[31] Two Poems, Patrick Theron Erickson

Mr. Bell


It was a case
of mistaken identity
and being in the wrong place
at the wrong time
without an alibi

And being a black enlisted man
stationed in the Deep South
in the racially charged fifties
and the woman he allegedly murdered
being white
his name might as well have been Patsy
and not Mr. Bell

for he certainly was one—a patsy

But thanks to a fair-minded detective
the real murderer was eventually apprehended
charged, convicted, and sentenced

and Mr. Bell finished his hitch
without further incident
graduated from college on the G.I. Bill
and became my summer school teacher

teaching me the difference
between right and wrong
in this unforgettable fashion
by way of a simple grammar lesson
I’ve never forgotten

I was mistakenly charged
but I wasn’t convicted

leaving the haunting question

But how many are?


Heave Ho


Even the sparrow
finds a home

And the swallow
is not swallowed up
but builds her nest

Such ingenious use
of twigs and pine straw
even Styrofoam

And there
she deposits her eggs
and sits on them

as any sitting hen on
her pile of hay would

Others lay theirs
in the warm sand

and the penguin
upon its feet

assuming its squatter’s rights

and heaving together
as one

Such fellowship
as I have known
after a storm

when strangers gather round

and give it
the old heave ho

And afterward
depart as neighbors

close knit

closer in.

(Psalm 84:3)



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