous loss.

But still, slivers of white scalp cut through,

like thin fish in a dark river.

Her back curves, arms swinging down too heavy to lift.

I dispense cautious massages and little pills.

I help her undress,

slight movements making her shudder.

If I cry it is in secret.

If I cry, it is alone.

I watch her chest rise and fall,

wondering when we switched places.

Never admitting,

I wish we could switch back.


Your skin is usually the color of roasted leather,

rawhide left to bake in the sun.

But suddenly the light switches off,

the soft husk sapped of its warmth.

Your small, sweet gut disappears,

your stomach flat and sallow.

The weight falls away,

an insidious symptom we only notice,

once the sharp lines of your skull

jut out, like mountain ridges.

Check the gums.

The computer screen glows,

white rectangles reflected in my pupils.

Pale gums spell doom.

Blood trickling somewhere,

incessant and slow,

a leak in the basement.

You clutch your side,

violent spasms twisting

your shrivelled face.

When they find it,

a mass hunkered down inside you,

silently expanding,

I imagine cells black and toxic


until you are filled with a vile tar.

The hospital is filled with an assault of smells.

Soiled bed sheets and dry meatloaf

linger below antiseptic and clean air

pumped through the building,

trying to cover up the sweet decay

of fresh flowers and inert bodies.

You are a twisted line in the stiff white bed,

and you nod towards a styrofoam cup

filled with tepid water

and a floating green sponge.

You are not allowed to swallow,

so I place the wet sponge

on your eager tongue,

watch you bat it around

your dusty mouth.

I am reminded of the horses at the petting zoo,

their long gummy tongues

maneuvering sugar cubes from my hands.

Pain wracks your skeletal frame and I think,

you are only flesh and bone,

a hunk of meat rotting away.

To the Dying Man’s Daughter

When the chaplain enters the room

resist the urge to speak in tongues.

Resist the urge to ask him

where the fuck his God went.

Instead, let him place his broad palm

on your father’s clammy forehead.

Let the soft, murmured words

cradle him to sleep.

Accept that this stooped stranger

is cutting up his veins,

pouring life into the vessel,

attempting resurrection.

Take in the blinding white collar

against the blackened cloth.

Think of a moving metaphor,

and write a useless poem.

When your cautious friends call you,

do not let your pain twist

into red-hot roiling rage.

Do not swallow their support,

like rotted fruit

you are trying to keep down.

In fact,

do not answer the phone at all.

When the morphine starts to do its job

and his burdened breath begins to slow,

do not think of when he carried you

on his sturdy, mountain shoulders,

of airplane rides on sunken couches

his smile widening below.

Do not think of playing catch

when the sunset turned him golden,

of painting birdhouses in summer

of the thin hand you are holding.

Do not think of long car rides

the wind blowing back your hair,

of cigarette smoke and chewing gum

the future far and fleeting.

Do not think of falling asleep

in the crook of his arm,

of feeling safe and sure and loved

of how it’s all gone.

If you think of all those things

you will be crying too hard

and you will forget to kiss him,

even though you hate goodbye.

You must leave then

before they cover up the body.

You must remember

it is just a body.


Smoke curls in the orange street light

as your hand crawls up my leg,

a thick-legged spider

with a dozen black eyes.


the broken veins on my thighs,

the soft swell of my stomach.


if I am good enough

to pin and devour.

I am praying you won’t care,

about the acne scars and rolls of flesh.

Knowing that if you voice disgust,

I will push you off

with an outrage so pure,

its heat will pucker your skin.

I will wrap myself

in a blanket of contempt,

I will invoke the anger

of a thousand women,

deemed too ugly

to deserve decency.

Leave you on the porch

stung and unsatisfied,

while I stomp my way

up four iron flights,

the sound vibrating through my boots.

But as my door swings shut,

my fury will quietly dissipate,

until only slick shame remains,

like dregs

at the bottom of a glass.

So please,

don’t run your rough fingertips

over the missed patch of stubble on my knee.

Don’t sneer at the stretchmarks,

translucent lines that litter my whole body.

Please don’t.

Because I’ve been here before,

and I’ll be here again.

The Big Girl

It’s hard to say when I started noticing

how much space I filled.

It might have been a revelation

brought on by a collection of disgraceful moments.

Squeezing through the maze of a crowded restaurant,

pressed between chair backs,

blood rushing to my cheeks

as I knock a glass off a table.

Twisting out of clothes

beneath the hot lights of a dressing room,

trying to free myself,

like a trapped animal.

On the outskirts of a party

magnetized to the wall,

holding my arms tight against my body,

willing myself to shrink.

Being big

you’re both invisible and conspicuous,

your form calling attention

and then dismissing it.

They assess you

and then look away.

I lose pounds

and suddenly people don’t look away.

They look me right in the eye.

Suddenly people are a little kinder,

their smiles last a little longer.

They don’t believe I was that big.

Their mouths drop open,

putting on a show of shock and awe.

Wow, they say.

You look so good now!

It goes unsaid

that the big girl

would not have been their friend.

At first I don’t notice,

the shadow that follows me.

Its edges extend too widely,

threaten to swallow me whole.

The big girl follows me,

and sees all the people she will never talk to,

all the fun she will never have.

Guilt chokes me even as I laugh,

and pose for a photo.

The big girl pinches me,

stunned and betrayed.

The big girl was never in a picture,

pouting in a filtered selfie,

grinning in a group shot.

The big girl is behind me,

breathing down my neck.

She whispers,

Isn’t this what you wanted?

But I didn’t think it would feel like this.

Like the big girl in the corner locked eyes with me,

and I looked away.

Nicole Anania is a writer based on Long Island. She enjoys writing both short stories and poems, and is currently completing her MFA at Hofstra University.

Dotted Line