Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
3 Poems



You could
draw and quarter it,
chuck it in the blender,
but what you really want,
with this autumn night
peering wide-eyed in your boudoir window,
is your fingernails clawing
the rind, the pebbly skin peeling back
into the cup of your palm, and only then
do you section it, careful like a surgeon entering
a body, suck the tit of each segment, the blood
of the mandarin trickling down your chin like
orgasm, the pulp sweet on your tongue, heaven dripping

onto the open book in your lap, Li Po’s Jade Stairs Lament
tearing up right where Night, late, has its way with her
silken hose, but you resist dropping your many-faceted curtain,
reach instead for another fruit, another life, another moon,
tome of the fruit of life, the most ancient Shijing, and when you bite into
the first ode—the one where the prince seeks but doesn’t find
the modest, retiring, virtuous, young lady—a November breeze
whispers down from Cold Mountain
of temple bells rung, drums beat, stone chimes struck, and you reach back
yet another life, you are Cai Lun discovering the distillation
of paper out of mulberry bark, the stuff upon which
the fall of your very first crystal curtain will be written, how, after you
cause the deaths of Consort Song and her sister by their own hands,
you bathe, don your finest silk robe, and swallow
the poison of your own making rather than surrender
to the Emperor’s blind-eyed, dark moon prison, the stuff, surely,

of a Spicy Detective, Startling Stories, Weird Tales, Black Mask.
You suckle another slice and turn the page.



True Tales of the Supernatural

You don’t pass through the cold
spot, it passes through you. You look
at the gauges: nothing. Check the
video monitor: more nothing. Something

abnormally paranormal about
this investigation. You reconnoiter
your surroundings. You don’t
recognize this house, you’ve never

been here before, yet there’s that
old baby crib you’ve seen pictures of
with you wrapped in diapers, the
ladder of pencil marks on the door

jamb where your dad recorded
your passage to manhood, much to
you mother’s chagrin, and that—
no, it can’t be. Margie Cranston’s

bra! Only that was at the drive-in,
one of those Son of Flubber or
Nutty Professor movies, or at least
that’s what you told them when the folks

granted you the keys on that first full moon
after the last ladder mark, though what you
really saw was a quick flash of Mrs. Robinson’s
tits, and you timed your maneuver accordingly

since you’d seen the flick three times already
at the Orpheum—there’s a parking lot
there now—and what’s that God-awful moaning
coming from down the hall or whatever it is

you’re standing in, some doorway to hell
maybe, you float down to see, look in
the open door and it’s You and the first
Mrs. You, wrestling away in that crummy

bed in your first cheap apartment and yes,
that was some kind of hell alright, but
Orpheus-like you escaped and of course
you wouldn’t have Becky if it wasn’t for

that night of fingernails dug in, ash tray shards
on the hardwood, that night of backs to each
other afterwards, those years of nights and days
of hot words, cold shoulders, a shudder runs down

your spine, cobwebs kiss your face, you reach out
towards that light way down there, white, warm,
pulsing, like the strobe at the disco where you met
the second Mrs. You, reach out, grasping: nothing.

You remember now. Last week, the booze, the fight.
Yesterday— You check the gauges: nothing. The monitor:
nothing. At the end of the hall, a bathroom, a mirror—
you remember because it was the last thing you

saw in that dingy motel after the breakup, the razor
slicing across your throat. Now you have your bearings.
You know where you are. You are home. That nothing,
it’s all that’s left of the ladder of you. And you hope, as you

enter the light, that
Becky understands.



Last Supper

You need not have stolen
this heart was yours
for the asking
wind sun moon rain
would you thieve these also
even the fox dare not
the stars are safe
from the unkindness of ravens

one tear shed
in spring
valentine wine
from the hem of her
crimson petaled kimono
cupped hands
all you need
to taste
the salt of it
she does not look to see
accepts the offering
what need you have of it
what care
you will take of it

would you think
me not so generous as
the lilies of the field

O ye of little faith

take, eat
do this in remembrance of me.


Robert L. Dean Jr.Robert L. Dean, Jr.’s debut poetry collection is At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Chiron Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Shot Glass, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, KYSO Flash, River City Poetry, Heartland! Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity, and the Wichita Broadside Project. He was a quarter-finalist in the 2018 Nimrod Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. He read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and the Chikaskia Literary Festival in 2018 and will return for Scissortail 2019. He is event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music held annually in Wichita, Kansas. He has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.