Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2015    fiction    all issues


Cover Hannah Lansburgh

Jennifer Leigh Stevenson
For Your Own Good
& other poems

Marianne S. Johnson
& other poems

Kate Magill
Nest Study #1
& other poems

Karen Kraco
& other poems

Matt Daly
Beneath Your Bark
& other poems

Paulette Guerin
& other poems

Hank Hudepohl
Crossed Words
& other poems

Alma Eppchez
At the Back of the Road Atlas
& other poems

Jim Burrows
At the Megachurch
& other poems

Rachel Stolzman Gullo
& other poems

Yana Lyandres
New York Transplant
& other poems

Heather Katzoff
& other poems

Tom Yori
& other poems

Barth Landor
What Is Left
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
Never So Still
& other poems

George Longenecker
Polar Bears Drowning
& other poems

Ben Cromwell
Sometimes a Flock of Birds
& other poems

Robert Mammano
the way the ground shakes
& other poems

Janet Smith
Rocket Ship
& other poems

Gina Loring
& other poems

J. Lee Strickland
Minoan Elegy
& other poems

Toni Hanner
Catching the Baby
& other poems

Jim Burrows

At the Megachurch

Like any prophet, he denies his god

and is his god. These thousands worship him

because they know the soul may be eternal,

but immortality lies in the body,

and even faith cannot escape the flesh.

Tonight the church is full.

The inedible manna of miracles

begins to fall, invisibly. Their throats

are sapped by laughter jolting through their tears.

Limp bodies litter the carpeted stage,

anointed, cauterized, slain by his touch

and the dark water of his voice.

A crutch is tossed aside.

Its owner sprints away.

A blind man shields his eyes

as they fill up with light. A child,

crying, his asthma wheezing through his fear,

comes forward as his mother holds his hand.

Head back, eyes closed, he waits for God

to seal a kiss around his open, trembling mouth,

and blow the ashes from his lungs.


To feel without seeing

the force that pulls against us,

thrashing out its strength

beyond our measure, guess its weight and beauty,

and then to know, be certain: this is fishing.

Tradition took me to a secret pond,

taught me to bait a hook and cast a line,

to wait, relaxed, but ready for the strike,

ready to set the hook beyond the barb

deep in the creature’s mouth, and not let go.

I felt the nibble first, a spasming

Did you imagine that?

then the plunge of the line and the whine of the reel,

the strain of a living thing bowing the rod

beneath the mystery of calm, dark water;

then above, writhing on my line,

suspended from somewhere in its gut,

the swallowed hook catching and shredding there,

much heavier in thin air, swimming still,

fighting the thing inside it

past all victory and wonder.

I dropped it, rod and all, into the boat.

What kind of fisherman was I

to fear the blood-gilled bass dying in bloody flops,

its belly bulging for the knife,

working its mouth and lying still at last?

Hospital at Night

Something about the background quiet here.

The hum and clank of dinner on the roll,

a next-door neighbor rinsing out the fear

in something shallow, some event or bowl.

Beside each bed, a white contraption hums,

and suddenly a disembodied cough

erupts, but every separate sound becomes

a part of it: this hush you can’t turn off.

The doors are all ajar, as if to keep

a child from being frightened of his sleep.

The doctors come and go as darkness falls,

and weary nurses, not one beautiful,

move in a chapel calm down long white halls,

turning off and on smiles like light snowfall.

Wolf Hunting

Like some old fossil on the Isle of Wight,

some baron with a number in his name,

my grandfather kept a stable of hounds.

Like him, the dogs were poor Americans

descended from a place they’d never been,

a little taller than their counterparts

in Wales and England, built for taller game

and more wide open range, but with the same

look about them, sad but clean, saddlebacks

of black and lemon, spots of black and tan,

comical floppy ears and short rough coats:

not beautiful in any special way.

And on a weekend night, or any night,

since they were both retired old men by then,

he and his longtime sidekick used to wait

for nightfall, then sink slowly back in time.

They didn’t go on horseback, and a kill

was rare as murder. They’d just drive around

and talk and listen, breathing in the stars.

Maybe a little whiskey in a sack,

or maybe not—I never saw the stuff

in action, just the bottles in the fridge

on the back porch, there with the silty brew

that tasted like a cellar, and the wine

as sickly-sweet as Kool-Aid.

                                                 But those dogs,

you could hear them far off, their voices wild

but somehow mournful, like the highway sound

that drifted through the window late at night,

a faraway life. My grandfather claimed to know

what they were after by the sound they made—

a rabbit had a certain sound, a coon—

as if the soul of the quarry had entered them

and all they did was give it back again.

What they were after were the little wolves

called coyotes, mostly scavengers, that stayed

and flourished when the bison disappeared

and deer were hunted down. The greater wolves

were all long gone by then, they’d blown away

with the dustbowl, or about that same time,

after a hundred years of poverty

and degradation. But to a young boy

they were still there—everything was still there,

it was just hidden. And none of those good dogs,

or even three or four, would have a chance

in hell against it. Something engineered

and driven in the blood might chase it down

and corner it, but then they’d have to fight,

and out of nowhere others would appear,

the rest of it. It would be like a bunch

of prep school boys against a prison gang.

They’d all go down like lambs.

                                                    Which never happened,

of course. It couldn’t happen. Now and then

a bitch went missing or a wound appeared,

but there’d be no deep mystery in that.

The countryside itself could slash and tear.

Each year the busy highway took its share.

And then—a fact you wouldn’t so much see

as hear, when you remembered afterward—

their bodies had this tendency to turn

on one another, out there in the dark

they had no business in but still longed for,

with nothing left to guide them but the moon.


The deer, a buck and doe,

appeared and stood

on the stage of the road,

and my father slowed

the Oldsmobile, then stopped it

completely, to wait them out.

Noble, aloof, undeniably

beautiful, like swans with hooves,

they craned their necks

and turned their gazes on us,

patiently, without apparent

curiosity. What did they see?

Two fully grown men

with boys in their eyes,

a father and son,

an old couple of sorts?

Or was it only distance,

something else, a thing to be

appraised and moved away from

carefully, without words

or thought, at a gingerly trot?

Look, the moment said,

receding all around us

like the future after love.

And then they leapt inside it,

fleeing, tender white bellies

over tightly-strung thorns.

Jim Burrows lives in Cordell, Oklahoma. His first book, Back Road, was published by Barefoot Muse Press in January, 2015. His poems have appeared in numerous print and online magazines in the UK, Canada, and the United States, including 32 Poems, Antiphon, Measure, The Rotary Dial, and the Raintown Review.

Dotted Line