Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Voice of a Stone

author’s note:

In the "selfie" photo above, I'm not the bluff.  I'm the scrawny tree.


If I could choose
a legend for my life
I'd have my edifice
become a bluff
overlooking the river:

as travelers passed in their canoes
they would gaze up and retell
the tale of the old man
who transformed himself
into mighty wall of stone
to protect his people from
the flood waters of the storm:

those pilgrims would speak to me
and wait to hear my echoes--

wait for my lesson, my solid guidance...

just as on my own journey
I've questioned many
men and women of stone
discovered along the way

but when sounding out
a great monument
I didn't realize
the resonant reply
actually came from
my own voice--

the one deep inside.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Feeling the Stone

author's note:

Perhaps I should title this poem, "A Little Stone Listens to its Big Stone".


I'm told a big stone
under our world.

Supposedly this spinning foundation
keeps the Earth from falling
down through space--

from descending
into a black void--
forever lost--forever alone
in the darkest depths.

I suppose we need to feel
supported by such a colossus
as our temples collapse
and the prescriptions we write
turn out to be placebos...

but this story doesn't help me much
when I begin to think
because then it's hard to believe
in the steady stone

and so, I often walk in fear

until doubt finally overwhelms me
and I fall down in the dark...

but such a collapse returns me
to the silence in which I can sense
that round grindstone turning
somewhere down there--

a subtle sensation
yet strong enough to give me strength
as I intuit its solid security

though at the same time
I'm quite intimidated
by the relentless power
of its revolution...

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
COMMON COURAGE: poems of our story

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Looking Down

author's note:

Yes, this fool of a kid actually stared at the sun.


Once, as a boy
I stared straight on
at the exploding gold
of our Sun...

In that way, I learned
what the ancient Greeks understood:
Gods should never be witnessed
in their full unadorned glory.

So now I go
down to the creek hollow

where sunlight blazes across wet stones

and rustles over
the shade-dappled brown-sand bank.

Ten million small magnificent dazzles
on the ordinary water:
ten million suns of silver.

No wonder we can barely tolerate
this life...

no wonder we hate to leave.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
COMMON COURAGE: poems of our story

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Saw You at the Waterfall

author’s note:

What I remember from biology class...

...was how fragile the human body seemed to me.  If the body is so fragile, we must be quite strong.


Those small trees clinging
to the edge
of the waterfall cliff...

remind me of so many strangers
glimpsed on the rain-wet street--

see how the crowns of the trees have bowed

while their roots strain
to hold to brittle rock of little soil
and their limbs tremble
from the roar of water crashing below
--a subway roar.

Like those many people
the trees seem so distant--
covered as they are
in thick mist.

Like those many people
the fragile trees dare me
to be as strong as they are--
to flourish while enduring a life
so constantly precarious...

The trees, the people:
plain in appearance
but beautiful in aspect.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
searching for the new mythology

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

To Reach the Fiery Light

author’s note:

It seems appropriate that a poem about delving down should be followed by a poem about rising up.


When I heard the story of Prometheus
I asked myself an important question:

if I could, would I
bring fire down from the sun
to share with all humankind
though I know I'd be chained
to a rock as punishment...?

Before I could answer, I realized:
though I haven't yet
brought anything of great value down
I already feel bound
by such restrictions--!--

like Prometheus,
I feel an angry eagle
eating at my liver
every single day!

When I asked the gods the reason
for punishing a mortal so obedient
I was told:
only through such rough treatment
do human beings become strong enough
to bring light down from the fiery sun.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Legend of the Pearl Dragon

author’s note:

If irritants create pearls, then I must have a lot pearls within me.


As a child I was told
of a perfect pearl
festering in the belly
of a gold-plated dragon
at the bottom of the ocean.

Because I wanted to be a hero
I waited until I came of age
then waded out from the shallows
and dove down into the deep blue...

but to my disappointment
when I landed in the floor muck
I found only a giant bullfrog--
cold as a corpse
and to all appearances,

I could hardly believe
such a loggy lump of inertia
might actually hold a pearl

yet when I examined its dull gray eyes
I thought I detected a deep glow
brightening for a moment then gone.

So I committed to the dirty job
of climbing down
into that murky buggy belly
to dig, to dredge
through the massive rotted morass

where my gung-ho bravado soon died
of boredom and disgust.

But what this task really required
was the patient tedious work ethic
of an ant.

Yes, I realize my determination
might better be described as stubbornness

and my endurance as extra energy to burn

and my ambition as a mere foolish dream...

but through these three qualities
I've discovered my strength--

maybe that's the real pearl
       of the ocean dragon story.

Even so, I am not ready to stop searching...

but though I'm still driven,
occasionally, I need to encourage myself
so I'll imagine my triumphant return:

when I proudly display the pearl's light
and tell all children gathered 'round:
kids, I won this prize
by wrestling with a dragon.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Why I Began to Walk Again

author’s note:

The path is under your feet at
All times.
     --  Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Cloud Hands Edition

Best wishes for 2014!


Before I knew
about the hands
I did not need
this much trust:

not this much--not until
I began to think
one day

because one thought
led to another
and another


I started to wonder
if perhaps I could be
walking on cloud.

I knew that was not
supposed to be possible
but whatever lay
beneath my feet
did not feel so solid
and if you’ve never seen
what’s under your toes
how would you know?

I took a deep courageous breath
then looked down

and found all sorts of hands
providing a platform for my feet--

their palms uplifted, the fingers interlinked--
a solid cushion, a multi-hued mosaic:

a calm sea of hands as far as the eye could see--!

Since the hands were everywhere
I could walk anywhere
and still feel secure.

But what if I took a step--
   the wrong step--
and the hand
under my heel
gave way--?--

then where would I be?

Though these hands
had supported me in the past
how could I know
what they might do
in the future?

Now I wished
I’d never looked down,
never seen a single hand.
Now, each step felt treacherous--
I became afraid
to move
even one toe.

I stopped...dead still.

But then
the next logical thought
fell like a domino:
what if the hands now holding my feet
began to sink--?--

what if all the hands
began to sink
and kept on sinking--?--

then where would I be?

I didn't know, I only knew
such sinkage would surely
happen to me.

So, I closed my eyes
and waited for the worst.

But though I waited
and I waited,
I went no lower...

nor, for that matter
did I rise
any higher

not a bit higher.

I couldn’t just stand there all day, could I?

Despite my fear,
I wanted to go on--
to take a step in any direction:
any direction
would be better
than being stuck
where I was.

Wherever I stepped,
wherever I went,
would just have to be
the place I needed to be.

So...I began to walk again

and the longer I have walked
the more I've felt the warmth
radiating up from each palm--

the more I've felt the intelligence
of the steady fingers and thumbs
beneath my soles.

Even so, my foolish head
is still learning to trust
the message of assurance
coming from my wise feet.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
if you read only 500 books this year, this should be one of them

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