Dotted Line Dotted Line

Poetry Winter 2021    fiction    all issues


Andrej Lišakov

Laura Apol
I Take a Realtor through the House
& other poems

Rebekah Wolman
How I Want my Body Taken
& other poems

Devon Bohm
The Word
& other poems

Gillian Freebody
The Right Kind of Woman
& other poems

Anne Marie Wells
Gravestone Flowers
& other poems

Laura Turnbull
& other poems

Andre F. Peltier
A Fistful of Ennui
& other poems

Peter Kent
Reflections on the Late Nuclear Attack on Boston
& other poems

Carol Barrett
Canal Poem #8: Hides
& other poems

Alix Lowenthal
Abortion Clinic Waiting Room
& other poems

Latrise P. Johnson
From My Women
& other poems

Brenna Robinson
& other poems

may panaguiton
& other poems

Elizabeth Farwell
The Life That Scattered
& other poems

Bill Cushing
Two Stairways
& other poems

Richard Baldo
A Note to Prepare You
& other poems

Blake Foster
Aubade from the Coast
& other poems

Bernard Horn
& other poems

Harald Edwin Pfeffer
Still stiff with morning cold
& other poems

Nia Feren
Neon Orange Tree Trunks
& other poems

Everett Roberts
A Mourning Performance
& other poems

Alaina Goodrich
The Way I Wander
& other poems

Olivia Dorsey Peacock
the iron maiden and other adornments
& other poems

Gillian Freebody

No Longer Useful

In the predawn push of rush hour traffic,

the open-eyed doe on the highway shoulder

meets my eye as if still taut and breathing,

her soul already abandoning

the heavy cage of her body

as she rests like a shattered statue

on the side of the road,

and I, late to work, swarm among

the masses trapped on this thoroughfare

of horns and flashing lights,

streams of people surging towards

what exactly

fast and tumbling, restless and rolling

as a river over rocks.

Her forest is lost somewhere far beyond

the steaming asphalt,

flaming stoplights,

screeching sirens,

peeling tires,

belching exhaust

when her sudden frantic stride

toward safety

meets with metal

and a crushing thud—

spine on hood and legs

briefly a ballerina’s

against a moonless sky

before spiraling off

to the side, breath breaking

like a dam emptying into its source

as I bridge the exit ramp curve

to witness the moment after.

Her black disks still catch light,

throw it to me before the sun spills

its way over this pulsing street,

crawling across her heaving

breast, holding the slightest sliver

of recognition before flattening black

and unseeing, utterly abandoned,

so if I move her to the grass,

she will still be warm, perhaps

a second heart beating

inside, and I think of the phone,

the police, the raging rush of emergency

to cut her open in the last release of blood

through veins quickening with cold before it is too late—

why her eyes flickered to me, begging me

to stop, to weigh what she asks,

my own womb empty but for futile bleeding.

But on this side of our human hell

where every thrust of traffic poisons us

in swells of smoke, we gasp like animals

called to our deaths much too early,

can I pull over? Save what remains

so I can tell myself I did everything

I could before it all rots, decays,

must be carted away by thick-gloved men

with unshaven beards wordlessly arriving

too late in a rusty pick-up piled with blood-stained

shovels saved solely for this purpose -

this disposing of what was once achingly beautiful

lost now somewhere under an overpass

on a cold curve of highway where things

no longer useful linger until finally slipping away

as if never there at all?

I am late and do not stop.

The Right Kind of Woman

Here is the hard truth of it:

        the bitch who lives in my skin

has carved her way into my heart

        claws sharpened to pristine points

that glint and sparkle when dragged

        across the frozen terrain of hesitant

                    beating muscle

Yesterday when your hand brushed mine

        on the sun-dappled gravel trail

she bucked and slammed into my rib cage

        like a wild animal trapped in an attic

throwing itself against walls and windows

        until blood puddled deep enough to leak

                three floors down to the dirt

I have always been a bird shit marble bust

        my body: a betrayal of near-boyhood,

breastbone curved outward like the bend

        of an archery bow so any alluring swells

fell into the cavern of my chest, eliciting

        apologies and red-faced shame.

Sharp-fanged braces, dried-out perms,

        stub-toed feet that next to yours look

        like fish fins. I’m sorry, so sorry

I learned that loving men is a live minefield

        a white-knuckled life and death dance

I enter into with teeth bared like a rabid tiger rushing headlong

        into a battle of torn flesh and shattered bone.

