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

AJ Powell


Autumn is a guillotine this year.

Friends drove down from the mountains:

aspen leaves were gold for a day, they said, 

then dropped, fell like the dead,

blanketing the ground before

the snow comes to bury them.

Temperatures dropped like a lopped head,

had no legs to get up again.

Geese fled, cutting the air with chevron swords.

Tomorrow, a blizzard may threaten,

erasing landscape under a white shroud,

or we may live with skeleton trees for months.

Autumn is a guillotine this year,

when we need her to slow her blade.

Seven Times

I fall in love seven times a day.

I see You pay for your street parking then glance

at the meter in the spot next to yours,

and it’s clear you are spying for a chance

for random kindness in the world,

to good-samaritan the extra change in your pocket,

if the meter is begging for a ticket without your intervention.

I notice another You in the coffee shop window 

sitting down with a book instead of rushing

through the line and out the door,

because you’re friends with early mornings and don’t mind,

in fact really enjoy, seeing the sunrise with a book in hand.

An actual paperback book, bent along the binding to the page

you’re reading, pressed upon the wooden table top,

so I can’t see the title or the author but I imagine

it’s a good book and you’re smart and pensive,

a kindred soul looking for humanity

everywhere like me.

There’s a You I work with but don’t really know 

who always says hello to the security guy in the lobby, 

greets him by name and asks after his kids—

which makes all the strangers, the hundreds and 

thousands without names passing on the street, 

less anonymous, because you cared enough to learn

that guy’s name and chat with him every day,

and I bet you give him a Christmas card with a twenty in it

so I love you.

I see another You jogging during your lunch hour

without music playing in your ears,

because you like to see new parts of the city and

listen to each block’s self-made music,

and I would jog with you to the city zoo and laugh

at the monkeys who are so much like us when

we were young and still monkey-bar climbers,

and why not just go climb a tree together in City Park

because we are in love and kept young by it.

When You—another you—cuts me off on the drive home,

speeding and in a hurry only to be stuck

at the same red light as me one block up,

I forgive you willingly,

because maybe you got swept away by

the song on the radio rocking a mean guitar riff, or

your boss just yelled at you for a mistake he made, or

your mother is sick in the hospital and visiting hours

are running short for the day, or

you really are kind of an asshole but

you weren’t always and won’t be forever,

but today you’re twenty-nine and self-important 

and aren’t we all?

So when You roll into bed next to me

after dinner’s dishes and kids’ bedtimes

have been wrapped up for the night

and you’ve finished that last email you had to send today,

even though we’re tired and barely found

a few sentences to spare for each other 

in the midst of the busy and distracting all,

my heart is practiced in opening.

I roll my head on the pillow toward you,

say, “Good night,” and rest my hand on your immobile chest.


Hope is the thing with

is the thing


tattered and torn and battered and 

born upon winds and bad weather

feathered into cloud shapes

cirrus and cumulus and cumulating

like a stockpile of 

dynamite or despair—black hole opening 

in a heart or is it a blossom

opening like

hope like

a flower in a garden gone to seed

growing on its own in a place

given to weeds and reckonings.

“I feel more like”

you were saying when I interrupted

“more and more like

I’m spinning”

Me too! my damned interjection

“spinning out of”

aren’t we all spiraling,

centrifugal force throwing off



You finish and I fail to ask:

why? Or are you 

okay? Or

take your hand just

take it in mine just

take a chance

to be kinder, quieter, 

 falter in silence

knowing silence has

its own horizons,

but time is too short

and I’m assuming I must be

unassuming, must not assume to

be helpful be good be welcome be

glory be;

now all we have are


unmoored moments,

the detritus of memory.

The Grammar Between Us

I can’t parse you,

fail every time to translate

the tenses of your gestures:

past continuous,

      present perfect,

           future conditional.

I try to diagram

the sentences of our symbiosis

stretched over years.

Could I compose,

      would you mind,

           a poem to articulate us?

Forgive me; I am not fluent.

I falter with pauses,

find impossible any clauses

to capture

      the grammar

           between us.

If I draft a new language,

will you edit it to shreds,

these threads stitching me together?

Might we author together

      a better sentence,

           punctuated with possibility?

Or: a different effort.

Let me parse you without words,

conjugate your body,

press your spine

      down in the dark

           into past and instinct.

May my hands meander,

write forgiveness on your skin,

compose a moment with you—

intention and touch, shiver and bind—

      find velvet heat,

           and find it again?

Reach beyond words;

      replace resignation

           with sighs.

Lesson of the Old Rock

The cracks are passages:

is the lesson of the Old Rock.

She is veined and pocketed by quartz and mica,

divided by ages into two halves of a whole.

Moss and lichen lace her underbelly and shadowed sides

like green garlands of time dressing her for dinner.

She split eons ago, by the slow encroachment

of water, ice, and earth-shifts.

Now I can pass through her heart

and come out the other side.

Her fissure delivers me each time, again, into the world,

making every day I visit her a birth day.

Traveling through granite chasm, I am made new;

she strips from me the old clothes of my sins,

like confession. Or like the atonement of Jonah,

complicated and born of storms and necessity,

leading to small shade in a desert, worm-consumed—

and I am sun-burnt prophet-skin, thin and peeling and peeled,

tender with bared nerve-endings,

while my heart remains storm-tossed and fish-nibbled.

Breaking and broken, my heart is slashed-at and cracked—

for disappointments run deep as earth’s core;

the deepest is me, knowing too well

what ruminations and regrets I’ve mined.

But this is where the passages open and

the path is laid, step by slow step,

solitary stones of heart-crumble marking the way.

Tread deftly and lift your gaze to see wonders

on struggle’s road—enchantment deeper than dim magic—

which is to say, love.

In time, my heart will echo the silhouette of that

breach-boulder, sublime earthen mother;

I will be divided—a chasm will rend deep through my heart’s core

until you and everyone can pass between.

I will pull myself through the path, walk a passage

that kills me dead, paves the way for resurrection.

O fool short life and troubled living! You

will slip like water through fingers, like air through

split rock, and my calamitous heart

will beat on although in two, its pieces

calling out to one another a contrapuntal chorus,

a freedom song.

AJ Powell is a once and future teacher who raises her children, served on a school board, and attempts to write in the wee hours of the morning with varied success.

Dotted Line