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

Richard Parisio

On a Photograph Taken in Newark, 1929

I imagine he was bored. His job, taking pictures

of auto wrecks for an insurance firm.

He paused a moment here, let vision

of the row of buildings blur in the nimbus

of his cigarette. When it cleared

the alley between tenements

blocked by a slumped fence caught his eye.

Someone wanting in or out had pushed or pulled

then tramped the wooden pickets down.

The fence bears plastered-on advertisements

for entertainments, modern products pitched

to the idle or the curious passerby.

No soul in sight, a thought flashed

in the black box of his head: before

I built a fence . . . He set up his tripod,

fixed the vanquished barrier in his view,

pickets splayed like whales’ ribs on a beach,

the soot-dark alley brooding like the sea.

He held his breath and flung the shutter open:

the flash he made was lightning with no rain.

Before his shrouded face the scene

came into sudden focus and the secret

coded in these appearances

fossilized upon a copper plate.

Brown Creeper

Below the plate glass ramparts,

on the simple sidewalk, no tree near,

lay a mouse-sized clump of feathers.

Out-of-context bird, what whispered word

for forest brought you here? What lust

for space enticed you past your borders

into this mirror of the sky. You crashed

into our reality, you paragon of drab,

you match for bark and shadows.

I lift you by your spiked tail feathers,

good for hitching up trunks,

admire your bill’s curve, perfect

for probing crevices for spiders—

what else could you expect here in this city

but sudden death? For an exile

like you, brown alien, mesmerized

by mere reflection, where is real?

What refuge from sun-dazzle,

tumult, glass, and steel?

I bear you through these Newark streets

till I can lay you in a concrete

urn with pansies. Forget the crude

jest of a citizen of this rough place

hollered as we passed: “Who’s got

two slices of bread for that?”

Best melt into the soil of this planter,

dream your way back to leaf-

filtered light. Your body, intact,

pressed into the day, has made a shell

to tilt up to my ear: I listen

past the city’s screaming haste to hear

your lilt, your forest song.


Outside my morning window spills a wren’s

song, like a waterfall. No—effervescent—

like a spring that bubbles

from an unseen source.

Maybe I never really heard till Art King,

understated, most unwrenlike man,

pointed in the song’s direction, touched

a finger to his ear before he named the singer.

So many others, more accomplished:

orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and of course

the thrush—we first heard, then tried sighting

like augurers, scanning treetops for a sign.

Ready to retire Art King knew each bird

by its song, but hearing failed him in the upper

ranges: one of us young teachers, when we touched

an ear and pointed, might just get a shrug

from Art in answer. One such impossible note

he might or might not hear belonged to the tiny

Blackburnian warbler Art King called “the firethroat.”

The bird glimpsed was a match struck

in the leaves, a shock of orange flame

that blazes in the brain’s deep folds

four decades later. After those walks we each

went off to teach our classes—but enkindled,

as though we cupped a secret candle

against the wind all day. This morning

I salute the plain brown wren, though I can’t see him

answer with a tail flick from his thicket.


Master of nonchalance, the mockingbird

now stays through our northern winters

as if to say, we have entered the new

dispensation, the age of extremes,

when even this endless winter

bears the seeds of endless summer

like acorns under the snowdrifts.

The mockingbird goes for suet,

Leaves sunflower seeds to yankees, pine

siskins flashing sun-yellow from streaked wings.

The mockingbird’s hollow bones remember

the sultry south, where Spanish moss

beards the live oaks. He pours the honey

of his song into thick air, milk of moonlight.

Silent today, he bides his time,

can afford to, for the altered world

suits him fine: never mind those icy

blasts, it’s clear how things are going.

He’s been assigned to call out creatures

in endless mimicry, a roll call of the vanishing.,

The rests in his rollicking aria attest

to the mostly silent: tortoises, polar bears.

Growing up in the city’s outskirts I recall

his nonstop tour-de-force on summer nights.

Our bird-loving father feared the wrath

of neighbors kept awake might stop his mouth.

Fat chance. From his rooftop aerial pulpit

the revivalist preacher in his long gray coat

sang out and declared his own redemption:

here I am, here I am, singing, singing,

whose world, whose world, whose world

is it now?

The Honey Seeker

La Araña Caves, Spain

Sheathed in mesh mask, white suit, gloves, even high white

rubber boots, I kindled dry leaves and sumac berries to a smoldering

burn in the smoker. Working the bellows, I pumped gray

clouds of smoke around the hive before I dared to lift

a frame away. Mobbed by a posse of bees, I watched their city

with its capped wax cells filled up with slumbering larvae

rouse to repel the siege. I checked for dead or ailing

citizens, signs of mites, found none—left them in the peace

of their amber hoard, their throbbing, multitudinous life.

That day I took no honey, felt no sting, but was a gazer

only, witness to a bounty past my grasping, distilled

from the humming field, the crucible of flowers.

Six millennia have past since I went naked

to scale the limestone cliff to reach this womb.

On the cave wall, in red ochre, see my legs, my long arm

dangling, basket clutched in one hand while the other

plumbs the niche. I am stung and stung but hang on,

reaping, fool and thief and angel. I was chosen.

Richard Parisio has worked as an interpretive naturalist for over forty years, in the Everglades, Pocono Mountains, at Assateague Island, and, since 1984, in the Catskills and Hudson valley. He is currently NYS Coordinator for River of Words, a national children’s poetry and art contest on the theme of watersheds. His poetry collection, The Owl Invites Your Silence, won the 2014 Slapering Hol Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.

Dotted Line