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

Winner of $1000 for 1st-place-voted Poems

Anne Rankin-Kotchek

Letter to the World from a Dying Woman

for Ron Garson

Approaching 44, I just feel it’s over.

I lie in a kind of permanent autumn:

my bones talking back,

shoulders curled in a parenthesis ’round my heart,

& any remaining veins of hope tangled in despair.

Don’t ask me how I got here—

I can’t make you understand

something you don’t want to know.

But like the sky I have a story to tell:

wisdom I might have passed on to a daughter

if only she had arrived,

things I would have said to myself

if only I had listened.

Now, I see it clearly: there are many ways to die—

some of them don’t even involve death.

You might come to know this later.

Or you can listen to me now,

before your song is up & while my urgency to speak

succeeds my tendency to descend.

The thing is, somewhere to the left of your spine,

your soul is waiting to tell you

everything you need to know.

Stuff like this:

the best way to deal with regret is to

do what you want in the first place.

And, where it is necessary,

do not give up or give in.

But also, where it is necessary,

give up & give in.

The road less traveled isn’t always on the map,

but seek it without waver,

like a dog pursues his home.

If you wait too long for the green light,

you’ll spend your life stuck in traffic. Go ahead.

Mix apples & oranges:

the world needs more fruit salad.

At least once a year, check out the way

pinks collide with orange in the sunrise.

Remember not to give your heart

to someone you don’t trust with your head.

If you grow the little voice inside of you

(add plenty of music & moonlight), it will

take you where you need to go.

Your skin also has a voice, so listen.

In fact, let your body do the talking.

Swim in the air & dance in the water.

Don’t forget to try an ocean on for size:

no matter who you are it will be a good fit.

Be sure to bring enough air. Your lungs

were meant to be filled & emptied, just like your days.

Tend to a living thing as though you’re being graded on it.

And get to know the earth on a first-name basis.

But don’t take the rain personally.

Life is very, very, very unfair.

Sex & doughnuts can help,

but they’re not a permanent cure.

Most of all, find love

in the answer, the question, & the pause in between.

And when you step outside

the lines drawn by all of your others (even you),

treat yourself like the bliss-bound, spring-leaning

creature you were always meant to be.

Then come back to tell me all about it,

before my song is up & while my urgency to speak

succeeds my tendency to descend.

In the Wake of My Father’s Orbit

for Marty Rankin

He was a brilliant star, but

he was damaged too.

He gave off an entirely different

sort of light, and we were transfixed,

forsaken as the contrails of his angels.

I see him standing in the corner of our kitchen,

the distracted mathematician mumbling numbers

(never realizing that we were growing

and multiplying in space and time).

And then the sudden flash of anger, stunning

in its own way:

such potential for pain and shadow.

Everything about it was distorted:

the way we looked up to him—though

we had no choice, held under nature’s sway—

and how it mattered to us so the way he shone,

how his brilliance glittered off of us

and splintered us in a thousand ways.

On Sundays the six of us knelt beside him on the pew,

our palms pressed together, fingers pointed upwards

like candles reaching for a flame.

With every “Amen” came the shame:

we would always disappoint him.

But his light was a prism

we could not turn away from,

even when we knew

it would grow us crooked,

break us into dark shards.

More Than Candy

Night. Feels later than darkness.

Way past a child’s bedtime.

We have no bedtime.

My younger brother and I climb

out his bedroom window

opening into the summer air,

buoyant as dreams.

Big plans.

We fly off the garage roof,

jumping to the ground and roll.

Old pros.

Sometimes others tag along.

Tonight we’re on our own.

Two tadpoles.

Our parents, unaware as always,

sit inside with Johnny Carson.

They never laugh.

It’s the other side of the house.

More like the other side of the moon.

We smile, bikes ready

to carry us anywhere.

As far as we dare,

Brian says with his eyes.

We sail under the stars, shooting

for 7-11 like it has all the answers.

Pedaling in our high-tops,

we wade through fireflies

with the flurry of superheroes.

We are the great escapers.

Inside the store, the choices

never fail to dazzle.

We own the aisles, but we know

it isn’t about the sweets.

We choose our favorites

and head back into the dark.

I turn to my brother

as he unwraps a Reese’s.

I love him more than candy.

The Journey

for Margaret Elizabeth Regina

But after a while the road seems to drive you.

And that’s okay, if you like

mile markers and weigh stations

that measure nothing of importance

the whine of your tires on pavement

endless potholes and truck stops

speed bumps and rumble strips

the white lines and orange cones

highways that leave you low

exit ramps that steer you nowhere

faded billboards and tires blown

signs to places you’ll never go

and if you want your steering wheel

to serve as the compass of your life.

But you know me.

If there’s a sky above

then that’s my path to the sea.

And I’d rather be

musing with a mountain,

wondering what the crows know,

making plans with the firs and pine,

knowing I can take my time,

and not let my travels

be decreed by the speed limit

but by how fast—or slow—

my heart wants to go.

The Only Prayer

I can’t do the big prayers:

don’t know the Rosary,

won’t crumple my torso over my knees on the floor—

arms outstretched with audacity.

You won’t find me facing Mecca, or

orchestrating the Amidah,

or waiting for the wafer silently hunched over the pew.

I have no idea how to bow

(or to whom)

and may submit that flailing on the floor in foreign tongues

or slipping notes in the Wailing Wall

will almost certainly ensure one’s heavenly requests

remain unanswered.

Sometimes, getting up in the morning is

the only prayer I know,

the best I can offer

to whatever deity

may or may not be

waiting for me to tumble humbly out of bed.

Anne Rankin-Kotchek is a freelance editor and writer. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Sun, The Mount Desert Islander, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State with a BA in English. Current projects include a book of poems, short stories, and a memoir. She cannot say enough good things about dogs, and, although an extreme introvert, she continues to build the tender, delicate bridges (she’s certain) connect us all.

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