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

Writer's Site

Ana Reisens

Of beige plates and silver buttons

Rosa sold her story to a traveling peddler in a grey suit

with silver buttons when she was five. Money was tight.

Her mother couldn’t afford big words. Hunger had six letters.

So Rosa sold her story and gave the coins to her mother.

Rosa had never met anyone with a story, anyway, so why

should she have one? Instead Rosa learned how to bake

round cakes with just enough sugar and to wear her hair

in a tight braid with no ribbon. She made amiable friends

with names like Mary and Susan and they played

amiable games that involved jumping within the lines

and keeping their pleated skirts clean. Rosa learned to add

and subtract and ate tomato sandwiches, and the days

strung out like laundry on a line. Years later Rosa met

an amiable man with no name and they fit each other

like empty mittens, so they married and bought a grey house

with beige dinner plates and the days strung out like

laundry on a line. They did what all the Marys and Susans

were doing and they had two children, a boy and a girl,

each little and silver and brimming with their own unwoven

stories. The man with no name taught the boy to be amiable

and play catch, and Rosa taught the girl how to bake

round cakes and wear pleated skirts. And the days

strung out like laundry on a line until one evening,

when Rosa’s daughter returned from school with a story.

It wasn’t a big story, mind you—just a morsel,

like a round cake. And Rosa ate it. Hungrily

she devoured the little girl’s story and then

sent her back for more. So the girl traded

her tomato sandwiches for stories because Rosa

was hungry, and hungry was a six-letter word.

As the days strung out like laundry on a line

the girl gave away her own story to her mother.

Yes, I sense your concern. My grandmother

once said most of us are born unremarkable,

and I worry many would agree. Rosa worries about

the same things as you and me, as well as some things

we do not. For instance: Will they leave her?

Will they forget her? Also, what is a beginning

or an end? Sometimes, when the children are in bed

and Rosa is in the kitchen washing beige plates,

she wonders if one day, long after the letters

of her name have passed, someone will find her story

crumpled in the back pocket of a worn pair

of grey pants with silver buttons.

Lidia finds a pink bear

Last week a family of three

died in an abandoned bank.

Mother, father, child.

They were immigrants,

occupying illegally.

The fire came in the night

like a rolling train.

There were protests, of course.

            If only they’d surveyed the building.

            If only the bank hadn’t closed.

            If only we had known.

I pass quickly.

The street is heavy with memories,

and my feet sink too easily

into someone else’s story.

I see a pile of grief arranged

around a tree next to the building.

A woman and a young girl stand beside it.

Lidia, I hear the woman say. Lidia, listen to me.

Do you know what happened here?

I don’t catch the rest.

I don’t know, for instance,

if she’s explaining why boats arrive

full of people with no homes,

why no one comes to greet them.

Or perhaps she’s telling the girl

why banks close and windows break.

How fires burn in the places

we’re unwilling to see.

Or maybe she’s simply explaining why

there’s a soft pink bear leaning

against a tree. Why the cars pass,

oblivious to even this little tragedy.

Why no one stops to pick it up.

Lilly of the white gloves

Lilly was born in a white house to a woman with white gloves on a wide sidewalk, where children peered through the fences and it never rained. Her mother bleached the floors each day, her blouse crisp as a pressed wildflower. She wore a yellow coat and ate seeds that would not grow. It never rained.

Lilly couldn’t scream but she whispered to the neighbor’s tree and waited. Winter tugged its luggage forward. White fingers on the windows. Christmas, a wrinkled bow. I know this

because I was there. Ours were the fingers of children clinging to a horse that could not run. Plastic painted hooves. The moon, wicked in its glow. A man in a white coat

kept count of Lilly’s heartbeats. Every river had drowned another mother’s gloves, fed a nettle we mustn’t touch. We cupped the light in our hands like melting snow, like a river thin with thirst.

I’ve become a stranger to wide sidewalks. Here the river runs thick with spring. My fingers brush against the nettle. I tell her it prickles with memories. She tells me she has bought a yellow coat, and that it never rains.

Forgive her if her fingers bleed red beneath her white gloves.

Forgive me for leaving.


had to clean the entire apartment in three hours.

She had heavy red hands and a heavier red duster,

and Borja’s ceramic armies shattered beneath Olga’s

chapped fingers. Borja was 26. Olga had been cleaning

his room since he was 13. Before then, his mother.

Mrs. Garcia didn’t like me talking to Olga. Don’t speak

to the help was the unwritten agreement when I stayed

for the week, an invisible line drawn neatly over

the furniture. So Olga retreated every time I entered

the living room. Except that day, when Mrs. Garcia 

was out. Olga was elbow-deep in someone else’s 

toothpaste and I was making potato soup in the kitchen.

I know this soup, Olga’s voice rumbled from the doorway. 

We make this in my country. I showed her the celery, the carrots,

the cheese I learned to shred as a child. You’re going to need

more pepper, Olga said, and she set down her rag. But then

the front door opened and Mrs. Garcia appeared. Olga,

she said, eyes narrowed. Be careful in Borja’s room today.

So Olga left, shoulders slumped, and I never asked her

about the pepper. Years have passed and I can still see her—

the grey apron wrapped around her waist, her elbows

cracked with battle. How she was somehow bigger

and smaller than every room she entered.

And that day, how Borja and Mrs. Garcia watched

from the hallway as she dabbed a cotton cloth

around the gristle-grey hands of the orcs,

their swords raised against the onslaught. Olga,

I should have told her. Olga, you’re no match for them.

Pam asked about Europe

Is it just England, she wanted to know,

or was there more? I’d just returned from

my first trip to Spain and clocked in late.

It was December, and the morning clung

to the office windows like a curtain.

I remember her slipping out for her

cigarette break, how she returned

to tell me that her crossword

had featured the word connoisseur.

How she hid a hundred-dollar bill

in a striped pair of Christmas socks

and set them on my desk, so you can go back.

She knew, then, that I would leave.

I remember the condensation

on the windowpanes as the plane

took off, how grey the fields looked

from the clouds. How she waited

until I was gone to tell me.

A year later when I visited,

her husband called to explain

how to help her flush her port.

She’s too ashamed to say anything,

he said. That day we sat in the park

and Pam asked if they celebrated

Thanksgiving in Spain. The pond

was beginning to freeze and the geese

huddled in the center, crying out to the sky.

Pam said that someday she would

visit me, and that her crossword

had featured the word avocado.

I didn’t know, then,

that she would leave me.

I never had the chance

to tell her that it wasn’t just England,

that there was so much more.

We can love without knowing.

Ana Reisens is a poetry farmer and word wrangler. She was the recipient of the 2020 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award, and you can find her poetry sprouting in The Mud Season Review, The Bombay Literary Magazine, and The Blue Earth Review, among other places. She’s currently working on her first novel.

Dotted Line