Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2019    fiction    all issues


Cover Florian Klauer

Meli Broderick Eaton
Three Mississippi
& other poems

Andrea Reisenauer
What quiet ache do you wear?
& other poems

Alex Wasalinko
Two Dreams of Vegas
& other poems

AJ Powell
The Grammar Between Us
& other poems

Emma Flattery
Our Shared Jungle, Mr. Conrad
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney
The Desert Cometh
& other poems

Sarah W. Bartlett
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
Jaybird by the Fence
& other poems

Brandon Hansen
& other poems

Andy Kerstetter
The Inferno Lessons
& other poems

Michael Fleming
Space Walk
& other poems

Richard Cole
Perfect Corporations
& other poems

Susan Bouchard
Circus Performers
& other poems

Edward Garvey
Nine Songs of Love
& other poems

Mehrnaz Sokhansanj
Sea of Detachment
& other poems

Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius
& other poems

Claudia Skutar
Homage II
& other poems

Donna French McArdle
Knitting Sample
& other poems

Megan Skelly
Puzzle Box Ghazal
& other poems

Tess Cooper
& other poems

Greg Tuleja
& other poems

Catherine R. Cryan
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney

Flight Ghosts

They emerged as I knelt

to weed the driveway’s edge, 


from a decade-ago war, 

waiting to be flown across an ocean 

to a myth called home,



as if they were in a lobby

instead of the belly of a metal war beast.

All were broken

and some burned,

like three boys who swallowed bomb fire,

pink skinless faces,

backs on tables,


masks over eyes,

tubes in throats,

oxygen bleeding into them,

chests lifting, then falling,

then lifting again.

Others huddled in shadows, 

could-have-been college sophomores 

in leg casts,

arm slings,

white gauze eye patches, 

carrying crutches,

which could be forgotten,

and other things

which could not.

Confession, Aisle 37

Forgive me for failing

to realize how much safer it is

to be a barely grown boy

in khakis and a white shirt,

your bandages hidden,

just one more second-class passenger.

Forgive me for forgetting

you are a mother’s son

who was ordered

to hunt other mothers’ sons

in a Fallujah foyer

when a boy in pajamas,

about ten years old—

an age you remember well—

sprang from shadow,

carving knife in his small fist,

and plunged pain into you,

a man with a rifle.

Forgive me for being nowhere

near qualified to console

as you whisper confession,

your deep voice razored

by a broken heart’s edge,

your reality


by the cold uncertainty

of which blame

is yours to bear

and which blame

is mine.

The Desert Cometh

His desert

had more mountains

than mine

but the day’s

last light

was the same—

wavering orange

and bleeding red,

as if the sky knew

who was dying

and what to do

with the dead.

Outside the Parliament Building

Red spires spike a white sky.

Flecks of gray swirl between them,

a thousand birds.

Ten thousand more hunch

near the river’s edge.

The building takes your breath away,

magnificence conjured

to contain hollow spaces

like ornate halls and rib cages

where hearts beat

inside angry men who play at mirrors—

reflecting, so they say,

the people’s wish

for protection

from shattered countryless women

and men who look nothing like them.

So far, they have drawn lines with words.

It is important to appear civilized.

But exclusion and fear

are volatile ingredients.

There has never not been a time

when that particular mixture

hasn’t exploded.

This time, everyone tells themselves,

it will be different.

Nathaniel Cairney lives with his family in Belgium, where he writes, cooks, and hosts a podcast about Belgian beer. Originally from the U.S. Midwest, his poems have been published in Sixfold, California Quarterly, Illya’s Honey, and others. He holds an MA in English Literature from Kansas State University.

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