My Date with Red Shorts

J.D. Isip



Unlock your body’s potential the voiceover
tells you to look at the sculpted man arched
across the Soloflex bench, a T-bar waiting
for the same man to wrap impossible quads
over the arms, lift his magnificent self—


Mr. Stephens had that hair, wore red shorts
the kind only a middle school coach, middle age
would wear, oblivious, called me Mr. Trenchcoat
on account of me wearing one to gym class,
every single day, his hand on my shoulder.


Twenty-four, old-fashioned, closeup on his eyes,
iron-pumping exercises, you had to wait all night
for the commercial, hope your brother’s friends
weren’t staying over, this was appointment
viewing, like having a date, with red shorts.


Muffin Man was my official nickname—
though I loved Mr. Stephens for trying to save me
with his alternative. But a fat kid holding one,
drawn and named by his own twin, a muffin
he becomes, if not a man, for junior high.


On the optional deadlift, the best nights were
when you could watch all thirty minutes,
use light resistance, imagine yourself without
mirrors, or muffins, in the end, you get down,
try one pushup, you know it will be worth it.


J.D. Isip’s full-length poetry collections include Kissing the Wound (Moon Tide Press, 2023) and Pocketing Feathers (Sadie Girl Press, 2015). His third collection, tentatively titled Reluctant Prophets, will be released by Moon Tide Press in early 2025. J.D. lives in Texas with his dogs, Ivy and Bucky.