Before We Knew

Joyce Holmes McAllister

From the book:

The Root of the Matter


I am willing to look carefully, scrutinize,

pull it apart at the root, examine the barely visible

outgrowth of the mysterious filament, sweep it back

off the forehead, shine the flashlight near the aging

skin, to better see where truth begins.

At nineteen I grabbed the bottle, invented me.

An instant redhead, redder than my Dad’s

fast thinning curly strands, bright as autumn  

on a Technicolor screen. Now I want to see what

rises from the very base, the skull’s skin.

A few years from dying, I am curious. Who am I,

what changes sprout just underneath; my mother’s

silver streak, grandmother’s mousy gray, father’s

fading rusty curls? I shine the light closer, peer

to see what’s lost to color, who I might have been.

Joyce Holmes McAllister started writing poetry in secondary school, and was first published during her senior year in High School in a national literary journal containing poetry written by High School seniors.

She graduated as a Drama major from Ithaca College and spent several years living in New York City before returning to Ithaca, where she worked as an administrator at Cornell University for thirty years.


At the age of 85, “Before We Knew” is her first published chapbook.

Before We Knew is a 36 page hand-sewn chapbook. $10.00

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Before We Knew




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