Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jack Phillips Lowe Kiboshes the King

 Jack Phillips Lowe has been kicking around the small press world for almost 20 years now. He has contributed poems to Clark Street Review, Nerve Cowboy and The Bitchin' Kitsch, among other outlets. His most recent chapbook, Cold Case Cowboys, was published by Middle Island Press in 2013. He is a lifelong Chicagoan, currently hanging my hat in Addison, IL. I liked these poems immediately. He had me hooked as soon as he kiboshed the King. This sentence where I'm writing Outsider Poetry has no place here. 


Buchman had invited his mother out to dinner.
The two of them were in Buchman’s car, on their way to the restaurant,
when Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley started playing on the car radio. 
Buchman’s mom reached for the dashboard and turned up the volume. 

“I forgot you were an Elvis fan,” said Buchman, brightly, as he drove. 

“It’s a good tune,” said Buchman’s mom, humming the melody.
“You know, your father and I were supposed to go see Elvis
when we went to Las Vegas, the year before you were born. 
Dad put the kibosh on that at the last minute. I don’t remember why. 
We did see Don Rickles, though.”

Buchman’s mind drew a picture of a Las Vegas hotel room in 1969. 
In it, his parents were seated on a couch before a TV set. 
Buchman’s father was consulting the TV Guide.

“Fuck Elvis,” said Buchman’s dad, pointing to the magazine in his hand. 
“Bonanza is on tonight. Looky here, Marie. This week, Hoss meets a leprechaun.”  


Tomas and Vinny were welders.
Until they got laid off last November, that is. 
Now, to keep in touch, the pair meets once a week
for coffee in the only restaurant they can afford—
a diner that’s so cheapshit-greasy,
Alice, Flo and Mel are working the breakfast rush there.

“Vinny,” Tomas says, sipping his coffee,
“we’ve been going about this job search all wrong. 
I’ve been praying to Saint Jude until my ass droops,
for all these months, and nothing’s happened.”

Vinny slouches over the tower he’s building out of
little plastic tubs of butter and jelly on the table.
“No shit,” he sighs. “So what?”

“So I think we’ve been praying to the wrong guy,”
says Tomas. “Yesterday, I saw this show on PBS
about ancient Roman gods and goddesses. 
The show said the Romans built a rich empire 
while praying to their Roman gods for help. 
And their gods must’ve helped them. It was clear
that those old Romans were ass-deep in bank.”

Vinny swirls his coffee in its cup.
 “What’s your point, Tomas?”

“I’m saying forget Saint Jude. 
The head Roman god is named Jupiter. 
Nobody prays to Jupiter anymore. Maybe if we did,
Jupiter would be so grateful, he’d help us get jobs.”
Tomas smiles and drains his cup. 

Vinny sits and stares at Tomas. 

“One thing, though,” Tomas adds. “We couldn’t just pray to Jupiter.  
Those old Romans were always sacrificing sheep and  
cattle and stuff to their gods. Jupiter works on commission.”

Vinny gazes quietly into his cup, his face a pinched expression 
that’s halfway between puzzled and pissed off. 
Tomas fidgets in his red vinyl seat. Finally, Vinny speaks. 

“I’ve got a nephew who works in a butcher shop,” he says. 
“You bring the matches; I’ll bring the lamb. 
Meet me in the forest preserve at nine o’clock on Sunday.”  


Recently, the FBI released one of two previously top secret
files it compiled on what the Bureau considered to be 
one of the most seditious rock bands of the 1960s. 
The Rolling Stones? The Doors? The Grateful Dead?
No. And not the MC5, either. 
The subject of both files was, in fact, the Monkees. 
Yes, really. 

The declassified file consists of impressions of a 1967 Monkees concert,
written by an FBI agent who was clearly both middle-aged and clueless.
There’s no need to quote it here. Just imagine what conclusions 
Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday would’ve drawn if he’d spied on 
a junior high school record hop of the same era. 
That’s right—much ado, as Shakespeare said, about nothing. 

But what about the other file?
The one the Bureau deems, after almost fifty years, 
to be still too hot for Mr. and Mrs. America to handle? 

Picture it: the office of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, 1968.
At a large, polished desk sits Hoover himself. 
Before him are a yellow legal pad and a cassette tape player. 
There’s a pen in his hand and headphones on his ears. 
Hoover’s face is scrunched in concentration. 
He’s listening to Daydream Believer. For the 123rd time.
“‘White knight on his steed,’ my ass!” Hoover exclaims,
scribbling furiously. He hits the rewind button again. 

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