Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2017    fiction    all issues


Cover Marija Zaric

Kathryn Merwin
For Aaron, Disenchanted
& other poems

William Stevens
Celestial Bodies
& other poems

Kendra Poole
Take-Off, or The Philosophy of Leaving
& other poems

AJ Powell
Mama Atlas
& other poems

Matt Farrell
Waves in the dark
& other poems

Timothy Walsh
Eating a Horsemeat Sandwich at Astana Airport 
& other poems

Nancy Rakoczy
& other poems

Joshua Levy
Venezuela Evening
& other poems

Ryan Lawrence
Vegan Teen Daughter vs. Worthless Dad
& other poems

George Longenecker
Yard Sale
& other poems

Susanna Kittredge
My Heart
& other poems

Morgan Gilson
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
The Annihilation of Bees
& other poems

Taylor Bell
Browsing Tinder in an Aldi
& other poems

David Anderson
Continental Rift
& other poems

Charles McGregor
The Boys That Don’t Know
& other poems

Cameron Scott
Ashes to Smashes, Dust to Rust
& other poems

Kenneth Homer
Inferno Redux
& other poems

Alice Ashe
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
Marriage's Weekly Schedule
& other poems

Kim Alfred
Soul Eclipse
& other poems

Writer's Site

Taylor Bell

The Dedication Depends On Where You Are

You know it’s winter in the city

when everyone gets to talking

about where they’d like to go

to get away. All great escapes

require careful planning though

they never go quite as planned.

There is one week until Christmas.

The lines skated in folks’ faces

seem to run a bit deeper,

like their pestilence had been

frozen in ice that is beginning

to melt. At zero kilometers

plaza the Christmas cone that’s

named after a cell phone carrier,

is all brilliantly alight and shining,

strung with golden beads and

someone somewhere’s good deeds.

I think it is ten degrees warmer

than it’s supposed to be, and

I feel superbly guilty

for not getting anything

for anybody. As is tradition

with all lists, I do not exclude

myself from any of it.

When I was young

in Manhattan, I bought a map

just to make sure I knew

where I was

getting lost. Deliberately

is the only way to deliver

ourselves to unknown corners,

24 hour diner booths,

recondite subway stops,

the harbor view from

a talcum unpaved roof,

The slide in the city park

is frozen over, and snow

unshoveled stuck on

the sidewalk, so we walk

in the road. On the road

is where we wish we were;

out of the cold,

wishing for the world

to unfold like an atlas map,

instead of squeezed, perhaps

inside of a fist. No matter

what postal code can fit

in the corner of an envelope,

we’ve always played host to

a thousand forms of hope—

historically reserved for the skeptical

or the desperate, so desperate

to be preserved like a turd

on the road.

Muyuk Takin

There will always be trees,

even when the last chicken

has been sold: headless

like old lettuce, and manifold

mustached men wheeling away

what’s left of the green grapes,

turned away for not having come

of age, set like a stage

to the side to make way for

a woman with overripe eyes,

stuffing her avocados in a sack

and then heading back

to the room made from river mud

where her sons were born

and her husband died.

How much despair can be pared

off with a knife

and stuffed into a cup,

then sold like a mango flower,

for whatever price

you think your life

might be worth?

Tomorrow the woman

will go back with

her burlap sack

to the Zocalo,

lay herself out

like a deck of cards

among rows and rows

of split papayas, bananas,

cantaloupe and garlic cloves,

coffee grounds, Roma tomatoes,

one million wonder colored eyes

she watched like herself:

growing from a seed.

And to see them seeing her

dying alone, she knows

there will always be trees.


It’s Sunday and the sound

of drums comes drifting in

through an open window.

It’s been a disappointing while

since I went to see who it was

outside. With winter coat on

I walk a few miles to the cafe

where they play Bill Withers,

Joan Baez and The Temptations.

I think about what I’d say

in a conversation I’ll never have,

with beasts who live in shadows.

I think about what I’d drink

if I could afford to be anything

but bored.

The drums come from a church

with a bishop bathing a baby

in holy water, whispering

in its ear: nothing is sacred,

save for the time you wasted

wishing you were someone else.

And then the choir breaks in-

to song and the baby has a long

time to take itself home

to wonder if whatever it is

everyone told him was a lie;

His whole life, in fact,

to sit in front of empty coffee cups

to forget how he listened to music,

to look out of a thousand windows

until he hears the echo of a drum

and has to ask himself where it is

the sound has been coming from.

To the students in 1°A

Tell me what you love the most,

not what someone else said,

and you thought it sounded nice.

Nice is not

what I want to hear.

What I want to hear

is what you love the most,

and I’ll bet that it

is not nice.

I’ll bet that you’re afraid

to admit it, to be different

for still going shopping

in the paranormal romance section,

or eating Cheetos with chopsticks,

or saying ‘okay I believe you’ when

someone tells you you’re not

looking too good these days,

and you really are

not is nice.

Browsing Tinder in an Aldi

I get restless in the recesses

of the endless supermarkets.

I check my phone too much

in checkout lines. I think

of an idea I once had and

how I’ll never have it again,

and when did I become this

collection of nervous habits?

Was it always everyone else

pressing their noses up against

the glass of the human zoo, or

was it me, or you in the menagerie?

Poisoned with honesty, crude

as a carrot tossed in a stew,

I’m too tired of telling the truth,

I guess, to tell you what

is going to happen next.

So instead I will continue

to text strangers while fishing

for change in my front pocket,

throwing away the receipt

only moments after I receive

it; a new message left

unread for hours while

I remind myself how

we ourselves flash and yearn;

so desperate to not appear

so desperate. So desperate

to disappear once again

into the deep recesses,

and to feel less restless

when the basket is empty,

so to speak. So there’s no

need to clip coupons, or

be preoccupied with temporal

discounts, or price comparisons

that are so ostensibly odious

that after so much time spent

browsing, there’s still so little

to show, save but for this

vertigo of infinite choices,

paralysis from all the potential

options, a thousand different

ways to make spaghetti sauce,

the mascots on the cereal boxes,

the haste with which we cross

one of our flaws after another off

the list, and the faint whispers of

a woman coming from somewhere

like background noise, reaching

from some other deep recesses

herself, flashing and yearning

like an island, putting me here

in this line, asking the question:

who exactly is checking who out?

Taylor Bell is from Fort Worth, Texas, and currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He only has three cards in his wallet: a debit card, a backcountry hut pass, and a central library card. The rest all got lost at some point. His writing has appeared in The Sagebrush Review, The Shorthorn, At Home Abroad, and other journals. He is the co-author of the chapbook Picnic Table Sleeping and forthcoming chapbook Fucking off Lonesome.

Dotted Line