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Fall/Winter 2006/2007 Issue #63

Before He Died Before I Was Born
by Arnie Yaskinki

My Jeff, snapped stiff-posed,
           trolley-conductor official,
                      round-hatted and brassed,

already a tall man,
           not yet a big man. The sound
                      of the twenties still in his ear,

still in-town-ready
           and uniform-proud.
                      Before Sugar Creek binges

lasted weeks, not weekends.
           Before he job-lost
                      and country-store-opened

beyond Bent Mountain. Before he
           swimming-hole back-floated,
                      stomach-island in overalls.

Before there was no new deal
           back in the hills.
                      Before my mother

was seven. Before she
           child-pleaded and hand-held
                      not to gun-get, not to self-shoot.

Before he took chickens
           for groceries, before his turkeys
                      wouldn’t sell in Philadelphia.

Before hungry
           meant creditworthy,
                      and Jim Crow got no-credit.

Before bankrupt, foreclosed,
           before boarded-up mother-love,
                      before skin-color blame.

Before great body and appetite
           rode his heart
                      too soon into the ground.


ARNIE YASINSKI lives in Providence, Rhode Island and works at Rhode Island School of Design. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Baltimore Review, Carquinez, Poetry Review, descant, Hiram Poetry Review, Nimrod International Journal, Poet Lore, The Seattle Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Spillway, and The Texas Review.

  ©2006 Quarterly West
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