We blew through, no walls or windows shattered,
only this wake, these things, and a freight-train rumbling
which has passed with the night. Beer bottles, Chilton,
mine. China cabinet, yours. China, what is left of it,
silver goblet, though we both drank from it, yours.
Place settings, the table upon which they set, we
shared that a while, though the careful wrapping
of the napkins is you. As is the mirrored candle-
holder flat on the writing desk, though once it hung
in a living room and once, if memory serves, I
gifted you it. And the desk? Both of us, facing,
in the beginning, a blackboard scribbled with
intimate equations. Solved, in the end, for zero.
Field and Stream, Better Homes and Gardens,
ghosts now, haunting the magazine basket
too often ignored. That photo behind the Chilton:
you, as I first saw you, perhaps in real time, perhaps
in the frame of memory. The books, both standing
and splayed, a library of what came after. The rest,
more difficult to divvy up. Flowers: dried now,
thorny then, vase of origin unknown. Serving plate,
display purposes only. A Harlequin tube of shifting sands
which dazzled us from time to time. Boxed reflections
of empty hopes and unwrapped dreams. Instruments
of torture, the hooks we sank into each other. Santa
parting the tableware, or is it a hula dancer with
coconut breasts? And, of course, our favorite game,
twisting, twining, plotting to upset, never a true
embrace. But, for the life of me, I can’t quite place
the elk head. Something we immured, perhaps, Poe-like,
when we mortared that brick wall? Talisman? Fetish?
Beating heart? The future, as we envisioned it.
The happily ever after. If so, who gets it now?
Who wants it, now?
Modern and Other -isms
But is it? Can it truly be, modern? Or are we
postmodern here, looking back on what we once
thought of as modern? Aren’t we in the instant that is after
the instant that was now an instant ago? And wasn’t this
modern postmodern to the modern that came before it?
Is this the place we stayed at last time? Or the deconstruction
we will be checking into once we park the rental? Perhaps it is staid,
sedate, the principled break we need; perhaps the experiential
scatology we’ve been looking forward to. It is forward, right? But
if it’s post, aren’t we backward? What if there are no crystal balls,
and the post-past is just a dream? I tell you the light above
is the sun in an overcast sky, you insist
it’s a streetlight coming on at dusk. On second glance,
I concur with you. On retrospection,
you prefer my first impression.
All Cretans are liars, you say, trusting I remember Epimenides,
and the place of his birth. Or will, at any given moment.
Given. Is that how time works? Given, at any moment? If so,
by whom? Do we evolve, or are we creation ongoing? What if
we are both? Here tomorrow, gone today? The Ghetto Singers
in Theresienstadt play Someday My Prince Will Come
before the train for Auschwitz rolls in. McCartney sings of Yesterday,
Harrison of Something. Here, in the postmodern, you can feel the
neon pulse in red, hear the groan of green in the stoplight womb.
See the golden glow beyond the pale/pole, just the one, come on in the
second floor window—or is it the third? We can’t visualize, after all, street
level, where structure begins. Someone up late. Or early? Don’t let those
wires, those overhead threads, that Spider-Time’s spun web, hang you up.
GPS is useless here. What you have is all you have. Where you have been
is who you are going is when you were. Arrival, departure, the same way station.
Keep it new, says Pound, in his pre-post-modern world. Not under this sun,
replies the prophet, three million moments before. And suddenly, nothing changes.
Absence. That is what is here, the absent.
Fishermen, tourists, cloud-gazers, motor
boats, the wind, all absent. And now
I add you to the scene. Squarely within frame,
next the laugh-mouthed children. Though,
can I miss what I never had? Possession
is nine-tenths of the law. I had the other tenth.
I had a ghost, a dream, a few words strung
like cloud-bellies in air. Love, life.
But neither of us consulted a dictionary.
That glow, that lost horizon thermonuclear
remnant of some foreign, absent, ravaged land. What if
I dive in, stroke for it—the butterfly, no,
the breast? Can I reach it before the sun flees
refuge? Before Christ returns and pulls forth
fishes and loaves? Can I swim with a miracle
in my pocket? For you were, you know, I say
to no one, my miracle. False prophet that I am,
I had predicted sun in someone’s hair.
Someone’s hand in someone’s hand.
I sit, pull my jacket tighter.
Absence. Chill caress upon the heart.
Buck Rogers. The Jetsons.
The Future now playing
in the rear view,
all shiny and metallic,
tailgated by aliens,
friendly or hostile
depending on one’s point of view.
Still UFO but now
stanchioned into memory,
crowd control pretenders
preparing for ghostly queues
of kids with ray-guns, phasers, lightsabers.
Three day work weeks, work from home,
robotic houses, cars that read your mind.
These were the Futures we wanted.
Doublethink, the ignition point
of books, HAL, androids dreaming
of electric sheep—informational,
apocalyptic, romantic, maybe,
but these were
that scared us.
AI we say,
now that it’s here,
There is nothing wrong
with your television set.
Maybe I wrote this,
maybe I phoned it in,
flipped a switch,
maybe I’m cruising
the air streams,
pouring a whiskey
from the wet bar,
lighting the AI fireplace,
stars strung overhead,
taking those little green men
---who, in the end,
only wanted to warn us---
to the Outer Limits.
We repeat: There is nothing wrong
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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