Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2014    fiction    all issues


Anne Rankin-Kotchek
Letter to the World
from a Dying Woman
& other poems

Sara Graybeal
Ghetto City
& other poems

Tee Iseminger
& other poems

Lisa Beth Fulgham
After They Sold the Cows...
& other poems

Mary Mills
The Practical Knowledge
of Women
& other poems

Monika Cassel
Waldschatten, Muttersprache
& other poems

Michael Fleming
To a Fighter
& other poems

Daniel Stewart
& other poems

John Glowney
& other poems

Hannah Callahan
The Ptarmigan Suite
& other poems

Lee Kisling
How the Music Came
to My Father
& other poems

Jose A. Alcantara
Finding the God Particle
& other poems

David A. Bart
Veteran’s Park
& other poems

Greg Grummer
War Reportage
& other poems

Rande Mack
& other poems

J. K. Kitchen
Anger Kills Himself
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
The Man Who Wished
He Was Lego
& other poems

Jessica M. Lockhart
Scylla of the Alabama
& other poems

James P. Leveque
Three Films of Jean Painlevé
& other poems

Kelsey Charles
& other poems

Therese L. Broderick
& other poems

Lane Falcon
& other poems

Ricky Ray
The Bird
& other poems

Phoebe Reeves
Every Petal
& other poems

David Livingstone Fore
Eternity is a very long time...
& other poems

Tim Hawkins
Northern Idyll
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
On the Pillow Where You Lie
& other poems

Joey DeSantis
Baby Names
& other poems

Cameron Price
Every Morning
& other poems

David Walker
Sestina for Housesitting
& other poems

Helen R. Peterson
& other poems

James P. Leveque

Three Films of Jean Painlevé

Our Sins in French

(Les Oursins, 1958)

Between morning yawns on the end of the jetty, divers, stripped

to the waist, waiting for the sun to kick off the sheets, burnishing lenses

and pointing out promising shallows, feel the water wet their toes.

Fishermen settle in with the haze, cigarettes dozing between fingers

stained and scratched. Their quiet French has a way of slipping around

the corner, striking down an ally, leaving a song to be remembered by.

Our sins grope the bottom of the ocean, scouring the silt and gnawing

rocks with five teeth arranged as a star, until the tide is pulled

away by the moon and the world is reduced to a dozen litres

of brackish water while the colors are wiped clean by the light

from a camera that can’t but look for trouble. Our sins keep an eye

over their shoulders, fashion shivs, and don’t trust how your voice pitches

up when you talk to them. And they pass away into their white

brittle skeletons, become their own headstones, landing themselves

on a desk, in a glass case, curios from the dead and the damned.

Most will land in a net, the fishermen grabbing a few for breakfast,

cracking their shells, and barely contemplating their bright-

yellow glands before taking their forks and digging in.

Hippocamp: Vivisected

(L’Hippocampe, 1934)

As if every seahorse is an oyster, growing a pearl in its gut,

able to swallow every slight, every irritation and annoyance

and wrap its own self around it, bathing it in slight, pink stone.

This bladder in its chest shines from finally being released from the lockup

of fishbones, split down the middle and spread wide like a Rorschach Test;

“What do you see?” “I see a dead fish who gave its life

for my longing to see the inside of a dead fish.”

The unborn eggs are hardly alive as scissors bring light

into the father’s divided womb, clip by clip. Under the flash

and whirring of the camera, there is a mild suffocation of celebrity.


(Voyage dans le ciel, 1937)

What is the angle at which time lies down,

with a heaving chest, rickety pulse, and shaky knees?

How precise must be the calculations to detonate

the sun onto the page in chalk and acrylic?

When one eye is closed and the other opened, does vision, pitched

from sun to tower to hand, eventually lead back

to the vortex in the head and the brainstem?

The questions ride a hand-held Pegasus through plastic models,

the moon and Alpha Centauri suspended from visible wires

and wearing their genesis in glue and cheap paint.

Was the vegetation on Mars edible? Did it rot faster than ours?

Who placed the gemstones around Saturn in 1937?

The questions are embarrassing celluloid manuscripts of the mistakes

you can finally admit to after the sparks, water, and ashes

have taken all relevant parties halfway across Europe and America,

after time answered your letter before you finished writing it.

When the editing room light is switched off, and your sound engineer

stretched his neck, blinked, and put on his coat, did he hear

your voice through the microphone describing other planets

instead of the cars and conversations on his way home? Was he compelled

to look up to the speckled ribbon of stars between the buildings?

When you talked of loneliness on a tired planet,

were you describing the scratch and static when the needle hits

the record before the music begins?

From Pandemonium

The wind is a brief benediction in the street, undoing scorch and sweat

yoked for weeks around the shoulders of the underemployed, sopping up

the grime of work and not enough work, from the pissed-off pavement

to shade’s providence, on a café patio, where it’s the absolution of gin and lime,

where water cites its Freedom of Assembly on the side of a glass,

where sensualists drink to the bikers and their 80 decibels of Layla,

and where the rarer features of a passing ’41 Olds are enumerated—

“Hydra-Matic transmission,” they say, “advanced for its time”—

alongside the drawbacks of psychoanalysis or Keynsianism.

