Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grand Obsession

author’s note:

Have a grand 2009.


If you can remain a fool
and think of every defeat
as merely a temporary setback
are you not granted
special status--?--

but worry creeps up
when I see
that cartoon
where the desert coyote
constantly schemes
to catch and devour
an insubstantial
ground-dwelling bird.

Motivated initially by hunger,
the coyote soon becomes obsessed.
He must have it simply to have it.
Simply because
he has failed
so many times before.

Yet despite his application
of complex strategies
and innovative technology...

he never once gets hold
of that irritating fowl

but worse: he just repeats
the same tired scene,
he doesn’t seem to grow
from the experience.

Fearing a similar result
from my own obsessive nature
I’ve decided
I must broaden my perspective:
no more minor obsessions:
the objective must be grander
much grander:

downright monumental.

I want the type of obsession
that occurs
in legend and myth: colossal,
timeless, infernal:
      and since metamorphosis
must, by definition, be dramatic
and thus, involve great upheaval,
great trouble--

trouble of mythic proportions--

then that will be my grand obsession:
to undergo a continuing series
of transformations.
To be reborn, not just once,
not just twice
but again
and again
and again

--an obsessive cycle
that will perpetuate
in a state of timelessness.

Don’t the timeless stories
of such quests as this
guide us through the ages--?--
enough weight to us
to alter, significantly,
the shape
of our feet--?

I understand
that to enact
a dream
of such grandiosity
carries a shattering cost.

But it’s my money

and I accept the expense
at the end of my days,
I do not want to talk
of what might have been,
to tell all the children:
that I could’ve been swallowed
by a mammoth fish
and lived to sing a sailor’s song

but preferred the solid bank.  Or

that I could’ve been torn apart
by the limbs, and then
could’ve grown back
to reach the sky

but chose instead to stay
in my basement bunker.

How can I tell them:
I could have spun
all the way through
a tunnel hell--

--landed flat
in a dead pit

--then rose up
to kneel down
to lap the waters
of Eden--

but selected a newspaper instead--?

such dares
are not only wounding--
as one by one
the props of your life
fall into the trash heap--


there’s always another mountain
beyond the one
you’re dangling from.
You know all the way over
there’s always
another mountain.

Who would choose
such bargain opportunities--?--
any fool who can ignore
how long it’ll take,
how hard it’ll be.

Loss will be my triumph.
Loss will be my heaven.

© 2008, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blessings from a Sleeping Dog

author’s note:

This poem did come from a trip--but one made while I was asleep.


I’ve gone out to the waveland
today.  Where the wheat
rushes up against you
like a dog that wants
to give you
its blessing.

My blood itches
from the burnt
golden scent–
I know
my heart will
make bread
from that smell.

My eyes leap over the wheatfield
toward a horizon that teases desire

yet I remain still--I will not
from this spot--I refuse
to search anymore
for any font.

And so
the water swells up
under my feet--I can feel
the spring rising
in my veins.

A dog lies curled
in the turned soil, sleeping
like a fetus.  Raindrops
made its eyelids

Yet all the while
this dog travels
deeper underground.

See how
the yellow-starred wheat
grows dark,
grows green dark
as you descend
the elevator stalk--?

the roots link together
to whisper a conspiracy
against death.

In this rare moment
of stillness, I realize
peace will not
end desire: which is
my good fortune:
to always know growth
             my desire
to heal every mirror
will stretch me out
in all directions,
to all points
on the plane--

good fortune:
the great net
will bind me
even as
I’m torn apart.

All this, in the waveland today.
Along with the blessings
of a sleeping dog.

© 2008, Michael R. Patton
myth steps
earnest audio

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Speck of Light

author’s note:

At this point, I don’t feel like giving my whole life story when I meet someone for the first time.

Instead, I’m tempted to just say, “I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve been around the block.”


Short men with tall hats--
but I shouldn’t complain:
I gave them
the chains
then swallowed
the key.

And of course,
being who they are,
afterwards they acted as if
they’d done it all

You only own me
because I let you,
I told them.

But they just stuck
their noses up,
acting tall in their tall hats--
they refuse to
acknowledge me
as long
as I’m chained down.

But indignation only shrank me
smaller--the rage
that I thought
would give me the strength
to bust those chains
actually made me weaker--
you never hear
that part of the story.

The trick is
to look up--
to locate
a little speck of light--
because every ceiling
has at least
a tiny hole
for breathing room.

Finding that speck
builds a desire, a stronger desire–

now you can recall
how the light offered you
the day you were born,
though you conveniently
forget how painful
the birth process was.

But oddly enough, the effort
of shouldering up from the soil
creates an even greater impetus
to stand
and walk
so that the pain almost becomes
a good feeling; anyway a feeling
and it’s better to feel something
than nothing at all.

Stretching is
breaking through
and out:

hot and fresh and significant
all hitting you at the same time:
--stung but cleaned
    by the new air and sun--

this is the better way
I’ve imagined:
how I want my life: Heroic.

To have enough height
to look down
and see how stunted
those fellows
really are.

Oh yes, they’re still around:
they never leave, just change hat size.

When I rise
they’re actually
I pick them up
by the short hairs
and swallow
as if eating
short cakes.

© 2008, Michael R. Patton
new steps
dreaming up

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008


author’s note:

For poetry so deeply quiet that it makes this reader deeply quiet, find Selected Poems by Wang Wei, translated by David Hinton


I have not yet

I have yet
to stop
but when I stop
if I really stop
and look
and listen
I know I will
witness perfection--
no matter
what when where--
there will be
perfection: in everything
I see hear feel--

and when I stop
if I stop
until I stop
looking stop listening,
I will experience
a sense of perfection
that goes beyond the senses,
beyond sensation--

and if I keep it going
it goes to where it seems
downright nonsensical.

And so
you’d think
I would stop
and stop
all day long--

yet I don’t
though I enjoy
what I get
when I do

I enjoy, yet
I seem to have
a threshold:
for some reason,
I can only stand
to realize
so much perfection
at a time.

But if I know
occurs all around me
every moment,
if I know
I am part
of that perfection--

why does stopping
actually seem
to frighten me


especially when I go
all the way
to nonsensical


Perhaps I fear a quiet
that feels like a type
of death--what if
I stay there--?--I might become
else entirely--I just don’t
quite feel ready
to give up
so much--

though the idea
does appeal to me

but to lose myself...

that’s a big commitment.

Ego’s designed to hold on.

In any case,
when I try to
        instead of

or when I try to
        instead of

I know that the fear I feel
--this conflict--
is just perfect.

© 2008, Michael R. Patton
new steps
earnest audio

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