Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2022    fiction    all issues


Li Zhang

Ana Reisens
Pam asked about Europe
& other poems

Krystle May Statler
To the Slow Burn
& other poems

Kristina Cecka
On Remodeling
& other poems

Belinda Roddie
Bless The Bones Of California
& other poems

Summer Rand
Alexander tells me how he'd like to be buried
& other poems

Alexander Perez
Toward the Rainbow
& other poems

Karo Ska
self-portrait of compassion…
& other poems

David Southward
The Pelican
& other poems

George Longenecker
Stamp Collection
& other poems

Mary Keating
& other poems

Talya Jankovits
Imagine A World Without Raging Hormones
& other poems

Laurie Holding
Sonnet to Mr. Frost
& other poems

David Ruekberg
A Short Essay on Love
& other poems

Elaine Greenwood
There’s a thick, quiet Angel
& other poems

Richard Baldo
Carry On Caretaker
& other poems

Jefferson Singer
Dave Righetti’s No-Hitter…
& other poems

Diane Ayer
A Fan
& other poems

Kaecey McCormick
Meditation Before Desert Monsoon
& other poems

Meg Whelan
& other poems

Katherine B. Arthaud
& other poems

Aaron Glover
On Transformation
& other poems

Anne Marie Wells
[I'm crying in a sandwich shop reading Diane Seuss' sonnets]
& other poems

Holly Cian
& other poems

Kimberly Russo
Selective Memories are the Only Gift of Dementia
& other poems

Steven Monte
& other poems

Mervyn Seivwright
Fear Mountain
& other poems

Steven Monte


She does not need another song—

song never was enough.

Her “business of circumference”

(she also said, “of love”)

was like a long, sustained embrace

outwards around a thing

she could not grasp, but trying to

enabled her to wring

a stintless harmony from hymn

according to her slant—

compacted like an acronym

and hard, like adamant.


“Having forged words more potent than a curse,

teased song from prose, and prose from song in turn;

having raised strains as piercing and as terse

as stings inflicted in everyday strife

for which there’s no recourse; having come to learn

what brutal men know—that we must take from life,

that true contentment is not, at its root,

something born out of what we can accept

but what we can’t; and having grown adept

at harnessing my bitterness, averse

to wisdom that says song is substitute

or mere release, like yelling into rain,

I took whatever still made my heart sore

and cast it into verse, till it was plain,

if I wished, I could make it hurt once more.”


In the recesses of our conscience he exists

like a reminder of some long neglected duty.

Like pavement cracks, verse should trip us up, he insists;

wherever there is truth, there also may be beauty.

His universe was one where dark forces contended

blindly but with logic, inspiration was a myth,

power remote and yet real for the undefended,

and not about accepting so much as living with.

Critics charged him with tinkering. He only smiled.

Like art and most ideas, we can’t grow up too soon.

In his insistence though, was something of the child

who pounds the earth so as not to ask for the moon.

Ethics never had a better spokesman. He was one

whom we would like to think of as immune to hype.

Poems were small, but, unlike life, could be redone.

Wisdom was the knowledge that you, too, were a type.


Others speak as plainly. He makes us believe

he swallows truths that are distasteful to us.

Better knowing and bitter than naïve;

better yet, lucky and oblivious.

Denied unawareness, he walked a line

between outright complaint and reticence,

pressing his sour grapes into wine

in verses gesturing to common sense,

our worst natures, whatever bears the brunt

of disappointment in us . . .

                                                  verse insisting

on bleakness underneath things, though there might

be inadvertent beauty—rainbows twisting

in puddle oil, many-angled light

radiating from a glass of water’s prism—

and love was real, a necessary myth;

selflessness, self-denial; and pessimism,

realism. Viewpoints hard to argue with.

And yet, though he railed against it, innocence

remained a belief dying to be reborn.

Nothing could ever change that, in a sense:

it was the thing about which he was most torn

and through which, killing it, he could be relieved

and sorry at its passing—anything but numb—

leaving us to wonder whether he had become

trapped in a posture of the less deceived.


Four million of a newly discovered microbe

could fit into the period at the end of this sentence

and I feel as though every one of them were

clinging to my words through turns of phrases

and leaving meanings behind.

                                                      He can do that to you

sometimes just by singing of love—how it lingers

like a conversation in a hallway, and how

you can almost follow its almost logic

even when you can’t grasp it like a doorknob

nor know why you haven’t wandered off course,

which of course we have, long ago. But I wonder,

how are we going to find an end to all of this?

Would someone please, just this once, take charge

and decide where we’re going to eat? I’m sorry

if you aren’t exactly following me. I can help it

and he means well, but meanwhile we are again

getting ahead of ourselves, which is mostly a good thing

and natural in the sense that it’s hard not to wonder

how we will be treated when we reach the border

and go through customs—a task at once straightforward

and daunting, like an unread book, whose deviousness

ought not to be taken lightly. What will they make of him,

our little stow-away to the Temple of Fame,

when he no longer gets by on looks and a smile?

There will be hell to pay and we may not have a choice

no matter how steep the climb to the rotunda,

for they allot only so many light-years to constellations,

the stars are receding, and history is like a peloton

massing behind us and closing in. So back off.

Judgment Day may not be around the corner

but it can happen in any poem. The forces assembled

on our behalf or against us (for we would rather believe

them hostile than indifferent) have merely, like us,

suspended sentences. Yet make no mistake:

the military-industrial complex means business;

their operators put you on hold. If we are to engage

in the great American pastime of kvetching

and crown a winner, we had better crack the book.

It has been waiting for the right moment to open up

and may have to wait longer to be misunderstood

in ways that make sense. When that happens and you happen

to be free then, recall me. For even if all we do in our lives

is trade messages and constantly miss each other,

what we wish comes to pass far more than is realized.

A line must be drawn in the sand, however:

we won’t be tricked into beauty, even granting that beauty

may be a trick, as philosophers have reminded us

much to their chagrin. That is where poetry, so to speak,

comes into play. What makes it work is his uncanny knack

for camouflaging his narcissism in a way

that makes you feel you’re the center of inattention.

If it’s working again, what can I say? It is a gift

that keeps misgiving in fits of exaltation. Which is to say

words can get the better of us when we let them.

Is that better? It’s hard for me to tell. But don’t tell me

I’m only thinking of myself when you are on my thoughts

more than I’d like if you knew. I’ve tried avoiding metaphor

but I can’t shake the thought that you’re not here.

I want to feel that closeness again. And want it more.

Stay with me a little longer. For though we can’t be friends

since I’m still plotting to seduce you, I make an occasional point

and want to come back to you: it is scary when words no longer feel

that they were meant to be, especially in a poem. It is not just

his world record in vocabulary, nor even how he can make

words like “hijinks” almost cry. It has to do with distractions—

how life happens in them and beyond our expectations.

For even Ashbery nods, and once, when he blinked

(I swear this really happened), a new book of his appeared,

as though anticipating all of the objections

were the same as answering them. He may be accused

of trying too hard to be different, or of becoming “dated out”

after so many relations, but if so let us be thankful,

for once, that we live in this age of disinformation

where we can almost catch the references

and make the future wonder how we lived without them.

Steven Monte is a poet, translator, and literature professor, who teaches in the English Department at the College of Staten Island (CUNY). His translations include Victor Hugo: Selected Poetry in French and English, and he is currently at work on a verse translation of Joachim Du Bellay’s Les Regrets. Most of his scholarly writing is on Renaissance and modern poetry, including his books: The Secret Architecture of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and Invisible Fences: Prose Poetry as a Genre in French and American Literature. He lives and runs marathons in New York City.

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