Sunday, March 29, 2009


author’s note:

As I was working on this poem, I learned of the recent death of a friend, Gisela Kirberg--therapist, translator, tango dancer, interpreter of fairy tales.

I wondered what poem I might dedicate to her.  Then I realized this one includes two of her great joys: dogs and the world of dreams.  I think she would appreciate the synchronicity of this choice.

I also realize that the poem refers to a loved one who remains with us.


In their dreams
dogs never recognize
the symbology
of trees,
of rabbits,
of other tail ends.

Yet I bow to
any being who
can smell
the secret guest
and hear
the silent pulse

--whose nerve endings
alert the wag of the tail
when I’m still
miles from home.

Who’s aware
of Aunt Marabelle,
though she’s been dead
these nineteen years

aware of her
as she stands in the doorway

while I chop carrots,
and watch TV,

Perhaps I want
that dog beside me
--not just for the adoration--
but because she retains
so much
of what I have lost.

I try to listen
in the forest
in the way
that the dog listens.

To listen is to see.

But though I usually fail
to clear away the mundane--
after I’ve given up

I suddenly stop again
as I recognize how
the scene has changed:

though the hard trees
and quivering
grass stalks
still appear indifferent--
I can sense something
of their deeper mystery--

finally then
I begin to feel
what I wish
I could see and hear.

With such small steps
--in the resounding quiet
of the forest--
I ease my way
carefully forward
towards a truth
the dog accepts
as commonplace.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Drollops Dropped from Heaven’s Candle

author’s note:

This poem came from a dream--which is a good place to find a poem.

In the dream, I went down into a hollow where a group of men were high on honey.  But fortunately, I soon climbed back out.


A party of men
in a hollow under a railroad bridge
dip from a big cast-iron pot
of gold honey--

their minds thick
with sugar silliness--
rubber-tongued, they goof and lolly-gag,
pink cheeks wet with honey dew.

On the near concrete pillar, a cantina poster:
the sudsy lady
with sashay froth of flagrant dress
stimulates more ladling--

by men desperate
to fire the coal again--
something deep in the gut
was knocked cold
way early; since then
they’ve huffed and puffed
until now they choke
when they try to breathe.

Heavy bubbles rise slowly--

sluggish but still giddy from the honey-drunk,
a man opens to what he otherwise might’ve missed:
through the dark railroad tresses, he watches
the clouds pass--for the first time in a long time
sees the amazing shift of shapes--

initially, those billows remind him
of the cantina woman
with all her petticoats gushing up.

But as the clouds continue
to burly and wisp above the tracks,
some come to resemble
his childhood storybook horses and dragons--

then--too quickly--

the spinning fillagree hardens
into millstones that shadow
the bittersweet faces underneath.

The hollow now
a dark pond
of sideways goldfish.

But before they can all
fall off their cans, fall
into sleep
on the broken-glass ground,
someone anxious
to maintain the buzz
catches them up
with a cry of

and reawakened,
they struggle to regain
their previous exuberance
and rabble

as the master-of-ceremonies spoons up
more drollops dropped from heaven’s candle.

Though the original high has dissipated
there’s enough warmth left
to settle them
into an easy melt, to extend
their reprieve,
to luxuriate their descent
the slow

Though this world has become
too much for these honey-sunken men,
sometimes they still understand
that they actually cherish
every choking breath--

even when they arrive
at whatever resides
at the bottom
of that black cast-iron
pot of honey.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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