Controlled Burn by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

And God said
Shall these bones live?”
            —T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

snot rivers down my lip
cinders singe my eyes
air toxic with
hellfire, brimstone
Flint Hills ranchers
striking matches
tall-grass Zeuses
with scorched earth policies
not even a zephyr
whispers against them
up the narrow low places
creep their progeny
Stygian fingerprints staining
lilies of the field
down the street
the neighbors’ houses
Bataclan Theatre
Maalbeek Metro
Splendid Hotel
all smudged out
as far away as
Chicago, Fayetteville
rogue sparks ignite
bullet-hole a boy’s body
sucker-punch a protester
and what of these, my
fistfuls of embers
hot words you and I didn’t speak last night
cold naked back to cold naked back
how many tears
to drown a world

First appeared in Illya’s Honey (Fall, 2016).


Robert L. Dean, Jr.’s debut poetry collection is At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Chiron Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Shot Glass, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, KYSO Flash, River City Poetry, Heartland! Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity, and the Wichita Broadside Project. He was a quarter-finalist in the 2018 Nimrod Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. He read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and the Chikaskia Literary Festival in 2018 and will return for Scissortail 2019. He is event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music held annually in Wichita, Kansas. He has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. He was President of the Kansas Authors Club 2016-2017. His latest book of poetry, Stage Whispers (Meadowlark-Books, 2019), contains “…handsomely crafted poems…Dense with images, intimate and honest…” (Kathryn Kysar). His chapbook, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels. His first poetry collection, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016.



4 thoughts on “Controlled Burn by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

  1. Thanks Patricia. I’d hoped to see you in Salina this weekend but had to cancel. Drat!

    • Yes, I was disappointed that you weren’t there. I was looking forward to seeing you.

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