Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2019    fiction    all issues


Cover Florian Klauer

Meli Broderick Eaton
Three Mississippi
& other poems

Andrea Reisenauer
What quiet ache do you wear?
& other poems

Alex Wasalinko
Two Dreams of Vegas
& other poems

AJ Powell
The Grammar Between Us
& other poems

Emma Flattery
Our Shared Jungle, Mr. Conrad
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney
The Desert Cometh
& other poems

Sarah W. Bartlett
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
Jaybird by the Fence
& other poems

Brandon Hansen
& other poems

Andy Kerstetter
The Inferno Lessons
& other poems

Michael Fleming
Space Walk
& other poems

Richard Cole
Perfect Corporations
& other poems

Susan Bouchard
Circus Performers
& other poems

Edward Garvey
Nine Songs of Love
& other poems

Mehrnaz Sokhansanj
Sea of Detachment
& other poems

Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius
& other poems

Claudia Skutar
Homage II
& other poems

Donna French McArdle
Knitting Sample
& other poems

Megan Skelly
Puzzle Box Ghazal
& other poems

Tess Cooper
& other poems

Greg Tuleja
& other poems

Catherine R. Cryan
& other poems

Susan Bouchard

An Apology To My Best Friend

I didn’t mean to take your dress

But you know you are too much for me

All that confidence that you wear

It’s so theatrical.

You command attention and 

I wanted a chance at that 

Let me show you—teach you, you said

But I knew you didn’t mean that

You really like your power over me

And I succumb to your strength

(And my jealousy)

So while you were working and I was waiting

At your apartment

I tried on your wispy light blue dress

The one that follows you in folds so unnaturally perfect

I can never tell if you move the dress or the dress moves you.

I thought the dress would transform me into you

It zipped up so smoothly and I was hopeful

Even my stomach fluttered for a moment

Your skin on me might make all the difference

But my insecurities leaked right through your dress 

And changed it.

It was not like a new skin on me

My skin is too thin, too translucent, to be yours

I knew I would end up infecting your precious dress

(But I hoped I wouldn’t)

And I didn’t mean to crunch your dress into a ball

And stuff it in my purse

I planned to have it cleaned and return it on another day

When you were working.

But the stains didn’t come out and 

I couldn’t tell you about the damage

(You know how you love your clothes)

So I brought your blue dress home 

And I promise I only wear it occasionally

Just on days when I’m trying to be hopeful

But now it looks more like me and less like you.

It doesn’t smell like you anymore

Your scent of pure, fresh wash 

Is completely gone

(I loved that scent) but

I sat on my couch in your dress and

Tucked my knees to my stomach and wrapped myself in your skin

And hugged you, along with my knees, and 

Covered my legs in all that blue 

Taking deep sniffs and for a while, I held you inside.

I should have paced myself 

But you know how impulsive I am

So I wasn’t able to preserve you in your dress

And I can’t talk to you anymore 

Because I stole your dress

And its seams are fraying and the hem is uneven

And it smells like burnt toast and buttered popcorn

My scent overpowered yours (I didn’t know I could do that)

So I can’t even return it to you.

I thought I could be you in your dress

And maybe you would be me, just for a bit

While I learned how to be you

So I could someday be me.


The    Space   Between

You live in the spaces between my words

Where I often hover,

Tiptoeing in the inky shadows 

To take a quick breath and

Whisper my fears.

I know I will find you in those spaces

You are not the words in my poem

but the hand that guides me, 

No, pushes me, 

Onto my next word.

Why I Don’t Like Meeting
Famous People

I once rode in an elevator in Bloomingdale’s with

A famous actor that I’ve seen (and lusted after) in many films

Suddenly, it’s just the two of us in a small, moveable metal box and

No one’s escaping until the third floor.

I wish I hadn’t run to catch the elevator, but 

Just as the doors were closing

I saw an arm reach for the button panel

The doors slid open and I slid in.

I knew immediately who he was.

He smiled because he knew I knew

And this was his lot in life

People knew him.

I am disappointed immediately.

Why didn’t I just ride the escalator, I think

But all that silver closes me in

And up we go.

I try not to make eye contact

But do my fair share of peeking to the left.

I note that his skin isn’t flawless in person

He looks much younger on film.

I’m also disappointed by his choice of clothes

He’s slighter than I imagined and his hair sparse.

So this is he in ordinary life

He’s so . . . ordinary.

I stare at the button display and hope for someone else to join us.

But no, we are alone and 

He smiles and says hello.

I don’t answer.

Does he want me to request an autograph?

I can’t do that; I don’t want one

Does he expect a reply, a simple hello

Or does he recognize my disappointment.

I want to tell him that 

I’ve met other famous people

Right here in Bloomingdale’s and I am not

Star-struck by that fact or by him.

I am simply embarrassed for him

And his inability to translate from big screen to real life

And I am reminded of how people, in your life and out of it,

Don’t always live up to expectations.

And just as I’ve given up reading biographies

Where I learn more than I want to know,

I promise myself I will never ride the elevator in Bloomingdale’s again.

I don’t always like the truth.

Circus Performers

She says we have become circus performers, but I wonder,

Have we always been circus performers

Just waiting for our moment,

Perfecting our talents in secret while

Living our ordinary lives in open spaces?

Is this really who we are now or

Has the inside merely wiggled its way out,

Is it too late to join an act and

Perfect our dreams in open spaces while

Living our ordinary lives in private?

She says we have taken our show on the road 

As we tentatively walk tightropes, 

You balancing song sheets and guitars

Me twisting tales into shape

You sing your words; I write mine.

We load our car with microphones and music stands

Books and binders filled with words and sounds 

Juggling through performances with

Ice cold hands (you) and sweaty palms (me)

A double trapeze act concealing our fears and

Embracing the risks.

Word Shredder

I rip words.

Cut them with precision

Every tentative one with the

Audacity to find its way onto paper

Ends up shredded like alphabet pieces 

Original Gutenberg metal blocks

Out of order in an old tin container.

I store the shredding in file boxes.

Plan to arrange them someday 

Put my (your) life in order

Alpha to omega

Vowels and consonants

Press the alphabet into compliance and

Bundle words into thoughts.

And you, you write in a font different than mine,

So even shredded, I know you from me and

Can rearrange you into my version of you

I write your story

Force you to say what I want you to say

Manipulate you like wooden

Scrabble pieces.

I am printer, designer, storyteller. 

Use my power to reform words  

Art crafting life

Cast you into my story

Assemble our fonts

Free you from my patchwork puzzle and

Give you life on a page.

But for now, I am satisfied collecting you. 

Incising your dialogue into tiny pieces and

Printing your words in a size smaller than mine  

So when I reach into the file and pull out segments 

Of Helvetica (me) and Comic Sans (you)

I hold within me all the possibilities to 

Reprint (our) history as I intend it.

Susan Bouchard grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx and currently lives in Westchester County. She is a teacher and a member of the Westchester Poetry Caravan, reading her work to those who might not otherwise have the chance to experience poetry. Susan says that in everyday life she is a rule follower, but, through her narrators, finds her rebellious voice. When not writing, Susan enjoys listening to live music and polishing her nails.

Dotted Line