author’s note:

As they say in the movies: based on a true story.


In the time of intense grief
I went to the water

hoping to create a cathartic ritual 
that would free me from 
my burden of emotion.

I believed the opera I felt inside
required an ocean.
So I drove from the city 
to a nearby bay
and after stripping down
waded out toward a red sun 
dying on the horizon.

When the cold waters had reached
my hiccupping heart
I stopped

and stood 
ankle-deep in the sediment muck
of that rank brown bay brew.
Amoebas of oil and gasoline
slithered on waves 
bloodied by the sunset.

I then realized 
I’d not bothered to formulate
any words or movements
for this ritual
so I merely waited--hoping
miracle healings do indeed come to those
who are sincere.

But in the quiet
of the ticking moments
I began to see this act
as a fancy performed by a fool
who’s seen too many movies

so I gave up in embarrassment
and just let the waters sway me.

Then, as my eyes settled on
a distant cloud aflame
I slipped into an accidental meditation--
I lost all thought--lost time

until brought back 
by an electric chill 
needling my clammy skin.

But with that awakening
I saw again
the glorious strangeness of this world
and our life in it.
Have you ever found yourself
by losing yourself?

Refreshed by a satisfying emptiness 
I pulled my feet up from the muck
and walked myself back out.

My poorly-formed ritual
had somehow tripped a switch.
I drove home with a desire for life
missing since the death.

Years later
when I think of that loss
I still feel a lingering shadow of sadness
but I also remember
those blessed grief waters--
that wonderfully-strange sunset--
the flame that hides 
at the end of our day
but never dies. 

Poet, Heal Thyself: poetry ebook
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© 2022, Michael R. Patton