Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2018    fiction    all issues


Cover Elena Koycheva

Bryce Emley
Asking Father What’s at the End
& other poems

AJ Powell
& other poems

Faith Shearin
& other poems

Claire Van Winkle
& other poems

Sarah W. Bartlett
Summer Cycles
& other poems

Nooshin Ghanbari
& other poems

Meli Broderick Eaton
The Afterlives of Leaves
& other poems

Jeddie Sophronius
& other poems

Paula Bonnell
In Winter, By Rail
& other poems

Addison Van Auken Waters
& other poems

Daniel Sinderson
& other poems

Andrew Allport
All Nature Will Fable
& other poems

Marte Stuart
What an Insult Time Is
& other poems

Matthew Parsons
My Father as an Inuit Hunter
& other poems

Emily Bauer
Gently, Gently
& other poems

Bruce Marsland
A once lovelorn bard’s final journey
& other poems

Beatrix Bondor
Night Makers
& other poems

Isabella Skovira
Lawless Conservation
& other poems

Juan Pablo González
Colombia, 1928
& other poems

Molly Pines
The Pillbug
& other poems

Jamie Marie
On the Lake
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
If You Show Me Yours
& other poems

Bill Newby
Tuesdays at The Seagate's Atlantic Grille
& other poems

Elder Gideon
Male Initiation Rites
& other poems

Joel Holland
Dear Gi-Gi
& other poems

Martha R. Jones
How Lewis Carroll Met Edgar Allan Poe
& other poems

Writer's Site

Claire Van Winkle


for Kat

The woman in Admitting sits      in her reinforced fish tank

all day, smacking her      gum and scratching

between her legs      when she thinks the wait-

ing room’s back      is turned. The light

flickers like a foot      tapping or breath catch-

ing how sickness catches      in a scorched throat.

Only this lock-and-key      sanctuary could hold

such deviant light—its switch-      blade of fluorescence

on bullet-proof glass,      its warped waves and pockmarks.

The desk-girl doesn’t know      what we know. She hasn’t learned

the art of knitting      shadows, of fitting

tight into the corners      one conjures in this labyrinth

of knock-kneed chairs.      All she knows is hair

spray and fingernails—      not cut short, like ours,

or bitten to the quick.      No, from cuticle to curved edge

hers are sharps,      contraband. Her hands tell us

that she is on the out-      side. Their thick nails

will pick the ward’s lock      at the end of her shift.

She’ll clock out before the snug      chain of electricity

is released from the overhead      lights. She’ll go out,

get a cab, get laid.      We know she holds at least

one skill we can’t grasp:      we will still see

her bruised-berry lips      long after she’s punched out,

and the smell of her hairspray      won’t quit, but by six

we’ll have vanished      from her varnished world.

We admit it’s not the glass      or needles or men

in white who hold us here      for our own good. No,

what keeps us guarded goes deeper:      That bored girl at the desk

is a mistress of the art      of missing nothing

she’s lost or left behind      while we are stuck

here in this strip-searched      light with our past lives

laid out like tarnished      cutlery. We roll up

our sleeves, bare      our hearts and teeth, and shock ourselves

as we attempt to commit

the theory of forgetting

to                                                                                         memory.


There is technical language to describe a cat whose ovaries have been removed, but the word they used was fixed.

As in:
The day we had her fixed we picked her up and she was stoned, heavy as a sack of rocks.
We hauled her home, doing our best not to stretch the translucent film of exposed skin—her shaved underside cross-stitched by that mad embroidery where they’d sealed her shut with one ragged seam.

As in:
She’d just been fixed and we were afraid we might break her.

Peach Picking

You said you picked me ’cause I wore white stockings & no lipstick & in the low light I looked a little like your kid sister Etta. Said you liked how I was all elbows. That you could tell from the get my pussy would taste like peaches.

You’re s’posed ta smile now, sugar pea, you said. So I did.

Before long, you got used to me—your favorite pit-stop on that beat-up highway from here to heaven and back.

I figured you’d tire quick, come to see that stockings run & lips crack & no matter how fresh & clean a thing starts, if your hands are dirty it’s gonna get stained. After some mileage I even told you plain: Peaches ain’t so pretty once they’re bruised.

True, you said. Then you spat on your rough palm, got yourself wet, hitched up my skirt & pushed into me. But damned if they don’t taste sweeter.

Mother Tongue

for Stacy

Stacy dreamt of cocks that spoke

Mexico City Spanish—rolling hard,

every syllable requiring tongue,

the body’s pestle grinding city dust

into its mortar. Coño de madre, she’d slur

through sleep, pressed into the dressing room’s

beat-up couch—restless,

sucking her thumb.

It was the only time she’d shut her mouth all night.

Inevitably the phone would ring, or one of us

would run a stocking and curse, and Stacy

would stir—irritable, like a child

whose pacifier has dropped out of reach.

She’d smack her lips, twist them to bare

her ruined teeth, and hiss What’re you putas lookin’ at?—

her voice all throat, her dripping thumb jabbing the air, slick

as meat on a spit.


She named her rabbits Zyprexa

and Xanax. Zyprexa made me

uneasy; he’d get loose

at all hours, wander to our bedroom,

and make small sounds like

the sucking of old shoes

in wet weather. He was the color

of dirty bed sheets and he smelled

like cabbage, but she loved him.

She called him Zippy.

When I asked about the scat on the floor

around his cage she said

the greenish lumps were pellets—

that rabbits ate their own crap

to get what they’d missed

the first time around.

She told me she liked rabbits

because they knew how things worked

and handled their shit


Claire Van Winkle writes poetry and prose. She teaches at several CUNY and SUNY schools and is the founder of the Rockaway Writers’ Workshop. In addition to her creative and academic pursuits, she works as a writing therapist researching and applying creative workshop strategies to inpatient psychiatric care. She is the recipient of several honors and awards. Her work appears in various publications including anthologies by Black Lawrence Press and Rogue Scholars.

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