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

Margaret Dawson

I See the Future in Your Mouth

There in the X-ray—your five-year old skull

a premonition of itself in the grave.

Behind each milk tooth the grown ones loom,

Tombstones askew, vying to be first to break

the gum line and mark the lost babies with no remorse

for making crooked the clean straight rows

measured as the meter of nursery rhymes

that trilled across their white surface.

Pressing your tender-smooth cheeks

I try to feel the harbingers of adult-hood,

of the cutting ahead, some ghost braille

cells that spell your story, code I

cannot read. More solid than flesh they will lie

with you long after I stop sharing your pillow.

They will shape the words you form

your life with, language I only hope to understand.

Unkind reminders, lucky gatekeepers

of your breath. They will know you—

blood and bone, better than I—I who grew them in you while you grew in me—

they will guard your secrets, daughter, cradle to grave.

The Cert

My grandmother’s blue raincoat takes me by surprise

Here is her closet behind dry-cleaner’s plastic, the rip

In the pocket finally fixed. I remember her eyes

Finding me crouched behind the darkness of her perfumed dresses, my lip

Bit, eyes clenched (instantly invisible), broken beads ready to rain

From my clutched hands. But, innocent now, into the cuff I slip

My hand to find her—smooth nails, rings, the pillowy veins

She hated, wishing gloves still a must in ladies fashion. I tear

The clear sheath and look for missed stains

That might map the course we traveled—that root beer

Spill from lunch at Friendly’s is now just shadow.

I press my face to the wide lapel but don’t find her there

Either. Guiding my arms through the sleeves—too short—though

In the mirror I make her move again, feel her low

Voice in the warmth of the upturned collar,

In the pocket, a Cert, half-way to powder.


I inspected the buds at night with my dad

to see which might bloom by morning.

Still I was always surprised by the red

or peach that burst forth from the heart

of the blossoms and enlivened the quiet

green bank. We made sure to get a picture;

they were only there for the day, but the picture

would last much longer. You think of becoming a dad

when I come home today as we sit in the quiet

kitchen smiling. You make toast in the morning,

ask how I feel, say you love me with all of your heart.

I laugh at your doting and ask for the red

raspberry jam, but you say there’s no red

only black. I look at my belly, try to picture

how it will pop out and how the little heart

beat will get strong. I’ve been watching, like my dad,

for the daylilies, but it’s early yet, only May this morning.

The green swords protect the roots, but the top’s pursed lips are quiet.

I leave the radio off and enjoy the quiet

drive to work. The coats of the thoroughbreds

steam; the rain has hushed the morning.

At lunch I go to the library and leaf through picture

books, ones I had as a child. A young dad

guides the scissors as his daughter cuts a heart

from pink paper. It’s an I Love You Heart,

she beams to her father, forgetting the rule about quiet.

He puts a finger to his lips, and I see you as a dad.

In the bathroom I find a bright red

has filled the bowl. At the doctor’s they scan another picture,

but there is no longer shows the pulse of the first morning.

The blood comes heavy in the night, and in morning

you’re still awake by my side. I lay my head on your heart,

am soothed by its beat. I think of the small paper picture

and the glowing shape that was its center. I stay quiet,

hold my hand to my belly and wait. We watch the red

blossom on the sheet; Someday, you’ll be a great dad.

I remember the morning you thought you’d be a dad,

a picture of the future as clear as the coming red

or peach daylilies, before the heart went quiet.

Margaret Dawson teaches English in New York City. She lives there with her husband and two children. She studied literature and poetry at Columbia University and Middlebury College. When she is not teaching, grading, or shuttling the little ones about, she is working on a collection of poetry about the big meaning in the little moments.

Dotted Line