John Grey, The Life of the Mind


I’m sitting on a bench in an inner-city park,
watching a mutt with only three legs
play with the others in the dog run.
Mostly, he stumbles forward while
they dart here and there,
but the place is fenced
so they really can’t get away from him.
He’s part of the pack
whether they like it or not.
And his excited bark is a match
for any of the yips and yelps of the others.

Sun settles down behind the shuttered library annex,
and the other dogs leave, one by one,
the joy worn out of them,
just enough strength left to make it home.
The three-legged dog hasn’t traveled nearly as far
in distance as his peers
but, in effort, he’s gone ten to their one.
His reward is to be carried back to the apartment.
His owner is a willing fourth leg.


Hand held out before me,
palm upward.
What can I possibly give you?
My glass eye? My false teeth?
My pacemaker?
The pins in my joints?
You’re short of cash.
I’m down on body parts.
I need a new kidney.
And yet you offer me a hand.


I keep hearing
the same thing
over and over:
it’s a guy thing.

I don’t know
what it is,
only that it’s
connected to me
in some
irrefutable way.
They seem happy
about it
or maybe that’s
just resignation.
So, at best,
my guy essence
engenders a little enjoyment
here and there
and, at worst,
it maintains
some kind of
relational status quo.
At least,
no one appears
to die from
this guy thing.
Then the women
get up,
trot off to
the bathroom together.
It’s a gal thing.
More on this later.


Summer at the beach.
The crowd body surf,
blast radio waves
from boombox speakers,
carve up the beach sand
with slicing, dicing feet.

It’s Danny’s favorite song
but, then again,
every song is his favorite.
whether pounding at
his nerve ends in a disco
or turning his car
into a cavernous concert hall
or even waking him in the morning,
as he rises, tapping toes first,
and asks the first sun rays for a dance.

He got laid to this song.
He got kicked out of his folks’ home
to this song.
He was fired, hired, beaten up
and drunk as a huskie in a heatwave,
while this very song
provided background, foreground,
even spilled blood and spit.

Summer at the beach.
Danny’s one of many,
shaking and jumping,
whirling and screaming.
The life of the mind
was never like this.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review, and Qwerty with work upcoming in Plainsongs, Willard and Maple, and Connecticut River Review.

Read more of John here.

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