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

AJ Powell

Mother and Son, Morning Meditation

Silence such as it is

And the occasional riff of jazz-like anger—

Caught and carried by a neighborhood breeze

From anonymous lips

In the apartment complex across the way,


Or at times the sweeter song of bluesy infant-cries

Silence such as it is

With the bee-hive hum of traffic

The flotsam-and-jetsam sounds of compact cars and hemi trucks

The ebb and flow of engines

The stall and honk calling to a carpool’s congregants

While next door’s dogs bark “Intruder” at the morning sun

Silence such as it is

Threaded under by the watersong

Of our drainage-ditch creek,

A song of utility, a quiet canticle

Gurgling to stillness in an algae-skinned, peridot-green pond

In this accompanying cacophony we find our silence

Such as it is

For five minutes,

My ten-year-old son and I set a timer and forget it

While we settle into a chosen stillness,

Brief as it is,

Together in it as companions

With nothing to notice but a chattering squirrel

Or the faucet as Dad starts his coffee—

No homework or chore, no nag or complaint

Permitted trespass

We have the silence while the silence has us

And with it a camaraderie

He sits in imperfect silence

His electric-charged body slowing to a lower voltage

His bucktooth grin slackening to rest

For him, for me, temporarily there is

No pleasing or easing or expectations-meeting

For a blesséd change

He listens I think to the symphony of accidental noises

His mind maybe drifts, and his limbs loosen

We are there alone together

Mutually side-setting the world away awhile

Letting the silence

Sing us awake to each other

Bifurcated Heart

There is a bifurcated heart

Beating in my chest,

A dual heart:

Loyal and wishful, grateful and grabbing

Wanting what it doesn’t have.

Still the moon is full tonight

Hanging in the sky absolute and entire,

An orbed womb haloed by silvered mist

Birthing tides.

Whole she hangs,

Cratered by Space’s every hurled attempt

To break her. She did not break.

Her strength—she is round with it.

Tonight she shows us how wrong is

Our assessment of her changeable nature.

Shadows merely cycle across her face;

Only our perception of her is ever slivered.

She is unchanging.

So also my heart.

It drums a rhythm as tight as a time table

As regular as tides

Steady while it houses

Its manifold desires and devotions.

A Poet’s Triptych


I cannot capture Shakespeare’s lilting song,

The rocking sway of five iambs in a line.

Each slant and crooked rhyme reveals how long

The distance lies between his ear and mine.

For each syllabic strike that lands amiss

Upon my heart another strike does fall.

The urge and grip within me now does list;

Each nearly capsized thought I’ll keel and haul,

Then toss it on my beach of wants repressed,

And like so many words I’ve lost before,

And many other hopes I’ve not expressed,

Another grain of sand falls on my shore.

To turn my hand to poems is a wound

I cut upon myself—relief unfound.


A poet is an obnoxious thing to try to be.


Artful arrogance metering out my meaning

with a rhyming suggestion of universality—

     oh please.

We are each of us alone,

and none of us is normative.

Perhaps our shared humanity is our most

carefully composed illusion.

Delusional is the attempt to write

a poem.


There is no iron in me.

I am bone and flesh and compromise.

I am capitulation.

Water seeps into crevices

And soil-softness that will receive it.

Call me Puddle.

I wish I could find my mettle,

My metal-minded, mercury-fired power

To unbend the bending compliance

In my voice.

I want to speak like a prophet tonight,

A terrible light to burn behind my eyes,

A chorus of seraphim to add its vibrations to my timbre.

I want truth to blaze, tinged with sulphur.

God the Baker

I can hold both in my head,

Can’t you?

The possibility I am right and

The possibility I am wrong.

It seems the weather should’ve taught us by now:

We’re in this together and better be.

     Better be.

Life happens to us proleptically,

Falling out of the future toward us,

Like ribbons of sunrays or (God knows)

Asteroids. Because:



     Flood, fire, and pestilence.

We take refuge in cities.

Mine is a mile high and sheltered,

A bulwark of mountains to the west

And vast prairies east

Holding the ocean at bay

With its sharks and hurricanes and

     Undertow currents.

Because we have known Nature as a bitch

Not a Mother—

Tooth and claw, flesh for scavenging,

Bone and blood ready to be mashed into pies and eaten

By fate and

     Unexpected calamities.

North of my city is a caldera that could

Swallow us whole,

Explode my entire world with a

Shrug of its shoulders

And a pyroclastic wave

     We’d see coming.

So all the lines of punditry seem so silly,

The drawn lines of us’s and them’s—

     A fool’s effort.

We should huddle close, harness each other,

In case we only have time for one last

     Spasm of love before we die.

Reading scripture with the news is harrowing.

The words work us over like dough,

Punch and roll, punch and roll.

God takes a breath and lets us rise,

     Then punches down again.

At some point God the Baker will

Put us in an oven till our crust cracks.

But we will be made consumable to the world

     For its nourishment.

Frost on Fields

Frost on fields, the day begins before dawn.

Stars fade, replaced overhead by starlings;

The little birds wing from their hidden nesting places

To speed to the oncoming arc of the sun’s rays.

I stand beside a knot-hearted old tree,

Its arteries sending skyward soil salts and water

To join transmuted light in leaves

Budded, greened, past green, now falling,

To land upon the ground like scattered gold medallions.

Morning’s cold hangs heavy in the air

Making every inhale a sip.

In the river, rock-filled water rolls wild and on.

Moss-covered granite stones, boulder behemoths,

Stand sentinel along the trail in stillness,

As they will be—still standing—

The day after our hotly anticipated days,

Come what may.

We are the dust. Not the ground.

Our selves and our societies are so many scattered granules.

The earth is serene, steady and lasting,

While our troubles heave then retreat,

Flare then fade faster than days.

The land we inhabit holds,

And nature nods farewell at our departures.

There is a refuge in Nature’s abiding,

And a release in our passing.

May what comes bring the solutions we seek,

But may our wisdom outlast such things.

May our salvation stand like stones

And fly like starlings.

AJ Powell is a once and future teacher who raises her children, serves on a school board, and attempts to write in the wee hours of the morning with varied success.

Dotted Line