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author’s note:

Just once, I would’ve liked to have seen Wile E. Coyote ring Road Runner’s neck.
 

A BETTER FOOL

As a child, I admired
the heroic defeat—

for instance:

the weary warrior rising to defend
poor children cowering in shadow corners—
she struggles—relentless—
though she knows her sacrifice
will not end the grief

or
the fallen explorer—
as he slowly fades, he raises his arms
toward the white sparkling peak—
just out of reach.

Such stories told me:
you need not win
in order to ascend to glory—
by remaining strong in abject loss
you can earn a place
in the hall of the brave.

Obsession
could actually lift me to grace.

But wait—
what about those cartoons
of the desert coyote obsessively pursuing
that empty-headed ground-dwelling bird?—

no grandeur when
the bomb explodes in his hand–
toasting his foolish head
to a burnt-black crisp

or when
the chase leads him off a cliff—
his bewildered eyes looking at us
for a mid-air moment of stillness—
saying:
“oh no!—but oh well—
 another hard landing.”

The folly of the coyote
woke me to this risk:

by fighting ever onward
despite repeated failure
I could become rabidly absurd

but no—not if I went for bigger game:

if I elevated my goals
I might still be a fool
but I wouldn’t be a silly fool—

by always reaching higher
I’d feel fulfilled even if I failed—

even if I suffered a million losses
I would not lose.
 

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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author’s note:

Happy Groundhog Day to all the groundhogs out there.
 

AFTER I SAW MY GROUNDHOG SHADOW

If gray clouds cover the sky
on Groundhog Day
the groundhog won’t see his shadow
and so, feel safe
to remain above ground—
to feed, to frolic

just as I did
in my dim Spring.

On the other hand
if the sun cuts through the clouds
then his shadow will be revealed
and our furry friend
will retreat to his dark den—

afraid, as I once was
of that creature unknown.

But in time, he’ll return
just as I did:

I guess we can’t forget
the glory to be found in sunlight—
we want to see—
even if
what we witness frightens us
or pains our eyes.

Maybe…or maybe
we begin to worry—
wondering if

that shadowy something
has followed us back inside
and still lurks—
hidden in the dark.

So we then decide:
hard open light is actually safer
than the shelter of soft darkness.
 

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

author’s note:

I can dig it, he can dig it
She can dig it, we can dig it
They can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let’s dig it
      — from “Grazing in the Grass” by The Friends of Distinction
 

DIGGING UP (or: WHY I PERSIST)

In sad frustration
I finally gave up
trying to jump—
jump up to heaven:

I just kept coming back down.

However
the desire for more
still agitated me without mercy

so
to release the impulse
I began to dig down
into the stubborn ground

and persist to this day
though the plunge of the shovel
often pains me as the blade cuts into
old abscessed wounds.

Yes, light may burst from the break
but after the flash, I feel diminished
because I’ve seen my blindness again

yet I persist

though in the dimness I often wonder
if the gold I’ve discovered
is really only costume jewelry.

Yet I persist and why not?—

this mound of dirt I’m piling up
is a pyramid rising, is it not?

Well, maybe yes, but maybe not
in any case, I will persist—because
even if I never find the mother lode
at least, I’ve found purpose
through this work

and anyway, I believe

if we want a glorious life
we must suffer the pain of healing—
we must struggle to open our eyes
and match doubt with faith

and anyway

you can’t fall down
when you’re digging.

Everywhere, everywhere—
so many people jumping.
 

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
searching for my best beliefs: poetry ebook

author’s note:

Someone once asked if I ever wrote love poems.

They’re all love poems.
 

SHE SAID

When I offered
to cross a hundred rivers
just to win a pink ribbon for her

she said

you want to break your heart out
by worshipping a dream cloud.

Well, you can also free
your heart
by trying to lift up
the children in the mud
(which is: everyone—
  including you).

She said

both ways of love allow one
to bow in humility

both ways of love allow one
to expand with the upsurge
of too much feeling

but the dream love
pulls you up
only for the moment
of its gust

whereas the other love
can lead to many great steps
on your long steady climb.

She said

you believe
swimming a hundred rivers
will raise you to the mythic.

Well, you can still live a myth
by pretending
your penknife is a sword
and your flashlight: a guiding torch
struck by a lightning bolt.

And so I did, and so
I now blaze
with sword and torch
on this climb

except when I forget
what she said
as the door closed:

stop, ever so often
and pretend
your sword is a penknife
and your torch, a flashlight—
otherwise

you will trip
over your own myth.
 

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
myth steps: poetry ebook

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