This is the place where Slim overlooked the peeling corner of your fake ID and poured you a cold one because you were from the neighborhood and Slim’s brother worked with your dad at the ball-bearing factory and Tiny Spinetti’s neorealist cards were accepted currency all over town. This is the place with the best beef jerky and Cracker Jacks in the county and where Madge’s pink skirt hiked up to mid-thigh when she wiped down the high stool tables. This is the place out back of which you and Albert Gutzmann got into your one and only fight, the place where legend says John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd used to hang out between bank robberies. This is the place where guys in VFW jackets left their Harleys unchained and re-fought Incheon, Heartbreak Ridge, and a hill called Pork Chop, while a few college boys home on break debated the location of a place called Vietnam, and old men in John Deere and AFL-CIO caps puffed Luckies, Winstons, and Camels, the air above them a skeptical haze of Khrushchev, Cuba, and Berlin. Flippers and kickers pinged and dinged from one wall, steel points thunked cork on another, the crack of a nine-ball break came from a side room, money rustled from hand to hand. Mysterious metal ribs across the street kept watch, holding their breath, poker-chip towers marching into the vanishing point of history. The GMC out front is not the jalopy you remember, souped up by Crazy Eddie Nitschke, and you wonder, if you walk through the door right now, with your chip-embedded plastic license and wi-fi ear buds, if you can still get an Old Style in a frosted mug, if Slim still remembers, if the air is still drunk with glory.
Blue Mound, Illinois (photograph, 2022)
Copyrighted © by Jason Baldinger. All rights reserved.
Image appears here with photographer’s permission.
is a poet and photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A former Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, he is co-founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He’s the author of 15 books of poetry, the newest of which include: The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) and A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), and This Still Life with James Benger. Baldinger’s work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on LPs by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.
⚡ Two Poems After Jason Baldinger, by Robert L. Dean, Jr., with Baldinger’s photographs Hinton, West Virginia (2022) and Walkersville, West Virginia (2022), in The Ekphrastic Review (3 December 2022)
⚡ Cold Water Glistens, a poem by Jason Baldinger in As It Ought To Be (23 November 2022)
is the author of Pulp (Finishing Line Press, 2022); The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing, ekphrastic poems and short fictions after the
art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020); and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018).
Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and multiple times for Best of the Net, his work has appeared or is forthcoming 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; Suisun Valley Review, The Ekphrastic Review; Thorny Locust; Waco WordFest Anthology 2022; 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. He lives in Augusta, Kansas, along with a universe of books, CDs, LPs, and a couple dozen hats. In his spare time, he practices the time-honored art of hermitry.
⚡ 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).