Love me anyway, I’d beg as I stripped naked for shock

        the skinny-dip not to be denied, all the flat planes

and deadly edges hidden in darkness and the shadows of water

And as I’d kneel against the night sky, it’d drink itself down

        to cloak me, my head heavy as a wrecking ball

how can I touch your hand in the innocent curve of

        can-we-start-again when I always thought

I’d be the right kind of woman: the loving, loyal wife

        not this wicked hag, this blackened pearl, this broken-winged

crow beating itself to death on the side of the road

        the same thin-hipped girl who grew faint from starvation

veins pumped with revulsion, rejection, a self sabotaged by hate

        but as you turn to face me now, eyes filled with forgiveness,

                fingers gently placed in my bleeding palms,

        instead of wondering WHY? in the screaming rush

of vulnerability laid bare, I whisper how?

        as you apply the tourniquet and lay me down

Layout from the High Dive

When my father launched a layout

from the high dive, the lake drew up its heels—

sandcastle constructions, splashing contests,

lifeguard training runs, can’t-put-down beach reads,

utterly forgotten.

Hands palm up in supplication,

in communion,

in the hard steel confidence

of man at his most powerful,

he’d pause before the pump upward,

his toes on the board,

the crouch before take-off,

and I’d suck in my breath,

hold it like a secret when his thighs,

chiseled as a marble god,

extended up so his raised hands reached

to catch clouds playing chase, hopeless

in the face of his IT, while the full extension

of his body against the sky’s blue canvas

made its own shadow on the afternoon,

a spread-eagled savior on the cross

as his perfectly timed arc brought his feet

around toward the water and he sank

without a splash, water swallowing him

as time resumed its ceaseless surge forward

and I watched for his break through the surface.

I’d exhale when his otter body emerged,

ebony hair soaked and sparkling in the sun,

light playing off his shoulders and spine

as he’d stroke freestyle to the ladder.

And as he climbed onto shore,

the beach found its voice again,

laughter and splashing, shouting for

ice cream and ever-lasting summer.

But people peeked beneath their

squinting lids, shaded their eyes

with sun-dappled fingers to glance quickly

at the man who caught the clouds

in their race with time, who,

in his miraculous found-freedom,

etched himself on the sky

for the briefest of moments

before sinking down.

Settling, The Hudson River Valley

Before Wiltwyk and that great walled stockade that defined our borders,

we worshipped the confluence of creek to river, flooding the banks

with fertile ferns and foliage, ripening crop beds, emboldening

the oxygen in shared veins, one native, one settler,

our mothers’ skirts pulled up and knotted at the thigh.

One white, one brown, Dutch and Esopus,

making twig dolls in the grass, chins dribbling the juice

of Macintosh, Empire, Granny, and laughing,

open-mouthed, teeth sparkling like ivory stars

in night sky mouths that know no difference,

no color, no trade but sweet sap sticking to

grimy earth-dusted fingers, envious crows

circling overhead like macabre halos, harbingers

of thunderheads in the West, the mad scramble

for cover, for soil, for the throne at the head of the table.

The pitch-pine oaks and rush of river over stone

smoothed the storm of resentment for days,

so that fires burned in rock rings and muzzles

hung cold on breezy barn doors.

I know we were not afraid, not yet, in that valley

of Rondout’s swell into the Hudson.

The Gray’s Sedge and Wild Rye pushed

through the cracks of our floorboards

and Silver Maples canopied our games of tag

and skipping stones, the stretch of afternoon

that knew only women meeting

in the stream’s apex, trading secrets, stripping pelts.

Look at us there in the 17th century, our feet

filthy with the dust of another’s land, appeasing

our stabs of guilt with fine white linen, the copper glint

of tea kettle, mortar and pestle already ground down

to flawless bone.

But what of trade and its mutual bounty that wanes

like sunlight over a stone wall? The river’s heaving heart

pulled up as the men took sides, stood on opposite banks,

demanded concession of the water, of each other.

And when the current would not bend, massive stones

were hauled up the hill we once tumbled down like rabbits,

drilled so deeply into the dirt, my hand on the cool husk

of shale catches the same light it did then, skin so pale

it is nearly transparent.

See how the bones meet there at the wrist, each finger

a branch reaching from the same trunk, the same rush

of water, the same river bed where lives pause and swirl,

however briefly, without seams, without colors, without skin,

greed hushed as the water surges forward,

washes over us, baptizes us anew


Gillian Freebody is a veteran writing teacher who dedicated the past twenty years to encouraging student writing, both academic and creative. When the pandemic hit, Gillian found herself returning to her own writing as a way to cope with terror and isolation. Silver linings do exist. Gillian tries to find them everywhere every day.

Dotted Line