Poetry Break: Jack Phillips Lowe

By: Jack Phillips Lowe

 

THE SHARPEST KNIFE

 

“So, what do you think of that?” huffed Caleb.

His face flushed red and he was sweating.

 

Rhonda sat there calmly,

leafing through a magazine.

 

“Well? Come on, speak up!” Caleb yelled.

“I’ve laid it all out plainly for you!

I’ve broken it down into terms

that a child could understand!

What have you got to say for yourself?”

 

Rhonda shrugged and turned a page.

 

Caleb’s eyes flared. He clinched his teeth

and raked his fingers through his hair.

“Damn it! Son of a bitch!

Screw you, Rhonda!”

 

Caleb tromped out the door

and slammed it behind him.

Rhonda turned another page

and smiled.

 

Sometimes, silence is

the sharpest knife.

 

 

SOMETIMES, A LONG SHOT COMES IN

 

Deke Bailey can’t sleep. Again.

So he sits in his living room in front of the TV.

He holds a bottle of vodka in his right hand

and a bottle of orange juice in his left,

mixing screwdrivers in his mouth.

 

Deke tunes in to a late-night infomercial.

The ad is for Flex Seal, a sticky gunk in a can

that will fix any break or breach, lickety-split.

The pitchman in the infomercial even uses Flex Seal

to mend a hole in the bottom of a pontoon boat.

A few daubs of Flex Seal and off he goes,

skimming across the Florida Everglades.

 

Somehow this makes Deke think of his son, Gabe.

They haven’t spoken to each other in five years.

They had a falling out over Gabe’s wife, Alejandra.

Not a word in five years—

time made it so hard to reconnect.

It’s not that Deke didn’t want to; he didn’t know how.

Until now.

 

Deke grabs his phone and orders some Flex Seal.

He has the stuff sent to Gabe and Alejandra.

Sometimes, a long shot comes in.

The pitchman claimed Flex Seal is a fix-all.

We’ll see, Deke thinks. We’ll see.

 

 

ON YOUR SIDE

 

It is snowing outside. On April 27, 2019.

This is uncommon even in Chicago,

where the weather is 

always a loaded crap game.

 

I lay here in bed like a 14-year old

whose father, the night before,

had ordered the kid

to spend his precious Saturday

mowing the lawn.

 

The lawn, I admit, needs cutting.

The grass is as long

as a hippie’s freak flag

and the dandelions

are brandishing screw-you smiles.

Yes indeed, it’s high time

to fire up the John Deere.

 

Yet, my inner teenager rejoices

in this unexpected reprieve,

this unforeseen victory

over Dad’s iron rule.

A Saturday he expected to waste

slaving in the yard

can instead be wasted

sipping milkshakes and

popping his girlfriend’s pimples

in the food court at the local mall.

 

With satisfaction, I roll over

and bury my face in the pillow.

 

I am, in fact, fifty years old.

My father has been dead

for over a decade.

My most recent girlfriend

had age spots

instead of pimples.

 

But surprise freedom

still tastes as sweet

as a milkshake

when you find

that Mother Nature

is on your side.

 

 

THE FATEFUL QUESTION OF THE CENTURY

 

Easter Sunday finds Buchman,

Div and Mateo manning the deli counter

in the quite-deserted Savemore Super Store. 

 

Buchman is polishing the counter

for at least the eighth time that day.

Div is screwing around on his phone.

Mateo is sorting through the deck

of Fortnite trading cards

he keeps hidden in his work apron.

Their manager, Mr. Tosser,

afflicted with the brown nose and troll face

of all assistant retail managers,

pops suddenly through the storeroom door,

having snuck in via the loading dock entrance.

 

“Well,” Mr. Tosser says brightly,

“since you guys aren’t doing shit,

I’ve got some shit for you to deal with.”

 

“Whaddaya mean?” asks Div,

without taking his eyes off his screen.

 

“What I mean,” says Tosser,

“is that somebody—literally—

took a dump in one of the urinals

in the men’s room by the service desk.”

 

“So?” says Mateo. “Call Maintenance.”

 

“Maintenance is off for the holiday,”

says Tosser. “I can’t ask the cashiers

to handle it and Akbar has seniority.

That leaves it to you three mooks.

So get off the phone, put away the cards

and clean out that whiz box. And I mean now.”

A self-satisfied Tosser turns and leaves.

 

Mateo, Div and Buchman lock eyes.

Each one raises a clenched fist.

Div counts it down:

“Three! Two! One—shoot!”

 

Mateo extends his index and middle fingers.

Div does likewise.

Buchman straightens all five of his fingers.

 

“Way to go Buchman!” brays Div.

“Scissors cut paper, old man!”

 

“I’d ask him to Instagram it for us,”

Mateo chuckles, “but Buchman

ain’t even got a phone!”

 

Stone-faced, Buchman trudges toward

the janitor’s closet. Walking, he asks his Maker

the fateful question of the century:

“What, dear God, am I doing with my life?”

God doesn’t answer.

 

 

Bio: Jack Phillips Lowe

 

His poems have appeared in Clark Street Review, Homestead Review and Barbaric Yawp.

His most recent book is Flashbulb Danger: Selected Poems 1988-2018 (Middle Island Press, 2018), available from amazon.com. 

A native Chicagoan, Lowe currently resides in Addison, IL, an enchanted kingdom of foreclosed houses & fast food restaurants.  

Although Jack thinks his voice sounds like “a train conductor reading off a list of stops”, this is Jack reading “The Satisfaction”.

Additional poems from Jack Phillips Lowe on Two Drops of Ink

 

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2 comments

  1. Each one simply fun to read as a comic might make you laugh while opening your heart to the truth, and you remain stunned by the poignancy of it all. My favorite? hmm tough choice. Sometimes, A Long Shot Comes In. interesting, not believing in accidents, I read this today, as I prepare to send my soon to be 47 year old son a birthday gift ( a book by an author he loves). Haven’t spoken in two years. I might need that Flex Steel. Many thanks.

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