Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2016    fiction    all issues



Cover Carly Larsson

Sarah Sansolo
Bedtime Stories
& other poems

Miranda Cowley Heller
Things the Tide Has Discarded
& other poems

Alexa Poteet
Escobar's Hacienda Napoles
& other poems

Cynthia Robinson Young
Triple Dare
& other poems

Nicole Lachat
Of Infidelities
& other poems

Amy Nawrocki
Bad Girls
& other poems

Lawrence Hayes
Winter Climb
& other poems

AJ Powell
God the Baker
& other poems

Gisle Skeie
& other poems

Bruce Taylor
Always Expect a Train
& other poems

Ricky Ray
They Used to Be Things
& other poems

S. E. Ingraham
Storm Angels
& other poems

Laura Gamache
& other poems

Keighan Speer
It Rained Today
& other poems

Emma Atkinson
Grocery Stores Make Me Feel Mentally Ill
& other poems

Erin Lehrmann
& other poems

D. H. Turtel
Margaret, Again
& other poems

Chris Haug
Bovine Paranoia
& other poems

Kimberly M. Russo
Definitive Definition
& other poems

Holly Walrath
A Tourist of Sorts
& other poems

Angel C. Dye
Beauty in Her Marrow
& other poems

Miranda Cowley Heller


After our basement flooded

I waded through cardboard boxes,

their sodden, drooping bottoms

coming apart in my hands,

and wished I had put them up on cinder blocks.

Boxes of memories, electric cords,

hair-pins, curves;

cassettes, tangled and unwound:

wisp-thin seaweeds of magnetic tape

filled with lost songs.

Baby clothes, rust-soaked and rotting,

each tiny sock, shirt, desiccated-elastic waistband,

a familiar note.

And endless tax receipts that I kept

just in case they came

asking for proof of the past.

I threw out a Sega, a shredder,

three Styrofoam gravestones stamped

Rest in Pieces.

And a king-sized mattress, plush and coil,

that had sponged up the first of the flood.

It took four of us to drag its

bloated corpse out to the street.

Silverfish scattered into city drains.

In the afternoon, I unzipped

a black and green tartan suitcase

I’d salvaged—wedged between an

etching of Columbus in Chains

and a rabbit-eared TV.

Somewhere, there’s a photograph

of my mother boarding a train,

her graceful ankles bare,

in steep stilettos.

She’s smiling at someone.

A porter stands behind her

holding the plaid suitcase in one hand,

a round hat-box under his arm.

Inside the case were all the photos

I thought I’d lost when we moved, years ago.

Many were ruined—water-blurred and tacky,

stuck together in chunky mille-feuilles rectangles,

their faces and moments washed away,

bleeded together forever—

left to rot under the floorboards,

the damp, flooding, rat shit,

sad dark unearthednesses.

I laid out my past on the kitchen counter.

Sorted years into piles,

sifted through the ingredients of my life:

the exact minute my first son was born.

He is squalling in a doctor’s arms,

his umbilical nub dressed like a wound.

Then, he is in my arms in a hospital bed

latching onto my breast, suckling, pig-perfect.

A phone line runs across me, uncoiled,

stretching as far as it can.

I was talking to my mother—

telling her I had just given birth to a son.

And the day I fell in love with my husband.

He is standing next to a white Vespa

in a chambray shirt, hair still damp

from a plunge into the Sargasso Sea.

In the photo he took of me, I am naked,

full-frontal, Polykleitan, goddess thighs. Lush.

Wading knee-deep in Bloody Bay.

Afterwards, we had sex in the turquoise water

and he didn’t tell me when he saw the shark.

Around dinner-time, I picked up the phone

and called my eldest son.

He likes to tell me he has always been unhappy,

that life isn’t worth the living,

that he’s voting for Trump.

But I remember him running

across flaxen fields, wind-lapped,

diving into the tumbling stream,

swimming in the deep end.

Eyes bright. Loving me back.

I wanted to tell him I’d found a decade of proof

that he was wrong, that I was right.

In photo after photo he laughs,

splashing through light.

His phone rang a few times

before going to voicemail.

And I felt the emptiness of boxed air.

But I knew what he would have said,

if I’d reached him:

“How do you know I’m not crying

in all the photos that got destroyed?”

And I would have said: I promise you

I remember. I remember everything.

And you have to believe me

when I tell you it’s worth it in the end

so please stay the course.

