Thursday, July 22, 2010

In the Fist of a Knot

author’s note:

This poem reminds me of a travel program I saw on South Korea.  At the border station, the guardian soldiers of the North and the guardian soldiers of the South try to stare each other down, their hands clamped into fists.

They stand in this position of readiness for hours on end.

It seemed like such a waste of energy to me, at first.  Then I saw it as an incredible feat of endurance.


Maybe Alexander did undo
the Gordian knot
with one stroke of his sword--

but those times are over:
I’ve dulled my blade
trying to cut
this stubborn knot, this knot
has taught me

I can not break
what has bound me up
through abrupt

I’ve learned
to talk to my knot
as if to a fist: patiently,
respectfully--it knows
if I try to cajole.

So much power
in that knotted hand.
So much energy
as the knot
begins to open.

But I’ve yet to best
my turtle reflex:
when a shadow passes
I’m likely to relapse--
to try to shelter
in the darkness
of a hard fist.

through persistent, open-eyed effort
I'm slowly persuading that turtle
our life needs more--means more
than mere reptilian survival...

© 2010, Michael R. Patton

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Monday, July 12, 2010

North Star

author’s note:

I really had to question the line: “…by working so hard/ to catch what can not be caught/ I have stoked my power.”

I’m glad to say that I stand by it.


Because the waves move
while the reflection
remains still
the North Star
always appears
to be right over there.

But swim as I might,
I have yet to capture
the North Star--

and though I now know better
these arms and legs of mine
continue to plow onward

propelled by a low desire
to seek those earthly reflections
of what exists on-high.

I battle this lowness but lose--still distracted
by the seeming closeness of the reflection--
wanting so badly to believe
that all my straining has finally brought me
within arm’s reach
of the North Star

but then the water breaks
under my hand
and the image smashes to pieces.
A wounding frustration.

Yet in healing that hurt
I build a stronger bond.

But even more ironically:
by working so hard
to catch what can not be caught
I have stoked my power.

I think I will find
the North Star
when my legs learn
to stop kicking.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
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Thursday, July 08, 2010


author’s note:

Dedicated to that which flies about at night.


Every night, the owl ups from my chest
in the junkyard of sleep
to fly out the window
and over the block houses, over
the breezing fields, over the half moon lakes
and breathing trees--

to glide into your room
to settle quietly on your heart
to tap your own owl--the owl
that talks to you all day
while you sleep walk.

Night after night,
our owls soar together
over the great land
to share those truths
we’ve hidden from ourselves.

We save each other’s lives every day–
even though you’re now an empty space
beside me,
even though I’ve finally ceased to feel
that empty space.

I dreamt of you last night as if
recalling a hunting song
from my early days.

I’d forgotten I knew that song.

Though I have distracted myself
from the memory
I know your song still flows
through my veins--
I fear the memory
still has something
to teach me.

Remember when I hicupped
this line?:
“We are each of us door
  knobs to all those
  who would walk through
  the door.”

I walked through
and you walked through
and now only our owls
remain to share the story.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
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