Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2020    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Winter 20


French silk sample book

Paula Reed Nancarrow
Morning Coffee
& other poems

Jill Burkey
& other poems

Oak Morse
Boys Born out of Blues
& other poems

Beatrix Bondor
Engine Ode
& other poems

Monique Jonath
a mi sheberach
& other poems

Lisa Rachel Apple
& other poems

Gillian Freebody
The Human Condition
& other poems

Kirsten Hippe-Rychlik
and we are echoes
& other poems

Devon Bohm
& other poems

Jeddie Sophronius
I Rest My Mother Tongue
& other poems

John Delaney
Poem as Map
& other poems

Elizabeth Bayou-Grace
Fire in Paradise
& other poems

In Utero
& other poems

Michelle Lerner
Ode to Exhaustion
& other poems

William French
I Have Never Been
& other poems

Josiah Patterson Wheatley
Coeur de Fleurs
& other poems

Karo Ska
womb song
& other poems

Robyn Joy
& other poems

Han Raschka
Love Language
& other poems

Rebbekah Vega-Romero
The Memory in My Pinky
& other poems

Gilaine Fiezmont
Europe, too, Came from Somewhere Else
& other poems

Scott Ruescher
At the Childhood Home of Ozzy Osbourne
& other poems

Emily R. Daniel
Visitation Dreams
& other poems

Lindsay Gioffre
Toxicodendron Radicans [Sonnet 1]
& other poems

Gillian Freebody


Insatiable and incensed, night tracked us

as it always does, its scope unstable but poised,

crouched on hind legs in the highest branches—

a deadly reconnaissance welcome in its regularity,

but weighted now with the inconceivable notion

that one day soon it may not be, and then what?

But the brain, in its impeccable muscle machinery

will not let us dawdle there,

and which one of us would, our mutual ambitions

rushing in a torrent toward the charred horizon

like a hemorrhaging, bestial herd let loose

in a landscape torn from the radar, ripped

free from any recognizable topography

in a Darwinian map of

every man for himself.

Like the persecuted Jews, we waited,

armed with nothing but our instinct to survive,

adrenaline bucking our nervous system

like Narcan, a holding-your-breath intensity

that never relents but instead explodes

in your veins like atomic energy, that same

mushroom cloud smoke camping out

in your lungs, settling into the marrow,

claiming ownership.

We knew only to mask ourselves—

a parade of educated people

knowing nothing—breeding fear

like the sexless mammals we were—

for how could we touch when our own skin

was shedding its poison, toxins shimmering

like halos around each of us, an impossible barrier,

a noose of false security that could strangle

or save, and which one? And why?

And in this stagnation, we settled, phones silenced,

our voices choked with smoke, the trees

speaking for us, the birds still alive, the cardinal

bending its head to a puddle, its feathers

the red of the blood still beating beneath our skin,

the color we would see if the world swings its sights

our way, catches us in the crosshairs and bears down,

a reticule so precise in its target precision,

we’d shine brilliantly for the briefest of moments

before the final curtain fell.

Single Motherhood

Time sends us far offshore this summer,

catches us watching the morning glory climb,

clipping back those that fall victim

to the unforgiving heat, those eaten through,

those refusing to flower, drawing a line

in the sand that remains absolute.

And, shockingly, in spite of

my inept efforts with water and waiting,

the wine-colored vines double over,

reach up to encircle the makeshift lattice,

curling and climbing with a beauty

that is far more than I deserve.

Thickening as they ascend, they adopt

others, open arms to collect the fragile

ones without an anchor, blowing about

like angel’s hair. I tuck them into the stronger

stalks, and the next morning, they have settled

there, already looking up, finely veined leaves

and delicately wrapped wings folded patiently

before the pinnacle performance, the much-needed

revelation of their vibrant bells tolling

this season’s hymn of forgiveness

for being only one person, one rock

on unsteady ground, one fragile young girl

trapped in a much older woman’s body,

a masquerade of bravado that shatters

when spying two saucer-shaped sets of eyes

in the rearview, gauging me for tears,

signs of breakage, all that causes a doubt

that floods the back seat like a deluge.

Those wide eyes have watched every flower take root,

twine its course up the ladder we built

with our own battered hands,

grow veins of such resiliency, I wish

they curved beneath our own thin skin,

multiplying, reaching, wrapping around each other

so many times, their late August lights

guide us home like a beacon

I once thought I could become.

Sold As Is

The pencil-sketch measurements—

height in inches and years

mapped out in erasable hash marks

I cannot erase.

The lightswitch plate

hand painted with clouds

mid-glide in a sky as blue

as blood beneath the skin.

The window screen with holes

punched through to let bugs in

or the sparrow trapped on the porch

the day we moved in, frantically

throwing itself from wall to wall—

wings thrashing, feathers

tornadoing in fractals of light

bathing the greenhouse

in just enough heat to nourish

new growth.

