Should It Come to That
by Arnie Yasinski

Writing a Mystery

would make all the difference, I’ve
been told, in enduring the boredom
of cocooning or, heaven forbid, self-
quarantine. I assume I would decide 
the mystery first, traditionally murder, 

because it defines a focus and field 
of play. There’s the whole how and why,
clues dropped, locale, cultural context 
(pandemic?); just who the victim is and 
his connections, inevitable eccentricities 

of the investigator, so the world doesn’t feel 
as random as it is now. Then subtleties 
of pace. Do we see it happen or is it 
weighted toward the aftermath? Discover 
how a coronavirus can be a murder weapon?

It must be about a current kind of world. 
How strongly does causation hold 
or do things happen out of tendency 
and habit of character or a fetish
of one little event linking precisely 

with the next? I want a consistent 
view that can be chillingly evoked by 
a crime solver, perhaps a little eccentric, 
the sweep of whose life has the potential 
to be understood over a series of books,

should it come to that. The reader should 
come to care about him or her in their 
complexity and imperfection, and so feel 
empathy for a mind and heart at the center 
of things. I also want the crime solver to stand 

as avatar of the author, the I who so much
wants to be liked that he tries to get what 
he wants by commissioning murder; the I as 
subtly swashbuckling detective dogging the
perpetrator, careful not to catch on too soon.

How It Was

A caller hangs up. We’ve been 
reading Updike, so I steal the line 
because she will recognize it:

“It must have been your lover.” 
A year later she confirms 
the unwitting truth. She works 

with bankers—bland, successful, 
suits, aftershave. I remember 
later on that she had introduced him

at a party for no apparent reason. 
When I am uneasy about business
trips, she disparages my suspicions 

just enough to keep me quiet. 
It’s not clear whether she ever 
wishes for more than assignations. 

Complexities of relationship flatten, 
attenuate as dissimulation requires. 
Losing her grip on nuance is what 

leads in the end to revelation. 
We learn more of what Updike knew. 
I forgive her the physical part.


When peering electronically at each other 
we might assume we’ll end up eye to eye 
but they appear to be looking down because 

they’re looking at me not into the camera,
the same way I am looking at them, not
the floor. This gives us the rare opportunity

of examining the faces of the other with 
unexpected impunity. We slyly imagine 
we are drilling into ancestries, sampling 

abstractions of race, seeing them briefly 
as Celt or Norseman or Jew, mistaken
or not. Then perhaps it’s easier to linger

longer on the specifics of personality 
and character as they speak nakedly
to the electronic eye, unaware how much

they are revealing of impatience, kindness,
self-regard, forbearance, dissimulation.
Still more comes to fore when the app

mutes all but the first and loudest,
and mouths move as some try to keep on
talking over the rest. Others, like schoolkids,

hoist a hand, patiently and impatiently.
Will we really be willing to give this up 
when we’re back again face-to-face?


Arnie Yasinski is a retired college administrator, born American but now living in Ireland with his Irish wife. He’s a father and grandfather who holds a PhD in English and wrote his first poem at fifty. He has published poems in four dozen US journals and has two collections, Proposition and God lives in Norway and goes by Christie, both published by 21st Century Renaissance in Ireland.

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