Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tired Birth



author’s note:

“I have sounded the very bass-line of humility.”
             --  Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I


TIRED BIRTH

After thrashing myself
for so long
with futile swimming
I gave up arguing
with the tide
and let the waves
roll me ashore.

Now I just slop
against this stone
that smiles
like the silent knowing Buddha--

the stone knows I’m learning,
albeit slowly:

the ocean had to knock
the bellow from me
(not just once or twice)
but repeatedly
until I finally
completed this lesson
in humility.

Now my seaweed whimpers softly
as I swallow lumps of sand.

But consider this:
I seemed to have made
the right mistakes--
my stubbornly-held well-calculated plans,
my toil and turmoil,
my screeching, my beseeching

have ended in triumph.

I say "triumph"
because now I know
I can weather
the mightiest storm.

Besides that,
the sandpiper pecking on my back
reminds me that even the deadest-looking log
stirs inside with all kinds
of hidden life

and I know from
living with this human system
that eventually I will tire
of being tired,
of being pecked and lapped

and stand again
to resume some semblance
of how I've walked in the past.

But for the time being
my best comfort is
the knowledge
that through this
paradoxical alchemy
I will be so much better,
brighter--
          steppier--
from having decayed
in those dark waters.


© 2009, Michael R. Patton
new steps

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Forward, Ever Onward



author’s note:

In the interest of full disclosure...

I never really desired to go back.

However, I have swept up moon dust in my basement.


FUNDAMENTAL ME

I decided
for peace of mind
to go back to
an earlier better time--
       a more fundamental
       and exact time
       in my life
       --in ours.

When America was America
and I aspired to the simple
greatness--
to be fulfilled and to fulfill
my country’s needs.
To maintain what I was blessed by:
the godly good, the level house,
the plain information
found within
the black and white television
and smiling magazines

that, like the sidewalk, knew
just which way to go.

I’d visit the neighborhood
street again and I would
praise that straight sidewalk.

Yes, I was lost, but
didn’t the radio tell me
I’d find my way back home?

But when I came to that street
I realized memory had failed me...

The street I now saw
actually had medieval
cobblestones--
not the dull asphalt
that I thought I loved--

while the magazines and television
that I uncovered in the attic were
moth-eaten curtains
addressed to someone no longer here
--someone who wouldn’t return
   no matter which way I turned.

The iron chain of all those artifacts
crumbled to powder under my touch.
Who were those echoes?
The Greeks and Romans
made as much sense.
The cave paintings of Lascaux
spoke more clearly
than those scratched records.

I don’t know exactly when
but some time back
we left a life behind

and to try to
turn around
at this late date
would just create
an even more mangled maze
from the labyrinth

because we only move forward.

So...

having failed to re-create
what’d never really existed...

I’ve since begun to build
a new fundamental me
for the future

with materials that include
fresh clean pine planks
but also
that litter of worn
gray rocks
out back

along with the compost
where my decay
grows child-like sprouts.

I build

a future for the now
that’ll include all
these spider webs
I have gathered
like flowers

as well as all those hopeful designs
that continue to tangle my hands

a future now
that will include--must include--
all the sun spots
glimpsed through a pin hole

as well as all that moon dust
I swept up in my basement.

Must include
both my old and my new
sacrificial shoes
that’ve followed, will follow
this mystery
forward, ever onward.

Must include

more than I know.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton

earnest audio
new steps

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Horse Feathers



author’s note:

“A horse!  A horse!  My kingdom for a horse!”

            --  Shakespeare, Richard III


INNOCENT ASSAULT

Ironically,
I’d just dreamt
a horse
had carried me
to the horizon

when this one
came on
sudden as a hailstorm
--a horse

guided by instinct
toward the mountain
buried in cloud--
that same mountain
I hunt to find

--and as I wondered
if deliverance had finally arrived,
its army of hooves--
indiscriminate, innocent
--clomped over my fallen body.

(Lightning happens in a flash
  but recovery requires
  a slow tedious rain.)

A dust cloud still hangs
in the air
as I grope about my scalp
to ascertain the damage,
knowing
I’m yet too numb from shock
to feel--

but also knowing
the pain will soon
begin to throb

--yes,
I’ve been rung,
rung up
once again

yet still not
fully awakened

from the stupor
induced by all
that previous ringing.