A thousand moments, some lost, some found,

and joy and sorrow,

and Oh Fucking Christ it just passes,

day after day after day.

And you ask:

How can so much have happened?

How can so little have happened?

How is it possible to stay afloat?

But we do. We sail, spinnakers full,

and look back at dry land

from the blue horizon.

Linden Stories

In another world, eggs come home to roost

chickens hang from the rafters like

fat, auburn-feathered bats

and my husband is in a good mood every morning.

In another world my mother sings me to sleep.

In another world I do not furnish rooms

with no one in them but the dream of a future self.

I sit in my chair every day

and write something good. Or bad.

In another world, a boat sinks too close to shore.

Villagers row out in their stub-wooden boats,

collect a cargo of linden saplings and sacks of millet,

plant a tree that grows to be a hundred stories high,

whose branches stretch to touch the moon

making a bridge for us.


Hours later, I can still smell

his sweet-sour sweat, his traces,

sleep-wrinkled into the pillow,

feel the watered grit, gruel-thin trail

drying on my thigh,

and picture how wordlessly he crept around our room,

stabbing for things in the semi-dark,

trying not to wake me.

I could hear the Town Car lurking,

impatient, outside our house

in the quiet gloam—

that cusp of night and day beyond the window pane.

A few stars struggled to stay alive

in the hushed eggplant sky.

He kissed my forehead, muttered goodbye.

I listened to his footsteps leaving,

his roller-bag strumming our cindery walk,

rattle-plastic ball-bearings on cement.

Watched him from the window.

He stopped, mid-step, his back to me,

picked up his bag,

so careful not to disturb the neighbors

whispering dreamed things in their lingering r.e.m.

Lifted it three inches off the ground,

extended handle wedged in his armpit,

awkward, shoulder shrugged to ear.

And I thought of the way he would

swing our son when he was young,

and we walked him in the park,

and he begged for more, for more,

for more height, more levity.

I watched as the black car rounded the corner,

away from me.

Watched as the streetlights dimmed,

one by one, in the grey quiet.

Things the Tide Has Discarded

I stand in bare feet at the break,

icy water soaks my cuffs,

a scoop of pelicans dives on bait fish—relentless, cruel.

Kelp fronds mourn in the glassy deep.

A hermit crab creeps onto shore,

skittles its way across the sand.

In the blue, soot tern wings loop the loops.

And I lift my face into the wind.

Away from me, sea lice bite and itch

at damp piles of jetsam—a butter clam rotting in its shell

a plastic tampon applicator, sea-glassed pink,

crisp hollow straws and green-black weeds—

things the tide has discarded from its tumbling nest,

and then reaches for, stretching its wide arms in yearning,

in regret, before turning away. I wonder about the sea.

Does she miss the things she leaves behind, abandons, in her wake?

My mother is holding the new baby. She offers it

her thick, ripe breast, her puckered nipple,

warm bechamel milk. I watch her soothe and sway,

whisper secrets not meant for me.

At night I wait for her to come, pull the yellow blanket

over my head, hide from the hollow longing.

A streetlight casts tree-shadows on my ceiling.

Black lace branches dance in the wind.

My room is filled with the breath of ghosts.

I listen to the house—a body turning in a sighing bed,

the long, dark hallway agape,

the silence of floorboards.

I pluck at the black-glass eye of my rabbit. Rip it off.

Thin threads protrude from a star-shaped hole.

They wave at me, begging for remorse.

I clasp the cold eye in my hand, a talisman to mute the dread:

the killer waiting in the closet,

blazing fire, my mother dying.

Fear is a pebbled shore of tiny glass eyes.

Think of a white shirt instead.

My mother does not fear death—all life is ebb and flow:

earth worms and maggots will feed on her flesh,

a pear tree will grow from her rich soil,

flowers will bloom on a hillside, she says.

She must not know the picture she paints in my head—

she must not know the things she leaves behind.

When I wake in the morning, the tiny black eye lies on my pillow.

In the kitchen, my mother is making pancakes.

There’s bacon cooking. The baby is asleep in its cot.

She looks up when I come in.

Miranda Cowley Heller grew up in a family of artists and writers. She worked as a magazine editor and book doctor in New York before moving to California. She was head of Drama Series at HBO for a decade, developing such shows as The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood. Miranda is on the Board of PEN-USA, and is a member of the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective. She is currently finishing her first novel.

Dotted Line