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author’s note:

This poem seems appropriate for our times.
 

THE PEBBLE

As stallions of bruised-black clouds
rushed toward my shore from the ocean horizon…

I thanked my stars I’d found
that boulder on the beach—
a cleft on its leeward side
opened to a secret chamber:
a womb for me—a sacred space
where I could sit in safety…
in peaceful solitude

and indeed
as I hunkered down inside
I felt secure
even as the tide rose
even as the wind rose
even as pellets of rain
shot down on the rock roof
I felt secure.

But that ocean seemed determined
to wreck my calm:
though I tried to reassure myself
I could not ignore the force
of its repetitive threats—
on the count of three
a wave would explode
against the rock-side:
those booming blasts
soon broke into
my body, my mind, my heart.

So, in desperation
I dove down into my dark depths

praying I might find
a solid stone foundation

but no—
I could only locate a little pebble.

But since I had nothing else
to hold, I held it
with the all fierceness
of my spirit.

I’d stopped struggling
to kill my fear—
now, I just hoped to endure:

sometimes, we must go so low
for our higher education—
consider the end:

when I’d become nothing more
than that tiny stone
a big blow shattered the boulder
into shards

and I found myself standing
on sunny beach
as modest waves retreated.

Stunned I was, but closer to peace—
having gained this foundational wisdom:

rock walls can not protect us
from the destruction of storms…

only our own little stones.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

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author’s note:

I dedicate this poem to all those of my generation who hoped the Carlos Castaneda books were true accounts.

So, in part, I dedicate this poem to myself.
 

MEDITATING UPON A CENTIPEDE

Once in a forest, alone
I tried to force my eyes open

driven by the desire to see
the mysteries
of a spirit world I sense
all around me.

For many minutes I peered
into the darkness of the trees—
I stared—I squinted—
trying to pierce the curtain

until nearly blind with frustration…

finally I sank down to rest
on a stump by a dry brook

but in the quiet defeat
of this convalescence
I slowly forgot myself

as my empty eyes began to fill
with the grand beauty
of a centipede
humbly soldiering
through a rich wasteland
of gray-brown leaves:

such intelligence in those little legs!

I watched until
the tails disappeared
into a miniature door
at the base of the stump

but a few more moments passed
before I came back to myself—
suddenly I realized
I’d entered an elevated state—

maybe now
the mysteries of the world
would open to me—!

But that desire, returning so abruptly
broke the peace
and I returned to being the lesser being.

Thus
the secrets I wished to see
remained secrets.

I then cursed my impulse

until I realized:
without this drive
I could not endure
the tedious process of opening
to the truth of a hidden world
we all secretly know.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

author’s note:

Written after reading the anthology The Clouds Should Know Me By Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China, edited by Red Cloud and Mike O’Connor.  Recommended.
 

WHILE WAITING IN AN OUTLYING PROVINCE

Despite the exquisite craft
of my song and dance
I’ve yet to receive
a summons from
the distant imperial palace.

As what began as a short wait
became a long wait
I tried to appease my desire
by enjoying the sun
on the stones in the stream

and by telling myself
the rusty nails of my humble hermitage
shine more brightly
than those golden hinges
of the locked palace gates.

In such ways
I managed to muffle
my whimpering disappointment…

until the night
someone cried out to the sky—

in his pain I heard my pain
and as I felt my pain again
I felt his pain more deeply:

I felt life more deeply

so I continued to listen—
I opened myself to the many cries.

In that way
his pain and her pain
and my pain and their pain
soon became our pain.

Yes
I’ve become one of the valley villagers.

Now, I no longer pray for approval
from the imperial palace
because I know
whatever boons or gratuities
I might receive
would not be enough to comfort me—

I would still feel our pain.

So now, I’m working to learn
the song of healing…
the dance.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

author’s note:

And now for something a bit shorter…
 

WEAVE IN PEACE

Moonlight whitens a spider dangling
down on an unseen string—
down from a limb of shadow leaves.

This suspension holds me in suspense

yet the spider seems quite at ease:

the spider knows its strength

thus, it weaves in peace…

on the other hand, humans
are still learning

so we doubt as we dangle…

maybe someday
we’ll realize the truth
of our strength

and thereafter
weave in peace.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

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