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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 11: January 2022
Poem: 235 words
By Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Light Speed

What if we are all galaxies? Or what’s left 
                  of them, light traveling at the speed 
of death, billions of years ago death, seeking 
               the open eyes of one curious child, 

neck craned, scanning the heavens, not for 
                      some sign of God, but for some sign 
others were once here, brilliant, beautiful, spinning, 
                           spiraling out from their own dark matter, 

and what if we take up residence in those eyes? Are we born 
                             again? Will we live forever? See 
ourselves looking back at ourselves? Or wink out 
                                   in a flutter of lashes? 

And where do we go when the mother calls out, the child 
                            climbs into bed? 
Where do we go when the sun comes up? Does the child dream 
                                 of us, carry us 

to school, hear our primal big-bang screams in the 
                interstellar space between the teacher’s 
                        one plus one equals two? 
And if the child, too, is star-stuff, then what is it we retain 
                                     in the orbs of our 

spiraling arms, cradle as we collapse into black hole lullabies, 
                               retrograde toward wombs of 
                               initial singularities? And what of 
the multiverse? All those infant orbits gazing up, down, eyeing 
                        infinite variants of us? Do we die 

in all our incarnations when we die in one? Or, do we, 
                                        as in dreams, 
blaze forever, one heaven or another, birthing, rebirthing, 
                            scanning the skies 
                                for remnants of all the lives 
                                      of us? 


Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 11, January 2022

is the author of two full-length books: The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing, ekphrastic poems and short fictions after the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020), and a poetry collection, At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). His chapbook, Pulp, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in July 2022.

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2019 and multiple times for Best of the Net, his work has appeared in Chiron Review; Flint Hills Review; Heartland! Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity; I-70 Review; Illya’s Honey; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; Mocking Heart Review; October Hill Magazine; Red River Review; River City Poetry; Sheila-Na-Gig online; Shot Glass; The Ekphrastic Review; Thorny Locust; and the Wichita Broadside Project.

A native Kansan, Dean studied music composition with Dr. Walter Mays at Wichita State University before going on the road as a bass player, conductor, and arranger; he was a professional musician for 30 years, playing with acts such as Jesse Lopez, Bo Didley, Frank Sinatra Jr., Vic Damone, Jim Stafford, Kenny Rankin, B. W. Stevenson, and the Dallas Jazz Orchestra. And he put in a stint with the house band at the Fairmont Hotel Venetian Room in Dallas. While living in Dallas, he also worked 20 years for The Dallas Morning News and made the transition from music to writing before moving back to Kansas in 2007.

Dean is a member of the Kansas Authors Club, and the event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music, held annually in Wichita, Kansas. He lives in Augusta, Kansas, along with a universe of books, CDs, LPs, an electric bass, and a couple dozen hats. In his spare time, he practices the time-honored art of hermitry.

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 Best of the Net.

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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