Monday, January 4, 2021

Frederick Shiels


One day late in 1966 in drowsy Hattiesburg,
Phillip Oliver, nineteen, shot
his step-mother four times
in the face and chest with a ten-gauge,

tossed what was left of her
in the back of the family’s Ford pick-up,
drove out to an empty lot
on the edge of town, unloaded her,

emptied a five gallon can of lawn mower gasoline
and dropped Ohio blue-tip kitchen matches--
two lit as a fuse for the rest— on her,
backed away quickly.

He then drove to the police station
downtown and told everything. That’s
how the newspaper reported it,
at least, that’s how I recall it.

Funny thing though,
it was also reported that
quiet Phillip, cutting lawns and
doing odd-jobs, just out of high school,

said he "didn’t mind the lady,"
they had argued a bit that particular morning.
His father remarried a little quickly, he thought—maybe,
and that was that, or so I remember fifty-five years later.

We drove by their red-brick ranch house
on Adeline St. with a shudder every day for months,
then less so, as a For Sale sign went up in the front yard.
I always suspected that the buyers would be from out of town.

Gerald So reads "Driving Past the Oliver House":

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Frederick confesses: "I was seventeen when Philip did his deed. His house was four blocks from mine. I drove past it every day. That was enough.”

FREDERICK SHIELS is a historian, professor and poet. He has published in New Verse News, Deep South Review, Hudson River Anthology, Westchester Review, and elsewhere. His poetry was recently included in a book solely devoted to Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights." He lives forty miles north of New York City. and has also published five books on historical International Relations, including Preventable Disasters: Why Governments Fail.

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