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

Brandon Hansen

A Bolt in Friday

When I palmed the spider on your mirror

we looked at the crossed legs and single tear

of all its fluids dripping

down the track of the biggest

line in my palm, and you said,

Jesus, use a paper towel next time.

But that was years ago. On Friday

we took turns dangling a dead mouse,

squeezed from its airlocked bag

and thawed in a bowl of warm water,

in front of your ex-girlfriend’s pet snake,

Waffle, who struck twice before plucking

its little body from the tweezers,

and hugging it tight.

On Friday I learned my old friend

Bradley killed himself—Bradley,

with whom I drew stick figure

death scenes in sixth grade study hall

every day, with whom I had not talked

since he moved away

when we were sophomores, maybe juniors.

You drove us to Echo Lake to wash

the dust of lonesome away—the whole bumpy ride,

I saw in my mind’s eye the fates

of stick figures arrowed through, napalmed,

thrown from mountains, eaten by snakes. But

I could hardly see Bradley. I could hardly see

Bradley even when I closed my eyes

as we dove into the lake,

I could hardly see Bradley even

as we smacked the drunk mosquitoes

from our dewy skin, even when, near dusk,

we watched a largemouth bass like a football inhale a bluegill

no bigger than our palms—which, in that moment,

I almost asked if you’d want to clasp together,

like we had once, years ago, before our life un-happened,

and we were so quiet to each other. I wanted

to clasp our palms, red with stolen blood,

so as not to lose you.


When you sleep just feet from the river,

the sound, like a rambling confession,

is all you hear. And tonight,

all you see is weak moonlight, triple-filtered

through the clouds, the moth-littered window,

and the curtain of hair she lets down before bed.

Stargazers all your lives, this camper,

built by her grandfather, is a canopy you’re

unused to. You often joke

about getting a hotel room at the Hampton

down the street just to see what it’d be like,

but, pragmatists all your lives, you never do it.

And—something seems especially real about sleeping

in the same bed—even a big one. When you two rode tandem

on a bike she found, leaning against a stop sign somewhere,

with the necklace of a note reading “Free if you fix me!”

draped from its frame, you peddled like a mouse and watched

the muscles of her upper-back work the whole way

as she steered you. You hardly noticed an entire, winking lake unfurl to your left.

When you sat, hips tandem, jammed into each other

on a wooden swing at some trendy bar that your mutual friend’s friends,

who you love, but do not understand at all,

wanted to go to, you said strange things for hours

like—Oh, I heard we were supposed to be able to see

Mercury tonight, but these string lights on the balcony will have to do—

and, then, unlike now,

as you lay miles from each other on the mattress,

warm from the same heat beneath her grandfather’s quilt,

you weren’t shy about being strange at all.

Silence rounds the corner to silence,

in the night sky’s spare counterglow you barely see

her hands, clasped before her face,

and the residual soot of your campfire

in the cracks of her strong fingers,

and you love them.

You open your mouth wide just then

to say something—but you realize

you look like a fish.

Soul Call

Is that you? Is that you,

bounced image through the slatted windows

off the wide-cracked mirror and cast

upon the white, white wall, dotted

by the thumbtacked holes which I will

need to fill soon, where pictures

of friends and of you

used to hang, tiny holes in the landscapes

behind us, and yet over our heads?

Old televisions shut down the way

I imagine the universe collapsing, a sharp,

electric crack, a wink of light, a folding unto itself.

When sleep paralysis grabs me, it feels

the same way. My inner light clicked off,

a paradigm shift—I am an unshut eye

watching you.

I have this problem when I’m so tired

I fall asleep straight on my back—the nightmare

is in my spine, always. The first time,

I was 14. We talked about different kinds

of first times once, beneath a little tree doing its best

against the sun in a park. Like you might say

of all firsts—honestly, that shit

can fuck you up forever.

I hate to lie on my back, but I did

that day with you in the mottled shade.

I hate that I pulled the pictures down,

pinched and pulled the tacks. The groove

of their tiny handles haunted my thumb all day.

I hate that I can’t move; I hate the electric, phantom

tingling, I hate these bending ribs, I hate

that someone’s standing on my chest—I hate

that I can’t tell if it’s you.

Baby Blue Flashing Spoon

pinching the thin arch of its treble hook,

she lays the lure flat in your outstretched hand

like an heirloom.

All night you fish the Au Train

with the borrowed lure, which flashes back

even the particle glow of the streetlight on the old overpass,

where wooden bridges creak quietly beneath the concrete

ceiling of a highway constructed above them, meant

to hold more than an occasional horse and wagon, or

a load of split maple, or the sap that oozes down the bark,

and sometimes nosedives into the tumbling river below.

Night stretches—what is time, again? Somewhere

in the casting of your spoons you two went quiet,

are comfortable that way—when did you learn that trick?

When did you two learn to live in a city, by the way—

even a small one? A mist-carrying breeze off the river

wraps around you both. You shift sand

under your toes and stand just a little closer together.

With her borrowed baby blue flashing spoon

you pull old summers from the river. You pull dinosaur toys

like fossils from your old sandbox, you pull your dad’s rusty

socket wrenches and even his old impact drill,

which whirs a bit before going to sleep.

You pull a football helmet in by the facemask,

and throw it back. You pull in your old dog’s

chain collar, and another, and another. You pull in numerous

little plastic bottles of your mother’s vodka, hidden

amidst the cobwebbed baby clothes in her bedroom closet,

which you unhook and drop in the sand beside you,

but you don’t mind. You pull in handfuls of spent, wet cigarettes

from the bathroom sink, from the toilet; you pull in stolen

twenty-dollar bills that smell like grass you cut, leaves you raked.

You pull in orange pill bottles, from which

you dump the layered sediment of dust, mold, ashes, and dog hair

of your home. But, standing there, the whistle

of spinning line and the cold waves on both

your ankles, you don’t mind. Where did you

learn that? Standing next to her, you spend the night

dragging in the oldest things beside her casting form,

and you don’t know how—but you don’t mind at all.


what a strange and fitful dream it’s been.

Once, I half-stepped on a toad, realized

it wasn’t a pinecone or tired leaf

too late. Half eviscerated in the grabbing dirt,

it flailed its arms weakly. It did not feel good.

I was with our friend, who you may remember,

and she yelled at me to put it out of its misery.

I grabbed a rock bigger than my hand

and crushed its prone body. When I lifted

it up, our friend, eyes through splayed fingers,

said, do it again!

but there was only thin liquid on the rock’s belly—

no toad in sight. Our friend said—

Oh. I think we’re good.

God—what else has happened?

I nearly lost a finger in shop class—


But, you were there for that, weren’t you?

Yes—you helped clean up the blood I dripped

through the sawdust, the hallway carpet,

and the fresh-waxed floors, all the way

to the nurse’s office. That’s one of the last things

I remember of you, actually. As friends do

in those days, you vanished over the summer.

Years now, and I meant to write you.

And in our hometown newspaper it says

it’s too late. This is what happens

when you aren’t careful—you lose things.

Toad in the forest, sensation in the tip

of my pointer finger. And, well—

you and I would draw senseless, violent things

in sixth grade study hall—all the way

into high school. We’d trade stick-figure slasher

comics in the hallway, we’d laugh

about what happened in last night’s South Park.

Here it is: since you’ve killed yourself,

I’ve learned that the world is not, by default, good,

and violence is not a streak in the dark—it is not rare enough to be funny.

Brandon Hansen is from a village named Long Lake. He can affirm that the lake is, indeed, long. He also writes.

Dotted Line