Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jack Phillips Lowe- Two Poems


It’s Saturday morning and Buchman’s working
the Returns and Exchanges counter
at the Pricemaster Department store.

By 11AM, Buchman tires of the bullshit storm
and stops fully listening to customers’ complaints.
Instead, he just stares at each patron,
inventing a backstory for him or her
based on their looks and demeanor.

“To hell with your two-week return policy!”
shouts an old man holding a vaporizer.
“Two weeks was up just yesterday!
I’ve been shopping here since 1982. . .”
Buchman studies the senior closely.
He’s a little bastard, no more than 5’5”.
His white, neatly-combed hair is thinning.
He’s got a large pointed nose and wide brown eyes.
Buchman decides the old man resembles Dustin Hoffman.

“This is an outrageous violation of my customer’s rights!”
snarls the old man. “My cousin is a lawyer. . .”
Buchman decides the old man isn’t Dustin Hoffman.
He’s actually Benjamin Braddock, the character
Hoffman played in that movie, The Graduate. 
The idea puts a slight smile on Buchman’s face.

“You think this is funny? You snotty brat!” the old man barks, pointing.
“You won’t be laughing when I sue this dump for six figures!”
Buchman chalks Ben’s anger up to frustration.
The plastics company Ben spent the last 47 years
slaving for put him on permanent layoff
just as he was ready to retire---
totally screwing Ben out of his pension.

The old man pulls out a pocket notebook and a pen.
“I want your name, smartass!” he growls.
“Your company president’s going to hear of this!”
Buchman figures Ben is still smarting over Elaine’s
coming out as a lesbian and divorcing him 20 years ago.
Or maybe it’s because Mrs. Robinson, still spry
at age 85, refuses to ‘friend’ Ben on Facebook.
“Smartass!” bellows the old man. “I want your name!”

“No,” replies Buchman, emerging from his reverie.
“I never liked what you did to Mrs. Robinson.”


By his fourth month of unemployment,
former magazine fact-checker Lon Colfax
had discovered a most pertinent truth---
just because you’ve left the job
doesn’t mean the job has left you.

For example, details remained important to him.
Over the course of a week, watching daytime TV,
Lon spied the same brunette actress
in three widely divergent roles:
a lonely widow kidnapped by a bunch
of orphaned boys needing a mother on Wagon Train;
the super-villainess Blaze on Batman;
and an accused murderer, seemingly doomed,
but vindicated at the last minute on Perry Mason.
The actress’s name: Myrna Fahey.

Lon found himself intrigued by
Ms. Fahey’s Elizabeth Taylor-like beauty
and hands-off-horndog sense of self-worth.
One day in the public library, instead of job-hunting online,
Lon immersed himself in the actress’s backstory.
Myrna Fahey, Bing informed him,
was a small-town girl who worked constantly,
but was always a step shy of stardom.
Still, she rose to featured roles
in nearly every notable TV show of the 1960s.
Her suitors included George Hamilton and Joe DiMaggio.
Lon smiled as he read that
a favorite hobby of hers was playing the stock market.
His research though, like his subject’s career,
came to an abrupt and sad end:
Myrna Fahey died of cancer, at age 40, in 1973.

It was this sadness that impelled Lon,
trailing a white helium balloon on a string,
into a nearby park at noon the next day.
Folded twice and tied to the end of the string
was a newspaper page of stock market results.
Written on that page in red marker:
“Godspeed, Myrna. Love, Lon.”

Lon paused for a second, then released the balloon.
He stood, shading his eyes and watching,
until the balloon vanished into the clouds.
Then he said, quite aloud, to himself:
“Lon old boy, you’ve got to find a new job.”

The bio you requested: Jack Phillips Lowe is a native Chicagoan. His latest chapbook is Cold Case Cowboys (Middle Island Press, 2013). And yes, we think Lowe watches too much TV, too. 

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