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

Writer's Site

Catherine R. Cryan

Feather Shell Twig

I can’t remember if crossing the marsh

came first or crossing the windy spit of sand.

Weakfish bones apearl, dune-grass soldiers, blue in sealight.

Run the phragmites-flattened trail,

ride home darkly on brother’s shoulders.

How often I have seen this arrangement: feather, shell, twig.

The things I’d fill my pockets with—

the more I gained, the less my weight.

The feather flung from the sky, shell from sea, twig

leftover from a lightninged family tree.

What more do you want to know?

How no one ever told me how to stand

in a way that fit

what I carried in my body? What I carried

in my body never fit my arms, too hollow, too thin,

too used to sweeping dove-winged messes

under the bed. And even that I had to do better,

do better, not better, do right.

My mother told me to stand up straight. I assume

she meant otherwise the bars inside, the devil’s pikes

would pierce the place where my wings should grow.

I did not accept anything of myself except for wrack.

Detritus of my fear or things I had to cast off

to grow bigger than squalls, marauding jaegers, tides, wracking me inside.

The flood lines marked in me, signs of what it would take to drown.

What of me would linger on the surface?

What of my exterior but words I’ve used

to keep you all at bay?

Have you ever noticed,

all that must be shed is not, and always what should stay.

Shedding feathers proves that I had wings.


When I was nine I played for days

that were, in memory, weeks

with a scab at the back

of my neck, at the nape,

under hair the shortest

of any girl in my class.

Chicken-pox leftover, sure.

Until high in the arena at Notre Dame,

in the mezzanine.

And I loved the way

the new word sounded,

loved my sister, so graduated,

meridian in our familial cylinder,

loved my kinship’s momentary concurrence

in this place remote from our righthand coast

and so who could blame me

for my absentminded excoriation?

Such pomp. Such circumstance.

I scraped the scab free.

In my hand, it wiggled legs

from a swollen body. I dropped it, afraid

that someone would see not it

but the flinch.

It crawled beneath the seat ahead, fed,

spiderish in a cavernous space.

I never told.

Those the first notes of my ostinato,

a palilalial life and too close

to exposure of a sort I couldn’t afford.

Shroud the startle

as doggedly as the tick that cleaves.

If scars uncovered become parasites,

then scrape off the scab where the hollow beneath

is not quite flesh, not quite blood,

near to liquid, lava-like, neither fire nor stone.

Carry me, then, into the cavern,

the crevices, the interspaces.

Cut me a kerf and let me climb in.

Cecropia, Polyphemus, Luna

Like the three kings, they came from afar.

Shadow puppets at twilight.

Someone must be dangling them from strings,

they drop and bounce so in the backlit air.

The desert of suburbia requires


if you’re meant to cross

and endure

its incalculable expanse.

The pheromone that summons

goes undetected

by the human sense—

no sight, no smell, no sound we know,

no way of knowing

if you’re not a moth.

Through the screen door I watch

their juddering dance above the yew hedge.

I am ten years old this July

and in daylight watch truculent cardinals

bolt the Taxus berries

and I take their cues. It is my job

to sweep the ones they drop,

red outside green like reversed pimento olives

or like me. I burn and mutter and wait

for the night’s evanescors. I am bellicose

of late, and abashed.

I am youngest, feel weakest, but only

think I fear darkest.

It has been a year of not

being told.

There is familial action in the night air.

Distances covered, at question

retrievals undertaken and assurances received.

I believe. The silk moths promise to be there

each night and heed the call if the wind is honest.

Easy to tell the females from males

if you know what to look for.

I thought, then, that this was always the way:

the ladies’ abdomens extend,

the boys’ antennae rise erect and vain.

Always ladies and boys when in truth it was about

girls and gentlemen.

It is not the porch light that draws them:

it’s been shut. It’s the call

of something pungent and dispersed.

How do I accentuate their consequence,

these incarnate things of nearly nothing weight?

If they were asking of me, I did not hear.

I’d follow their star

of wonder if I knew

the compass point to choose.

I don’t know who the gifts they bore were for,

but I secreted some away

and wish all this time on

that I’d stolen

their dromedary wings.


I practiced calling from my own unfeathered throat.

My mother remembered how angry

he was, the man who fed the bears

horsemeat outside Onchiota.

The vultures came, the dainty fox.

Too pale to recognize totems

when he read them aloud, I saw only what I wanted.

Crows. A dark difference altogether.

We would have counted one for sorrow, three for a wedding,

had we known. Misplacing the middle joy.

My father, cautious with gifts, bought me a bearclaw,

jasper and turquoise on silver. Around his neck—

Hibernian and Teuton sides

of the same polished, august coin -

a cross, medal miraculous, proof of rank and name.

Quicksilver under his collar, metal his substitute for a river gone to ice.

In the dark, on a ladder, cawing and croaking and ruffling

feathers (all twenty-five hundred and hundreds more), flexing wing, arching claw,

destroying a shadow already invisible in the night.

The ravens picked the bones clean during absences of the bears. My imitations,

eight rungs high, required painted wings.

Echo, Test

I call myself sixth daughter, fifth sister to each sister,

aunt to five, wary and unknowing

that it all begins and ends with one small heart.

I say eighth of eight as if my heart could beat

for yours, small sister, the always-infant, tiny-hearted,

who ought be older than I. Perhaps I am you grown.

We were all the praying sort then. We were asked

to offer intentions, such little intentions

as eight-year-olds are capable and I wanted us to pray for you,

dead before I was born, and the priest asked if I meant

for your short life or my long one.

In the womb, your heart lay high in your chest, so large

compared with the rest of you, so small in a warm-aired world, beating

as a hummingbird’s in summer. It was meant to slow, like all hearts do.

In ten years the doctors learned all they would need to keep

my newborn heart beating had it required it. The defect of your heart

was that it came too soon.

My heart has grown, as all hearts do, to the size of my fist,

clenched still at the thought.

I could make the tedious list of things you will never do.

I am conscious of it at times—capping a pen, stifling a sneeze,

furtively examining

a picture crooked in a mirror frame.

My sisters, all elder, say they remember only red hair

and cries

and I remember nothing,

youngest child stripped of tears.

Three decades more and comes my turn; they call the test an echo, and it is.

The technician tips the screen and I can see the open and close

of the valve, hear the rhythm, unmistakable,


With a catch of breath the pulsing jumps then starts again.

I fill my lungs and empty them.

Catherine R. Cryan loves old tools, new pencils, owl pellets, and the Oxford comma. Her poems have been published by Broadsided Press, The Outrider Review, The Comstock Review, The Poet’s Billow, Evening Street, and others. She lives in Rhode Island, juggling the various roles of writer, science educator, farmer, college sports statistician, and parent of young twin sons.

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