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

Writer's Site

Martin Conte


Without the princess headdress,

    jango jive do rag,

mother’s skull stretched bare—

spotty crust of hilltop,

tall grass are clumps of hair,

decaying under boulder.

Tufts clung where she left them

    to stick from kerchief—

my Queen, my Hippolyta—

stray antennae, strands of memory.

She came downstairs uncovered once,

emerged earthworm, caught me

    with eyes wide.

This mother not mine, this woman

    unknown. Once,

when I was four, I learned to braid

    her waist length cascade,

fibers of her being, feeling part—

Oh Queen, Oh Hippolyta—

of her tumorless universe.

After chemo, it grew in

gray and brittle, a brillo scrub.

She chopped it to military attention.

Now it drapes, chainmail of the knight,

clinking over shoulders, shining with frost.

My Queen, My Hippolyta:

you are dressed for battle.


Ichthyosis is a family of disorders characterized by dry or scaly and thickened skin.

When Narcissus finally disturbed the water,

out leapt a salmon, shimmered fish

to baby, human, unwieldy and foreign,

landlocked lips chapped without gills.

My body was disaster, dying faster

day by day. I was no miracle

no flower petals here, just

suicidal sandpaper scales.

My grandfather, filleting fish,

fit me in the skin.

Ichthyosis, jutting long line in a short poem.

At school they ooh and aah

queues of them to touch the grit,

crinkling white clutch shunting

off a dying birch.

Show them the unaching scars

as if I received these

symboled marks

for their breath only!

says Coriolanus in English class.

We're their side-show, a need

to know how riddled we are, and so

to feel smooth themselves.

Will they recognize me

in tomorrow's skin suit

rioting roots beneath

the bed, polluted air

of me and my dead?

Have they consumed me yet?

I die faster

minute by minute.


4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie . . .

as the needle's eye looks for mincemeat inside.

Who knew they could all fit?

Unfolding a thousand times

over, from plant to blue to needle's plow

across the blank hayfield of my leg.

They're coming up for me.

How do they see through

such a black lens?

The crow's sense

is underestimated

at the estimator's expense.

"What will you name her?"

the tattoo mystic says to me,

tickling my thigh like a baby's,

while the crow's belly

with its tender sheet

inches over my shy body

like ink on the underside of heaven.

She's made it over my chest,

nipples a smudge,

disappearing towards my inside

horizon, hairy skies.

My skin repeating itself,

black limb on black limb

making what white is left glow alien,

splintered web of moon

at the bottom of a stone well.

the punk poet tattoo lady

has a mother's unbreaking touch.

The crow's wing brushes

the nape of my neck.

I'm drowning in them.

Crows don't down,

their baby feathers

are never found.

Martin Conte is a devoted citizen of Portland Maine, where he tinkers at writing, reading, walking, editing, and educating. His work has appeared previously in Sixfold, as well as in Words & Images, Glitterwolf, Aurorean, and others. The above poems are a part of an unpublished chapbook of “body” poems. Photo credit: Savannah Leaf.

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