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

Andy Kerstetter

If God Made Adam from Snow

The children, those chilly Michelangelos

shaping their fresh take

on imago dei with winter’s

whitewash would be validated

most of all—they always knew

they nailed the first man’s sleek physique

with fine material, more supple than the dust

He might have used—some impurities

like splinters of ice inevitable.

Besides, what use is there for dust except

whirling through prairie tornadoes, choking

coal-miners’ throats, obscuring the name

on our ancestor’s bust or slipping through

these fingers, stiff with grief?

Dust offers no life, only shrouds.

Snow can cleanse, insulate, bury,

beautify—boreal rouge on the face of flame-

frayed shells of domesticity—

what is it but life suspended

in matrices of captive light, awaiting

the proper time to unravel

their frozen coils,

so when spring returns our bodies

dive into the elemental

sludge from which we’re free

to freeze and form ourselves anew.

Resting by a Stream
on a Summer Hike

In the shade of cottonwoods, I return

to my old coolness on a log while this

Monarch flutters from one tuft

to another in search of the source

of a sweetness neither of us can see.

On the other side

of this frothing mountain stream,

I see a stony shore burdened with weeping

willows where a pair of magpies roost,

vanishing beyond the boughs, wings

flashing blue. I take off my shoes,

hitch up my pants and step in, intent

to find out what the magpies know.

But the water’s bite is cold and sharp

rocks knife my heels. I stagger, fall, catch

myself on a branch and bungle back

to safety. Recalling younger crossings,

I wonder how my feet have weakened,

skin flinching from the kiss

of ice, freezing my efforts

of exploration.

Perhaps I lost my nerve

along the path, stashed beneath

a toadstool or mistaken for a nut,

taken for a squirrel’s winter cache.

Maybe the lightness of my child

body let me float over stones, this current

heaviness pressing harder from higher,

ossified strata driving the spikes deeper.

I guess it’s just my flesh has learned

all it needs, bearing knowledge

of enough crossings to know

the path on the other side

leads to a stand of aspens,

hiding a fawn waiting

for his mother to return

with a mouthful of foxgloves.

Liminal Spaces


The hiss of the closing door

on this bus from here to who knows

where is the decompression

from this state of strangulation, inter-

personal manipulations: sunrays

dredging my riverbed, startling

dark-dwelling troglodytes

into foreign luminescence.


Standing on the bank

of our leaving, your voice is

a river where I walk

on an old wooden dock, breaking

under my feet as I climb

into a driftwood raft, baling floodwaters

as I’m swept into your currents.

All I can do is keep my head

above the mire.


Some pagan saint once told us heaven lies

a foot above the head of every man.

I should have known that angels lived

in my father’s liquor cabinet, the edge

of the cliff I couldn’t reach and this still

life hanging over our hotel bed, watching

from bowls of oranges swollen with sacred

juices, forever waiting for the one

who will split their flesh and release

a sugared baptism on our failed sacrament.


They say, inside cocoons, that larvae must dissolve

themselves to fuel their necessary transformations,

soup soaking into imaginal discs, concretizing

adulthood around the bits of childhood that kept.

I guess it’s no surprise then, that, stepping off this bus

into haloes of stinging sand, this straightjacket

skin rips open and from my fingertips, forehead

and chest fly forth clouds of crimson

moths, spiraling straight into the sun.


When I tell her about my blood-

-and-shadow dreams, my mystic friend

tells me that I am

too open to the other

world, that I am

too comfortable being

lost in astral fog, Neptune

presiding over my neuroses

like a drunk lifeguard falling

asleep while his charges

flounder in the mire.

She prescribes a ritual

of grounding: first, I need to seek

some earth on which to stand—

I think I’d like a patch of unworked

turf, maybe deep moss by a stream

beneath a gnarled beech—then plant

my bare feet firmly in the dust

and think about light:

a white ball of it piercing

my skull, slipping behind

my eyes, down my throat, between

my ribs, gathering negative

energy like roses sprouting

from dry bones till it bursts

from the soles of my feet, bearing its bouquet

through humus and clay

to some blind rift to wither

in its own darkness.

Then, imagine: new brightness rising

from Earth’s bones into mine, spreading

through marrow and vein till I’m flush

with primeval simplicity

of spirit, able to withstand

assault from legions

of the soul.

It all seems too good

to be true—I am loath

to believe, till I see the roots

of spirits speaking themselves

through the stones from my bones

to the center, my swaying body

tethered to truth like a tree

near running water, stooping gladly

in the muck.

The Inferno Lessons

Search teams are combing through

the ashes in your mouth

trying to find bathtubs or beds

where people might have taken

the tongue, also a fire, which left

no way to escape a world

of evil among the parts

of the body. All lost

some and some lost all.

The whole body sets the course

of one’s life on fire—wine glasses clinking

in a different bedroom, burning up

and down at once—take off your shoes

on holy ground: I lost you

long before the light of day

revealed your work for the fire

that it is—the strands

of your hair curling like spiders

baptized in the Holy Spirit, testing

the quality of your work, losing

yourself in your tongue-

flame, tongues of flame

lapping up your tears before

they fell—your ruined fingers fused

with blackened bedposts, kindred vines

reduced to elemental similarities.

I can’t pry you apart.

Andy Kerstetter is a writer living in Idaho’s Wood River Valley, birthplace of Ezra Pound and death-place of Ernest Hemingway, where he freelances for magazines. He’s worked as a journalist since earning a degree in writing from Geneva College in his home state of Pennsylvania. He has recently begun publishing his poetry, which so far has appeared in the anthology Gravitas. Andy hopes to pursue an MFA in poetry in 2020.

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