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

Hazel Kight Witham

The Week Before

Tonight we shimmy galactic

under strung constellations

beside fertile citrus

the desert a kind of starship

flinging us far from all we know

our tiniest torments

all we’ve left behind:

the boy, three years old,

the one we longed for

over two long years of clockwork trying

and then,

~can I say it?

when the crush

of parenthood smothered all,

how we forever longed to escape him

for just

a breath,

a minute,

a small visit to the old life

we were so determined to leave.

This desert night we shimmy, sway, swing,

and I pretend

the globe of my belly

full of a surprise second baby

is meant for

dance after dance

songcall summoning me to my feet

again, again, one more

even as my lungs are broke with bursting

six months is still babymooning time,

six months is still second trimester,

all energy and fine,

so much time still left

you have to

shake it while you can.

My man and I,

the new life before us

a new world between us

slung dizzy with orbiting only each other

for this one night when we are

fearless and wild

manic and mischievous

summoning the teenagers we once were

those kids who never met

until out here, all night,

broke with bursting,

like there is nothing to lose.

Hoofbeat Heartbeat

These four days are crowded and lonely

nurses quiet chaperones to a new world

I am citizened into, restrained by

thick tape pinchpulled over IV needle

oxygen monitor jawsnap on my big toe

legcuffs inflating to remind blood to flow

blood pressure cuff sighbiting

on its own accord first every fifteen,

then thirty,

then sixty minutes

All feeding the story of me, of us

to monitors that remind me regularly

of how my body is failing us both—

my swimming boy and me

Belly circumscribed by the fetal monitor

forever slipping from the spot where

it can listen in on the loping gait

of my tiny boy’s frantic heart

I learn to adjust it myself before the

nurses rush in to find the song of him again

I learn to heave

my beached broodmare body alone

when his heartbeat slows

because if I don’t they will do it for me

fevered and fast,

turnover turnover turnover othersideothersideotherside!!

I want to listen

because I need to know he is here

and so the soundtrack of these four sudden days

is the bah-bum, bah-bum, bah-bum

of his fast foal heart,

and I close my eyes and listen to him

hooves pounding some beach

we will someday run

bah-bum, bah-bum, bah-bum

a promise, a presence, an I’m here, and I’m fine

sure and steady most of the time

those hoofbeat heartbeats

that doubletime mine

the only thing that offers

any kind of comfort

in the empty open night.

First Visit

My feet braced on silver flips

my legs covered by hospital issue cloth

my sore everywhere body

still leadened by that

miracle metal magnesium

because, they say,

for two days after birth the risks increase

We twist through the halls

and we buzz for entry

into a hushed place

where I first stop

and stoop at a sink

peel back a sterile soap sponge

little plastic scrubbers

made to make me clean

two minutes I brace

new-seamed, scar-tugging

hunched against the pull and pain of it

watching a clock tick down

the seconds until I’m done.

Clean, seated again,

they push me in to the open-air pod

four babies four-cornered in the space,

he is in the back corner

beside a big window

that offers a view

that should not soothe:

a building,

all twisting pipes and mammoth machine

spitting steam into the dark night

as here, all around me,

space-age monitors attend to

the story of too-tiny babies

in numbers and sounds

and then


he is

closed in his new womb

bathing under violet lights

they say his skin needs to adjust

eyes cloaked by gauze sunglasses

all of him so tiny

my body clenches at the sight

so skinny, swathed in only

a diaper the size of a dollar bill,

too big for this tiny life

and oh, the lines:

through his nose,

into his arm

patch monitors sticking to thinnest skin

ET O2 toe glowing red,

a tangle of modern medicine

so different from soft simple swaddle

he sends a shatter through me

all over again,

and when I am told I can touch him

I am electric with fear

but I open the latch

to the portholes

of his small ship

I talk to him

and hope it’s true about voice,

that they know it from always,

and I reach into the warm cocoon

scar-stretched across my

own aching skin

to touch

dark damp hair

wonder-soft over spongy skull

all of him still forming

my whole hand

cupping across

the small globe

of all he is

My other hand finds his wildly

precise feet, the biggest part of him

all one and a half inches,

toe tips tiny rosepearls

and I press, gentle and still

and so

here it is

our first embrace

my arms bracing against ovals

my head leaning against plastic

my heart trying to leave my body

to enter that small humid universe

where everything



how to become unraveled

cut your seroquels in half

those pills that quelled

sleeping beasts

but made you sleep

just too deep

when rising at 3 am

has become part of your day’s

unceasing song

and you thought you’d

give your broken self

a little more pep

in the thinly threaded

night hours

when no one is up

but you

and the unquenchable thing

you strap yourself to

eight times each day

to make milk

to bring to the tiny baby

you only see

when you visit

the locked ward

for a clutch of hours each day

where he lays

every day

since he came

three months early

untangle the knots

and count the days

he’s been there


count the days

until he comes home

—no one knows—

count the ways

your life no longer

knows you

untie all of it

stack the to-dos

til they tower before you

and your stomach

twists new knots

and your body

won’t have sleep

it shakes you awake

to shake hands again

with that old

undoer anxiety

and you know

you know

you should probably

be under the care

of an expert in these things

before you go

halving your pills

but its all so tangled now

and you can’t imagine

how you’d unfurl the mess

to some expert

and it’s been so long

since you were in

your own locked ward

that you’ve earned the

title of expert now

but a baby—

especially one that comes

three months too early

and just in time

all one pound, ten ounces—

can do things

to unravel

the knots of a ladder

you so methodically tied

you are the expert now

and you aren’t sure

you’ll listen

to someone who

cannot hold all the threads


and besides,

you tried

you made an appointment

they just didn’t have one

for three months

three days after

his original due date

and So

you gather the threads

in those

fraying indigo hours

and braid them again

into something

that might hold

and hope

to hold on

until then.

Hazel Kight Witham lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young sons. She teaches English Language Arts in a big public high school, where her students offer constant inspiration. Her work has been published in Rising Phoenix Review, FlashFlashClick, NonBinary Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. She loves how poems can transform the smallest moments of her day into revelations, and help in the slow slog toward kid bedtime.

Dotted Line