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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Poem: 340 words
By Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Any Little Sure Thing

A swallow flies backwards across the freeway, wings beating mightily 
for its small size, beak like a pygmy prow parting the Boreal wrath 

of the north wind with no apparent effect. Perhaps if it were larger, higher, 
like the nascent wedge of geese who, having lost all sense of season, 

are more fortunate in their January “Wrong Way” Corrigan journey, 
it might make progress instead of regress, instead of defining itself 

in terms of itself, instead of failure retrograding to its inevitable 
beginning. At the pond outside my psychologist’s office building, 

geese walk like Christ on the water, having no inclination to unfurl wings 
aloft, to ascend, to abandon their sheet-ice island, and, for a moment, 

I, like Peter, feel the refrigerator magnet pull of miracle to get out 
and try my New Balance sneaker luck. Maybe today I don’t need 

the shrink. Maybe today I can head the right direction, wind at my tail, 
a self-contained gaggle of warmth and understanding, orient my ferromagnetic soul 

along the lines of Gaia’s flux and flow, find some racial memory of sunnier climes. 
In the parking lot, I eject the Doobie Brothers, street preachers 

reminding me they don’t like what they think I see, power down my 
rubber-rimmed wings, scan the snow-portent sky that has become my habitat. 

And then, I feel it. A vibration, a vibe, coming up through the tires, the floor mat, 
my shoes, making its bird-footed way up the marrow of my legs, roosting in 

my solar plexus. The Earth, trembling. An embarrassment almost, as if the Mother 
is ashamed of such miracles as my eyes have beheld, such loss of control 

over her domain. I glide out of my steel and plastic nest and flap my way 
into the shrink’s office, not knowing if I have come to a beginning, 

or an ending. Not knowing if I’ve had any apparent effect, lent a hand 
in even the smallest of miracles. Not knowing any little sure thing at all. 

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 12, March 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; MockingHeart 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 Writers Place, 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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