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

Karen Kraco

Weeding While Contemplating a Break Up


Dig deep, get beneath it

or grab at the base and yank.

Tease out the thread

that snakes underground.


Mass murder. More than a little guilt

as I pull industrious lives

before they can fully express themselves.

Never to flower nor go to seed

yet propelled like the rest of us

by a desire to thrive.


Wrong place, wrong time, I tell them.

If only you had landed in crazy Mary’s yard.

She would have let you live, talked with you all night.


Just under an hour to clear the vegetable bed.

I would say I should have done this sooner

but it’s easier to grasp what I do not want

after it’s been around a while.


The ones I always miss

masquerade as the desired.

Same leaves, similar flowers,

but if you look closely

something’s amiss.


Damn. Sometimes

I make a big mistake

and get rid of the good.

A cucumber plant tangles

in my rip and yank, or an onion

just coming into onionhood

pulls up with a clump

of grass. I tell myself

it’s an accident

but right now

I really don’t know.


Don’t worry about death

at least that’s what I thought he said

as we reach and reach toward the far wall, then hinge

into triangle pose. Glad for permission,

but still can’t ignore the ache

the slow burn as I try to balance.

I’m missing two corners

of you-me-us.

Flatten it out, it’s more about form than death.

As we stretch our right arms toward two o’clock

I’m not sure what he means

but I tuck in my fifty-year-old belly

sight along my upward arm

try out a position

that I fancy to be the stance

of a time-defiant warrior.

Soften your gaze. He walks over to me.

And don’t worry about the depth of the pose.

Depth, not death, I realize, disappointed.

Don’t worry about depth. So I bend

less deeply, flatten out, arranging myself

into a vertical plane so thin that I don’t exist.

I surface many poses later

all of us in downward-facing dog.

I Don’t Need To Know

Not the name of the frog that sounds

like a ratchet, nor why it’s calling

in the fall. That huge floriferous fungus

on top of the stump—I don’t care to know

if it’s safe to eat. It’s not in me to ask myself

why I visited this patch of land this summer

hoping for a glimpse of the bright blue bunting

that we always looked for in the cottonwood.

Some of the hummingbirds by the bridge

today might be the same busy birds

that kept brushing our arms that year. I don’t know

how long they live, and not knowing is okay with me.

I think I might know why the warblers are drab and silent in fall,

why they hawk for bugs and frantically work the branches.

I could probably explain why the wood ducks seem so brilliant now

after a mottled August. You taught me that, and more.

This morning, a green heron stretched his neck

farther than I ever could have imagined—

but these days, nothing surprises me.

I know exactly why I hold each season close,

as if it were my last visit. I remember

your last season, that fall when we heard

the chitter of the hummingbirds

in the bright orange jewelweed

long before we saw them

hovering to feed.


We root for trees to stand upright

in the same way we want our parents

to live forever, our friends to stay loyal,

our passions to burn bright.

We nurture—or neglect—

that massive presence

and then it crashes.

How quickly we try to fix the tangle,

transform jagged edges

and dangling branches

tame the lightning’s gash

the ragged rip of the wind

with smooth swift cuts

easy-to-handle chunks.

We gather branches in tidy bundles

place them where they won’t be in our way.

Two years ago, after the tornado’s sudden swath,

we wept to see the herons circle and circle

over the mass of trees that once harbored their young.

Can we really know what creatures feel?

Why were we so surprised at how fast

they settled in to feed, how the next year,

they returned to rebuild their lives?

Admire the diligence of the fungus

now awakened on the fallen trunk.

Celebrate its foresight and patience.

Its spores lie in wait

then seize the wet, wild gusts

as a chance to thrive.

Yesterday, the old pine lay across the front yard

sheltering a bat with two pups, furry little bumps

clinging to her breast. We couldn’t read her sleepy gaze

but desperately needed to take charge, to heal

anxious as we waited for wildlife rescue to return our call.

All afternoon, the symphony of chainsaws and chippers

drowned out the caw caw caw of the homeless crow.

Karen Kraco lives in Minneapolis where she periodically alternates teaching high school science with working as an editor or freelance writer. Her profiles, feature articles, and poems have appeared in local and regional publications, and she was co-editor and publisher of the poetry journal ArtWord Quarterly. Karen shares a home with Owen and Harriet, a mischievous Senegal parrot and an anxious cockatiel whose antics might land them in a children’s story someday.

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