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author’s note:

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

BORN IN EGYPT

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.

Nonetheless
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—

otherwise
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.
 

PLANT LIFE

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.

Thus
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.

However…

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
wonderful
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)
 

BURNING UP

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

step aside - May 14, 2015s

author’s note:

I considered throwing this poem away.  But then I remembered a quote from John Cleland, author of Fanny Hill:

“Truth!  Stark naked truth!”
 

THE KICK

That librarian
kneeling on the floor
in the bookshelf aisle
with his back to me
appeared to be
just one more of many
frustrating obstacles
in my way—

another block between
where I am
and where I want to be.

Worse yet,
like so many other
silent combatants I have faced
he seemed to be trying
to assert himself
by ignoring my presence.

So at that moment, I felt justified
in giving him a kick—
nothing horribly abusive—
just a tap on his shoe heel:

yes, I’d reverse the game on him
and thus, score a win.

But as soon as
I touched his foot
I felt my mistake
and rushed to say
“I’m terribly sorry”
over his sincere
“oh excuse me”.

Afterwards, to relieve my guilt
I kicked myself…I kicked myself

until I realized the obvious:

such attacks defeat me
without solving the conflict.

As I relate this foolish story
I’m humbled once again

but not discouraged

since we grow through humility
I must be making much progress
toward my dream of peace.
 


© 2015, Michael R. Patton
dream steps: the blog

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