whatever lies beneath
up thrust arms
ravaging refuse of
they seek to drag down
they will know
someone is here
bracelets of macho
tattoos in unknown languages
black-hearted Samson arms
pull down temple pillars
rusted lintels of Eden
sweat of the brow
thorn and thistle
has come to claim us
Smile You Are
Slack-jawed, sans flesh, sans all sense of
who we were, we recycle from the chrysalis
of questions, of waiting to become, head in the clouds,
the last bulb of clarity yet to click on.
Drawn to what looks like stuck-on-a-pole redemption, in some other
neighbourhood, dimension, in the adulthood where we seem to recall
we used to live,
Godzillas of the afterlife, we lurch on, screeching like bad brakes towards the
Promised Land Buffet,
loading up our piggy-back platters with Smith Transport, which transports us
nowhere, fills nothing in the hold beneath our ribs,
and we remain parked and hungry in front of
what may have been our lives, no longer rolling stock, with only the promise of
ice cream and Edelweiss.
Echoes cackle, a subtraction of voices in the hollow high meadows of our skulls
where memories are bone white and brief,
like lives maybe,
like all the maybe lives we will ever live, have lived, will never live, like
the one stubborn light which never enlightens.
Foot-bones stub against the inflatable pool of childhood
with all its warnings,
all its ignored hazards.
We settle in to shallowness, the place we once were happy,
splash ourselves with the not yet learned and, like the sign says,
I seek the full immersion experience,
thumb and forefinger of holiness
clamping my nostrils, rainbowing me over,
other hand bracing the small of my back.
Around my hips the postulant’s robe floats,
a white lily upon the face of the waters,
the preacher’s salving words gurgling in and out
of my ear canals with the ebb and flow
of blue-green water, ceramic-tiled tub standing in
for the River Jordan. My sins wash away
with stains gone before, swirl down
the drain hole of redemption when the Lord’s janitor
pulls the plug. I am pumped for sainthood,
pumped to be, at last, among the chosen,
to get my ass up off the sidelines, out of the bleachers,
rah-rah-sis-boom-bah the angelic band down the court
of Beulah-land to victory, the celestial spree
of slam dunks, buzzer-beaters, carried aloft
on winged shoulders of apostolic teammates.
I’m weary of rummaging mortal garbage pails
for heaven’s leavings, holding cardboard signs
with sketchy pleas, kneading canned heat
into iced hands under crumbling bridges
from nowhere to nowhere. I’m tired
of the everyday, the 9-5, the humdrum, the absence
of wings ascending. The void of cars in the lot,
broken windows, lack of any wheeze from the A/C,
does not deter me. Christmas lights, after all, are up.
I am ready. Sweet Jesus, I am ready.
I drop into neutral and race the engine
and think of you and that flag you threw
and how I said What Where When
while you counted off the yardage
and I threw a challenge to no avail
no points scored
which was always a loss for me
right down to the wire
was always someplace over our heads
we never learned or we learned
too well and I could go on
with the football play-by-play
but it was never a game really
as I sit here deciding whether to
trip ahead wheel right maybe left
does it matter I don’t think so
till I see that blur-in-the-dark rainbow
overarching STOP and I think
turn around go back yield the field
you didn’t blow the whistle
the ball is still in play
I was wrong Baby O I was wrong
whatever it was
though that Hail-Mary pass could just be
the streak of my windshield wiper
and I can’t seem to get myself
up off the gridiron
Is this how the world ends?
One screw loose, and it all falls
apart. Every thing we know, everything
we love, everything we are, screeches to a halt.
straight out of the Twilight Zone.
Traffic lights stuck on red. What’s the point
of a no-right-turn sign
if we never make it to the intersection?
On the other hand, pun intended,
go left, young man.
This crossroads has got an angle,
but the march of time is at
parade rest, and we can’t see it.
Wasps, or the spawn of some devil
prairie weed, lie feet up
beneath the even keel of eternity.
Question is, when did we join them?
The empty store front
sells no answers.
The sky threatens,
but will never carry through.
We, however, have no time on our hands,
and we are coming for you,
Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Robert L. Dean, Jr.'s poetry collections are Pulp (Finishing Line Press 2022); The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020); and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). A multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, his work has appeared in many literary journals. Dean is a member of the Kansas Authors Club and The Writers Place. He has been a professional musician, and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas, midway between the Air Capital of the World and the Flint Hills.
Jason Baldinger is a poet and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA. He’s penned fifteen books of poetry the newest of which include: A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), and This Still Life (Kung Fu Treachery) with James Benger. His first book of photography, Lazarus, as well as two ekphrastic collaborations (with Rebecca Schumejda and Robert Dean) are forthcoming. His work has appeared across a wide variety of online sites and print journals. You can hear him from various books on Bandcamp and on lps by The Gotobeds and Theremonster. His etsy shop can be found under the tag la belle riviere.
The Ekphrastic Review
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