The Rose of Sharon

bending towards each other

and breeding profusely,

branches entwined like hands—

fingers curved into each other

to create trellises so heavy

with buds, I must tie them back

to keep them off the ground.

The bushes needing tending,

the autumn roses climbing the fence,

the chips of red paint flecking

the back stairs, the cracked wrought-iron

railing whose rust stains the hands,

even the mice whose ravaged bodies

I must dispose of, the cat on proud

parade, blood on the carpet

that will never come out.

The bathtub resists the drain,

the oven has given up the game,

the furnace breathes into

a crystal clear vial that must

be treated like a king

or the sediment will leave

us belly up in the dead

of winter.

And the 2 a.m. shock of a baby

who won’t eat, my head lolling

on the couch in the wake

of a violent birth, her tiny body

torn from me like a bone from

its socket, a permanent dislocation

that howls in its emptiness,

a hunger beyond satiation.

A picnic under the table,

the sunlight stretched across the floor

at midday, the sound of little feet

running down the stairs

to find me secretly writing

in a corner of the porch.

The slam of the screen door,

the precipitous drop to the back yard

that makes mowing an impossibility,

the rocks we painted with the words


in watercolor paint that doesn’t

run, the wildflower shoots

the deer have gobbled up, the stones

slick with rain and glistening, the spider webs

catching the first light of dawn

and the sign in the front yard,

jackhammered in, leaving a gaping hole

to be patched afterwards,

a cavern of darkness I no longer possess

or can claim as my own.

The Human Condition

My daughter cries herself to sleep,

yearning desperately for something

that has no name, no identifiable

characteristic, no tangible being.

What can I tell her about an ache

I know so well, it has grown

like a membrane with cell structure,

multiplied and manifested, magnificent

in its tenacity and thereness.

I wear it as a second skin that has no

molting period. It flakes and peels

but reforms, an incredible feat

of science, a resilience that knows no

bounds. But it has also

wrapped her inside, cradling her

like a seed that has sprouted

and is pushing at the seams,

its blooms so imperial in their violet

shade, crimson veins seep through

where our blood has mingled

and pooled triumphant.

I tell her this and her silence

echoes in a cacophony of familiarity.

She will grow into the emptiness,

the space of a need so great,

it deafens all else. But in its

regeneration, its reality, its residence

in her soul, there will be soil

in which to plant, seeds

that will bear fruit.

This Precious Vessel

You’re such a hippie, she screeches,

not disguising her disgust, turning her head

away as my naked reflection flutters

across her full-length mirror, illuminated

by the finest, most delicate fairy lights,

stickers for New York, Los Angeles, Seattle,

anywhere but here,

tiny plastic babies she bought to make earrings,

spectating now like a twisted strip-club audience

or reminder of all those who slipped through,

the hundreds who missed the mark, a wide-eyed girl

with Monosomy16, a sandy-haired boy

with Down’s, cursing me, eyes burning into

the slash-mark burrowed in my belly,

their frozen mouths screaming in the silence:

you were broken, old, exposed for so long

to the chemical wardrobe of the world

and you still bleed, leave us all

in the swirl of sewerage, our half-formed

hearts racing towards you, calling from a universe

of possibility that once twirled in your mind

like a carnival wheel, looping in its insistence

like the night the chain on the swing broke,

snapped like that fist of bone in my spine,

exploded into shards with points like daggers

dancing down my spinal canal,

flirting with the cord, asking it out for a drink,

then sulking when denied, rubbing

against the cilia before finally resting in a pocket of forgiveness

at the base of everything that allows movement,

makes mind to muscle a reality that still exists,

the EMT saying, Can you feel this? Can you feel this?

Can you feel this? An eighth of an inch

of a winter midnight flying by the window,

the bellowing of the siren so high-pitched,

when he asks me my full name,

I cannot be 100 percent sure

but ask instead, Can I still have a baby

with a broken back? Who is the president?

What month is it? What is your full name?

And before, naked, putting makeup on on the floor,

she glances in the doorway. You have such a beautiful back

and then the phone call that severs the night,

my arms and legs strapped to the table, my neck

paralyzed in its immobilization shroud, the needle

drilling into my toes like Jesus with a jackhammer,

the nurse running to grab a chair as she slips

down the wall, her head between her knees,

Stay with me, Stay with me, Stay with me.

Years later, the railroad stitchwork on my spine

has softened, so when she recoils at the source

of her birth, I turn to show her the street

I walked the first time, the ladder I used

to pull myself out of the chasm of chaos

before conception, the same winter day

she dug her heels in and took root, a mere shadow

of an idea I pulled inside my body

like oxygen.

Gillian Freebody is thrilled to revisit the world of poetry after a too-long hiatus teaching writing and raising a family as a single-mother-by-choice. She finds inspiration from everyday experiences and nature, both of which transform into art when looked at in the right way (the right way being a completely individualized experience). Poetry is a gift, to both writer and reader, and Gillian feels deeply grateful to be part of the writing community once again.

Dotted Line