Sunday, June 28, 2015

Our Living Dance

author's note:

During a week of national mourning, I decided to revisit and revise this poem.

It describes an event that may seem beyond belief...

...until you consider the dance mania that swept Medieval Europe.


A woman standing
on our east-side beach
heard about the child
and began to dance

in pain of sadness,
arms down

then slowly expanding
up to an orange Sun
up to a wind-swept cloud

and when a man nearby learned
what'd caused her reaction
he responded with his own
clumsy but heart-felt steps

likewise, a teenage girl
responded with heart

and so a dance of life began--
moving from one person
to another and the next
on down the shoreline:

a process fantastic
yet natural
in terms of emotion.

The TV news had featured
the mother and child,
so when word of the dance got out
our island residents
gladly joined in:

maybe many of them
only wanted a chance
to express long-repressed sadness.

In any case
the chain grew link by link--
that magnetic serpent lengthened

over the dune hills
and across a field of wind grass
then along the rolls and folds
of the road passing through town.

Later on, songwriters wrote
of how we were all connected

but weren't we also separate?--
we danced as individuals
even when we imitated:

several of the women
simply swayed, while holding
an imaginary baby
to the breast...

one old woman
slowly circled
a father and toddler--
her cut arms pressed against
a sunken chest.

A number of dancers
would bow in grief
as they lowered to their knees

then they'd rise once more
then they'd sink once again--

unable to completely be either way.

Some tried to defy gravity
as if to triumph over death--
leaping up, leaping up
again and again:

frustrated, determined, angry, joyful

while a few backslid
from defiant to sarcastic--

even urinary and fecal--

one tore at his own flesh

another tried to tear the flesh of another:

having once suffered similar crimes
they repeated the act committed
against the child.

But despite all the rattling
the human chain held strong

until the dance finally arrived
at our island's west-side coast

where a high-stepper
--light as a zephyr--
floated in a gossamer gown
at the edge of a cliff
to the echo of waves below.

The lively mourners then began
to wake from their collective trance:

gradually, people fell away
there and there and there
to carry themselves home
in relieved exhaustion

and though many vowed
to return the following year
no staged event would ever be
as grand as the original dance.

Afterwards, the child's mother
tearfully thanked all participants
from a camera in her kitchen

but in the Winter months
she nearly collapsed...

later, she told us
how she often circled
her solitary floor at night--
how she'd start to sway
with arms crossed across
her battered chest

until finally she'd fall down under
the heaviness of her grief.

But while lying there
on the hardwood
she'd somehow recover
some sense of stability

and as her wash of sadness
began to ebb
a new feeling of life
would rise within:

in response, she’d open up...she’d stand again--

puzzled by her strange new strength.

A mysterious process, yes

yet understandable
as long as you don't
try to explain it...

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
butterfly: poems of death & grief & joy

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Love Life of the Eskimo

author’s note:

Someone once asked me if I ever wrote love poetry...

I replied: I hope there’s love in all my poems.


The Eskimos
have as many names for love
as they do for snow--

my Northern friends told me:
in such a brutal world
they need to realize
the myriad expressions
of love.

Of course,
they’ve a name for romantic love--

a name that shares a root
with all the other love names

including the name
for motherly love
which only varies slightly from
the name for fatherly love.

The name for
the fierce devotional love
a dog has for its whip master
is used as well
for the love the Eskimos feel
for a life so harsh:

a name also given to death
as one nears the end--yes
they've chosen to embrace death

they say:
accept the inevitable
with joy amid the sadness

they welcome the long night:

though the Winter often
shuns their offering
they know they must love
the dark and the storm
and the deepest cold
in order to thrive

and besides...

the storm, the cold, the dark
have made them who they are--

so shouldn't they give thanks?

They honor those elements as gods
because they want to elevate their love

and in so doing, elevate themselves.

I can understand--
I want to elevate my own life...

for that reason
I asked the Eskimos to give me
all their names for love--

I would incant a love word
with each step
and in that way, realize
the love I truly feel
through every living day...

but my Northern friends told me
they also love poetry

and if I didn't try to find
my own names for love
I'd never be a poet...

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: the book

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Iris

author’s note:

“Water is poetry.”
       -- Jerry Brown, Governor, California

“Poetry is water.”
       -- anonymous


When I asked myself
why this life gives me water
beyond my capacity to hold

I found my answer in the Iris flower

that catches the lashings of the storm
in the cup of its petals

until the thin stem finally buckles
and the rainwater spills out
to nourish the earth below:

a gift now flavored
with the complex scent of the Iris...

Relieved but empty
the flower cup then lifts again
to receive more rain.

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
dream steps: the blog

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Hail, The Lowly Hero

author’s note:

Some days I'm dragon...and some days I'm draggin'.


After reading those childhood storybooks
I decided I should be a hero--

I wanted the best for myself.

But where were the dragons?
Where were the fair maidens?

How might I realize my high ambition?

In many of those stories
the great situation arrives

the quest suddenly trumpets...

with that in mind,
I would hope and wait

and fill the time by doing
whatever chores needed to be done:

I planted seeds, I pulled weeds
I stirred a wild stew

(my ingredients included
 old shoes
 and a bullfrog’s blues)

I cleaned rotten leaves from gutter pipes

and harder yet: I dug up stumps.

I did so much
but no matter how much,
never enough:

I fished a lake for sustenance
I carried jars of water from the well

and sometimes felt discouraged:
should a dragon-slayer be doing
such low household work?

I could feel the strength
slowly growing in my hands

and what is a hero if not strong?

I asked myself:
am I not making peace with a dragon
as I sit here alone--

I'm rescuing myself
--not with grand flourishes
  but in gradual steps--

and perhaps in the process
also helping the rest of the world

and what is a hero if not helpful?

So though I still wait
for the great situation
I now work joyfully

by this never-ending quest.

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
myth steps: the blog

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