Sunday, February 28, 2010

Panther Dove

author’s note:

A few years ago, while visiting Shreveport, Louisiana, I heard of a panther that stalked along the river late at night.  I searched that riverbank, but did not find its tracks.

Nevertheless, I had the thrill of sharing the same ground with that lone panther, a creature dark and mysterious.


The female panther prowls
late at night
looking for a mate.
She’s the only wild cat
in a radius
of a thousand miles.

In frustration, she occasionally
strikes down a cow
                   or a dog
                   or a man
who sleeps under a tree after
a hard day’s labor.

When people see
the big splayed paw print
in the sand on the riverbank,
they stare at that deep scar
as if gazing into a dark well.

Realizing their desire,
I decided to answer the call--
I’d draw the panther to me
and by surviving its attack,
show them that I owned
some of its animal power.

I was that desperate
to be the kingdom’s hero.

So I walked to the river,
strapped myself
to a sandbank hill
and waited

until the red ants crawled
all over my flesh like a fever.

The grand feline would not honor
such an overanxious sacrifice.

I then tried to attract the panther
with a panther dance--
I was that desperate--
I tried to imagine the rhythm, to match
that imagined rhythm.  I tried--tried--
--in blood and bone--
to be the moving mountain lion soul--

to encompass the understanding
of millions of years of panther life.

But I looked more like
a goose continually
stretching its neck
as it waddles about.

I am poor.  Poor of flesh.
Nothing that I can push
into my vein will give me
that animal grace.

I’m as desolate
as the rest of the kingdom--
realizing our desire
I am now desperate
to help save the river.

Maybe I can’t be the panther
but if I can stay here
with my arse on the bank
with my feet in the water
maybe I can grow to be a tree
with my roots in the bank
with my roots in the water

and thus, again become
a creature of the earth--

albeit one
with many bark grubs.

From this primitive existence,
I will again feel how
we are powered
with volcanic steam,
again see how we are built
from deep igneous rock.

Maybe then the cat will recognize
my true desire and come by
in the rich night
with a peace offering--
a nesting dove held gently
by its finely-honed claws.

Then the panther and I
will drink the same water
and finally its precious life
will infuse my blood.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton

earnest audio

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Naked Traveller

author’s note:

“You can’t use paper to wrap up fire.” - old Chinese proverb


I think I understand
the aborigines
who--when done
with one place--burn
their village--burn
their clothes

then walk
into the morning sun
with only themselves
for comfort.

They know how to travel.
They know the purity of nakedness
is smiled upon
by those that guide us,
by those that wish us

The wisdom of their choice
lies in realizing when
a thing is done.  The wisdom
begins as a feeling that then
becomes a thought.  My best decisions
are the feelings I can not ignore.

I am the aborigine
that shifts through the ashes,
a few bone fragments
and shards of jars
that once held life...

then brushes the dust from his knees
before continuing on
his journey to the horizon
through dry yellow grass that speaks
of the coming of spring, and caresses
his scarred thigh.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Honest Love

author’s note:

For Valentine’s Day, I’m revisiting this poem, written two and a half years ago.

I’m still dealing with this dilemma–but still feasting on the green shoots as well.


Why can’t I see love
in those low ruffled hills
that have faded
without turning golden?

Instead I confuse love
with reveries that give
only fog.

Shouldn’t I feel love
when I see the traffic blink
on yonder winding highway--?--

don’t those drivers love
and feed love
just as I do?

I say “love”, I say “love” again,
hoping to convince myself
of what I experience
in every living moment--

I say “love”
in the darkness
as I watch
the streaming flashes
of fireflies.

I say “love”
as I watch a fire
I can never abandon.

I say “love”
as the blue flame rises
over the red--

I see they’re one in the same.

I say “love”...

but I still don’t believe myself.

I can not stop myself
from believing
that love requires I cross
a great chain of mountains--

love lives over there, always over there,
never in the ground
beneath my feet--

over there--in a glowing white cloud
gathered from
the magical invisible spaces

then to disappear
in just a moment’s breeze.

I lower my poor head
to the trickle of a stream.

This honest death is also love--
another small death
at the end
of another stumble day.

I eat the green shoots
of my meditation.
So don’t worry about me--
I am growing.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
webbed site

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

One and One

author’s note:

A simple dream image is rarely simple.


I had a dream of
the numeral

In the dream
a big “1"
just stood there
daring me
to confuse myself
with interpretation--

knowing I could not resist
the temptation to ask myself:
What is "1"?

The number shoots up,
the number signals us

to form phalanxes,
to build foundations,
to summon our ambition--

"1" pushes the stalk
from the earth,
"1" points the spear
and spire--

to lift us to our vision before
we whistle back down the pole
to live the day’s plain struggle.

One stands alone.
Lonely as a telescope.
The number is original,
individual--yet includes all.
For all are one.  So I’m told.
But I’m trying to see--

what One asks me to see:
what I already sense
beneath the ten thousand
glances and motions--


To feel is to see:
I am too many fractions
and yet I feel
I remain one
beneath all the fractures.

But sometimes
when I’m filled with the strength
of my individual self
I begin to fear:
am I all I have--Uno?

when I try to work my will
I can not ignore
I am not in control:
I am property.

One has me.

Yet I can know that One
through myself--

but also
through all those other Ones--
including stones,
including clouds,
including waves,
including you--

including all
the shadows
of all those things.

Like all previous
dreams of "1"
this One dream only asked
the question--

it’s always up to me
to painfully bless myself
with one or more

© 2010, Michael R. Patton

dream steps
audacious audio

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