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

Patricia Percival

Giving in to What If

after Steve Scafidi

If I only wrote about what I knew, as once

Plath wrote of moons, mannequins,

and the grievous words of yew and elm—

I would tell of the last call my brother made,

when he said he wouldn’t come for Christmas

and I tried to change his mind, and he insisted,

and I had the flu and didn’t, maybe, hear

the tone of his voice. Or I’d only write

of diapers, cakes baked, and failed tomatoes,

or of fees simple, encumbered and joint.

But I prefer to imagine life

in the animal kingdom, where,

as I understand it,

they get by without what ifs.

Here I can drift, a sea turtle

on ocean currents, weightless

from Thailand to the Golden Isles,

and not once consider

the half-ton of gravity

I bore across the sand

at nesting time, and will again,

when the moon draws me ashore.

As a crane I’m blessed with a mate

who chose me for life and is happy,

who doesn’t brood about the crane

one creek over, the one with plumper knobs

on her knees, knobs he’d like

the other males to envy

during annual migration.

I am a crow, immersed

in the collective mind of the murder,

and when the phone rings

someone, at least one of us,

has heard that tone of voice before,

remembers the up-shot, and tells me,

your brother needs help.

Go now.

Waiting for the Good Humor Man

Houston, 1962

Prone beneath mimosas,

the picture-book God

of rules and hellfire

deferred to the grace

of the natural world.

Pompons rained on me,

already dazed

by the scent of heat

rising off asphalt,

the smell visible

as a mirage

in a foreign legion film.

And though I don’t believe

my catechism, as I did then,

I’ve kept my eyes open to visions,

mild thunderbolts which saints

might call the voice of God:

After a storm, starfish

littered the beach at Sanibel,

hundreds of six-armed bodies

expelled from the deep.

And fifty years ago, I saw

lilies of the valley emerge,

pristine, from the charnel

of rotten leaves.

Prescription for the Use of
Scottish Footwear

When you hike, wear heavy socks and brogues,

so your eyes may rise above the narrow path,

ignore the common gait, trust one foot

to find its place before the other.

Toes safe, scan the landscape for love.

Stride through fields of waist-high grass,

fodder before it’s scythed to bale, and borrow

a few stalks to carry. The world’s in hand—

food for winter, seeds of next year’s crop.

Kick a pinecone straight down a gravel road,

on parade for crowds of spiderwort

and sumac cheering from the ditch. Notice

that suitors vie for your attention:

the eager moon, risen early into sheer sky

and the sun boasting in scarlet and plum.

Write your name on the bones

of the old smokehouse, to tie you

to the past, and keep a fragment

in the pocket of your winter coat, a gift

to find each year. At night, in the warmth

of your fireside, pick burrs from your socks

and burn them. Listen to your problems pop

and sizzle. Savor their resinous smell.

Watch them curl to cashmere smoke.

Birds of Suburbia: Blue-Gray Heron

Misplaced here by the interstate,

you soar above Baskin-Robbins,

sapling legs sailing behind,

neck folded into blades

of Da Vinci wings,

his dream of flight.

From here you wear no blue,

your silhouette all shade

glued flat to an ochre sky.

In this landscape of Starbucks,

your exotic form drags behind

a rusty tin can of foreboding.

Where are your moss-draped oaks?

I rejoice each spring and fall

when our house is a stop on your route,

like Sweat’s bar-b-q in Soperton

for Atlantans en route to Savannah.

I look out the west window

and there you are

a gawky Giacometti

knob-kneed and statue-still.

Perched on the brick ledge

or one leg submerged

you eye the buffet:

former denizens of our fishbowl

and offspring of bream

pulled from Nancy Creek

by children on summer break.

Then I see your slate spectrum flash.

You’re welcome here, eat up.

The goldfish translate sun too,

but are more prolific, their design

less esoteric, less like a secret

whispered in Genesis.

Losing My Drift

In line for coffee, waiting my turn,

          a song transports me back.

Joni Mitchell just released Hejira, and I race

          down the fine white lines of the free, free way.

I’m vaguely aware that what other patrons see

          is a middle-aged woman, spaced out in Starbucks,

her hair in disarray, atypical of the neighborhood.

          She seems to think it’s her duty to explain the draft

and women’s lib to young people who missed the Sixties,

          these young people who seem to be running everything

(when did they take over?)

I don’t know this woman, but she’s always around.

          Easily distracted, she has binges of attention,

interrupts everything she does to start

          something else, keeps piles in every room,

monuments to projects she means to finish.

          One pile on her desk is for vanishing wetlands,

one for stupid real estate projects

          she will deplore in letters to editors

(Joni was right about that tree museum),

          and one of unfiled items for her garden notebook,

data about plants that died years ago.

One pile is for an essay on hypocrisy.

          The same politicians against stem cell research

say bombs away at the drop of a hat, unbothered by thousands

          of dead civilians. Frankly, she just wants to slap

her friends who voted to keep them in office and say, WISE UP!

At this point it’s obvious the disgruntled boomer

          has taken control of this poem that was supposed to be

about the grad student who stood atop Balsam Mountain

          decades ago and thought society was progressing.

I was going to write about the self, or selves,

          about how what seems lost, isn’t.

But the self that soars over the valley like a Red Tail

          is also the slippery fish, still shining,

but scarred from flopping in the bottom

          of an old canoe, which is the body, I guess,

and it’s drifting down stream, heading for the falls.

Patricia Percival lives in Atlanta, where she is an active member of the writing community. When not making poems, she thinks about the big picture while micromanaging her garden (weeding). Her most recent publication is in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 5: Georgia. She is currently shopping a chapbook, Bargain with the Speed of Light, in which two of the poems in this issue of Sixfold will appear.

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