Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2019
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Cover Antoine Petitteville

Laura Apol
Easter Morning
& other poems

Taylor Dibble
A Masterpiece in Progress
& other poems

Julia Roth
Lessons From My Menstrual Cup
& other poems

Jamie Ross
Ceaseless Wind. The Drying Sheaves
& other poems

Nicole Yackley
Mea Culpa
& other poems

George Longenecker
I’m sentimental for the Paleolithic
& other poems

Taylor Gardner
Short Observations by Angels
& other poems

Greg Tuleja
No Thomas Hardy
& other poems

Joanne Monte
War Casualties
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney
Potato Harvest
& other poems

Steven Dale Davison
Wordsmouth Harbor Founder
& other poems

Heather 'Byrd' Roberts
How I Named Her
& other poems

sunny ex
& other poems

Ashton Vaughn
Through the Valley of Mount Chimaera
& other poems

Linda Speckhals
& other poems

Lucy Griffith
Breathing Room
& other poems

Steven Valentine
& other poems

Emily Varvel
B is for Boys and G is for Guys
& other poems

Jhazalyn Prince
Priceless Body
& other poems

Marte Stuart
Generation Snowflake
& other poems

S.J. Enloe
Kale Soup
& other poems

Meghan Dunsmuir
Our Path
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney

Bumblebee Children

Black-and-yellow fuzz stirs

sparkling swords of emerald grass.

This one was trapped on her side,

rolling like a wounded buffalo

felled at the foot of a mole mountain.

Something heavy weighs her down.

Leaning over at the knees,

I extend a bent white metal rod

that once kept curtains from falling.

She climbs aboard,

then looks at me as if to say,

“Well? Now what?”

I lift my stick toward the fence,

toward the close-cropped bushes,

toward the neighbor’s house,

toward the horizon,

toward forever,

and murmur, “There you go, sweetheart.”

My youngest son, wooden saber in hand,

cocks his head to one side.

“You call it ‘sweetheart’?”

Truly, I did not mean to.

The words emerged on their own,

without thought.

This is what happens

when one spends years of a life

helping to lift smaller creatures from the ground.

Spring’s first bumblebees become your children.

Each a Wildflower


this bowl of wildflowers, each

plucked by my son’s small fingers,

placed on the counter,

chosen for a new existence

in clean, cool water.


them bloom, thirsty,

dying as soon they are born,

aging, molding, decaying,

a darkening mass shriveling,

staining, returning to earth.


what each was and still is,

an idea, a germ, a seed,

one among trillions

selected for love’s service,

a child carving one beautiful scar more

On his mother’s flowering heart.


The moon brought light but not heat.

Shivering men chained wagons to idling tractors,

numb fingers shaking.

Exhaust growls filled the darkness.

With a clank and a rumble

the whole mess of everything began to warm.

Inside the cab, he dreamed of gravel.

Just last week, he and his father

turned a roadside pile into a driveway.

Their calloused hands gripped shovels,

their boots the ground,

their voices the grit from last night’s cigarettes.

His father spoke of the sea,

a strange naked moment of unrepressed longing.

The old man had seen it once, decades ago.

If you missed it that much, the boy asked,

couldn’t you have gone again?

If only it were that easy, son, his father had replied.

In the darkness,

waiting for the diesel to thaw,

he wondered: why wasn’t it that easy?

Potato Harvest

Fallen potatoes litter

the rond-point’s southwest gutter,


lost and jostled

from towering wagons

into mud and puddles,

huddled and crushed like victims

from some civil war

unfolding inside

dusty ash-filled tractor cabs.

Gleaners slip into fields,

ghosts in ragged sweaters,

naked hands grasping

pitchforks and sacks,

hunting scraps next to highways.

Brussels-bound black sedans

roar past.

They disappear

into the crushing gray.

The Last American in Belgium

Crunchy maple leaves

stir in the garden,

turned over and over

by something unseen.

Beyond the fence,

beyond the pasture,

a solitary figure haunts

a narrow broken road.

Two headlights reveal

a man, holding something

in his right hand.

He twirls it without thinking,

as if he has done it

a million times before,

as if the thin dull object

were an extension of his body.

The car passes,

obscuring the man for a moment.

When the street is clear again,

he is gone,

swallowed by shadows

that stretch toward the village

where women huddle

in dim tidy rooms

and grip prayer beads

as the harvest moon rises.

It was only three generations

ago, they remind us,

that nothing on earth could stop

what had no wish to be stopped.

And so,

we were invited.

My creased-brow neighbor

turns from the window.

Wind flusters shutters

and rattles glass panes.

A single light illuminates

his green chair.

His steady hands

offer a thick book

with bone-white pages

and a brown leather cover.

Here lie the dead, he tells me,

yours too.

Each page a catalogue

of ghosts,

a waning light’s gift,

a generation’s warning.

Nathaniel Cairney lives with his family in Belgium, where he writes, travels, cooks, does dishes, and marvels at the ease with which moles explode holes in the rich soil. Originally from the U.S. Midwest, his poems have been published in California Quarterly, Illya’s Honey, and others. He holds an M.A. in English Literature from Kansas State University and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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