Thursday, January 12, 2017

Enduring the Best

author's note:

Once again, I try to get this poem right.


After you, I realized:

we must endure
not only the worst
among us, but also
the best.

Both overwhelm us--
both challenge us
to rise above.

Yes, one tries to darken our eyes
while the other tries to enlighten

but brilliant light can stun

and with sight
comes responsibility:

when I try to ignore
what I now know
I feel guilty

especially when I sense
your old owl eyes watching me
from a place unseen
(located somewhere
 over my left shoulder).

Yes I'm pleased
you take an interest
I just wish you’d encourage me

when doubt
agitates my thought
almost to blindness--

reassure me
with a spirit whisper:

tell me again
why I must not slack
in this work--
tell me again
how it helps us all.

Tell me
to keep on lifting
my leaden feet--
tell me I can find
the strength hidden within
--but only if I try to lift.

Please, tell me
I will eventually
hold the peace
that always seems to slip
from my grip.

Tell me
all you once told me--
tell me again...

I wait...
but again: only silence

yet I don't feel rejected--
after all
why should you remind me
when I haven't forgotten?--

besides that
a repeat would merely be
temporary comfort--
not a cure:

no one but me can give me courage.

As my moment of weakness passes
I feel ashamed once again
but also think:

maybe later
I can use this moment
as a story lesson

when I become someone
others will gladly endure.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Butterfly Soul: poems of death & grief & joy

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Edge is a Good Place to Go Beyond

author's note:

I thought the beginning of the new year was a good time to post this poem... optimistic poem about plunging into the great unknown.


In the beginning
the world was indeed flat...

the roundness was created later
by a crusty dark-eyed captain:

having gained riches and fame
through a lifetime of struggle
he festered, dissatisfied...
until his imagination hit upon
the type of fanciful goal
that brings destruction:

he would escape his malaise
by venturing forth alone
in search of
the edge of the Earth

and when he found the end
he'd plunge over
to discover
what lay beyond

even though that leap
might mean his death.

Having chosen this quest
our captain did not hesitate
but soon put out
in a little wooden boat...

rowing past all continents, atolls, and islands

until he arrived at
a vast expanse of ocean
unmarked and lying ominous in its quiet
all the way to an indefinite horizon

our mariner did not hesitate--
no, he continued on...

and when all land had disappeared
he forgot both distance and time--
his mind became numb
as his body became numb:
he ceased to think
he ceased to care
he moved by rote
he even forgot who he was

and did not break
from this stupor
until he finally came to a place
where the waves pulled back
upon themselves
as if afraid of falling off.

The air sizzled with static energy
as our captain stood and gazed
into the darkness beyond the water
where a swirling mass of dense gray cloud
obscured the great monolithic

Yes, he hesitated

before he said
what he usually said
when afraid but resolved:
"damn it all to hell!"

then with his next breath
he plunged into the wild threshold

where his tiny boat stuck--
caught in a force field:
the bow swallowed by fog
the stern hanging on the tip
of the last ocean crest.

The worn boards shook
as though ready to explode
while our mariner worked the oars
into two frenzied blurs--
driven by the type of pent-up frustration
that comes from living small

stated another way:
he was taken up
by the secret desire
of the deep heart.

Our navigator
believed he held
enough inner power
to burst through any barrier

he also had the good common sense
to doubt

and the honesty
to admit his greatest fear:

no, not death, but the thought
that his grand adventure might become
just another pathetically funny story
in the book of human folly
and waste.

Shadowed by that specter
he became ever more desperate
and rowed and strove and cursed
until his cage burned
with golden intensity.

We often celebrate
such determination
but stubbornness
doesn't necessarily guarantee success

you're butting against an artificial barrier
which, by definition, must eventually fall
to human will.

But though the captain
had long declared
I can, I must, I will
he was still shocked
when his tiny boat finally shot
over the edge--!

and in a flash
the end vanished
as the world with a roar
became round all at once

and the barrier, now broken
became nothing at all
since by definition
blocks can not have openings.

As for our somewhat-satisfied captain...

following the curvature
of the Earth
he simply sailed on
and in short time, arrived home
since circles will naturally return us.

I've dusted-off this story
hoping it might inspire
because I believe at present
we sense the presence
of another barrier--
invisible to us because
we are blocked.

Instinctively, we roam
we poke about--we search
for an opening
without knowing we search--

instinctively, afraid
but driven by the secret desire
of the deep heart
stated another way:
pushed and prodded
by the pent-up frustration
of living small.

Sometimes we butt against
the unknown contours
of that unknown wall
but then hesitate--

perhaps we fear the power
we'll need to summon in order
to burst through that barrier

but I believe we'll eventually succeed
because our natural inclination
is to reject and break
barriers, borders, walls--

we want to be more
because our higher intuition tells us
being less can destroy

and not in the good way
shown by that captain.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Searching for My Best Beliefs: a poetry book

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Bat

author's note:

This poem, written on Christmas Eve 2007, has become my Christmas tradition...

But traditions change over time.  This year, I've added a subtitle.

(or: The Birth Pains of Winter)

In this season, when we recognize
the birth of bright new life
in the darkest dark...

I wanted to give you all
an appropriate poem
of sweet Christmas light

but my heart stubbornly refused
to sing of our ideal Yuletide--

instead, this bat poem
demanded to be born:

   Cold cave and dung--
   there I hung
   wet with stalactite drops

   until a vampire bat perceived
   how tedious torturous time
   had finally ripened me--

   its bite woke me up--
   those painful fangs burst me free!--

   so that I might soar
   and sow my seed.

Some poems won't let you go
until you open their cage
so after I wrote that batty rhyme
I felt quite relieved

until the child within me said,
  now you can warm me
  with a real Christmas story!”

I tried (but in vain)
to placate
that hungry innocent
with this insight:
  doesn't that flighty verse
  actually speak of Christmas?--

  of new life born
  from the darkest night?

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Searching for My Best Beliefs: a poetry book

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

While Working in the Sock Department of a Major Chain Store

author's note:

In memory of Beatriz Prentice--who often said: "it's an outer manifestation of an inner reality".


Recently, I’ve noticed
people preferring plaid socks
over ones with stripes

I view this trend
not as a mere fad
but as a message
from the human psyche:

I believe
that plaid speaks
of work we're doing within--

nothing less
than the process
of combining
our left and right
our up and down
so we can become
what we truly are:

individuals of four unified sides.

I believe
as the plaid person
finds her true design
she will rise
and thus realize
our grand plaid pattern--
she'll see where she fits
in the world network
of four-sided folk.

Maybe you scoff
at these beliefs
but consider how
this perspective benefits me:

now, whenever I see
someone choosing
a plaid pair of socks
my hope lifts

and this small life
gains height
as I become
even more determined
to get my four sides

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Listening to Silence: a poetry book

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