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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 14: August 2022
Poem: 553 words
By Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Cruel and Unusual

A Montage

the pock in my windshield 
seeks to grow into a crack 

branch out to consume all the glass 
swallow the known world 


in Livingston, Texas, a man knows already 
the loss of the known, the world, spends 
twenty-seven years in a nine by six-foot cell 
three steps from end to end, eyesight 

dimming, vocal chords less vocal 
the knowledge of language like a comic book 
in shrink wrap 
where the ink comes off with the plastic and the superheroes 
are out of date 

one phone call in twenty-seven years 
informing him 
	his mother died 


Saugertes, New York: found, after two years 
lost, in a tiny room 
under the basement stairs of her grandfather’s house 
a six-year-old girl 
in the grasp of her all-too-grasping mother 

found on Valentine’s Day 
though no candied hearts 
no pink-frosted sugar cookies 
in the shape of love greet her 

father and grandfather and mother 
led away in handcuffs, what kind of 


was hers those two years 
cruel and unusual, surely 

like the man in Texas she’s deemed 
no longer an escape risk
though Texas puts up a tough fight 
not an Eighth Amendment question 
	the rebuttal 


Bridgewater Township, New Jersey: 
	two teens 
in a mall throw 
over something 
one of them said 
	one of them 
Black, one White 

the cops sit the 
	light skinned boy 
on a chair and tackle the Black kid 
	bang his head 
on a trash receptacle 
	handcuff him 
the White boy 
	holding out 

conjoined wrists, offering himself up 
	for cuffing 
even he can’t believe 
	what’s happening 
he threw the first punch, after all 
	sent back 
to his chair, he is later deemed 

Hispanic, what amendment 
	does that fall under 
what is the known world here 
	and how long 
till it’s consumed 


Chihuahua, Mexico: A cluster bomb 
yellow-headed blackbirds 
from out of nowhere, burst on 

yellow houses and broken cement, some small bodies 
flutter up and away, most are 
	instantly dead 
others flop and flop 
until they don’t 

is this a world we know 
we see no agency 
for this 
	freak of nature 

pollution one scientist offers, another, too many birds 
on a wire, yet another 
predator fowl 


do we get to pick and choose our root causes, what sent 
the first mall fist flying 
what crime warrants 

complete sensory deprivation 

without appeal 
how could a mother and father (and grandfather) do such a thing 

when we open our Bibles and read 
not a sparrow falls 
without God knows it, not a hair 

on our head that isn’t 


in the cardiologist’s waiting room 
across from me 

a white-haired couple 
him with a very peaked 

tent in his pants, the hard-on 
of all hard-ons, the boys in the mall 

would be envious, yet Miracle Man seems 
oblivious, as does Mrs. Miracle Man 

and maybe that’s it 
maybe that’s the trick 

just sit back 
and let it be 

but how can we, how can we not 
resin and polish away the pock 

erase the detritus 
of what we have become 

what we toss up in the glass 
of our own faces 

before it’s too late, before 
the world attains 

unknowability, before we become 
completely, irredeemably 


Terra incognita 

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 14, August 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, was published by 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.

Two of Dean’s ekphrastic works in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 5, October 2020): Impression, CNF after Berthe Morisot’s painting Woman and Child on a Balcony; and Eyes on You, a poem after Aurore Uwase Munyabera’s painting Conflict Resolution

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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