author’s note:

“May you live in interesting times.”

I hear that expression used a lot these days.  It’s supposed to be a traditional Chinese curse.  But whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, I ask: when have our times not been interesting?
 

STANDING STILL

Yes, I know our human world
has always churned

but never with such agitation—
feeling the disturbance, we worry

which only makes the world shake more.

Years ago
I began to feel
the ground tremor—
as if ready to erupt
beneath my feet

so I ran
here and there
and here and there
and back again
and back again—
never pausing long enough
to feel my fear

until
I finally realized I’d collapse
if I didn’t stop and learn
how to deal with my fear.

By standing still
I then begin to sense a strength—
a strength I believe waited long
for the chance to be known—
waited, watching
this scared lizard scurry.

I’m not saying I’m strong—
just stronger, and becoming stronger still.
But no matter how strong I become
I know I’ll probably always
feel much fear
as I feel the ground shake

and I know
from time to time
my fear of my fear
may overwhelm me
and I’ll begin to run again.

But at least now
I’m strong enough to stop
before I go too far.

Maybe to hope is to be a fool
but if fool like me
can stand his fear
maybe there’s reason to hope
many more fools will stop running
and by standing still
convince us of our strength.

40 New Fables: ebook
Soultime: a novel
© 2021, Michael R. Patton

author’s note:

Yes, “tripping” has a double meaning in this poem.
 

A BIG STEP

Yes, we’re tripping
but I believe that’s because
we are taking a big step up.

I know I’ve tripped—tripped
every time I’ve taken
a big step.

We all step our own way.
We all step together as one.

The fear I now hear from us
as we struggle to step up
echoes my own childish moan
as I struggle alone
to climb yet another step
on my stairway.

From experience, I know
after I’ve pulled myself up
I’ll fear the next step
just as much as I did this one.

Nonetheless
I will take that risk
(eventually)
rather than risk losing
the life I might find higher up.

I believe
we not only fear being more
we also fear being less—

I believe
when our higher instinct
finally triumphs
over our lower
we’ll stop tripping
on this step.
 

© 2021, Michael R. Patton
Glorious Tedious Transformation: poetry ebook
painful puns blog

author’s note:

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

THE SEA OF HANDS, or WHY I BEGAN TO WALK AGAIN

As I slowly woke
to the feelings and thoughts
of body and mind
I no longer found
my feet on solid ground
but instead, saw I walked
on a sea of hands:

a calm ocean of palms
uplifted and held flat
with the fingers tightly together—
no empty spaces in that multi-hued mosaic
of blue, red-brown, and green
spreading in all directions
to a cloudy white horizon.

When I asked, “Who’s down there?”
I received no answer
and when I tried to peek
couldn’t see between the seams.

The hands seemed to be alive
the way trees are alive.
And like trees, appeared mysterious.

Each time I stepped
the hand under my heel gave a bit
then provided a little spring
when I lifted the foot back up.

“Well,” I said to myself,
“these hands seem stable enough.”

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

maybe I could jump
onto the next hand
but what if the sudden weight
made that hand sink?—

what if one hand after another sank?

Where would I be then?

I realized these hands
had supported me in the past
but how I could know for certain
what they might do
in future—?—
I only knew
things do indeed sink
and even if most remain buoyant
the sinkage of just one thing
can lead to disaster
and in each life
doesn’t at least one thing sink?

Those thoughts sank my heart.
I now regretted ever having looked
to see where I stood.
Now, each step felt treacherous—
I became afraid
to move
even one toe.

I stopped…dead still.

Then I realized
the hands now beneath my feet
though steady, were no guarantee:
they could sink in a moment
just like any of the others.
No escaping calamity.

Feeling the weakness of defeat
I then closed my eyes
and waited for the worst.

But though I waited
and waited
I went no lower

even when I pressed—
even when I jumped
up and down.

“Okay, this spot seems safe enough,”
 I said to myself.
“But am I just going to stand here
 all day, all night, the rest of my life?”

No—
better to walk on
than be stuck where I was.

I decided:
wherever I put my feet
would be the place they needed to be—
no matter what happened to me
in that place.

Finding strength in my new belief
I began to walk again.

Since then
I’ve continued to step
but I must admit
sometimes I still let
nervous fantasies in my head
trip me up

but though I land hard
the hands never sink
but hold solid.

myth steps blog
dream steps blog
© 2021, Michael R. Patton

author’s note:

Every day should be Groundhog Day.
 

MYSTERIOUS GROUNDHOG LIFE

When I saw the groundhog
waddling along—
grubbing just to survive—
I saw myself
and suddenly my dream
of being an eagle in high flight
felt like a lie:

a fantasy I use
to distract myself
from the plain truth
of my groundhog life

with its daily routine of mundane chores
made worse by incessant small frustrations.

But then
as I continued to watch
that humble creature work
I began to marvel
at the force in its frame—
does the fodder
of wildgrass and grubs
provide all that energy?—

maybe the body also draws
from some higher source.

Whatever the case may be
in that moment, I witnessed
the mystery of life
in a life quite common

and felt again
the mystery of my own life—
the mystery of our groundhog life.

My wonder then lifted me
high above this flat ground.

So maybe the sages were right
when they told us:
you must first embrace
this lowly earth
before you can realize
your dream of flight.

myth steps blog
dream steps blog
© 2020, Michael R. Patton

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