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Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Robert L. Dean, Jr. is the author of Pulp (Finishing Line Press 2022); The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020); and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). A multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, his work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Sheila-Na-Gig online, I-70 Review, Suisan Valley Review, Flint Hills Review, MockingHeart Review, and many other literary journals. Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.

Tango el sueño

Your foot breaks off at the ankle
and I am left with a high heel and a lump of ash
between my beige paisley and black leather
shoes, a mordida for the ages, and I wonder

how you have managed thus far on those
stiletto heels and peep toes without crumbling
completely, like that bonfire at sunset on Playa Pocitos
the day before we took the Buquebus across Río de la Plata

to Buenos Aires and learned these steps, this figure of
salida, walk, cross, resolución, dance floor rolled out
over the cobblestones of Plaza Dorrego, the old couple
who taught us, a scratchy Carlos Gardel crooning

from the thrown wide doors of the corner café, open embrace,
then, chest to chest, arm on shoulder, leaning into each other,
Because you are young, she says, eyes sparking, and, speaking of
burnt things and your arm, there it goes, with a crunch,

embering across the ephemeral stage of carnal La cumparsita,
smoldering the years to come, tango of here today, gone
tomorrow, burning nights, tropic days, did I en-moth you to the flame
or did you spontaneously combust, oh, we were warned all right,

but the firemen arrive too late every time one of us
fans the door on the other, though the corridas, the lustradas,
never burn as hot with mannequin milongueros, and the bandoneon
wheezes at last and we return to our abrazo, the searing,

deathly embrace, iron fisted, I crush you to me and you collapse,
so many flakes of selfish night, I smoke the perfume of you,
or who you once were, so intense you linger, I too ghost on,
or who I once was, and in the mirrored café window I see

one of us still standing, still leading, still following,
empty of embrace, full of ourselves, a heap of cinders
stirring under tango soles and stiletto heels,
the Sunday afternoon square empty of dancers.

I Wish I May I Wish I Might

I flip a coin
it sticks in the overhead
one star burning

I flip more
empty my pockets
seven stars but none flicker

did I find them along the way
or did you give them to me
or does it matter

what shall I use for the moon
I toss up a memory from a night when I was eight
we sat on the steps and sang When you wish upon a star

and Jiminy Cricket chirped in from under the porch
and one of us grew up and the other one didn’t
though which was which I’m not so sure

another coin, it wasn’t there before
I toss it, not so high this time, call heads
it lands tails in my palm

stars blink
moon sheds a tear
do you remember me

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