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

Nicole Yackley


To explore a city, you must leave the apartment.

To leave the apartment, you must have gas in the car,

you must know where the car keys are,

you must leave the dog behind. To leave the dog behind

without her crying, you must give her something to eat,

you must move everything else that a dog could eat

out of reach. At this point, you’ve thought about food

too many times not to be hungry. To find something to eat,

you must look in the fridge and close it again.

You must open the fridge. If there’s still nothing

you want to eat, you must go to the grocery store,

but not right now—today is reserved for discovery.

You open the pizza app but have forgotten your password.

You go to reset the password but what you type in won’t work

because it’s the previous password. You order a pizza.

The dog scratches at the door. She’s bored,

so you ignore her. To explore a city, you must know

how to get there. You must open up Google

and type in parking, find an address, fall down

the wiki wormhole of when the parking meters

were replaced, their fancy new interface touch sensitive.

You must know if they require quarters, if you must pay

on the weekend or after 5. To save the change,

you decide to wait till after 5. The pizza hasn’t arrived.

It must be any minute now, so when the dog whines,

scratches lines in the paint of the door with nails

you meant to trim last Thursday, you ignore her.

To explore the city, you must be in the right mood,

convinced the buzz behind your eyes means

excitement, not anxiety. When the knock comes

and the dog wets the carpet with excitement

or anxiety or because the pizza is twenty minutes late,

when the person apologizes, you must say it’s fine

because you don’t know how to be angry

to someone’s face. Before you eat the pizza,

you must take the dog out. You must clean the carpet.

It will be after 5 and the buzzing behind your eyes

is no longer anxiety, but you don’t know where

the car keys are and there’s always tomorrow.

Mea Culpa


An election ago we thought the world was ending. That its last legs

might last a month, a month and a half, after the votes were cast,

but the scales tipped in the right direction for once, and the year

was redeemed as non-apocalyptic. This year cannot be redeemed.

All the photos of suffering have been rereleased in color on the widescreen.

Overexposure eats the heads off anyone who tries to lift them.

Was Paris this year? Turkey? Nice? We’re marking time in new disasters,

each worse than the ones before because there were ones before

and it happened anyway. Each somehow more and less real.

I toured campus the second week of June,

slept in an unfamiliar setting and woke

to too-familiar news closer to home

than I was: 50 lost—

in the city where my brother taught—

No, not lost, shot—

in the state where my sister taught—

50 dropped whose brother’s blood

wasn’t good enough to save them—

50 coopted into sad sounds by “saints”

who made it anything but what it was.

How is this much blood not enough

to name it? (homophobia, transphobia,

xenophobia, Islamophobia—) Our Fault.

I learned about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

only when I learned about Dallas. I didn’t watch the video.

I didn’t want to witness a murder the way I would a movie of a murder.

I didn’t want to be reminded I was useless. I was selfish

and didn’t want to be reminded I was selfish.

I told myself my tongue wasn’t good enough to save them.

We set the bar this year at non-apocalyptic and tripped

long before we reached it. No matter how apologetic

or apoplectic the politicians pretend to be about

the ever-increasing number of horsemen

(racism, sexism, ableism—as if our friends

needed new ways for us to hurt them)

horsemen who kicked sand in our faces, and made

the ground uneven, yet we keep building stalls

in which to house them.

Mom called me crying three days after Dallas.

She’d sung “Here Comes the Sun” as a friend

walked down the aisle and her cousin

died in a restaurant in Alabama.

We had to put my dog down

the same day we drove to the funeral and it felt

fitting. Appropriate for this clusterfuck of a year.

How many days, how many hours between shootings?

How many have I ignored because I can’t mourn them

separately anymore? In my family

I’m the heartless one, and here I am, still crying.


I excise my anger through scalpelwork—

to get the quiet back, I’d carve down to bone.

Remove the moment to remove the hurt.

I lay you out, slice the belly first,

slip my hand inside to find the growth—

I excise my anger through scalpelwork.

Before the tumult that shook our secret world,

I trusted your heart as if it were my own

removed. To halt the momentum of hurt

I unearth the organ, scrape off the cells that burst

from your raised voice. As all good doctors know,

when speech is not enough, a scalpel will work.