A static vanguard we are, glossing the foliage of signals and feedbacks

as it speckles the sunlight with a constellation of meanings, deciphering,

like adepts, from our windows above the flagstones and the courtyards

to anticipate the hot breath rising from Pandemonium,

exhaled from the gutters down the street toward the yellow glow

in a street lamp and then, further down, another lamp, and then, another…

The music is a riff for aluminum cans echoing in a dumpster,

the rattle of one loose shopping-cart wheel and the muted creak

of bedsprings through thin walls, a sigh unexpected by its own mouth

when the printer spins out another article called, let’s say, something

like Jazz and The Real: Coltrane, Mingus, Monk. But we still hope

to hear that movement’s horizon and its Tempo Rubato,

let the pale sheet of pre-dawn fend off the day for a few minutes more

at your computer, initiating countdown on the following message:

           Dear Sirs,

After much discussion, we recommend these few steps so that you might adapt

to your new lives: claim less luxury and wake at half-past 5;

learn to pry open sleep and reheat the remains of yesterday’s coffee;

get a little Spanish under your belt. Take some comfort in the fables of the princes

of Greece and Russia, recalling their Westward escapes to New York, Baltimore,

and Montréal. In downtown, there was an archduke, a descendent of the Tsars,

managing an ice-cream parlor named The Winter Palace.

His memories of court were fond, but distant, and muted by a natural sepia,

and each one was framed and mounted on a black mat border, behind which

the Red Army smoked, drank, and waited. He perused the paper,

lamented with fellow exiles, shook his head at the unfortunate state of things,

but didn’t believe in his own name anymore, in the way his title,

a spondee of bloodlines, could be anything but the polite nod from a customer,

asking him where he’s from and if he’s out of chocolate.

We tell you this as fair warning, as the barely-restrained id

of those who let their lawns grow untamed for weeks

and whose kids talk back, those who wait in line to be sent back to the line,

again and again, who sympathize, against their better judgment,

with the graffiti writer who renames the city, by fiat of neon orange and blue:

Deltron, Pink Lady, Futura, Krash One-Four. They claim for themselves

the belly of the expressway or the flank of the train, dirtying the decay

of broken brick walls and the legs of a viaduct going deaf,

walking down the street singing, “Style don’t need a permit!”

When the chain-link fence is too high, and the cops are too fast,

we’ve got a thousand mix-tapes of his voice to replay,

a slight crackle, then a little white noise before he sings it again.

It’s a sentiment that ends in the irrhythmic tapping on a keyboard.

Garrulous, okay, but only to fill the outline of four walls

left bare with the occasional picture hook, wiring exposed,

cupboards raided of everything that might suggest a simple way

to express a discontent that only exists as the frustrated exhale

while standing on the corner of Least and Last, blowing dust

in the eyes, stealing round corners, taking a crack on the jaw.

Power Lines with Piano Accompaniment

The road below the power lines offers this heat

   to you—offered with pale streetlights, with distance

as the closed suture between the meanings

of drained glasses, dry bitten crusts,

   the concave of spoons reflecting the inversion


            Of what now? a barman asks again,

   leaning an ear toward a woman who can’t articulate

the word “whisky” over the noise. Of ten dollars

that a waiter stained with wine and the smell

   of garlic swears he had; of the wine;

of the hostess thinking about going back to college;

of the chef who sees himself in the clean

   of the knives he washes, and of his humming

a melody, whose name he can’t recall, by Erik Satie.

Something about gymnasts? He worries about his memory,

   following the power lines down the road,

watching them fillet the sky, humming

like violas imagined in the ears of Satie.

   Slowly and lightly, through the 1890s, his cane taps

out antiquity’s waltzes on the long walk home

from Montmartre cabarets to Arcueil-Cachan

   and his room above a tobacco shop, hiding a hammer

in his pocket for the thieves in the allies, back to his piano.

Through the warm night, he asks how it feels,

   for miles around he asks how his piano feels.

Because he wants to know that the gods still love him,

and he believes they sleep in the grain of the wood,

   so he asks how it feels. Is it tired? Will it wake?

Satie is not a metaphor, Satie is not the humming

of the power lines escaping on steel shouldered towers

   into the hills, but is only the companion to the quiet,

as the chef sits on the curb to light a cigarette,

the breeze stealing a chill from the sweat

   behind his ears and neck. He accepts the heat

from the pavement, puts his hand against it,

scrutinizes his index finger where the knife’s reminder

   of the small hazards and wages of his work

lets blood from the knuckle. It pools a bit

and the blood, too, hums the warmth and the quiet,

   reflecting the thin strips of power lines

upon which gymnasts, painfully, keep their balance.

James Leveque lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he is both a teacher and student at the University of Edinburgh, and where the city’s energetic support of poetry has provoked much of his writing in this issue of Sixfold. He is originally from Fresno, California.

Dotted Line