Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2016    fiction    all issues


Cover Joel Filipe

Alexander McCoy
Questions to Ask a Mountain
& other poems

Alexandra Kamerling
& other poems

Debbie Hall
She Walks Into Starbucks Carrying a 2 x 4
& other poems

Michael Fleming
& other poems

Jim Pascual Agustin
Sheet and Exposed Feet
& other poems

Melissa Cantrell
& other poems

Martin Conte
& other poems

AJ Powell
The Road to Homer
& other poems

Paul W. Child
World Diverted
& other poems

Michael Eaton
& other poems

Lawrence Hayes
Walking the Earth
& other poems

Daniel Sinderson
Like a Bit of Harp and a Far Off Twinkle
& other poems

Sam Hersh
Las Trampas
& other poems

Margo Jodyne Dills
Babies and Young Lovers
& other poems

Nicole Anania
To the Dying Man's Daughter
& other poems

Lisa Zou
Under the Parlor
& other poems

Hazel Kight Witham
Hoofbeat Heartbeat
& other poems

Margaret Dawson
& other poems

James Wolf
An Act of Kindness
& other poems

Jane A. Horvat
& other poems

Bill Newby
& other poems

Jennifer Sclafani
Hindsight Twenty Twenty
& other poems

Melissa Cantrell


You were always there, it seemed, at the edges,

gripping the hems of my weekend scenes.

I, the allegiant regular—

The bartenders knew my bottles,

allowed tabs. I did not bluster, or get muddy.

I left upright, with dignity and dollars in my pocket.

You flitted, sulked, and roamed all over the joint,

your orbit slushy, sequenced to a design

only you could follow.

Some nights, you plinked an entire roll of quarters into the jukebox,

sifted out some lovelies from the stacks:

Donny Hathaway if you ached.

Coltrane for storms, sorting the debris in your head.

Zeppelin or Jack White, if you wanted to brawl.

You screamed for someone to turn it up.

Swagger with a pool cue guitar.

I caught you howling in the bathroom once.

Pretended I hadn’t, and retreated.

You came out wearing lipstick the shade of an open vein

and left with your arms around a dizzy girl,

her neck spattered crimson.

You probably weren’t merciful that night.

You were discussed.

She spreads trouble.


I outgrew turbulence long ago.

Tossed it furious and berserk and spitting,

a mad thing with plague in its blood.

Shirked a bursting city too gutter sharp for me

and staggered West, to unravel in peace

with the rest of the quiet folk.

So I tried to ignore you.

But you just bustled in tonight,

all yawning havoc and catastrophe,

and skid a glass next to mine,

your ante for uprooting my waveless world.


July 7th, and the fireworks loiter—

Elemental fizzles to my north,

cracking the night open

like a lover with rude hands.

Take that. Feel that.

A wallop of copper, zinc, aluminum, iron.

Most times, the chemistry gets folded up,

discarded beneath the shiver and boom.


Or not caring:

We quarter the same fuels, tourists in our blood.

We’re burning up there, too.


At the next table, intruding—

a clump of youth.

Crooked, dropped-razor hair, unfinished faces.

Kick started and roaring,

slinging wide ideas over waffles and eggs.

You drag out the usual colossal savages to debate:

Death. War. Love.

But remotely, just nibbling the corners.

Notions deprived of knowing anything so stout,

or final, as those beasts.

Ozone and poses in your mouths.

The residue left when experience withers,

and all your crowing gives out.

Something mean uncoils in me at your noise.

I want to say:

You are as significant as ortolans,

glutted with a mash of half-grown gospel.

Your end will be just as horrible,

but you won’t gnash or scrabble

when the brandy barrel locks shut.

Taken by surprise.


(Your ramparts were so radiant, so tough, how did they fail?

Cobbled of followers, feeds, personas—

garbage slathered in every crevice, to keep out the rain and ruin.)

Spines duped into believing

a hashtag hits harder than what’s waiting for you outside,

in the years rattling ahead.

I’ve met the slashing gods.

I’ve learned to salute lesser ones.

Those who really understand how to sink into the gray spots:

Comfort. Quiet. Rest.

The burn cures of aging.

I want to say these things.

Give warning before you tumble out of this place.

Be the sapped, seen-it-all diviner

who lurches in, rips up your rails,

alters the story before it’s too late.

Instead, I let you carry on.

(Struck feeble and flightless.)

Pay my check.

Leave you to prod giants,

already hearing your bones crunch between their teeth.

Melissa Cantrell lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma with her wife, Stefani, and a passel of rescued dogs. She has worked in fields ranging from theatre arts to public service to animal rescue, but has always felt the stubborn tug of writing, and has continued scribbling words between bouts of earning paychecks. Thanks to the disordered tracks she’s made so far, and a penchant for reading, she’s a fantastic trivia partner.

Dotted Line