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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Poem: 281 words [R]
Author’s Notes: 131 words
By Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Hands

 

Sister Mary Frances (2016), photograph by Gay Pasley

Sister Mary Frances at NAACP Walk for Peace

Copyrighted © 2016 by Gay Pasley. All rights reserved.
Appears here with photographer’s permission.


The hands 
outlined 
are not 

chalk from a crime scene 
though they are 
the scene of a crime 

are not 

Paleolithic tracings 
though they trace 
a history of us 

the hands 
holding 
the hands 
bear witness 

to the history of a crime 
a crime of history 
the crime now becoming history 
the dark soil clinging 
to the rock of us 
turned over 

the thick glaze of her bifocals 
—don’t be fooled 
she sees right through us 
this sister of the true Cross 
this caretaker of the underbellies of souls 
calls us out 
she thought she was 
done with us after 

Emmett 
Medgar 
Malcom 
Martin 
Selma 
Watts 
The Sixteenth Street Church girls (say their names) 
—Addie Mae (14), Cynthia (14), Carole (14), Carol Denise (11)—

but here we are back again 

Trayvon 
Tamir 
Eric 
Michael 
Ezell 
Alton 
Ferguson 
Baltimore 
Charlottesville 
Dallas 

—yes 
five cops in Dallas 
there are no one-way streets in Allsville—

lest we forget 
she shows us the way 
sister of the language of sign 
what we are waiting for 
what are we 

—you guessed it—back again 

Ahmaud 
Rayshard 
Breonna 
Big George 
Lafayette Square 
Bird Man (Christian) in the Ramble 

how long before our eyes are opened 
our ears 
our 

big hands 
outsized 
one black 
one white 
so childlike in their rendering 
so—

how long before 
our hearts 

she will bear the weight of us 
for as long as it takes 
till the next ice age 

the slits of her eyes say so 
the downturned creases of her mouth 
say so 

bear the weight till 

childlike 
one hand 
clasps 
the other 

and the sign rolls up 
of its own accord 
and she can 
lay her burden down 
forever 

 

 

Author’s Notes:

1. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963. It was carried out by four members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. Though the four men were known, no prosecutions were conducted until 1977. The incident contributed to the passage by Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing

2. The Ramble is a 36-38 acre “Forever Wild” natural preserve in New York City’s Central Park, particularly known for its birdwatching opportunities. It is also the scene of a viral video from May 2020 of a white woman walking her dog who accused black birdwatcher Christian Cooper of trying to attack her after Cooper asked the woman to put her dog on a leash, as required by park rules.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ramble_and_Lake

 

Publisher’s Notes:

1. This poem receives the Editor’s Choice Award for MacQ-4.

2. An earlier version appears on the poet’s Facebook page (30 May 2020).

Gay Pasley
Issue 4, July 2020

is a photographer living in Oklahoma. Her work has been featured in Loud Zoo, Abstract Magazine, and Maintenant: A Journal of Dada Writing and Art. She is also a regular contributor to Art Mama Moves. A graduate of the Oklahoma City Red-Earth MFA Program, she has presented as a lecturer for organizations such as the International Association of Forensic Nurses, Society for Photographic Education, the Ralph Ellison Foundation, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, and Scissortail Writing Festival.

Gay’s work has also appeared, or is forthcoming, in Thread Literary Magazine, Hard Crackers Press, Elsewhere Magazine, Amistad, Transitions, Snapdragon: A Journal of Healing, Morkan’s Horse, Minola Review, Flatbush Review, Obsidian, Cliterature, and Arts in the African Diaspora.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Artist’s Profile at Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition

The Art of Gay Pasley in Abstract Magazine TV (9 Oct 2017)

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 4, Juy 2020

is the author of two books: a poetry collection, At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, November 2018), and The Aerialist Will Not Be Performing, ekphrastic poems and short fictions after the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020).

His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Chiron Review; Flint Hills Review; Heartland! Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity; I-70 Review; Illya’s Honey; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; Red River Review; River City Poetry; Shot Glass; The Ekphrastic Review; and the Wichita Broadside Project. His work has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net anthology award; he was a quarter-finalist in the 2018 Nimrod Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry; and he read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and the Chikaskia Literary Festival in 2018 and 2019.

Dean has been a professional musician, having played bass for, among others, Jesse Lopez, B. W. Stephenson, Bo Didley, The Dallas Jazz Orchestra, and the house band for the Fairmount Hotel Venetian Room. He grew up in Topeka and Wichita, Kansas before spending 30 years between Los Angeles and Dallas, where he worked at The Dallas Morning News. He now lives in Augusta, Kansas, and serves as Event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music held annually in Wichita.

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 the Pushcart Prize.

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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