Maybe I am the horse
in the dream. Maybe those hooves
will continue to run me over
until I see
I am the horse.

In that case, perhaps
I should bless that other horse
for its blind attempt to wake me--?

Yes, I will thank you all, I will--
just not yet.
Right now, I’m opening
my mouth like a fish
on dry land. For the moment
I can’t bring myself to speak,
nor take
anymore in.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Driving Naked



author’s note:

I’m driven...but as for what’s driving me...

...I can’t say.


WHY

Though my hands held firm grip
on the steering wheel...

when I looked down
I found no steering column

--!--

However, I decided to act
as if I was still driving
so as not to lose
credibility.

But people still asked,
“Why didn’t you
  turn right?...Why didn’t you
  turn left?...Why did you
  back up?...Why did you
  pull off

  to the side of the road
  when you had
  a wide open lane
  straight ahead?”

I told them:
“That was me
  choosing
  my choice”--yes
that’s what I told them
with all the confidence
I could fake.

But even if I had known
why,
I don’t think I
would have
said...

so as not to lose
credibility

by offering
what must be
some fantastic answers.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Fire Walk On Me



author’s note:

When I consider the continuum of history...

...I can look at what’s happening today and still be concerned, but not quite as upset.

[The above photo is of an extinct volcano crater in Oahu, Hawaii--an old terror that is now lush green.]


OLD EARTH

How I love those
cracked and verdant walls,
those ancient bricks built
with red blood, mortared
with white ash.

How I love that everything
comes to an end and yet
endures and what endures
is the best extravagance.

How I love to walk
on the scoured beaten earth,
the red purple earth, the fissured earth.
How I love to luxuriate
in the once indomitable volcano
now filled
with lush green,
now filled
with goats
eating leisurely
in their white beards.

How I love the idea
that one day I’ll add
my own blood
to the red brick.
Add my own ground bones
to the white mortar.

I actually love how
our past failures
become comical relief tales
of men and their fears and fleas
and greed.  I do hope
to one day be
the tale
of a foolish old man
banging his head on a banjo drum.

When I am dead,
please--come,
walk on me.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton

earnest audio
new steps

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Crawling Toward Wisdom



author’s note:

“I am a part of all that I have met.”
             --  Alfred Lord Tennyson

“I learn by going where I have to go.”
               --  Theodore Roethke


WORM WORLD WISDOM

In all our explorations...

maybe we’ll find
a planet of highly intelligent worms--

worms that seem to imbibe information
from the ground through their skin--sliding over
the earth and into the soil
would be a means of absorbing
not only facts, but also knowledge
--which, through the progressive digestion
             of deep rumination,
             would eventually produce wisdom--yes,
crawling could be a means of
cracking consciousness open.

They learn in this way because,
after all, what is their experience
of life if not soil--?--if not earth--?--
thus, the ground beneath their skin
is their education,
their means of learning
while on that distant loamy world.

And so, I guess, the worms
would never want to pause
for even a moment

--you think?--

but no, I suppose
some would feel overwhelmed
and choose to go slow.

Maybe they would even end
their education
by stalling--stopping.

No--wouldn’t that be impossible?:
no matter what the worm did,
it would have to learn something--

after all, a worm can never
completely stop--it must attend
to basic needs–and so
          even to eat, to procreate, to find shelter
would bring growth

--even if
a worm only passed
through this life
for one heartbeat
that worm would gain
something.

However,
wouldn’t you need a life
after life
in order not to waste
all you had acquired?

But even if dust just returns to dust
your dust would go back
to that same place
from whence your knowledge came--

so all future generations
could absorb some of what
you picked up, some of what
you digested
in your own attempt
at understanding.

Every motion you ever made
--even a breath breathed
   while you were
   standing still--
would add its modicum
of push
to the future momentum
of that world.

However, I believe
you’d have an even bigger impact...

Why should your advances
be confined to a single planet--?--
--are we not one?--
--do we not share the wealth?--
I believe
some humongous
universal bank of intelligence
exists somewhere
for your deposit
of worm knowledge.

If so,
does worm wisdom combine
in that bank with our own
human learning?--

If so,
then what is true
for worm
would also be true
for a poet.

Yes, that must be the reality;
because I have gained so much
from all my crawling,
from all my slogging,
from all my stalling,
from all my delving,
from all my...

...my oh my--

from just being born.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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