burning up - July 9, 2015s

author’s note:

I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
         — Goethe, from The Holy Longing (trans. Robert Bly)


When I saw
that photograph of a monk
trying to change the world
by setting himself on fire
I said to myself,
“Good man,
 I know how you feel!”

I knew because I’d gone through
so many years of fiery frustration
at the many injustices of this life.

Eventually, I realized:
if left unchecked
my righteous indignation
would consume
my mind and heart.

But though I worked
to cool myself
the blaze still roared within—

how could I survive such constant raging?

Finally, I saw no other answer
but to bathe in those flames—
I’d open myself to the opportunity
to be a sacrificial offering:

I would feed the inferno
with all my old junk stuff
—that tiresome load—
and watch my fire-light
rise brighter and brighter.

I would change the world
as we all do:

by slowly burning off
those many layers of dross.

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
Common Courage: the book