Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Upside of Upside Down



author’s note:

In a recent dream, I’m in a quarry, surveying a rock wall that I must raze.

So I guess I too am breaking rocks.


THE UPSIDE OF UPSIDE DOWN

...and as a result...
I act very respectful
towards them. After all,
they’re the ones who break rocks
in the quarry while I
dangle from a tree,
watching an overturned world
try to right itself.

But I pay a price--
my feet know
they can not
walk on air
while my head worries
that my hair points
in the wrong direction

and

once upside down,
you never quite
recover:
even with your feet
back on solid ground, you still
have that feeling
in the body of your mind.

--or is it: the mind of your body?

How did I end up hanging here?
I guess I wanted a new perspective

though I feel I’ve been forced.

Is this how we must live now?

Yes, but haven’t things
always been such?
Always putting us
upside down and then
right-side up again, yet
turned by the experience?

Ah, but in those days
we built
tall steeples
and carved our beliefs
into tablets
and flesh--

in those days
we carried boulders
with us
in order
to feel
secure.

Now the old stones
can not hold back
anxiety.

Now the stones
are just heavy.
Don’t all amulets eventually
lose their power
to convince?
Don’t the bell ropes
eventually hang us up
when we entangle them
with thought?

The towers are empty
ever since
the light through
their windows
was identified
as waves
and particles.

Now, even when we do
figure things out,
we’re still confused.

And so,
amid such conflict
I don’t fight the remedy--

when I see the giant
approaching
I don’t protest:
I go on ahead--
shimmy up the tree
then hang myself higher.

Might as well--
what else have I
to sacrifice
except myself?

Might as well
accept the inevitable--
see what I must see
so I can try to turn
everything
right side up again

so that I
can again walk free--
for a little while at least--
at least until
I get my legs back
under me.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Will Howl



author’s note:

“Deep calleth unto deep.”
          --  Psalms 42:7


I WILL HOWL

The year began in a spring
and ended in the ocean

ended so as to begin again.

The year began when
a seal climbed from the bay
onto a wet black rock
and started to bark.

I could feel its swagbelly sound
echo in that deep place
--you know the place--so deep:
no matter how far back
you go
that place goes back
even farther.

Yet I kept going.

The most joyful work holds the pain of incompletion.

The year of which I speak
did not tear a calendar page.
That year was 360 days
of becoming something
only hinted at previously.

When imagining what might be
I can never imagine
how I will feel
    as what once was unreal
    becomes as commonplace
    as the relentless waves

    as what was once real
    becomes the occasional breeze
    that carries nostalgia.

Standing on the threshold shore,
I aid and abet
the theft of what
I once was.
At times,
aiding unknowingly.
At other times,
knowingly abetting.

I hope the memories will
explain themselves
when I’m atop the hill

the hill rising from the ocean.

But for tonight, I’ll have to make do
with howling at the moon.

Who knows--
maybe the slippery seal will answer
if I howl all the way to the ocean horizon,
to the clouds backlit by moon glow.

With each howl
I’ll remember how
the strings all broke
--one by one--
as they were plucked.

But now I’m solaced to know
they needed to snap
so that the negative end
and the positive end
could search for one another.

When all the strings
have mended, I will hold
an instrument made strong
through all the searching.

Yes, the break
--even when bonded--
will still be felt
but in feeling, I will celebrate--
I will dance,
I will play,
I will howl.


© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Generous Monster



author’s note:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
          --  from Pogo, by Walt Kelly


GENEROUS MONSTER

Be prepared:
the Friendly Monster
              can be
              as big as an empire,
              or the size
              of a piranha

--and if the Friendly Monster seems strong
that may be because
you feel so weak, so very weak.

So I say again: be prepared--

you may hear a knock
             on your door,
                       one day

and a thunder-rumble of a voice will declare,
“I will help you, I will!
 Please let me in!
 You must let me in!”

Actually, you do feel you need some help--
you’ve had trouble standing up
and lately
the situation has only worsened--

so at that crucial moment,
you think your prayers
may have been answered,
as you say,“Oh...okay.”

Thus, the monster goes about helping you
fend off invaders--real and imagined--then
fixes your pipes, stocks your store room,
impregnates your daughter, piles a load on
your horse, scalds your cat, siphons gas
from your rattle-trap car--

and once the monster has done all that
--and more--
you realize he now owns your house--
he’s the infection that tells you
“I have healed you.”

Thus, you feel even weaker--
so weak that you don’t think
before you squeak,
“Would you please leave?”

Though the monster
is a monster, the monster
has feelings--for itself--
and so, will begin to sob,
rubbing its iron fists into
those tiny reptilian eyes.

Then you’ll spend
all day apologizing.
Because you now know
the monster well enough
to realize
that once the tears have dried
its wrath will rain down.

Even if the Friendly Monster does go away...

it will go in a huff.
It’ll poke its fang teeth
through your roof, grab a rafter
in its jaws and crunch--shake
the entire house all the way down
to the foundation. The walls will
fissure like parched ground; the plumbing
will pop and spew poisons,
the electric outlets will shoot out
sawtooth fire--

as you tremble and plead--

when the monster stomps boards into splinters
with its spur feet, pounds plaster
into white dust--

until your shelter is reduced
to a pile of gutter rubble.

