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author’s note:

At the age of nine, Black Elk experienced a vision in which he stood at the center of the world—Harney Peak, South Dakota.

But in the same moment, he understood that every place on Earth is also the center.


When I was small
I often felt quite small
so I’d climb a nearby hill

and at the top
I’d survey all before me
and imagine myself to be
The Center of the World—

one day I’d live a life
so high in the sky—
yes, I’d be a giant!

As an adult
I’ve tried to realize that wish
but instead of rising up
I just seem to keep on
shrinking down.

Sometimes when I feel
especially small
I return
to that hill

but now I try
to leave my childish anger below
and allow myself to feel the sorrow
of someone who’s grown.

If I can take that big step
I’ll be high enough above myself
to know a true moment of peace
as I survey our grand expanse.

At such times
I experience this human I am
as both large and small:

I am indeed
The Center of the World…

but so what?—

aren’t we all?

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
painful puns blog


author’s note:

An apt poem, I believe, for these overheated times.


When I was child
the Bible told me:
with enduring patience
you can escape Egypt

and indeed I was eventually
able to leave

but not completely…
even after all these years
the pain of bondage
still rages within me.

I can laugh an honest laugh
and find heaven in my heart…

yet I know
at any moment
the fire may blaze
back up
to consume the king
of my judgment.

But these fights with myself
prompt me to seek the solace
of the cool still pool.

Down in its darkness
I soothe the latest burn
and in so doing, heal
the old wounds
just a little bit more—
a little bit more.

Maybe someday
I’ll be well enough to help
some of the many
who struggle with
a rage born in Egypt:

maybe they (like me)
have tried and failed
to destroy the fire—

can we ever master those flames?

I will–
when I raise
that righteous sword
from the ashes of my sorrow.

I say:
we’re actually lucky
to have experienced
such indignity
in early Egypt—

we might lack
the fervor to battle
the injustices of our world.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book

author’s note:

I say, we all grow.

However, I will admit: in certain cases, it’s really really hard to see.


When I was a plant
in a land of drought
I asked the sky for rain

though I doubted
the atmosphere listened
to such requests
what’d be the harm
in trying?

But when the rain
still didn’t fall
I could not maintain
my nonchalance:

in anger, I cursed
that stupid blue blank

and soon discovered
cursing only worsened
the burning

whereas to surrender
in abject defeat
brought me
the cool relief of humility…

but then
as strictures of death
crept into my limbs
the drought began to seem
so unjust.

my ire, and with it, my fire
rose from the cold ashes.

That flame was my life
yet it would devour me
unless I could make peace
with my predicament

and if I was to die
before rain came
I did not want
any extra suffering.


my best logic failed
to calm me

so finally
in desperation
I tried to channel my fire
into a joyous act

of Celebration!

Lacking any formal ritual
I clapped and flapped
in a silly dance–

I celebrated this plant life—
celebrated its crazy ambiguities

celebrated the roots
that sustained me
while holding me captive.

celebrated the leaves
that fed me
yet also gave me this pain.

I celebrated, I celebrated—
not just going through the motions
but truly rejoicing
because now I knew
how much I loved this life—
enough to endure its worst.

And from my celebration
came an ecstasy
of laughter and tears—
I felt myself ascend—

rising, rising
until I finally reached
a lofty rain cloud:

quite proud
I beamed at my accomplishment

but then
from this new perspective
I beheld the obvious:
how a multitude of plants
rose up
from that moon-bone desert—

many of them much higher than I

but whatever their size
they all danced in celebration
of our painful
plant life.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Survival: a poetry book

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

find COMMON COURAGE on amazon

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