All About Earning Forgiveness

A poem by Dale Patterson

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Father carved wooden dolls
with a bayonet, understood
the depth of a shallow grave,
stinging bees in a hickory handle
when you pick
frozen soil.

Mother exposed her belly
by tying a knot with the tails
of her shirt. On Sundays she wore
a respectable dress,
said an amen in a hard
maple pew.

I asked about Father.
Mother said, he is good,
but his fingers are dirty
from burying demons.

We found him that night
slumped in the shed with a shovel.

Mother died the next summer.

To this day I live in their house,
keep Father’s garden
of bloody red beets,
tie secure bows
in the butcher’s white apron,
the one Mother wore
to prepare them.


Dale Patterson is a visual artist and poet living in Indiana. His work has been published in many online and print journals; the most recent appearing in: Pilgrimage, The Tower Journal, The Museum of Americana, and Midwestern Gothic. A more complete listing of Dale’s work can be seen on his website.

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