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

AJ Powell

Mama Atlas


at the sink doing dishes

my fingers are foamed with soap and warm water

my belly, broad and soft from past pregnancies,

presses against the counter

my shoulders, my back are

Monumental, tiredstrongtired

and my mind amasses the world’s weight

The Atlantic Ocean is by my right ear

and the Pacific is by my left

Arctic ice shelves crack

across the top of my forehead

while the Indian Ocean dribbles down my chin

The Continental Divide swinging down through the Americas

protrudes from the back of my skull like a crest

Square between my eyes I see frag—

menting continents

I smell scrubby tundra at the top

clean and cold

smokestacks and sweat below

All the aromas of

heaven and earth and humanity

encircle my head

I am carrying the world on my shoulders

Weight and Lift in equal measure

holding me up and pinning me down

for the responsibility of it all

Because I have children

whose eyes are wide and ears are open

Nothing gets past them

who require explanations and reassurances

And while the news used to throw curve balls

it now hurls thunderbolts

The foam is gone from my fingers

but the plates are clean

and the children are sleeping

Till morning

So carry the world I will

for them

until I can hand it off

whole I hope

and if not, if fracturing

then slathered in love like paste

and stubborn gratitude like glue

adhering our futures and universes and

World up here on top of our shoulders

determined     hopeful     flawed

All the unfinished glory of the turning globe

Bread from Scratch

If Grandma were still alive

I would learn how to bake bread from scratch

    for a dozen people a day

    because that’s what it took to feed her family

    not just how to bake the bread

    but how to do it

    Everyday, in and out

    how vice-like her grip and chiseled her patience

    from the mixing-kneading-pounding and waiting-to-rise

    the work of unending nourishment

    they required

    on a frugal budget

It’s no surprise she spent her graying years a cook in the hospital cafeteria

She’d spent a lifetime in the business of feeding legions

If Grandma were still alive

She would show me all there is to know

    about blended families

    for she started out so swiftly a widow

    with two of her own

    when she married Grandpa and the two he came with

    then they mixed in seven more of their own making

    (it’s okay to gasp)

    for a grand total of eleven children she hollered at and raised

    What a recipe that must have been

    for love

    and leavened expectations

No wonder her grandchildren never tested her endurance

Coming as we did in more prudent numbers

If Grandma were still alive

I would ask her what it was like to lose

    her first love

    the one she gazed at in an old photograph

    held in her papery hand

    her first partner in love’s nourishment

    and the father of her first children

    taken by war, lost at sea

    hidden in deep waters

    Did she crumble

    like sift

    when the telegraph was delivered?

And how did she get up again?

Dying, she said she most looked forward to seeing him

How Grandma endured so much

    while delivering sustenance to so many

    is a wonder to me

    an art I struggle at

    my fingerpainting to her Mona Lisa

    And all I ever knew her for

    was her drawer of Sunday School prizes

    like from the bottom of a crackerjack box

And the scent of yeast that wafted from her steady hands

X is Us

X is us—

Variable to the enth degree

and changing with surrounding terms

always on one side of equal or the other

never Equal itself

Now the metaphor is belabored

for we labor

under rules and precisions

beyond our control

like gravity and


But we make music

which means

mechanics has a hold on us

but so does Mystery

biology but also Beauty

and sometimes we are content

to Encounter rather than solve

(I painted my fingernails silver

and my toes for no one to see but me

for the holidays)

Prisms take invisible light and

fracture it into rainbows

our hearts work the same

Hard in wholeness but

when crushed by life’s pestle

to a fine grain

we are Medicinal

the substance of us, the fragrance

is Released

This is why we seek love out

like treasure, water, air

even though it has to end in heartache

Has to—does—


we are insidiously fragile

we are brief and dying

Our best hope is to go quickly

to spare caretaking loved ones

before they follow, in a decade or a day

the steep descent

to Endings

Thank goodness for seasons

for moons waxing and waning

tides coming in and going out

and perennials

Every scrap of Nature that reassures us

things leave to come back

Are not gone forever

    live on


              and so might we

seeding our belief

in Resurrection

Bath Time

My daughter and I close the day

with a water ritual

She climbs in

turns clear water to gray with

the well-earned grime of childhood

She lifts her head in shimmering pride

and I smile to hear her boast:

“I’ve been playing!”

She spent hours digging in the side yard

All day the dust settled and stayed

on the droplets dappling her forehead

smeared along her forearm

every time she swiped it

across her sweaty brow

Now dirt under her fingernails

dampens, loosens, steeps

into the bathwater like tea leaves

She is a country-king

made happy by heroic comings and goings

by tree-climbing, creek-crossing, path-exploring labor

Like a farmer she gestures satisfaction

taking in the plowed fields of Play

So I know the best I can hope to do

is send her out into the world

to drink to dregs

each and every swollen day

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