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

Emma Flattery

To Return

In the South,

no, I mean the deep South,

where the air is so thick with sugar water

you can taste it on your skin.

Where all the women comment

on how the humid kiss of spring frizzes up their hair

but secretly love the soft freedom

of wild tresses under backyard skies and palm leaves.

Yes, in the deepest South,

I used to live for the ribbons of ruddy clay

which caked the sidewalks after early morning showers’ mist

and the sunbaked cracks that crisscrossed and stitched through barefoot cement.

The scream of cicadas and

the scream of little voices

when the glisten-eyed beetles splayed their shiny wings

and alighted on shoulders unawares.

Yes, in palm trees and hot grass still green,

where the water godlike is

infinite and basking gold, hinting silver, breathing blue

under the glory of sky’s halo.

No surf, just smooth swell after swell after swell,

like an outstretched hand

that warmly whispers, “Come and see.”

I have waited so long to return

to sweat-slick foreheads,

lounging with something to fan with in one hand,

sleepy, half-lidded eyes in the other,

toes buried in cooling layers of powdered sand,

quick-legged sandpipers darting their way through banks of foam,

and the sun dousing its last fire in the curve of the horizon.

Like this, I am suspended:

my conscience beaded with sugar water

drops leave candied trails across my mind,

my skin all mossed-over with green fur in patches,

the prickles of velveteen fly tongues softly sipping in my nectar.

The water glows with inner flame

as I float over leagues and leagues of that Deep and Southern.

So long I have been away from you,

no more.

Our Shared Jungle, Mr. Conrad

Mr. Conrad

your words have long since

been beaten drums to coax

the palm fronds, vine furls, dark and green

from the murky jungle of my mind.

Believe me when I say

your Horrors whisper wonder

from your pages thick entwined

with roots in soils dark as skin,

these roots embed in me;

but you stand in separation, sir,

in costume suits as white

as all the devils that herein

dance your beat semantic.

Drumming, as you are,

on the door of time gone by

with that lovely mistress, Fiction,

who is kind to lay her lips,

and in this moment, you are righteous,

and on this woman, at your side

you imagine naked breasts;

feathers flayed and splayed

with a heart as wild as your sea,

but Mr. Conrad,

you are a head floating above white lapels

steam-pressed pants, a belt of leather,

and shoes of cannibal skin.

The natives said it better

to your disciple Marlow,

but now it begs repeating:

No borders, leaves, or darkness

breed the savage side of man,

Mr. Conrad,

the jungle lies within.

The Witness

This ratchety ceiling fan,

when on, is jerking in its motion

as once-sleek blades now with corners rusted

spin in dulled-silver’s blurred whirl winds.

A tarnished ball chain with dangled tassel

sharply tugged, now careening to this and that

like tethered hound in open field.

And though its screws threaten

to loose their load on wary passers-by,

it churns the air with the full passion

of its year of manufacture.

Long ago, it was clutched to the plaster

above a well-used motel bed.

Under its feverous flurry happened many an affair

between humans bare and humans dressed

who all slithered sleepy ’neath the sheets

for some odd business immaterial.

Then some many years thereafter,

a diner held its rattling screws

over patrons hungering to be cooled,

to rest-up easy and to quench

their avid itches for fryer fat

and milkshakes labeled “chocolate.”

Then in midst of summer

its clanking rhythm doused the embers

of some back-end alley pawn shop

with barred windows and blue-crossed flags

and guns and powder and from far-off sirens

came broken glass and a long night flashing red to blue.

Now somewhere, the sharply tugged ball chain

swings in new surroundings,

wings of roughened rust and scrap-metal

fly above well-smoothed concrete,

and what display of appetite

will this humble witness

have the privilege

of providing its services to


The Valley

The sun was determined to make this summer afternoon


like a glass of iced tea


like a runny ice cream cone

Just sweet enough to savor

Just cold enough to relish

But the sun was no threat to Ms. Washington

No siree

No ma’am

The sun was no match for Ms. Washington and her hand fan

With one stroke of that fan


She could freeze the humidity right out of the air and make it snow in Alabama

With one sway of her porch rocking chair


She could spin the Earth and make Sunday come early

She had done powerful things in her time

Yes siree

Yes ma’am

Why, she had won Best Pecan Pie in Macon County at only fifteen

Not only that

She had handcrafted and given life

to the three most well-behaved boys in Macon County too

She had worked a job in Montgomery

a nickel to his dime

and provided what she could

She never missed a shift

Bought her boys one of them spiffy polaroids

Not only that

She sat at the front of the bus

Went through the front door

Watched movies in the front row

She didn’t have a car

Or any good walking shoes

So she walked from Selma to Montgomery

Three times in the only shoes she had

Her Sunday shoes

And on March seventh, nineteen-sixty-five

She stood her ground in Sunday shoes

Cried hard for forgotten lives in Sunday shoes

But still those shoes

Were all shine and polish

No siree

No ma’am

The determined sun did not put a damper on Ms. Washington’s summer afternoon

But he did

He sat beside her

All squared angles and sharp features

He was the shadow in her summer valley

She could not

With all her power

Think him away

He sat at the back of the bus

Slithered through the back door

Watched her from the back row

He walked with her from Selma to Montgomery three times

Hidden behind clasped hands

She could not shake him

He pierced her with every downturned glance

Bled from every pair of smiling lips

Watched her little boys

Grasped at her hands with his bony fingers

Laughed at her undone hair

He had blue eyes like two suns


But he was here now

Beside her


He asked her,

“Are you ready?”

She stopped her waving

Let the hand fan sit like an old cat on her lap

She swayed in that porch rocking chair

Swayed back and forth squinting up at that determined sun

Hanging low


Emma Flattery is a freshman majoring in marine biology at the University of California, San Diego, who dedicates her free time to poetry, fiction, bodybuilding, and learning languages. As a child of active-duty members of the US Air Force, she has lived across the country and traveled throughout the world. She fell in love with the ocean when she was three (after actually falling into it) and has used its beauty for inspiration ever since.

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