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

Debbie Hall

She Walks Into Starbucks
Carrying a 2 x 4,

her frayed wool greatcoat

scented with mold, white hair swirling

about her face as she scans the room

and shuffles to the counter

for a free coffee sample and cup of water.

Without warning, she lifts her 2 x 4

and swings at the air behind her,

sends the other patrons fleeing

like a small burst of quail startled

from their bushes.

Let this serve as a warning,

she shouts to the air above her.

Perhaps there are malevolent spirits

that hover above her,

follow her wherever she goes,

or perhaps she is simply announcing

herself, claiming her right

to walk on this small patch

of real estate, to step across the thin line

separating us from her.

The Geese at Camp Fallujah

Next to the city of mosques stretching

across arid land, a compound

of tents and concrete buildings

stood next to a water supply—The Pond.

In a landscape where Humvees roared in,

kicking up great clouds of sand,

and Howitzers fired into air

electric with conflict, the geese

presented their newborn

balls of fuzz with orange beaks

to a city of Marines in camouflage.

Each night after dropping

75-pound packs onto hard earth,

the men checked on the downy goslings,

keeping count of each one

until the babies grew plump and tall,

ambled down the road with their flock

past sandbagged bunkers

in the rising light of dawn.

Why Stray Cats Loiter Around The Duarte Family Mausoleum

That day the sky was brushed with a wash of cirri

at the Recoleta Cemetery. The Argentinian workers

wove their way through thick clots of tourists choking

the gateway. Twelve stray cats emerged from the dark

of the tombs and began a procession past the doorways

of deceased notables. A one-eyed tomcat sniffed the marble

statuary lining the lanes and lifted his tail

to spray the slumbering boy angel before nibbling

the crumbs of empanadas. He stopped to rub against

the doorway to Evita’s final home, shining the bronze

with his whiskers before hissing at a groundskeeper

who kicked him away like a wad of trash. The Lady of Hope

kept a silent watch over this bit of cruelty, but stray cats

know that Little Eva will take care of them. Yesterday

they saw her in the eyes of a dowager offering small morsels

of herring and biscuits. Today she inhabits a spray of water

washing the dust from their thin, matted coats. Tomorrow

they will hear her voice call to them from deep in her vault,

once more inviting them into the shadows, safely home,

away from our indifferent cameras, our transient curiosity.

I saw how they ignored me and expected nothing else.


As a teen, rules and responsibility were never your strong suit.

At least you shrugged them off quietly—

no grand displays of defiance or bravado, no swearing

or railing at the unfairness of it all. You never labored

over explanations or rationalizations, much preferring

the comfortable mantle of passivity. You were sympathetic

to others’ frustrations with you—your wasted intellect,

lack of application, no concern for your future. You joined your family

in throwing up hands of exasperation over you.

Years of therapy chipped away at the early traumas: Dad—drunk,

hands in the wrong places on your sister. On you.

You shrugged that off too. Asked about your feelings, you let

your sister speak for you, let her pain describe yours, watched her

work through the hard stuff. You played a supporting role.

When I saw you years later, you wore a uniform of pressed navy,

crisp white and confidence. You shared your plans for the future

as though they’d been in your head all along. Imagine my shock,

then, when I heard about your car, abandoned at the top

of the Mason Street Bridge, no note in sight. I read

the tributes to you on our hospital’s website, details about your

funeral. Front and center, your picture, your grin—now gone.

Missing Jayden

Here in front of me—in my memory—

stands a small boy,

his nose almost touching mine,

his sloe-eyed gaze an invitation.

He is talking with great intensity

about vacuum cleaners.

Hoover is his favorite brand.

He wants to know mine

and how many do I own right now.

Apparently he is a hellion

in his kindergarten classroom.

His principal and teacher assert

that he has little respect

for authority, as he routinely

fails to follow instructions

and interrupts them constantly,

sharing facts about vacuums

and their accessories.

His grandmother cares for him

while his mother marks time with heroin

and his father does time upstate.

She loves him but is plumb out of ideas

and bone-tired. Jayden enjoys our testing

sessions, especially before and after,

when we extend our dialogue

about vacuum cleaners. He would like

a new one, but cannot afford it.

When I tell his grandmother

that Jayden is a bright boy with autism,

her eyes fill up with liquid relief.

Jayden’s school does not take as kindly

to this news, certain that he is just

a smart boy behaving badly

and has us conned. It took two weeks

to spring Jayden from the special school

for behavior problems, two months

to finish talking about his time-outs

in the isolation room. At our last session

together, Jayden held a photo in front

of my face, almost touching my nose.

In it, he stood next to his new blue Hoover,

its extra-long hose wrapped around his waist.

Debbie Hall is a psychologist and writer whose poetry has appeared in San Diego Poetry Annual 2015-2016, City Works Literary Journal, San Diego Writers, Ink Anthology volumes 5 and 8, Serving House Journal, Swamp Lily Review and Tuck Magazine. Her essays have appeared on NPR (This I Believe series), in USD Magazine, The San Diego Psychologist, and the San Diego Union Tribune. She is currently enrolled in Pacific University’s MFA program in writing.

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