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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