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By Calvin Forbes

A fourth was needed so one of the three

Invited a friend and I came along as a spare

In case a chair was empty since I could fill

In as easily as I could shout out a rhyme.


As the jive flowed like the River Jordan

And Joshua and his trumpets sounded the alarm

The winning cards slam damned on the table

And I laughed along with morning noon and night.


My three big brothers: bold smart handsome.

One slim as a stick of dynamite, the second solid

As a line backer and the third crazy enough

To fight them both if they let it roll beyond talk.


Treated me like a child even after I had my first.

The three of them (ace king and a wild card)

Improbably born within four years as if Daddy

And Momma were trying to break a record


Or win a bet about how many diapers a woman

Could change in a single day without cursing

The hand God had dealt her; the odds were even

Until I came along years later to tell their story.


Poet Bio

Calvin Forbes teaches writing, literature, and jazz history at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Blues and jazz inform both the rhythm and content of his poetry. He often uses ballads to tell family stories or the ups and downs of romance. But Forbes updates the tradition with surreal techniques, epigrammatic humor, and changing voices. He described his work as “simplicity shacked up with complexity.” 

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