KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Ekphrastic Poem: 288 words

The Last of the Firemen

by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Flint Hills Night Burn: acrylic painting by Skyler Lovelace
Flint Hills Night Burn (acrylic on paper, 20x16 inches)
Copyrighted © by Skyler Lovelace. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with artist’s permission.


This is Hell and you are Dante but 
Virgil is stuck in a basket halfway 
up a wall in Limbo and texting 
some broad named Lucretia. 

Or this is Vietnam 1972, June 8 to be 
exact, a village called Trang Bang and 
you are nine years old and the VNAF 
has just dropped napalm and you run, 

naked, blistered, down the road, the 
GI Joes strolling casually behind you, 
one of them winding his camera. Or 
it’s August 1965, Watts, California, 

and you’re twelve and Black and 
choking on smoke, clenching fists 
in the street, watching the mosque 
where you and your family go for Friday 

prayer burn down after the cops 
tear-gas the sewers so no one else can 
escape. Or it’s that nightmare you had 
again last night, the one where you’ve 

just dropped a cigarette into the gas 
grill on Labor Day and the only way out 
is—well, there isn’t one, and again 
your daughter dies. Or some screwed-

up EKG of your life in all its raging, 
jagged-shadowed, sky-reflected 
futility, a cave of burnt-to-a-crisp 
stalactite and stalagmite dreams 

and hopes gone up in smoke in which 
you’re trapped beneath that never-ending 
volcano in Hawaii, entombed with 
all the hate of the world erupting 

from you like that creature in the movie 
Alien, only you don’t die, you can’t, for 
you are the last of the firemen and your name is 
Virgil and from that hole in your chest 

a beacon cuts through the haze and you smash 
the phone against the wall and bail out 
of the basket of the apathy of your life 
and reach for a garden hose and run, run 

like hell, into the fire. 

Skyler Lovelace
Issue 11, Spring 2019

is a visual artist who combines paints, pixels, and words. She lives in Wichita, Kansas. An expanded bio and her portfolio are available at:

Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Issue 11, Spring 2019

is the author of the poetry collection At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Shot Glass, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, 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, and read at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival and the Chikaskia Literary Festival in 2018.

Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He 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 by Dean inspired by 1955 photograph of his grandfather in the Boeing machine shop; published in The Ekphrastic Review (28 July 2018)

Llama, 1957, ekphrastic haibun by Dean inspired by Inge Morath’s photograph A Llama in Times Square; published in The Ekphrastic Review (13 January 2018)

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