Robert L. Dean, Jr.


I glance at the odometer
but it doesn’t make sense
the readout’s in light years

I feel I should be there by now
feel I’ve been traveling in circles
cause there’s that damn toll booth

again I roll down the window
and yep the same attendant
raven hair curling out from her

gypsy headscarf black patch over
right eye I stick out my left hand
I know the drill she examines

the palm like it’s the first time
traces the heart line right to left
stops at the same place as the last

time and the time before that says
This is the problem right here
you see but I don’t see for the

umpteenth time maybe just a little
flaw she says You need to get
on past that get on up under

the index finger you have empathy
you are a caring person when you
care to be don’t curve up under

the middle finger that’s trouble
that’s the lonely road you need to
get off it or you’ll never get there

I throw her a curve this time say
Where is there but she’s up for it
traces the life line which ends

well short of the wrist Loosen up
she says Find someone who needs you
to need them watch the stars after a rain

when you can smell the ichor of
spring in the grass lay down
the weight of the world from your

shoulders you are not Atlas and I am not
Heracles I don’t want to see you here again
Ssshhh! Listen Listen Listen but all I hear is

the muted beating of my heart There she says
There is half your answer and I feel her press
something into my palm a golden token two

flaming hearts and meaningless initials
on one side two flaming hearts and no initials
on the other There she says pointing ahead

There and I pull out of the booth one light year
ahead at the rest stop where it has just finished
raining I find you with a flat tire and

the whole dripping night flooding from your eyes
around your neck a golden token
with two flaming hearts and my initials

anticipation only on the obverse when I ask
you to show me I feel the need to fill it your need
for my need to fill it I do not change your tire

we set the world aside taste the sweet rich blood
of the gods I should have asked the gypsy sooner
light years sooner there has been here all the time

O the stars

Robert L. Dean, Jr. is the author of The Aerialist Will not be Performingekphrastic 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 Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in October Hill Magazine; Flint Hills ReviewI-70 ReviewChiron Review; The Ekphrastic Review; Sheila-Na-Gig online; Shot Glass; Illya’s HoneyRed River Review; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; River City Poetry. Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.