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Gary Grossman

On Getting a Tattoo



I’m not sure when

I actually knew my

own mind.


Opinions stable and

straight as hundred-year

white oaks.


Experience the key,

choosing the right lock in a

door with four.


Living abroad,

learning a foreign



How can nouns

have sex? How can

they not?


Our differences all loop

back to shared red




The old joke, marriage

sure, but a tattoo is



Faded black-green

words on her 28 year

old skin.


How will it read

when the decades



So not yet, arms

uninked. 30’s pass and

40’s bring


two blond girls.

Dad, a good example



“If you get one

they will too.” So,

not yet.


Years unfurl, kids

in college. Example?

quien sabe?


Raised right, they’ve

now shed parental




Example be damned,

decade seven is mine,

left forearm


interior now inked. A

heart built of breaking



Cobalt fading to pearl, 

ringed by Barbara, Rachel,

and Anna


A permanent reminder—life

tosses us to and fro. Strong

arms are there to catch us.

Poetry On The Listserve


The email read, “but how is this a poem?”

referring to my love child, the weekly

poetry post on our neighborhood



“It has no real imagery, no metaphors, just

prose broken up into clauses”—all of this

after sending him the link to What Is



He was right of course, and I paused to

look outside and watch the winter sky

peel off its blue jeans and put on salmon



I replied “I suppose a poem is anything

the author and just one reader agree upon”

The Minute I Realized I Was Old


came when smoothing out

wrinkles from the prior life

of a twelve by fifteen inch

rectangle of aluminum

foil. Now a small metallic

square reflecting our

lemon-painted kitchen,

I bury it in the wrapper

drawer, where it will

discuss reincarnation

with its plastic cousins.



Turbulence forgotten,

my neurons still fire,

poked by the digits 

of two skim lattes.


Exhaustion and

excitation hover

the ebony arms of

sleep just off my chest.


While thoughts careen,

cottontail before

coyote, and scents of 

sage and eucalyptus,


help guide me to the dawn.


Gary Grossman is a Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Georgia. His poems have appeared in 21 reviews, most recently -- Verse-Virtual, Poetry Life and Times, Black Poppy Review, Trouvaille Review and Last Stanza Poetry Review. For ten years he wrote the “Ask Dr. Trout” column for American Angler magazine. Hobbies include running, music, fishing, gardening and cooking. Website

Cleaning Out My Office After Four Decades



My wife retired last September,

three months emptying her

office that held twenty-five years.

So I multiplied 3 months X


1.6 yielding “get your ass

in gear.” Now seven months before

departure, I’m in inventory

mode to disperse my academic


detritus, scientific journals,

paper reprints, even binder clips.

My faux oak desk chocked full

of professorial ephemera,


only to find that nobody wants

my shit. Science--relocated

to the metaverse, ones and zeros

the new alphabet, displacing


words on sleek, high-clay paper.

Reprints? What are those? Tears roll

as each glossy article flutters into

the grey recycling bin, and


these leaves from my colleagues’

hearts and minds crumple together.

Many are inscribed “To Gary with

best wishes,” and I reflux 


a teaspoon of regret while asking

Darwin for absolution. Our kind

custodian has moved the bin

into my office. A green walled,


windowed monk’s cell, still retaining

wisps of student’s grades and dreams.

But after today’s discard session,

only thirty-two years of academic


life remain, books and the small smells

of computer paper and printer ink,

and the thrum of my desktop computer.

Desktop computer? Who owns such


a dinosaur? Today’s world is all

about laptops, tablets and smart phones.

Bluetooth reigns, and brain implants are

the next rung on evolution’s ladder.



My office is a large living

space, and many times I have

shut the lights, locked the door,

and lay down on the tight curls of


nylon carpet. My eyes close, breath

and pulse ease. Silently, I repeat

“hypnosis helps me help myself”.

Five reps later my jaws unclench as


I drift, conjuring a boyhood stream

and trout, as the stress--ants emerge

from my muscles, and march out my

feet like SS troopers. My mental


images of inept deans and deluded

colleagues: worn old pieces of

graphite, not diamonds from Tiffanys,

despite their peacock struts in the hall. 




My office, my peace island. Sink

dorm fridge, cans of tinned herring

and smoked trout, a white coffee cup

holds forks and spoons, and rests


next to electric kettle and French

press coffee pot. All will move to the

women’s shelter thrift store as will

books on herpetology, animal


behavior and fish population

dynamics. Some will go to my last

two graduate students, strong youths

swimming upstream into the rapid and



complex currents of academe.

teaching, grants and research. The

family photos and award plaques

return home, as will the stained glass


fish hanging in my three windows.

(Recognition brings windows,

plaques, and jealousy.). Each

bejeweled fish represents


a decade of study and enough

published pages to feed both the

ego and front yard winter fire

pit, sitting on iced rye grass.



But is there a mold to recast

my body anew--right arm to

poetry, left to sculpture, legs

to jogging, chest to gardening and


fishing? Forty years–fifty-two

percent of a modern life. My

friends say “you’ll love the freedom,

all your hobbies…” They know me well.


But when I still myself and listen

closely, I hear the soft grrrrrrs

of the Black Dog just outside my door.

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