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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Ekphrastic Poem: 305 words
Author’s Note: 28 words
By Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Fall From Grace


the arc between two deaths 5, painting by Steven Schroeder

the arc between two deaths 5
(ink and watercolor on handmade paper mounted on canvas panel, 2017)

From a series inspired by Doris Humphrey’s theory of dance*

Copyrighted © 2017 by Steven Schroeder. All rights reserved.

The aerialist will not be performing tomorrow.

The aerialist will not be performing next week.

The aerialist will not be performing a second act.

The aerialist has fallen. Gracefully, but fallen. Splattered,
gracefully. Gracefully smeared blood across the carnival floor.

The aerialist has fallen. Whether from tightrope, trapeze,
matters not. What matters is the plunge, the graceful arc
of it, the head-first-ness, the absence of scream on the way
down, the acceptance that, yes, the alternate reality
is no longer alternate.

The aerialist has fallen, again. The aerialist never uses
a net. The aerialist dies a little each time. This is the reality
of alternates. What we can learn from the aerialist.

The aerialist has fallen, despite studying with the Flying Wallendas,
Doris Humphrey, the Dalai Lama. The aerialist will fall
again, in the next reality, no alternative. Need we not cry out
in horror. The aerialist lives to fall. Strings, death to death,
the wire of grace. Reaches for the bar of heaven, existence
to existence.

The aerialist reads Nietzsche on the way down, gracefully turning
the pages of Also sprach Zarathustra, which has been extracted from
blue leotard waistband at the first slip of foot, hand. The aerialist only 
a few words, maybe a sentence, before time runs out. The next fall,
a few more. The aerialist is anxious to see how it ends, this paean to
eternal return, how it can be merely physical, sans Samsara. The aerialist
is skeptical. The aerialist has much experience with falling. There is 
	a beauty
to it. A skill. In the last instant, a suspension of time and space, a feeling 
of falling into grace. As if being born especially for this moment. This arc.
This death.

The aerialist will be performing, in the next reality, under a big top
near you.

*Author’s note: Doris Humphrey was an early 20th-century American dancer and choreographer who developed the theory of Fall and Recovery, also known as “the arc between two deaths.”

—From The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing, Dean’s collection of ekphrastic poems and short fictions after the art of Steven Schroeder, to be released early in 2020

Steven Schroeder
Issue 1, January 2020

is a visual artist and poet who was born in Wichita Falls, grew up on the high plains in the Texas Panhandle, and now lives and works in Chicago. He earned his Ph.D. (1982) at the University of Chicago and spent thirty years moonlighting as a philosophy professor at universities in the United States and China. He has been painting for more than 50 years and writing poetry for nearly that long.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Portfolio and additional details

Books and links to scholarly publications

Learning to See Nothing: New and Recent Work on Paper and Canvas by Steven Schroeder; exhibition catalog, Eleanor Hayes Art Gallery (Kinzer Performing Arts Center, Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma; 4 September–18 October 2018)

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 1, January 2020

is the author of the poetry collection At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, November 2018). His second book, The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing, ekphrastic poems and short fictions after the art of Steven Schroeder, will be released early in 2020. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Chiron Review; Flint Hills Review; Heartland! Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity; I-70 Review; Illya’s Honey; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; Red River Review; River City Poetry; Shot Glass; The Ekphrastic Review; and the Wichita Broadside Project. His work has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net anthology award; he was a quarter-finalist in the 2018 Nimrod Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry; and he read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and the Chikaskia Literary Festival in 2018.

Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas, and serves as Event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music held annually in Wichita.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Hopper and Dean: Interview and poems in River City Poetry (Fall 2017).

Metal Man, ekphrastic poem inspired by a 1955 photograph of Dean’s paternal grandfather in the Boeing machine shop; published in The Ekphrastic Review (28 July 2018) and nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Windmill, ekphrastic poem inspired by Dean’s maternal grandfather; published in KYSO Flash (Issue 11, Spring 2019) and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. This poem is among half-a-dozen of Dean’s ekphrastic works published in KYSO Flash (Issues 11 and 12).

Llama, 1957, ekphrastic haibun inspired by Inge Morath’s photograph A Llama in Times Square; published in The Ekphrastic Review (13 January 2018).

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