The eyes I cannot meet, I cleanse of dirt,

rinse the residue of ire from your throat.

As I relive the moment, the more it hurts.

I’ll stitch up the body and act, as I’ve rehearsed,

as if there were no wrong. Change is always worse, so

I’ve excised my anger through scalpelwork.

Remove the moment, remove the hurt.

The Minotaur Gets a Nose Ring

The Minotaur gets a nose ring to be

ironic. A septum piercing to be

exact. He goes to the bar to be

a little less himself and dances with anyone

who doesn’t mention it. To be

gilded with a symbol that meant follower

but doesn’t mean follower anymore.

To remind himself when he feels too bee

fy that he is bull, is bovine—that he half rhymes

with divine and is alive from divine inter

ference. To embrace his wild side

and by wild he means too be

autiful for human skin to hold.

Undressing My Mother

after Robert Hass

I talk in storms, in myth

to skirt the subject. What I have to say

is said in whispers in closed rooms

while my brother or sister

stand guard at the door.

The worst of it is

                          she’s going to read this

The worst of it is

                          she reads everything I write

Her body is not novelty. I have seen

the mirrors of my mother

stacked endlessly upright

as she undresses in the evening.

I have followed the trajectory of my own shape

as it parades past windows I imagine

the Lommens have been shocked into ignoring.

Look at my mother in the mirror,

where she’s harmless.

Did this power of hers        to meet

your eye      as she removes her bra,

to hold a conversation stepping out

of lace underwear,      begin in hospital?

Leave your hand too near,

unattended, and      she will press it

         to the hollow in her breast

where the port was following the blood

clot. What     does     she     want

me to believe? I have come to know

it doesn’t take a wholeness to survive.

Pray for us sisters, now and at the hour of

I was the one who found her. My dad adding more Italian seasoning to the burgers than he could get away with with her in the kitchen, leaving out the Worchestershire sauce altogether. The three of us in the living room, close enough to smell the sizzle, far enough not to have to help and my brother volunteered for me to check on her—

Looking back, she was naked. She couldn’t have been, looking back, just woken from a nap, a stop by the bathroom before dinner, but her presence in my mind feels naked, pale against the red against the tile, slumped on the floor, as pale as the tile—

Dad told me to call 911; I handed him the phone.

Pray for us sisters that now is not the hour of

What is secret? What is s a c r e d?

Who    gave you the right    to enter

the bathroom, to soak    your socks

in my mother’s blood and track it

on the tile?                               Did I

open this door    to avoid my anger?

This was after the surgery. After my parents’ banquet without my parents,

my brother making me laugh on the drive, absence drowning in denial.

There is a letter hidden in my drawer where she says goodbye.

There have been too many times my brother watched me cry.

A year to the day, my mother drove us to the banquet and she was cruel and I cried. She made me hug her and in my mind she was anesthetized and under a knife and I wanted to hug a different her and I didn’t want to hug her.

The worst       is

                          she’s going to read

The worst of it

                                     everything I write

My mother is most vicious when she feels turned upon—

don’t look at her directly. In the mirror,

she is breakable and therefore human.

Follow the silver of her scars—she jokes

they should put a zipper in, for next time.

I am not afraid of her nakedness or the seam

where they took the cancer out, gave her a metal heart.

How is it continually surprising

that my mother isn’t nice?

Sickly sweet, sure, southern belle,

sure, birdwatcher, naturelover, yes,

all these things and more,

I have been blest with the best

of parents. It is sacrilege

to speak against her.

What gives me the right to unzip her for you?

To shove my mother to the center of the room

and turn the AC on until the point is clearer.

Does stranding her in the cold afford us clarity?

I love my mother. After the cancer and the surgery,

the chemo, radiation, the blood clot and the bypass.

After the cruelty and the tears and the distance now to say this

without a sibling at the door, standing guard.

There have been too many times we almost said goodbye.

This is a catalogue of when you made me cry.

Stay for us sisters, now and forever.

Nicole Yackley is a poet and artist from GA. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Belletrist Magazine, Sunset Liminal Magazine, Z Poetry, Phoenix Literary Magazine, and performed as part of a chamber piece at the 2019 Nief-Norf Festival, among others. She has a BA in English from UGA and an MFA from UTK. More of her poetry can be found at

Dotted Line