The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Kenneth E. Harrison, Jr.

The Mind-Body Problem Goes to High School


The body admires its new haircut & jockeys

for position among the teenage pecking

order, the mind stuffed inside a locker

all freshman year. The body isn’t athletic

or rich enough, & wears last year’s sneakers,

the mind definitely not a brain. The body

loves music, but the mind’s terrified of being

lumped in with the band geeks. Bodies,

in general, make all the wrong friends,

so it’s up to the mind to push them aside

for better circles, by sophomore year

the body having grown to fit its large nose

& Friday night dances. But it’s the mind

bullying the body’s awkward breasts, zits,

& frequent masturbation, the body’s shame

detailed in the mind’s permanent record.

Junior year fiddles with senior year’s car

radio, the body smoking its first cigarette,

drinking its first drink, moving from party

to party, the mind studying for the SATs.

Did any of this ever matter? the body asks

the mind, & here’s where mind & body

finally agree, those four long years at last

outrun, reunion invite tossed in the trash.



Kenneth E. Harrison, Jr.

The Mind-Body Problem: Behind the Music


The mind’s humble beginnings different

from the body’s longing for celebrity,

nonetheless a shared vision inspired

by such luminaries as Hall & Oates,

mind & body play the clubs, pay

their dues, & cut a record in a studio

once owned by Sonny & Cher. Fame

comes quickly for the duo, number-one

with a bullet, embarking on their first

world tour, soon the body indulging

in wild nights of sex & drugs, split off

from the mind’s more ambitious plans

for the second album. Mind & body

travel in separate limousines, barely

on speaking terms, a fact immaterial

to frenzied concert-goers, who see 

only onstage cohesion, octane-fueled

performance. A surprise to fans, then,

when recording sessions for a third

album are scrapped, the body ordered

to rehab, the mind planning a solo

career. But success is elusive working

apart, low sales figures & cancelled

engagements triggering the inevitable

comeback single, radio & TV spots

for the Reunion Tour, mind & body

overweight & unplugged, but together

again for the very first time, singing

from the heart in crisp Hawaiian shirts,

audience middle-aged & eating cheese

nachos, another casino amphitheater,

no hard booze allowed backstage.



Kenneth E. Harrison, Jr.

The Mind-Body Problem Stars in a Western


The body circles the mind’s covered

wagon or maybe the mind is a stage

coach arriving behind schedule, wheels

& hooves kicking up dust, the body

a stranger come to town. No. The heart

is a ranch burning in the distance, mind

& body on horseback fleeing the scene,

a diversion to empty the town of all

able-bodied men. But is it mind or body

robbing the bank & divvying up the loot

in a cave far off the trail? Or the mind

is the weathered sheriff, the body merely

a sidekick, Gabby Hayes or Andy Devine,

always causing the mind grief, but good

for a laugh & guarding the jail while

the mind consoles the widow or gets

to the bottom of things. The mind wears

a white, ten-gallon hat, the body flashing

the six-shooter that fires an infinite

number of shots without needing to be

reloaded. But I prefer to think of the mind

as the boy calling after Shane, the body

a handsome, though outdated, gunfighter

we’ll never see again. (Neither body

nor mind would ever portray a singing

cowboy.) Yet it’s mind & body together

who’s good, bad, & ugly, no matter

the sea of extras lying dead in the saloon,

the heart, as usual, left holding the gun.




KENNETH E. HARRISON, JR. has recent work in Beloit Poetry Journal, New Verse News, Numéro Cinq, and Verse Daily. He teaches writing and Literature courses at Webster University and Florissant Valley Community College in St. Louis, Missouri.



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