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

Cynthia Robinson Young

Triple Dare

When I was four I was a stripper.

I guess I started early. The boy next door

DARED me, he said

I wasn’t born from my momma because

I didn’t have a belly button.

I had to prove him wrong.

My grandma told it was time to go

and get my own whuppin’ switch

from the thorniest bush in the backyard

because it “was time for you to learn

who you should take your clothes off for,

and who you shouldn’t.”

When I was five I was too short to hang

clothes on the rope line outside,

but not too young to identify

whose underwear was whose.

That same boy dared me,

and that same grandma spanked me,

but with a different switch that

she picked out herself,

claiming I wasn’t hard enough on myself to

pick a good one that sang in the wind

before it hit my legs.

That boy grew up to be a man who

kept daring women to do all sorts of things

they shouldn’na

been doing,

but I married him,

because he dared me.

Grandma wasn’t able to

teach me a dog gone thing.

Nancy Beal, 1820

(grandmother, 4 times removed)

I found you, Grandma,

hidden among the Archives

in a census. Did they even let you

give your name? Who asked

the questions, and who

gave the answers that would define

your life

two centuries later,

giving me so little

to understand

who you really were?


you have a granddaughter now

who carries your name

into a generation

where there are no slaves

such as you were.

She dances to tribal rhythms


in Hip Hop, in Jazz, in

melodic refrains

you might have hummed


as you toiled

in a hot North Carolina


or baked bread in a humid southern


careful not be to overheard,

determined to remain silent

when the overseer passed,

lest it be mistaken

for contentment.


I have stood on corners,

shaking with fear and cold, waiting

with my sister on a northeastern November

night, neon blinking “Budweiser”

in a ghoulish light


our young Black faces.

My sister wasn’t old enough

to protect herself,

so how could she

protect me?

The boys who could be men

were coming

toward us. The street lamp

lit up the mischief

in their eyes. I wished

the light would hypnotize and hold them

in that halo until

our mother could come out of the bar

to rescue us.

But the bar windows were tinted dark.

No one is meant to see through

them, dark enough to protect

the ones inside who start their drinking

early in the day

and stop

early the next.

Our mother did not do that, she was not like that.

She was the mother who says,

“I’ll only be a minute/

    just wait right here on the corner/

       by the door/     you’ll be safe/     I’ll be right back out.”

We had to believe her.

She was our mother.

We had no choice.

The men who could be boys

were saying things

our mother would have never

allowed her daughters to hear.

She would have shut them up. She would

have washed their mouths out

with Pure Ivory Soap,

and if they tried to

spit it out on the dirty street,

she would not have let them,

not until she thought their mouths would

not allow those words to live there.

But the damage was done.

I won’t forget

their words,

the sound of their laugh,

and the lie

that my sister gave to me, that

   “this did not happen/      we will not tell Mommy/   she feels bad enough all the time

with her troubles/      don’t let her hear any more from us.”

So she wrapped her protection

Around our mother instead of me.

And an hour later we caught

the last bus running in the city,

staring out at our reflections against the darkness,

riding past so many corners,

some healthy and happy,

some not so much,

until our mother reached up

and pulled the cord.

Cynthia Robinson Young currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she teaches in the Education department at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. She recently moved to the South with her husband and eight children after living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over thirty years. She has been published in journals over the years, including Radix, a 1970s Berkeley street paper. She is currently working on a genealogical book of prose poems.

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