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

William Stevens

with a twist of lemon: six senryu

if your pen

and my paper met!—

such poetry.

you laugh:

my hummingbird throat

beats against its cage.

dark eyes and darker lashes;

nothing is sweeter

than brevity.

Sunday morning—

the paper mumbles, meaningless.

I read your coffee rings

down the street,

not across the road:

I don’t skip a single block.

I carve your name

on each of my branches but

it is the world that bleeds.

Celestial Bodies

Dark, bright eyes: ebony chestnut and marble, blue, you;

gold hair, sunshine gold and amber—a bit blue, too.

We antithesize, paradox, parallel—

I scream tangentially past you

shooting star sprinkling dust

a thousand asterisks

for you to shovel off the stoop.

(I always knock the footnotes off my shoes

before I enter your apartment.)

What do I have to show

for all that hammers in my heart?

A cloud of shining words in orbit,

burning away in the upper reaches of your atmosphere.

My love it is a quiet thing

My love it is a quiet thing,

A patient hand on wheel;

And steady as a silent spring

It keeps an even keel.

My form no timber, no birch-bark

No needle pine consumed;

I warble like no meadowlark

No kestrel crying doomed.

Yet as a sailor to his port

And falcon to his perch,

The lee-wind tears my sail apart

So heart and tongue do lurch.

A life in several paragraphs,

And death’s parentheses—

My heart’s too hot for metaphor,

My fire doomed to freeze.

“Aztec sculpture of the god Quetzalcoatl”
two thoughts on (Meso)America



Radiant divinity

Feathered serpent now still stele

Stony in silence

Sedimentary scales flecked with the dust of age

Layered around his holiness in concentric sprays of deific plumage

Pinions pinned in the moment’s beating wings

Hummingbird rapid—but

Condor quick, and soft, silent, unheard

The all seeing serpent himself hides

In rows and ridges

Time has taken its toll on this carved creature

Rock-locked and lost to flight’s timeless mortality

The instant now an age

Bejeweled, bedecked with charms and honors

The coup counted around his neck hangs heavy, like himself,

Stone, like himself;

Like his stone, like

The day, cloudy, vague, ill-defined:

Felt more than seen.

Oh guardian of the sky temple

Oh lightning illuminator

Bring me rain

Without rainbows


From afar,

the accumulation of cumulus masks the rainy basin

below the tall tree’s tops

where denizens of that airy realm

titter and play and feed on one another.

Sky, earth, water—

all mingle as one.

Memory stirs here, too;

fog-like, mist-like, river like, mirror-like:

a dew-drop glass suspended from a leaf tip

reflects the world and, in so doing,

encapsulates and contains it—

a perfect pearl of remembrance, exquisite

in every upside-down detail.

A new world of monkeys, sage-faced, lithe-limbed

prowl: ebony, ivory, russet, cacao and terra cotta,

emerald and jade ribbons peel from branches

lidless eyes open from the inside to see more deeply.

Tongues taste aromas and threads rising from below

and fall delicately from above.

Were we to creep closer, we too would see life in myriad shapes:

the piercing eyes and keening cry of the harpy eagle

the welcome threat of uninhibited mortality:

golden gaze

tar-black talon

plumage fresh-plucked from Andes peaks.

We scuttle but cannot escape his grasp;

the snow-white reaper culls the strong

to make himself stronger still.

His beating, bloody throat,

eyes bright—

the barrel of the gun

the diving altimeter

the gleaming airlock

the edge of the guillotine

the pearlescent sclera of the judge

—we gorge ourselves

and are in turn gorged upon.


do not weep for us

when it is we

who should weep for you.

the tyrannous stars


I pick out stars for our constellation, but it’s so hard to choose:

So much darkness between us, but so much light.

In the distance, already fading going going gone we lose

sight of each other, wrap ourselves in strangers and sounds, neglect the paths we might

use to find our way back again. But I refuse

the trail signs, street signs along the way. I will fight—


but not for us. I’ve made my choice

(or had it made for me like so many times before). You’ve already refused

my paltry attempts at peace. Light—the only bit that’s left, weak and light

indeed—freckles your face amber clad in halogen and cold and even though we might

never meet again, I can’t bring myself to touch you, trembling. I can’t lose


control—and maybe that was the problem in the first place. To lose

you seems such a large thing now, a fight

that should have been louder, larger, more—all my might

against your silence. But back then, the choice

was obscured, blurred by the brightness around me. My ego weighed me down, not light

enough to lift above petty pride. You almost refused


to meet for the last time—just like back in the beginning. You

refused to even consider me. Life was full of people we could lose

ourselves in. Maybe that’s why the crowd, the public place. We even lost ourselves in the light

of each other. Now, evening rain slicks cobbles—bloody from the coming fight (our fight)

and the sinking sun spilling his guts on the street. A good choice,

then, to end like beginnings. To start again at the ending. You might


even change your mind (or so I thought). I might

even apologize (or so I hoped—oh god I hoped, refused

to think about how bitter I was, how much I hated you, how I chose

to hate you). The sun gets in my eyes, blinds me like I blinded myself. So I lied—said we’d lost

each other, that I’d lost you—like some kind of fight

I couldn’t hope to win. Truth: I threw you away. Street lights


brighten the pavement (or the gloom deepens, I never could tell which) and now house lights

are lamp yellow eyes sweeping the sidewalks. Try as I might,

I cannot slow my steps to the square where our fight—

for love? understanding? each other? to win?—will end. The sun refuses

to go down, will not set, and what a terrible fucking metaphor—trailed by twilight I can’t lose.

Now it is too late to wind back the clock: we will meet and speak and break and why did I choose


to come here? Morning light filled me with optimism, a desire to refuse

fate an easy win. Starlight, star bright, might I skip this chance tonight? I always seem to lose.

Ask me again: in a fight between a world without me or without you, which should I choose?

William Stevens is an English teacher at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where in addition to teaching various classes he acts as the faculty advisor for the school’s annual literary magazine. Previously published in Kutztown University’s student-run literary journal Shoofly, William has finally taken a tip from his students and started writing again. When he’s not teaching, grading, reading, kayaking, planning D&D sessions, or tending cats, he tries to write poetry.

Dotted Line