Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2015    fiction    all issues


Cover Peter Rawlings

J. H Yun
& other poems

Colby Hansen
Killing Jar #37
& other poems

Melissa Bond
Freud's Asparagus
& other poems

Jane Schulman
When Krupa Played Those Drums
& other poems

Susan F. Glassmeyer
First Moon of a Blue Moon Month
& other poems

Melissa Tyndall
& other poems

Micah Chatterton
& other poems

Emily Graf
& other poems

Kate Magill
LV Winter, 2015
& other poems

Michael Fleming
Meeting Mrs. Ping
& other poems

Richard Parisio
Brown Creeper
& other poems

Jennifer Leigh Stevenson
Circe in Business
& other poems

Laurel Eshelman
& other poems

Barry W. North
Molotov Cocktail of the Deep South
& other poems

Charles C. Childers
& other poems

Ricky Ray
A Way to Work
& other poems

Cassandra Sanborn
& other poems

Linda Sonia Miller
Full Circle
& other poems

J. Lee Strickland
Anna's Plague
& other poems

Erin Dorso
In the Kitchen
& other poems

Holly Lyn Walrath
Behind the Glass
& other poems

Jeff Lewis
Charles Ives, A Connecticut Yankee
& other poems

Karen Kraco
Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
& other poems

Rafael Miguel Montes
& other poems

Colby Hansen

The Lepidopterist

I rap on the front screen door

and press my forehead

against the wire mesh to see inside—

smelling Pall Mall smoke

and hearing that dry creak of chains

from the porch swing dangling on the eave.

There, on the seat:

the Echium Daily News,

open to the obituaries

because the lepidopterist always starts her day

by checking to see if she made it through the night.

She had a stroke a few years back,

smoking Pall Mall cigarettes on the front porch—

one moment flicking burning ashes into the grass,

and the next:

pitching over the rail,

some little artery in her brain

erupting like an overfilled water balloon.

Only her left side survived.

Her right has been dead ever since.

The rubber tip of her polished, mahogany cane

meets the linoleum of the kitchen floor.

I listen to her approach:

the thump of her cane;

the drag of her leg;

the rasp of her breath.

Ithonia Brushfoot hobbles toward me

on a path etched into the carpet

like tire ruts on a dirt road.




It is as if the line between Heaven and earth

has been drawn down the middle of her body,

and after all this time

she still doesn’t know which place she would rather be.

Lucky for me,

she cannot seem to leave Echium for good.

The lepidopterist,

you should probably know,

is the closest thing to a real friend I have.

Under Glass, Inside a Frame

She smiles her half-smile

and mumbles something ambiguous—

Hello, or, Let’s go—

while I pause to inspect the clusters of butterflies

lining her living room walls.

They look so alive I am almost surprised

they don’t flutter away when I stir them with my breath;

but these ones are dried and pinned—

because Ithonia Brushfoot seems to like them best

under glass, inside a frame.

You can’t always tell what she is saying,

ever since the stroke

left her tongue lolling inside her lopsided mouth

and pushing out words like marbles

that half the time fall to the floor

and roll away as marbles sometimes do.

But once,

when I found an old brass-framed photograph

on a table beside her bed

and asked,

Is this YOU?

she nodded her head—

a little to the left,

as if she was jostling water from her ear—

and told me,

clear as day,

I wasn’t always like this, dear.

The Killing Jars

Ithonia Brushfoot needs me

for everything that takes two hands to do—

cutting grass and changing pillowcases

or even the simplest things

you never knew

you couldn’t do

with only one hand until you actually tried:

opening envelopes or bottles of aspirin

and twisting the lid off a tube of toothpaste,

a gallon of milk,

or any one of the thirty-six killing jars

the lepidopterist keeps lined up

on a shelf inside her garage.

There’s a sun tea brewer, #9,

which smells of spearmint and chamomile

and is for the swallowtails so massive

you’d think their shadows were cast by birds;

and there’s an apricot baby food jar, #23,

which fits perfectly inside the palm of your hand—

just like the tiny Colorado hairstreak.

Their cyanide-speckled cakes of sawdust and plaster

crumble like old cement at the bottom;

and Ithonia Brushfoot’s wobbly,

old-fashioned handwriting labels each one—

permanent ink

on a single strip of masking tape

that time has curled and yellowed

into some stage of decay.

Thirty-six jars.

Thirty-six ways to smother a butterfly dead.

But don’t try to convince her it’s inhumane.

She’ll just glare at you through her one good eye,

muttering something ambiguous like,

And what’s YOUR hobby?


Just try to stop me.

Killing Jar #37

Ithonia Brushfoot’s garage

smells of stale Pall Mall smoke and poison—

and so I hold my breath,

like always,

making room on the workbench

littered with the tools of a lepidopterist:

straight pins and scissors;



rubber cement;

glass magnifying lenses.

And then there is Killing Jar #37—

a Strong Shoulder Mason

with a wide-open mouth and gritty zinc lid.


Smelling of dill.

Pickles, probably.

Ithonia Brushfoot glares at me

through her one good eye

as I measure out a single serving of crystalline cyanide.

A sharp, bitter smell wafts up around me

when I sprinkle it into the bottom of the jar.


she orders,

leaning forward on her mahogany cane—

and so I add another pinch.

The truth is

the difference between one spoonful of poison

and two

doesn’t mean a thing to a butterfly.

I’ve already peppered in a layer of sawdust

and a glob of gypsum plaster,

plus a sheet of crumpled tissue paper

to absorb moisture

and give her specimens a soft place to die.

Across the garage,

Ithonia Brushfoot nods—

a little to the left,

like always—

and the killing jar is complete.

I still get heartsick,

every time a butterflies dies.

What effect it has on Ithonia Brushfoot

is more of a mystery—

because ever since the stroke

you can only be sure of half

of what you think you see on her face.


her eyes betray her guilt;

but then she ruins it

by mumbling something ambiguous—

something like,

Go find me some pins,


Like you’ve never sinned.


I caught her today

with her nose inside the jar—

sniffing deep breaths

of poisonous fumes

and trying her best

not to cringe.

She heard me gasp;

hollered, Don’t sneak like that!


Go get my net!

and lit a cigarette

so she’d have a reason

to ventilate the space

now that she wasn’t alone.

But I saw what I saw.

And so when I let

that terrible jar

slip like a knot

through the crook in my arm

it’s on purpose—

I don’t care

if she knows.

Colby Hansen lives and works in Denver. He studied English at Portland’s Reed College and, later, elementary education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He now teaches third grade. Most of his projects, including the novel-in-verse he’s currently soliciting for publication, are for kids. Although he’s been writing for the last fifteen years, this is his first time in print.

Dotted Line