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

Cassandra Sanborn

Bird Watching

See, I want to tell you about the crumbs on the windowsill—

or are they coffee grounds,

dark and small,

smearing against the fake wood?

—well, it doesn’t matter.

(You will say it never matters,

before you sigh,

tap one long finger against your glasses.)

I only want to explain:

our window isn’t

clean anymore.

But this is where we saw the birds

suddenly burst together from that tree,

the one with all the red berries

flinging themselves into the air

as if driven by some foe I could not see

as if the ground would melt their claws

or as if the dirt would cling to their feathers,

pull them beneath the grass.

I said I would

never want to be a bird

and you asked

why I wanted to live with my feet on the ground.

One bird fell from the group,

dropped straight down

onto the grass.

I said something about always wanting

a door to close.

You put your hand on my shoulder,

tangled cold fingers into my hair.

The fallen bird’s wing

bent behind her back.

I turned to answer you,

lost her in the grass.

Do you sit there on Sundays now,

while I am away trying to remember

how to love?

Do you eat your pancakes

and watch for her?

I had forgotten her slow hop,

the way she stayed behind.

Or perhaps they left her,

brown feathers half-hidden in green grass.

Last Night

Maybe the world began like this:

a hand,

palm up in the bottom of the basement

a quick gesture to the open window,

where arborvitae roots crawl through the screen

as if we have been hiding

better ground inside,

as if we know how to help them grow.

Three of us, awake,

and someone says something about isolation,

surviving the apocalypse

or roaming the stars.

Either way, all of us separated

from the world by that screen,

set apart from everyone sleeping above,

those left outside.

I lean back on the couch—

purple, overstuffed.

Gilded graduation announcements on the table,

gold against the dark wood.

Say I think it’s all because we want to be alone

us and the quiet of the basement:

the muted television,

the roots just tapping,

that vein of water creeping down the wall.

And Julie waves her hand again,

says if we’re pretending

let’s imagine it’s only space.

(We want our families to be alive,

staring up at the sky, imagining

we are that light no that one

waiting—we might return.)

Ellie maps out our ship,

blue ink on notebook paper,

five buildings united in air, five people in each.

Tell me who you would take.

Who do you take

when the universe is sprawled at your feet,

when launching means everyone else will just keep living,

lives spreading out below like roots in good dirt.

Ellie’s pen hovers over pale blue lines;

a breeze brushes my neck.

The roots in the window tremble.

Botany Lessons

On the radio, the man who can hold a note

longer than I can hold a breath

sings about fields in Indiana

and hickory trees.

His voice wobbles.

I have lived by his fields

and never seen a hickory.

Unless I did—

unless I, careless,

saw one, all rough bark

(complicated leaves)

and called it an ash,

wondered how it survived those bugs.

My mother’s grandmother would have known.

See, once she took the shotgun

from the closet in the laundry room,

propped it on her shoulder,

tried to kill a vulture

sitting on the fence in the shade.

See, he was looking

like he knew something

and goddamn those were her trees,

her walnuts rotting in the grass,

her birds hiding in the leaves.


When I get my letter from the graduate school,

my mother tells me about ink on her fingers

and typewriter tape,

stacks of papers crammed into corners,

retreats under golden, crumbling sycamore leaves.

Whispering to almost­brown grass:

The Star. The Post!

She puts her hands on my arm,

says, but I got all of you.

Her cold fingers—

how’s that for an inheritance?—

tighten, then release,

move up to stroke my hair.

A callus catches;

I wait for her to untangle the strands.

Of course I’d never give you up.

She frees them without looking,

her eyes on my letter.

My hair falls against my neck.


There is no carpet in the office,

just cool, green tile

so she slips off her shoes,

presses her toes against the ground,

lets the heat from her body slip

into fading linoleum.

She reads the financial report to me,

shakes her hair.

Curls bounce in the air

and I look at her shoes—

black leather, shiny,

but worn by the heel.

She has discarded them

like we would discard water bottles at the beach:

empty for a moment

until you need it again.

And for a moment I want to say

I just finally understood prayer—

but that’s another lie.

Maybe it’s only the kind of prayer

I knew when I was a girl:

hands clasped

like I was holding on to something,

reciting the names of the people I loved

until my father turned out my light,

and I, left in the dark,

let the words stop dripping off my lips.

Left them lying there,

a pile by my side,

waiting until morning.

Cassandra Sanborn studied creative writing at Purdue University and now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is her second publication in Sixfold.

Dotted Line