“Before” by Mack W. Mani

“Before” by Mack W. Mani

I was an old man.

He said it casually,
pushing a toy truck
across the carpet,
just a few weeks after
his fourth birthday.

We grinned at
his new game
and asked when
this had happened.


We played along for a while,
but as he began to supply
more and more detailed answers,
we started to listen.

He spoke very fondly of his wife,
who worked with him for many years
at a factory in Malaysia;
she liked music and to read
and they would pick berries
together in the summertime.

This from a boy who yesterday
was afraid of cooties.

He said that he would never
forget the look on her face
on her 90th birthday,
as she opened his gift to her,
a new pair of shoes,
something she had never had.

He seemed almost bored,
like we were distracting him somehow,
like we should already know
the answers to our questions.

We decided, if he brought it up again,
that we would make an appointment,
I mean, how does a child come
up with something like that?

But weeks later,
when we asked him
about his previous life
he just looked at us blankly,
whatever it was,
having faded from him,
like a dream upon waking.

Mack W. Mani is an American poet, playwright, and author. His work has appeared in various literary magazines including Neon, NewMyths, and The Pedestal Magazine. He currently lives in Portland, OR.