Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Fall 2013    fiction    all issues


Chris Joyner
Wrestlemania III
& other poems

Carey Russell
Visiting Hours
& other poems

Marc Pietrzykowski
Cabinet of Wonders
& other poems

Jonathan Travelstead
Prayer of the K-12
& other poems

Jennifer Lowers Warren
Our Daughter's Skin
& other poems

Jeff Burt
The Mapmaker's Legend
& other poems

Patricia Percival
Giving in to What If
& other poems

Toni Hanner
& other poems

Christopher Dulaney
& other poems

Suzanne Burns
Window Shopping
& other poems

Katherine Smith
Mountain Lion
& other poems

Peter Kent
Surliness in the Green Mountains
& other poems

William Doreski
Gathering Sea Lavender
& other poems

Huso Liszt
Fresco, The Forlorn Virgin...
& other poems

Clifford Hill
How natural you are
& other poems

R. G. Evans
& other poems

David Kann
Dead Reckoning
& other poems

Ricky Ray
The Music of As Is
& other poems

Tori Jane Quante
Creatio ex Materia
& other poems

G. L. Morrison
Baba Yaga
& other poems

Joe Freeman
In a Wood
& other poems

George Longenecker
Bear Lake
& other poems

Benjamin Dombroski
South of Paris
& other poems

Ryan Kerr
& other poems

Josh Flaccavento
Glen Canyon Dam
& other poems
& other poems

Christine Stroud
& other poems

Abraham Moore
Inadvertent Landscape
& other poems

Chris Haug
Cow with Parasol
& other poems

Mariah Blankenship
Fiberglass Madonna
& other poems

Emily Hyland
The Hit
& other poems

Sam Pittman
Growth Memory
& other poems

Alex Linden
The Blues of In-Between
& other poems

Bobby Lynn Taylor
& other poems

D. Ellis Phelps
Five Poems

Alia Neaton
Cosmogony I
& other poems

Elisa Albo
Each Day More
& other poems

Noah B. Salamon
& other poems

Hear Writer Read

Peter Kent

Surliness in the Green Mountains

I like to complain

about too little steamed milk

in coffee. And ill-timed

cloud cover stripping the blue face

off the ocean. I know

I’m fortunate. No cancerous calamity

has found me. No car crash

has maimed me. Pulling away

from the drive-through, my drink’s too hot

to taste, to judge. I turn

the wheel toward the hem

of mountains, where clouds press

like sour insistence: I have a duty

to attend, a funeral for a colleague’s father.

It will cost me

two of the days I’ve rented the house

on the cove for a holiday—a holiday

to still the flurry of a life that feels

like coins spilling to the pavement

through a hole in my pant’s pocket.

I should have gone to Jamaica.

Someplace beyond obligation’s

reach. A foreign paradise,

blinged by palms and voices

redolent, familiar, but off kilter.

It helps to get places

where traffic lights seem superfluous

as they do in Montpelier. Though,

I often stand before travel books

on Budapest—petulant and wishing

to be swallowed by its pandemonium.

Cities are survival’s hallmarks.

Slaughter and roast everyone

rooted in them, and they rebound,

resilient as Vermont maples after winter.

This beleaguered Toyota

doesn’t like the climb—its four cylinders

wheezing, coaxing combustion

to reach another summit.

The service will be in the same chapel

where my colleague was married, back

when she was a friend. I never knew

her father. So why the struggle

to attend? To be politic, to feel less

awkward when we run into each other

at a meeting back in Boston? I suppose

that’s enough motivation. Or,

maybe I simply relish

             something new

for my repertoire of complaints.

A flat tire, broken axle—

             a chance to show

how far I’ll go to suffer.

Meditation Waiting for
the Orange Line

If I were a savant,

I could calculate the number

of lavender tiles that cover

the walls in this station.

I could detect the aria

in the brake squall

arriving from Forest Hills.

I would grasp the quantum dimensions

that transcend the urge to copulate,

and that lush-lipped girl’s photograph

in the frame beyond the tracks

could never entice me

to purchase toothpaste

that can’t possibly whiten

enamel this stained by coffee

and neglect. If I were a savant,

I could remain mute,

without consequence

or criticism: He hardly ever

talks to anyone. I might know

the mollusk phylum’s almost infinite

array, from pre-history to present.

No one would know.

Gifted as a sideshow act

in an intellectual circus,

I could recite Sumerian limericks

and every move from the past

twenty years’ chess championships.

If I were a savant, I’d tattoo syllables

down the backs of waterfalls

and watch them coalesce to sonnets,

in the mist and foam of pools

at the base of the cliffs

we’re all tottering toward.

