August 16-22, 2021: Poetry from Jack Phillips Lowe and Diane Elayne Dees

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Jack Phillips Lowe

Jack Phillips Lowe was born and raised in Chicago. He is now tax-exiled to Edwardsville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis. His work has appeared in Two Drops of Ink, Creativity Webzine and Everyday Fiction, among other outlets. His most recent book, Flashbulb Danger (Middle Island Press, 2018), is available from Amazon.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by Jack Phillips Lowe and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Chicago

Tourists now get
pulled from cars
in broad daylight
and shot in the street,
while cops stand by
with arms and legs
bound in red tape.

Weekends now are
marked by
the how, the why
and the total of dead
within the city limits.

Blood now bakes
and dries in the sun
while politicians debate
the names of thoroughfares.

And we refugees—
once-proud products
of that city
by the lake—
hide now in sanctuaries,
tsk-tsking news from home
as if reading casualty reports
from a foreign war zone.

Diane Elayne Dees

Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books) and the forthcoming chapbooks, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died, and The Last Time I Saw You. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by Diane Elayne Dees and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

My Gym Friend

After a year of pandemic absence,
I returned to the gym. As I waited
for my trainer, two words flashed
through my mind and coursed
through my body: Bob. Dead.
Bob was my gym friend; we laughed,
we bantered, and sometimes we talked
about serious concerns in our lives.
Later, in the empty performance room,
as I put my hands on the cold sled to start
my first push in months, my trainer said,
“There’s something you probably haven’t heard.”
But I knew the words before he said them:
“Bob died.”

How does a gym friend fit into one’s life?
We rarely see each other outside of rooms
filled with weights and machines and noise,
yet the acts of pushing, pulling and lifting—
the stress placed on muscles and skin—
crack open heavy emotional walls.
Secrets are shared, uncomfortable feelings
are revealed. The body cannot hold the tension
of so much worry, regret, confusion, and despair.
The body has to let go, and when it does,
candor flows through us like a tonic
through the bloodstream.

When Bob was seventy-three,
I watched him leg-press six hundred pounds.
I wasn’t surprised.
A Vietnam survivor, he carried
the indescribable and oppressive weight
of war for decades; rows of heavy discs
were mere obstacles to be pushed aside.
The gym is where we know people
we would never know in the other realms
of our lives. The gym is where people see us
as we are—exhausted, hurt, recovering,
determined, and navigating a life far removed
from our thirty-year-old bodies.

We knew each other only in the gym,
but I saw Bob, and he saw me.
We gave each other encouragement;
we put our older bodies through as much
rigor as they could take. Parted by the pandemic,
I never saw him again. But my body knew.
My body felt the shiver of reality
of his death, and—knowing that Bob
would have wanted me to—I pushed the sled
until my legs were weak and my breathing labored.
I pushed it for him, because he would want
me to be strong, to keep pushing, to take the load.