Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Summer 2019
    fiction    all issues


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

Writer's Site

Steven Valentine


Your Father has already

written your story.

Even the poet’s.

The difference remains

that we continue to write it

into existence.

My Father Built These Things
by Hand, I Say

it was a green house, a house we knew

was green, not the hue or the paint

of the panel, or the President heads floating

into it, no, no, this was a green house, a green

house so vile and toxic, it breathed a musty

camouflage, a darkness that sat atop the stoop my

father built, a stoop my father cemented like

the times, like the time he gave me condoms before

prom, like the time we discussed my girlfriend and how

both she and his insomnia were make-believe but

both a pretty butterfly in the green grass, both miracles on

a sunny Sunday on a stormy stoop, my father built that

stoop and his depression held the jackhammer, keeps

buzzing to the melody of the stream line, the green

on the glossy coated memory affixed to the sealant, bastardly

it was, a house, a house that didn’t feel like home.

Metal and Magic

As a boy my father always brought me to the car wash.

There was something about metal and magic and the idea

that something could reappear polished;

It was like a dream.

It was a father and son moment when our slates were clean

and we were happy.

As I got older we stopped going to the car wash.

My father didn’t seem like he wanted to go anymore;

His sadness overshadowed him like a blackened smoke.

By now, I knew he wanted to but physically couldn’t get up to go.

Depression, festered its way into his torso;

His polish would never reappear the same;

He was a vase with a hairline mosaic.

That day I learned that sadness muddles bodies into an unsettling being.

That day I learned the gritty of a man’s tongue when anxiety got the best of his throat

And that day, I learned even family can serpent-tongue their opinion into a father’s suicide note.

You see they thought my father fit

for electric shock treatment, thought him fit

to lightning bolt his conscious

to live under the hellfire

They would tell him to get over it;

To stop overreacting;

Ask him why he can’t just be happy again

As if happiness wasn’t a roadblock right in front of another roadblock

Depression, doesn’t come in seasons, but when it comes, it is always a Fall-out

Depression, is the nosy neighbor, who forgot they could, just be a neighbor

They always feel the need to ring the bell

But my father—My father

is not a one-way ticket to a hospital-wing;

He is not admission to your nearest explosion

He is not a warning label;

He is just the vessel that God used to test the boundaries

And he’s had to live behind them–always

Walking the tightrope above the lion’s den and sometimes falling into it

Shouldn’t you--Be the one to feel shock after seeing a melancholy man so unscathed,

But one who survived the pain?

Isn’t it ok for him to feel pain here?

Isn’t it ok for him to feel here?

Now I’ve tried

I’ve tried to make him happy

Tried–to bring him to a car wash--maybe he’d reappear clean and polished

And I’ve tried and tried and failed

time and time again

and despite it all he keeps living.

He keeps moving forward--Here

is a man who thinks he lives in a world that doesn’t love him back--

He’s wrong and each time he keeps living

He reminds me he is the bravest man I’ve ever met.

A comic-book dream, nature-loving Demi-God,

Each day I drive past a car wash I cling to his voice.

I say—That waterfall of a man has always been polished.

And he shines like it too.

A Son’s Trust

My father told me

He warned me

He said:

                          Remember who you are.

Only for it to take four years of college and

twice as many girls to totally forget

the places I find sanctuary in

He told me:

                          Reach for the moon. Reach for the stars.

But I find myself searching for pussy and power

in these bars--these poems are my walls

incased in brimstone they seldom fall:

                          I don’t trust things too often.

But as for my father,

I trust him.

I trust him often.

When Tomorrow Comes

and the followers roam,

they’ll ask of our existence.

Tell them we were born into a bottle of warmth

and found out how cold-hearted this cruel world could be.

Tell them

we faced darkness at the split of a cliff

but saw sun before dawn at the edge of a mountain peak.

They’ll ask of our existence.

Tell them we’ve built the back of our homes

with our spine to the sky and power in our palms.

Tell them

we lived in a city that collapsed in the sea

and we mustered the strength to form the monuments we lead.

They’ll ask of our existence.

Tell them we lived.

Tell them we lived in a house

that didn’t always feel like home.

Steven Valentine is a spoken word poet hailing from New York City and recipient of the Lena Horne Performing Arts Award from the UAlbany’s NAACP in 2013. He was later crowned the “Nitty Gritty” Slam Champion at Albany’s Music Hall, placed fifth in Jazz in the Gardens’ National Poetry Slam, and placed third at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in 2018. Steven then competed in the Individual World Poetry Slam and Rustbelt Poetry Festival later that year.

Dotted Line