STILL PLYING

Poetry by Jack Phillips Lowe ∝ Art by Maro Kentros

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Long off the grid,

I had assumed him dead

and buried for years.

But there was his tag,

freshly scrawled in red,

on the men’s room wall

at the Rainbow Restaurant

in Elmhurst, Illinois:

KILROY WAS HERE.

 

If you happen to cross his path,

please let him know

that I was happy to learn

he’s upright and breathing.

Saddened a bit too, though,

to find him working

the hash house circuit these days.

But glad, nevertheless, to see

a craftsman still plying his trade.

pd_0026-033

NO IDEA

Arnelle sat on the bathtub’s edge,

shaving her legs with a pink plastic razor.

She and Wendell were going to dinner and a show.

Thursday night was “date night,” see?

 

Finishing up, Arnelle happened to glance at her bare feet.

They were back again—patches of wiry red hair,

almost a half-inch long, on every one of her toe knuckles.

There were nests of the same on the flat tops of both feet.

 

“Ah,” she muttered, “Daddy’s legacy.”

As a young teenager, Arnelle had seen similar hairs

sprouting from her father’s feet when she gave him

his nightly “horsey ride,” as he called it.

Mom had walked out by then, so he was free

to make Arnelle sit on his legs and hop up and down,

as if she were riding on a horse.

Daddy claimed this soothed his aching feet

after a long day at work.

 

The “horsey rides” stopped

one day when Arnelle was sixteen.

She came home from school to find Daddy

in her bedroom, sniffing a pair of her panties.

By nightfall, Arnelle had packed a bag

and used most of her Confirmation money

to catch a train to Chicago, where a girlfriend lived.

That was in 1998.

 

Since then, Arnelle had tried hard

to shut Daddy out of her mind.

 

 

 

She didn’t act like him. She didn’t even look like him.

Proudly, she was a honey-blonde, just like Mom.

The only things that reminded Arnelle of Daddy

were those damned red hairs on her feet.

But they were soon to be history.

 

Wendell walked into the bathroom.

“I’ve heard of women grooming themselves

in different places,” he observed, reaching for his toothbrush.

“That, though, is really unusual.”

 

“You have no idea,” Arnelle replied,

scraping a big toe clean.

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SON OF OBITUARY

 

Blake was out on his balcony, enjoying his morning coffee

and reading the Sunday paper. As he turned a page,

the headline of the featured obituary jumped at him:

“MASTER PRINTER, COLLEGE TEACHER, 83.”

 

The dead man was named McMartin.

He had taught the one and only graphics arts class

that Blake had taken some 30 years before,

during his brief stint as an “Undecided” major

at Kane County Junior College.

The class, creatively titled Graphic Arts 101,

was Blake’s concession to his mother, who wanted

her boy to have something practical to “fall back on.”

 

The obituary described McMartin as “one of the founders

of KCJC, an expert on the printing arts and an instructor

who was revered by both students and colleagues alike

over the course of his 35-year career.”

 

Blake’s memory, though, clashed with this glowing account.

He recalled a teacher who was incapable of conducting

one class without pitching a screaming shit-fit.

Blake remembered how McMartin’s viciousness drove away

50% of the students within the first month of the term.

And he recollected McMartin literally throwing

most of his student projects back in his face.

Somewhere near the mid-term point, Blake invited McMartin

to go fuck himself and abandoned the course, using that time

instead to read Jack Kerouac books in the campus library.

 

So now, the great man was gone. Blake noted,

with more than a bit of morbid satisfaction,

that the master printer’s name had been misprinted

 

“MacMartin” twice in his obituary.

Blake allowed a sudden wind to lift the tabloid page

from his hand. The paper, flapping along its fold

like a strange black-and-white bird, spiraled downward

in widening circles. At last, it crash-landed

in a puddle at the center of the parking lot.

img216-001MARVEL COMICS IS FOREVER

“Hey man,” said neighbor Chalmers, traipsing by

with the little black-and-tan dachshund

that he’d tied to a six-foot leash.

“I hear you’re a big poem-writer now.”

 

“I wrote some poems, sure,” I replied, awkwardly,

as I hauled my trash cans to the curb.

Garbage Day, you see.

 

“Lah-dee-fucking-dah,” Chalmers spat,

pausing at the foot of my driveway.

“You ain’t all that. I’ll have you know

I’m a published writer myself.”

 

I stood and watched while Chalmers’ dog

took the opportunity to squat and

leave its calling card on the edge of my lawn.

“Really?” I asked. “Do tell.”

 

“Ever read Power Man and Iron Fist?

I wrote their mag a letter. They printed it

in the back of issue #8, in stores now.

They gave me a whole half a column—

and they put my name in bold letters at the end,”

Chalmers grinned. His feet scratched gravel

in the road like a rooster on parade.

“Marvel Comics, baby. Millions of readers worldwide.”

 

“Nice,” I said, actually commenting on

the joie de vivre of Chalmers’ dachshund.

The dog sat at its owner’s feet,

casually licking its ass.

 

 

 

“Damn right,” Chalmers beamed.

“Years from now, some comic book nerd

is going to take a break from eating Twinkies

and jerking off. He’ll read my letter, see my name

and wonder who I was—long after your

whoop-dee-do poem books turn to dust.

Marvel Comics is forever.”

 

I leaned against a trash can, looking on

as the man and his dog receded down the block.

He might, I thought, very well have a point.

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