But I’m not a savant.

I’m an overwrought grunger

passing through mid-life

with a messenger’s bag of images

muddled as crayon drawings.

I am St. Francis to mosquitos.

I guard a small vault

dubiously filled with trivia:

the two dozen counties in the states

of Vermont and New Hampshire,

the lyrics of most songs

Pearl Jam’s recorded.

To be a savant might be

wondrous. To scan and recall

every word in the dictionary—

vocabulary unfettered by the urge

to reorder and coax meaning

to the surface. To the savant,

meaning kicks off its shoes

and finds a careworn bed in a room suffused

with incomprehensibility’s pleasures . . .

the city’s walls resting in the distance,

untroubled by a single ambition. If

I could join the savants’ tribe,

would I? It’s easy to proclaim one might

choose to undiscover the practical,

to let incandescence dissolve into dark’s mystery.

Perhaps what’s wanted is a variation

on Kurzweil’s singularity: To integrate

intellect and insight with savant capacity

could be the next stop on evolution’s tour.

Here’s the Orange Line, at last . . .

screeching, rolling, rectangular

pumpkin, ready to ferry us

to Downtown Crossing.

If I were a savant, I might

not know to get on. I might stand

here all afternoon, like an arrow

without a bow. Harmless

potential. Traveler on an island

of flesh, unsure how to reach

any destination beyond

this maze of interior revelations.

If I were a savant, wouldn’t I

             be happy

             just to be here?

Blowing the Third Eye

A friend would never threaten to paddle

up the Amazon in a canoe commanded

by an American-turned-shaman. What

could be less American? Wait, did you say

hallucinogens are involved? And,

a vomit bucket? It sounds suspiciously like

the Age of Aquarius as reimagined by Dick Cheney.

Or, a variation on the sublimely surreal—like the time

Allen Ginsberg cleared an audience at an all-girl’s school

in Kansas with a soliloquy on ass-fucking.

Language can only transcend so far. It takes

a good hit of ayahuasca to blow the lid

from the third eye, to melt the wall where

the snakes gyrate like electrified ribbons

through undetected dimensions. Split and

spill the terrors that hunger for one’s life . . .

those vibratory hells that demand homage,

that refuse to cauterize lonely nights with vodka

bottles. When television nurses hunger

for amenable society, who could argue

that the ship has foundered on a shoal

of snapping serpents? In the jungle’s night,

any shaman’s a beacon. Even the Pentecostal pastor,

with all his uncaged tigers of damnation, might seem

a friend. Physical ruin feels right (or at least familiar).

Whatever potion one can find to swallow, to salvage

the pretension of a soul . . . that’s medicine worth

a paddle up the Amazon, worth a wade in magical

self-delusion’s improbable realms. Say hello

to Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson . . .

             they’re the only angels

who might prove all that’s unseen

transcends the drying skin

on this latticework that carries us

             through these days.

Under the Influence

The best days often include

a browse through a bookstore.

When my libido was more

vigorous, I liked to sneak a paperback

kama sutra to the automotive section.

I appreciate the symmetry now—

the proper calibration of carburetor

and clitoris both essential

to effective performance and power.

Though at the time, I imagined,

if caught, I could claim to have found

(quite unexpectedly) this sexual concordance

tucked between Edmunds Used Car Guide and

the Encyclopedia of Corvettes. These days,

I gravitate to the literary review section.

It’s interesting to see poems written by people

I know—and there’s always the potential to find

that gloriously intact shell, tumbling in the surf,

inhabited by some living thing wanting someone

to appreciate its nearly unrecognizable luster.

Tonight I sit beside a poster—On Becoming

an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician.

So much wisdom undiscovered, crusted and nestled

like jewels in the strata of bound pages. Though

we’re such lazy miners, requiring Provigil’s

stimulation and the simulated realities of television

to provoke the intellect. I might hurry back down

Newbury Street to catch Saturday Night Live.

What a metaphoric mash. This week’s show’s a repeat—

leftover, half-clever satire in three minute skits, wedged

between commercials. I’ve got a bed half-buried

in books and unread New Yorkers. It makes

me apprehensive to sleep with so much knowledge

wanting to snuggle with my witless, empty notebook

of a mind. So, I’ll probably doze on the couch

and wake to infomercials in the netherworld

that insomniacs are cursed to wander—

having dreamt a shaman with a blouse half-

unbuttoned, finding the windows

to my consciousness open—believing

it’s Whitman’s fingers brushing my hair,

trusting I’ve written this indisputably compelling

paean for an original century.

Peter Kent lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. He has published work in Cimarron Review and the online journal ForPoetry.

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