We glance around for Orpheus, St. Peter, wonder if we are ascending to or descending from, find both lacking. Our own recognizance, then, in the midst of our own shambles. Heaven, it seems, is not as advertised. Hell, if that’s what our backs are against, is country undiscovered, and we shudder at the thought of vistas more desolate than the present. Is the passage as it closes in littered with the debris of mortality, or eternity collapsing? We brace hands against walls, try to forestall what narrows. Have we lived in vain, are we dying for nothing? The dismembered thing on the step: something we dropped? A burden yet to carry? A life incomplete? What does the eye bulging from the sheet rock know? The glow at the top beckons, though shadow prefigures. Darkness as threshold to light. Magnetosphere in flux. Us, waiting for us. A compass jams. Water shatters. We tuck head against chest, draw in arms and legs. With a push of our own making, we expel from zygote way station into sagging gape of life and death, cleaving doubt as we go.
Ladonnia, Missouri (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)