A Worn Trail: Two Poems by Dale Patterson

By Dale Patterson



0720140639aThe moon’s radium dial
turns the hours before sunrise.

He rolls out of bed, traces
the hills down a wallpapered hall.

Deep in a porcelain sink
cold water cuts a worn crater.

He reaches for a hand towel
like a blind man

measuring the distance
before taking a step.

Tied around her waist
is a strawberry apron,

her fuzzy pink slippers pad
a worn trail on the linoleum floor.

Tableware clinks, bowls hit the table,
rich sorghum drips from a medicine spoon.

His square teeth are mortared
with grits. He buttons his jacket,

walks out the door into silence,
not even a peep from the grackles

that roost in the acres of pine near
the road. Snow slowly falls,

the red barn is covered. His lantern
burns orange in the eyes of his cows.


Red Sunfish Cabin

Mother dances to Elvis
in patriotic capris,
sprinkles paprika
to season Deviled Eggs.

My sister, sleek as
an otter pup belly-down
on the dock,

puckers and whistles
at the IGA bag boy
who slaloms
a showering wake.

Father flexes
a bulldog tattoo
as he rows in the sun.
A stringer of fat Yellow
Perch spirals behind.

Their guts and scales stick
to the chopping block.
Father tells me,
a good man provides
and protects.

I carry white slabs of meat
in an enamelware pan.

Father’s red chest
is speckled with blood.
His bayonet is left
on the doorstep.

Dale is a visual artist and poet living in Indiana. His work has been published in many online and print journals; the most recent have appeared in: Pilgrimage, The Tower Journal, The Museum of Americana, The Lake, Short Fast and Deadly and Midwestern Gothic. A more complete listing of Dale’s work can be seen on his website http://dalepattersonart.com/. You can follow him on Twitter as @DalePatterson2.

Cover photo and illustration photo by David Nilsen.



  1. It seems to me that Dale Patterson has touched farm life with a poetry that respects the dogged beauty of its work and routines. I love his touches of humor and the way he hands the reader something not quite tangible, but heartfelt, in his solid observations of the ordinary rural rhythms. Man, I have woken up in an old farm house at the crack of dawn and “Milking” made those days of rising to a hard day of outdoor work feel like it was just yesterday that I was splashing water into my face at a sink cut into a crater by cold water. Thanks, David, for bringing this poet to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

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