Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2018    fiction    all issues

Poetry Cover Summer 2018


Cover Michael Lønfeldt

Carol Lischau
& other poems

Noreen Ellis
Jesus Measured
& other poems

Amanda Moore
Learning to Surf
& other poems

Adin Zeviel Leavitt
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
Stay a Minute, the Light is Beautiful
& other poems

Timothy Walsh
The Wellfleet Oyster
& other poems

Anna Hernandez-French
Watermelon Love
& other poems

J. L. Grothe
Six Pregnancies
& other poems

Sue Fagalde Lick
Beauty Confesses
& other poems

Abby Johnson
Finding Yourself on Google Maps
& other poems

Marisa Silva-Dunbar
& other poems

Merre Larkin
Sensing June
& other poems

Savannah Grant
& other poems

Andrew Kuhn
Plains Weather
& other poems

Catherine Wald
Against Aubade
& other poems

Joe Couillard
Like New Houses Settling
& other poems

Faleeha Hassan
In Nights of War
& other poems

Olivia Dorsey Peacock
Thelma: ii
& other poems

Sarah Louise
& other poems

Kimberly Russo
Inherent Injustice
& other poems

Frannie Deckas
Child for Sale
& other poems

Jacqueline Schaalje
& other poems

Nancy Rakoczy
Her Face
& other poems

Ashton Vaughn
& other poems

Jacqueline Schaalje

Dante’s Lines

If Dante dyed his hair, he would be terrifically delayed on a Saturday morning,

half an hour bombed to read and write in,

which would result in one less line.

maybe two.

If Dante polished his nails, he would dedicate half an hour to this tedious task

(including scrubbing and buffing), every two-three weeks,

or more often if he got tired of the color,

or in the event

[Line lost.]

where the composition of his dress would be all-important.

Each of those primping parties where he’d be seen and wooed

would cost him one or two lines. Although

when you dye your hair or polish your nails, lines, like

lines under your eyes, may also be gained.

In all likelihood, they would pop up in Dante’s brain,

effortlessly, quite independently

from his slow, purposeful actions,

that could be banal like nail polishing.

The polishing causing and not causing a fist ramming lightning antithesis in his gut’s dark wood.

Okay then.

Never underestimate the nail polishers.

It’s so easy to poke fun at them.

[Line lost.]

If Dante divided the tasks of childrearing equally with his wife,

he would have spent a few hours on this every day, which would mean fewer lines.

If he hadn’t been a powerful Ghelf, on the receiving side of the political divide,

the darling of the Pope and Charles of Valois, and hadn’t been

up to his single-covered eyeballs in debate,

would it have been possible at all that he took up a dishwashing brush,

just to help the wife out now and then, or at least his housekeeper,

for he surely kept one to keep his posh chambers neat?

And if he hadn’t fallen from office would he have brought back his chalice to the kitchen,

avoiding to look at the ruby drops he lost on the way, but the lines,

the lines,

that left his hand trembling, while his

head kept busy with all this menial nonsense?

Not being able to do things simultaneously.

Hell, think and write?

[Line lost.]

Enter Beatrice, the antidote to Dante’s housekeeping fetish: she became the dote.

Beatrice, she wasn’t a time-suck: on the few occasions he glimpsed her,

she made Dante’s poetic zen zip aloft and run gloriously turbo,

until he crashed down and found himself backtracking over the same painful

dishwashing brush.

And in the endless fretting and throes of blessed passion

he likely lost a few more lines that were true and felt—

Oh blessed mother, you angel,

that takes away my boondoggle from me, let’s

have done with our mourning.

I will make you famous.


Your winter coat from Prague. Thermo-patched, dove-cuirass

Lays down blond fur corona, buckled forward for a kiss.

Bubble gum encroaches, making mad with riddle—

I ask is that cleanser tea, that scent your collar keeps in.

Beatific with your husky halo, devourer of chicken breast,

you resist so many who would have you—

I can only envy you, sculptor of heart muscles. Lightning.

Geranium lips curling with expectance, the first toppings.

A pearly rain drips in the overlit, plum parking lot.

In the boudoir of our seaming hoods it’s moist and warm,

leaning back lucky into hovercraft, spice of spittle,

you’re taking after the baby. I start to dream.

In this protectionism of permeable yearning we control our

import. I like the things that you don’t like in you.

You trust your loss, that pain contrasted; bubbling like lava,

I follow your censer. The plated car cracks open

to stay put until midnight. The organs swell and luxuriate:

bitter, blooming, I have done this ad nauseam.

Newbie divorcé, I meet your eye to see

and there is more. With the drama sketched in,

the routines you work seem marvelously new.

If You Know Snow

If you know snow only from a book

you can be alone, or make a snowperson

and create anything under your gloved hands.

If you know snow only from a book

you can have white, quiet mornings

and mysterious, shivery evenings.

In the wide tide of shimmering

icicles might trick you

and propose a beauty overhaul.

Unseen, you can have hundreds of words for it

your children will have a feeble grasp of,

unless you make them read.

If you know snow only from a book

you stand looking out, flailing,

not the easiest words melting against your palate.

You must listen to witnesses of snow

but beware, don’t take over their words—

The words must be yours.

If you know snow only from a book

you won’t ever use sand to efface it.

Snow sphinx sounds like a dope idea.

If you know snow only from a book

you can make a movie out of it,

add some blue light.


The decision not fleshed out,

so small it didn’t really exist.

Could I resist its shadow

and feel affection for its parent?

That I could give it dreams, maybe bad

ones that I caused?

Sometimes I imagine going shopping

for gaudy rags at Primark

and screaming at the top of our lungs.

So small it is crazy that I flushed it,

it would have been a you now, wan

youth, but of my growing own.

So undefined, I’m shy to ever

look you in the eye—all purpose, not

one to disturb. What good is a shadow

if not created? A partner only

at parties? I’ve looked at your profile

and thought you resembled me, the shape

I’d been trying to recollect for

when I’ll grow weaker, so to speak.

You keep with me, child, tiny

again, so I can hold you in my belly.

I talk to you, quietly,

give you a little pat now and then.

The City with a Heart

You know the city where you went to on the cheap,

the city that had positive buzz, said your friends;

see this cozy cafe, salad with pomegranate;

the city where once upon a time they bombed its heart

out, and now you find yourself wandering, looking

for where it could be; maybe it is in that street,

behind that mall, palace with its sunburst sign and turrets—

kind of cool, but clearly not authentic, is it?

Still, it’s nice here, and warm, because I make that effort.

The museum has a model that recreates sacrifice

after the showdown. It turns out the city never had

a heroic gush of glory, if you discount war. After it closed,

orphans were recruited by clergy, passing buckets

with rubble from the spire. I have trouble putting myself

in the place of a stricken, bow-tied daughter. Then,

that monk was smiling, avuncular. In his past of past,

his parents fed him black bread and potatoes, deloused

his fine hair and lovingly coiled his earlock, before they

sent him along, a slap on his cold, dull cheek. What can

he say now to those cute kids? More pictures roll

past. Bedraggled beggars schlep along pony walls.

Who knows that if I had a daughter I would tell her

the city we visit, it has a heart still, and gradually

I would have her discover she can slip in.

Jacqueline Schaalje (MA English from the University of Amsterdam) has published stories in On the Premises and The Massachusetts Review. Another story was a finalist for the Epiphany Prize, and in the New Guard Competition. She went to the Southampton Writers Conference (NY) last summer to work on a novel. A poem has just been published by Sky Island Journal and some are forthcoming in Sixfold.

Dotted Line