IJoe the body pro poems by John Gearen

picture of John Gearen
Photo by Ann Marie Gearen  

Douglas Hyde has written as follows: “John Gearen has created a series of terse yet conversational poems that seem almost found instead of written. There are riffs of anecdotes, stories and opinions, all laced with rueful humor. Indeed, “Joe” has made up his mind, and one cannot miss the poet’s admiration for a character who gives scant attention to nuances, counterarguments or pleasantries. Joe’s declarations about jobs, daughters and wives, money, friendship, death, and the follies of youthful decisions are curated from his lifetime of hard-earned experience in difficult, dangerous work. In Joe the Body Pro, Gearen renders this life with faithful observation and appealing affection.”  And Senator Bill Bradley adds this “John Gearen has a great ear.  He nails the unique voice of Joe the Body Pro — irreverent, wise, loyal, funny, moving.  Getting to know Joe was a delight.”
  Joe the body pro cover image
  Cover design by the author

The author says this about himself: “I grew up in Oak Park Illinois, the oldest of nine, six boys and three girls, in a strongly Catholic family. I went to Ascension Grade School and Fenwick High School in Oak Park, and then the University of Notre Dame. After that, I had the good fortune to spend two years at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, three years at Yale Law School and one year clerking for Judge Spottswood Robinson on the DC Court of Appeals before returning to Chicago.

“I enjoyed a forty-year commercial real estate practice among the outstanding and generous lawyers at Mayer Brown LLP. I served for years as head of the real estate group, played third base on the Firm’s 16-inch softball team and taught analytics and writing to the younger real estate lawyers. I became a Board member and then Chair of IES Abroad, a study abroad organization for American college students; LINK Unlimited, a sponsoring/mentoring organization for African-American high school students; and The Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation, an organization promoting leadership programs in certain Chicago area Catholic high schools and colleges. I also founded and chair Rust Belt Rising, which helps Midwestern Democratic candidates win elections at all levels by focusing on the economic issues of working families.

“My wife and daughter are excellent published poets, and when I joined the Writers Circle in Hopetown, Bahamas, led by my wife Ann and my friends Doug Hyde, Kate Oakes, and Ellen McClure, I was drawn to writing poetry. Doug and Ann have been extraordinarily helpful with their thoughts and edits.

“These poems about Joe cast me back to my childhood. My good friends in high school represented practically all the ethnicities of Europe. In the summers, my father got me jobs at the bottom of a multi-ethnic construction crew where the foreman called me “College” and assigned me the nastiest work alongside the African-American laborers. So I was primed for Joe, his physical work ethic, his language and his spirit. These poems are the result. I hope you like them.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-76-6
First Edition, 2021
58 pages
This book will soon be available at all bookstores
including Amazon
and can be ordered directly from the author:
John Gearen
721 Ontario St., Apt. 206
Oak Park, IL 60302
Send $15 per book
(checks payable to John Gearen)
plus $3 for shipping.


Copyright © 2021 by John Gearen


Flooded Basements


We got thirty calls
that day at the firehouse –
people with their basements flooded.
Two of the older guys called in sick.
They knew what was coming.
So I went out with two young guys.

A lot of the day
I’m standing in sewage
up to my neck.
The worst thing about it is
you can’t take a shower,
just come back to the firehouse,
take your boots off,
wring out your socks,
and wait for the next call.

I’m up to my chest
in this one basement.
This old lady tells me,
“Just turn north.
The standpipe should be right there.”
I say her washer and dryer are floating,
so maybe she don’t know
which way is north,
so she tells me,
“Well, just turn the other way.”

It was a rough day,
but I didn’t mind.
Makes up for some of them other days
when you sit around the firehouse
and don’t do nothin’.

The Firemen’s Combat Challenge


My time was 2 minutes 58 seconds.
I’ve done better.
Two years ago, I did 2:39.

The suit you wear weighs 42 pounds.
The hose you pull weighs 40.
The dummy you drag weighs 175.
But it’s not the weight.
It’s the girth and the length.
Tall guys pull it to their chest
and drag only its toes.
I’m draggin’ its thighs.

When I took that suit off at the end,
I know I looked bad.
You get a canister of air in your suit,
but you breathe so hard
your throat and lungs get seared.
I spent a few minutes with my head down
on the food table
before I could pull it together.

At 5’4”, 145,
I give away 6 inches and 50 pounds
to all those other guys.
I’m older than almost all of ’em.

They know how hard it is.
That’s why they tell me at the end,
“Just be happy you finished.”
But I hate that.
I think, Fuck you, down deep.

I think I’m better than I’m showin’.
Maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe I just hate gettin’ old.

But I’m workin’ on my times.
You pull the rope left hand, then right hand,
but the rope coils up under your hands,
so I gotta learn to sweep it back after I pull it,
especially with my left hand.
I can get better.
There’s always hope.

Credit Card Debt and Money


These people getting foreclosed.
They use credit card debt
to pay their mortgage.
I hate that stuff.

Someone got a reservation
for New Year’s Eve.
I say, “What’s it cost?”
He says, “450 bucks.”
It’s at the Peninsula.
I say, “Never.”
I am not paying 450 bucks
to sleep nowhere.

Better for us
we don’t have much.
Keeps us working hard.
If I just have $100 in my pocket,
that’s all I need.
If I ever did get some real money,
won the lottery or something,
I think I’d know better how to handle it,
but it’s just as well I don’t.



Doctors, I hate ’em.
Our whole social life now
is doctors.
That’s all people talk about.

I won’t even go to ’em.
My wife says,
“Why don’t you go for a check up?”
I say,
“What, so they can find somethin’
they want to treat?”

I’m hopin’ God,
when I am right in the middle
of somethin’ I’m doin’,
just takes me off the set.