Then the Friendly Monster
will stalk off, nose in the air,
still acting hurt.

“But at least I got rid
 of that monster,” you sigh,
 looking for the bright side.

Until--

lo and behold!--

the next day,
the Friendly Monster
will oh-so-casually wander by
and,
smiling sweetly,
say,
“Okay, I will forgive you--

“–as long as you let me help.”

But now you feel so much stronger--
through some strange alchemy
that ordeal has actually made you
stronger--

which, I suppose,
is the true value
of all such monsters.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Recovery Plan



author’s note:

I don’t think we can build cathedrals anymore--that includes any type of architecture that would serve that purpose.

I believe we have to go outside; to the land, to the sea, to the sky.


FOREST HEART

To feel the buried heart
she has to walk on black earth--
on ground layered
with decay and shadows.

The tall monolithic trees
watch her every step
but can not offer
either encouragement
or advice.

She believes she
might be the only one
who searches this forest.
Others may peruse the rocks and moss
and jutting roots.
She doesn’t begrudge them
as long as they don’t disturb
her worship
with the least rudeness
--even to an earthworm
    or a fallen acorn.

Only recently did she realize
she comes here to search;
the trees can only wait--the trees
must allow her to recognize
for herself

that she uncovers that heart
step by step by step.

And so she remains
frustrated, near rage,
near tears

but never stops
searching.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Water Project



author’s note:

In the movie, The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster, the main character attempts to return to his suburban home by swimming there--by going from one backyard pool to the next.

An interesting concept.  But I was disappointed when I finally caught the movie on DVD.  Though the swimmer did reach his intended destination, he was not healed by the experience.


WATER PROJECT

They never dipped me
in the water--I
dipped myself--
I did the job
only I could do--

through blind steps
I baptized myself
on many occasions.
For instance:
crossing the street
I sometimes
tripped into
a rain pothole.  Once,
all the way up
to my ears.

And as I stood there
with my eyes at water level
a violinist with the likeness of an angel
stopped and said, “I see you’re doing well.”

I caught the pun--well--but she gave me
more than heavenly word play:
from her I recognized the benefit
that arrives under the guise
of catastrophe.

All my work
had not
gone for naught.

After her high assessment
I felt especially special--
a diamond among ice cubes...

...until I looked around the room
and saw all those other people all
dripping wet...having baptized themselves
again and again...

...saw all our waters
on the floor, pooling together
--continually accumulating--
rising higher and higher
as we sit and play hearts and clubs
--few noticing the lifting tide
from our own baptismal waters...

...though maybe we can sense it
creeping up, can sense
its energy building in our bones--
or else when we sleep
we can hear its ocean roar
and feel how the whole town rolls
on a wave, guided by a current
that seems to be growing
out of control.

I will be baptized many times more.

But now when I find a pit
of brackish, cave water in my way,
I don’t try to avoid the inevitable--
I dive right in:
crocodile infested, home to sharks,
playground for piranhas--no matter.

I just hope the pit
has a spring
at the bottom--

but yes,
the pit always has a spring
when I’ve reached the end.

I prefer the sweet, clean artesian.  The splash prism.
Or else dark waters as calm as a frog pond.
I prefer your waters, to feel your waters
blanketed around me.
But I will swim where I need to swim.
To reach the depth I need to reach.
To be purified in the wash that erodes
old skin--

whatever river
will carry me
to the bridge.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pushing My High-Pitched Yip



author’s note:

This poem may give you the wrong expression.

I’m actually a visually-oriented person.

The poem chronicles the sweet excruciation of developing my auditory sense.


SOUNDING

With my ears all aglow
I’m having an affair
with the tree by the street

--the tree sushing longingly
as the wind
lifts its dress.

I have already had
many liaisons with the water
–-that appears so insubstantial, so thin--
yet thickly layers its purls
among the white rocks
until I’m dizzy with listening.

I am opened/ravished
by the strangeness of sounds
--reaped by the talking waves
rushing through morning wheat

until--
unable to bear any more
scything--
I lie fetus-curled,
naked in the gurgles
of rainbow-reflecting
mud.

Inside the tree by the street
a bird keeps throwing out its call.
Whip sharp.  Unstoppable.
Apparently impelled
by the same energy
that pushes coyote’s
high-pitched yip

But though the bird sound
goes deep, it never goes
deep enough--never quite enough
to satisfy completely.  My ears wait--
strain--for the next hard cry--
          short engine whistle
          short strong
          short engine whistle
          short strong

--the bird sweetens
its torture
by taking a break
to ruminate--

then stabs again:

short engine whistle...

short strong

Pleasure is such irritation:
sounds are never constant.
Except for that ocean rumble
underlying everything.
To bathe my head in that sea sound
I have to go behind closed doors
to the reservoir in the cellar.

But for those other sounds
I must stretch myself, deepen myself
until I hurt to bursting

--and yet it’s still

never enough,
never enough.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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