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author’s note:

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
            — Dr. Johnson


When I lived
as a wild hirsute beast
I grunted
at the beautiful pleasures
of this Earth—
I grunted
at the pain

and felt no need for language

until one night…

when I suddenly saw
a living mystery
of moonlight and shadow
bound within the tangles and barbs
of this mundane jungle.

Since that eternal moment
I’ve struggled to express
the beauty and pain
of our human life—

I’ve struggled to maintain
that awareness.

Yes, I often seem to regress—
I slip—
and sometimes when I slip
I snarl and spit

but then the shock
of striking down
awakens me
and I realize again
the cowardice
of trying to kill the pain—
of trying to reject

and in so seeing, I deepen—
   in deepening to the pain
   I deepen to the beauty.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
dream steps: another blog


heaven beyond - February 26, 2016s

author’s note:

Butterfly!  These words
from my brush
are not flowers…
only their shadows.
      –– Soseki (trans. Beilenson/Behn)


I’m told
any heaven worthy of the name
would be beyond description

maybe so, but I doubt
I could remain quiet

because in those rare moments
when light floods my being
I’m overwhelmed by the desire
to express a feeling so heavenly

and though I know I can never find
the perfect words
I’m driven to keep searching—
even long afterwards.

Yes, my efforts
always end in frustration

sometimes, amid the silence
that follows in the wake of my words…

I arrive back
at the place I seek

for a moment at least:

that heaven.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
listening to silence: poems of meditation

sun heart 303w - June 28, 2015s

author’s note:

During a week of national mourning, I decided to revisit and revise this poem.

It describes an event that may seem beyond belief…

…until you consider the dance mania that swept Medieval Europe.


A woman standing
on our east-side beach
heard about the child
and began to dance

in pain of sadness,
arms down

then slowly expanding
   up to an orange Sun
   up to a wind-swept cloud

and when a man nearby learned
what’d caused her reaction
he responded with his own
clumsy but heart-felt steps

likewise, a teenage girl
responded with heart

and so a dance of life began—
moving from one person
to another and the next
on down the shoreline:

a process fantastic
yet natural
in terms of emotion.

The TV news had featured
the mother and child,
so when word of the dance got out
our island residents
gladly joined in:

maybe many of them
only wanted a chance
to express long-repressed sadness.

In any case
the chain grew link by link—
that magnetic serpent lengthened

over the dune hills
and across a field of wind grass
then along the rolls and folds
of the road passing through town.

Later on, songwriters wrote
of how we were all connected

but weren’t we also separate?—
we danced as individuals
even when we imitated:

several of the women
simply swayed, while holding
an imaginary baby
to the breast…

one old woman
slowly circled
a father and toddler—
her cut arms pressed against
a sunken chest.

A number of dancers
would bow in grief
as they lowered to their knees

then they’d rise once more
then they’d sink once again—

unable to completely be either way.

Some tried to defy gravity
as if to triumph over death—
leaping up, leaping up
again and again:

frustrated, determined, angry, joyful

while a few backslid
from defiant to sarcastic—

even urinary and fecal—

one tore at his own flesh

another tried to tear the flesh of another:

having once suffered similar crimes
they repeated the act committed
against the child.

But despite all the rattling
the human chain held strong

until the dance finally arrived
at our island’s west-side coast

where a high-stepper
—light as a zephyr—
floated in a gossamer gown
at the edge of a cliff
to the echo of waves below.

The lively mourners then began
to wake from their collective trance:

gradually, people fell away
there and there and there
to carry themselves home
in relieved exhaustion

and though many vowed
to return the following year
no staged event would ever be
as grand as the original dance.

Afterwards, the child’s mother
tearfully thanked all participants
from a camera in her kitchen

but in the Winter months
she nearly collapsed…

later, she told us
how she often circled
her solitary floor at night—
how she’d start to sway
with arms crossed across
her battered chest

until finally she’d fall down under
the heaviness of her grief.

But while lying there
on the hardwood
she’d somehow recover
some sense of stability

and as her wash of sadness
began to ebb
a new feeling of life
would rise within:

in response, she’d open up…she’d stand again—

puzzled by her strange new strength.

A mysterious process, yes

yet understandable
as long as you don’t
try to explain it…

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
butterfly soul: poems of death & grief & joy

embrace life - June 21, 2015s

author’s note:

Someone once asked me if I ever wrote love poetry…

I replied: I hope there’s love in all my poems.


The Eskimos
have as many names for love
as they do for snow—

my Northern friends told me:
in such a brutal world
they need to realize
the myriad expressions
of love.

Of course,
they’ve a name for romantic love—

a name that shares a root
with all the other love names

including the name
for motherly love
which only varies slightly from
the name for fatherly love.

The name for
the fierce devotional love
a dog has for its whip master
is used as well
for the love the Eskimos feel
for a life so harsh:

a name also given to death
as one nears the end—yes
they’ve chosen to embrace death

they say:
accept the inevitable
with joy amid the sadness.

they welcome the long night:

though the Winter often
shuns their offering
they know they must love
the dark and the storm
and the deepest cold
in order to thrive

and besides…

the storm, the cold, the dark
have made them who they are—

so shouldn’t they give thanks?

They honor those elements as gods
because they want to elevate their love

and in so doing, elevate themselves.

I can understand—
I want to elevate my own life…

for that reason
I asked the Eskimos to give me
all their names for love—

I would incant a love word
with each step
and in that way, realize
the love I truly feel
through every living day…

but my Northern friends told me
they also love poetry

and if I didn’t try to find
my own names for love
I’d never be a poet…

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: the book

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