Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Haunted Palace

author's note:

I wanted to post something scarey for Halloween.  And what’s more scarey than our own selves?

But it’s meant to be a hopeful poem.


This palace is beautiful
but haunted--
human life has bled
into its brick.

We lounge
in the smoking parlor
breathing our civilized thoughts
out through our mouths--
expelling our ashen shadows
into the draperies, crushing our sadness
into the boards underfoot.

So why are we surprised
when the walls groan
like a pained animal?
The windows cry for opening--
they’d rather have their glass shattered
than live in such a fog.

Millions of tears have been shed
in this downstairs room.  A man hung
himself here
rather than climb
the staircase.

Rather than climb the staircase
we let bats jump out of our heads

to commit glorious wars.

I get the tension nerves when
I step to the attic--but firm up
my resolution
to look into the mirror
until morning, though I know
spirits will seep
into my mind and body--
I’ll be possessed--
but through destruction
made whole once more.

I may thrash
like a skeleton wracked
by Saint Vitus’ dance.
The sight of me
may lift wigs
off respectable lids.

But I must break open
my own heart,
my own hand,
my own head.

I refuse to be haunted.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Price of Fire

author’s note:

To be clear: the returning hero could just as well have been a heroine.


I brought fire down
from the mountain
on my blasted back:

after deliberately tempting
the gods of lightning
during a long dry summer
I was finally struck down--


a storm god lost patience
with this hungry warrior.

When I returned,
the woman stood at the kettle
stirring cold soup.

“I have found fire
 for this house,"
 I announced.

She took one look at me,
saw how charred I was
and said:

“You could’ve been killed, Fool.”

“But the world and you
 depend on me,”
 I countered.

“You’ve frazzled your nerves,
 stammered your brain, so now
 I live with a tremoring shadow.”

I’d hoped for adulation
or if not that, then understanding
and thus, some leniency.

“The truth is, you did it for yourself--
 now rest”

and with that, she gave me
the understanding and leniency,
so we sat down to table,
knowing we’d deal with the demons
of my disastrous triumph
a little later on

while blessing the heat.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Finer-Tuned Pitch

author's note:

Recently, I was perusing the religious section at the library...

...when I found a story told by a man who leads self-help seminars.  At the end of each seminar, he asks participants to express their lives through some type of physical movement.

One woman got down on the floor, on her belly, and begin to creep along like an inchworm.

I thought to myself, "Yes, I know what you're talking about."

Unfortunately, I do not recall the title of the book.

Click on the image below in order to read the poem.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Haircomb Harmonica

author’s note:

“Trouble?  You think I look like trouble?  I’m a poet!”
             --  from the movie Young Guns


Don’t you ever wonder
what happened to me
after you removed
your head
from my window?

Well, I’ll tell you anyway--
because we learn from each other:

I muddied my feet some
then washed them
--told myself: well done.
Composed a few soulful tunes
on my haircomb
harmonica.  Again, done well.

Then, still restless, I
kicked some rocks--
          my toe.
(Learned not to kick

All of which may not sound
significant, but even in such
small yawns, there is waking,
and with waking, stretching
and as I stretched I lifted myself
one more step.

But such progress
doesn’t mean
you were wrong
about me.

My movement still
mostly seems happenstance,
which means I’m still
mostly unconscious.

some awareness is required
to perceive improvement
and now I can see
I’ve become
a little stronger,
a little lighter,

more substantial.

I could give you
partial credit.
I could.
For this stretch.

But if on one hand,
I don’t lay blame,
then why, on the other,
should I give you credit
for something
you only blindly facilitated?

But instead of us arguing...

let’s just call it even.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wrap Music

author’s note:

Though the poem below is not based on an actual situation... is based on an actual condition.


Though she asks only for
the simple sling
I summon a full force
of 10,000 dramatic soldiers
in order to deliver.

Such an opportunity!

Fighting against my embarrassed ego
I have dedicated myself to her service.

I argue, “Why not?”
After all, she has indulged me
by patiently tolerating
my ornamental descriptions
of her delicacy, her strength,
her heart-felt grace.

Who else has allowed me
to express so much?

So again, I argue, “Why not?”--
consider this: though I offered
to move mountains for her...

she’s placed only one request:
the ribbon of pink silk.

But since heroic deeds daunt me
less than something that binds,
the deeds are less, and the ribbon
is more, so how can I resist
such an opportunity--?

Nothing else
can give my service more meaning.
Without service,
where is our meaning?

So...though I still doubt
that I’ve yet bled enough...

I go to the reeds by the river
to find the pink garter snake
that’s waited so long in the mud--
     waiting to wrap its life
     around the two of us.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton

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Sunday, October 11, 2009


author’s note:

I give birth the way an opossum does–my offspring are born poorly formed and diminutive.  So, like the opossum, they require much nurturing after leaving the womb.


I’m flapping
the way a crane
flaps its wings
when trying to lift
from the lake.

I’m flapping my ears
after hearing Bird
elevate on
his saxophone--

I too want to ascend
to a heaven
of my own invention--
a heaven discovered
through stone work
and the whimsy
of creation.

But though I’m flapping
I’m still down.
My feet still wear
worn-out shoes
covered with old
flakes of doubt.

I am not the crane.
I am not the Bird.
So how can I rise
to heaven’s call?


didn’t the crane
once reside in an egg?
As did the Bird.
As did those petals of music
in their bud--?

I feel the heaviness
of the shell
on my shoulders and back
but I’m hoping

that if I can polish enough
through my attrition...

if I can dine on
enough meager meals
of disappointment...

if I can finally fully unravel
through these interior revolutions...

and then...

--after all that frightful battle--
arrive at the wisdom of surrender

maybe–I said maybe--
this crust will crack.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Upside of Down

author’s note:

I tried to find a replacement for the line “all the way to the bottom of hell”, thinking it sounded too common.

It is too common.


I started to write
a poem
about morning coffee
while leaning my elbows
on the table
and gazing over
the orange hills of dawn.

Then I remembered the story
from yesterday:
about the interrogator
who broke men’s spines.
No.  He actually snapped
the spinal column
then set the prisoner down
on his head to hear him scream--

all the way to the bottom of hell.

So I did not write the morning poem.

My plan had been to tinge the lines
with melancholia--
the melancholia that can sometimes
drift down
at the beginning of a sun-filled day.

My idea was to convey the irony
of feeling wistful
in a world of plenty.

But today I will not ignore my shock...

all around me I see people
set down on their heads...

But I can not ignore my hope:
I tell myself
we’re all learning to balance
to gain a greater perspective.

© 2009, Michael R. Patton

earnest audio
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