Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Growing Back

author’s note:

With the release of the movie 127 Hours, I felt I should repost this poem.

127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston, a hiker who had to extricate himself, in the most extreme way imaginable, from a trap that a canyon in Utah had set for him.

But don't we choose such traps so that we can then escape them?

The poem does not refer to Ralston's ordeal.  Hearing about his triumph brought up something for me that I was eventually able to express in a poem.


There is the story
of the man
who chewed off his arm
in order to survive.

He found the strength
within himself
to escape
an unavoidable trap.
Heroic, but sad--

he misses that arm.

He can see
people peek
while they struggle
not to stare.

At the silly party
he can’t stop feeling
even when masked
by all those casual drinks.

And then with the women:

if he could just accept his loss
as part of life, he’d drop
a heavy demon--and land
the prettiest gal on the block.

Some women actually
gravitate to him
because of the arm.
But their desire to help
just makes him kick--

how could he ever
find his power
in her two arms?

You see, that missing arm
teaches him so much:

how to shrink
what needs to be small--without
trivializing the pain.  He learns
regret just gets in the way
when you’re trying to do
with one arm
what you once did
with two.

He learns so much,
he even learns
how much
he has learned.

And as a result
of finally adapting
to this loss...

one day,
we look down and find
we’ve grown a new arm.
An even stronger arm.
And longer too--
now he can reach all the way up
and squeeze sweet rainwater
from that dark ripe cloud.

Yes, he knows he must first adjust
to his new found resource

...still, he can’t help but wonder...

could this arm eventually stretch
from one coast to the other--?--

and if so...well...

why should we stop there...?

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
50 Best Poetry Books for Kids

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Moving Desire

author’s note:

“We sit together, the mountain and me,
 until only the mountain remains.”
         -- Li Po (trans. Sam Hamill)

Yes, I've had moments such as the one described by Li Po.  I cherish such moments.

But my more typical mode is the one described below.


Stubbornly determined
to become a better being--

to be an open doorway--
to break my door open--

to be stub grass
willing to surrender
everything but my roots
in order to feed the needs
of blessed sheep...

so I sit down by the waterfall
--up near the clouds--
to try to meditate my way
to such a perfected state

when a different impulse
propels me to jump

then to swim like a snake
after I come up--

an impulse that plunges me
into deep mine pits

so I can crawl out
by my bruised finger-

That pulls me to climb
a rope that I doubt.

That pummels me to sing
through a throat
stuffed with ice--

so as to canonize my impediments.

Though I'm still impelled toward quiet
this more forceful impulse tells me
I'm not fit for the contemplative life--

this louder hunger apparently
is my better way
to become a better being

and honestly,
I wouldn't trade this joy
of learning the hard rules
of wheels and pulleys,
of sweating long hours
fitting together pipe
to bring water
to fields where I fight
boll weevils and blight.

In the process
the door slowly opens,
in the process
I sacrifice for what few sheep
I can now afford to feed.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
audacious audio

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Irritation, Agitation, Torment, and Torture

author’s note:

I was hesitant to use the word "torture" in the title of this poem.

I didn't want to use it just for the sake of alliteration--just to be cute.

But I finally decided that I'm using the word in an honest way.  I use it with the awareness that there are different degrees as well as different types of torture.


I don't know about the other birds

but I was born
with this ambition:
to sing a song of the folk
that would draw upon
all the strings and horns
of the world--a song

that would answer
all the drum beats
of every age and place--

a song that would weave
through the generations

the songwriter would simply be known
as “Anonymous”--

the song as much a part of us
as every breath and every step.

So I began to sing
and though the sound
came out tinny and weak
I believed my sincerity
would amplify to a symphony
when broadcast through the mountain range--

but those mountains can see you coming
from a thousand miles away--
can see you haven't yet earned
their high altitude--

but no delusional bird ever stopped singing
just because the mountains laughed at its puniness--

so I kept warbling--
even when what bubbled up from me
popped under the slightest air pressure--
I kept on trying

to satisfy my crazy desire--
      trying until the irritation
      became an agitation
      became a torment, a torture--
I kept on

because I could hear how my frustration
worked to slowly strengthen my sound--

so I still have hope
that those mountains may eventually allow me in--
may eventually answer my hunger
with a magnificent booming chorus.

And though the mountains
still stare in bored judgment
upon me...

angels, having lived among us, have lost
such high standards and thus
when an angel hears
a poor bird like me sing
that angel still hears god.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
hear my puny voice

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