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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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author’s note:

Those better angels of our nature can be so irritating.
 

ANGELS IN WARTIME

As I sat overhead on a branch
and watched the enemy creep
through the woods in search of me
I noticed

a certain dread in his step

and by feeling his feeling, again felt
that horrified angel
I try so hard to ignore—

bruised but strong
within my thin armor.

Once again
I tried to stifle its tears

and once again grew frustrated
at a tenderness so stubborn

and so, once again
redirected this conflict
by pointing my anger at the enemy below—
I raised my bow…I aimed my arrow

but when I again saw the dread
in that man’s step
I again felt my angel
and realized
though I’ve killed many
that which I wish to destroy still lives

and will continue to weep
until I stop this dreadful killing.

But how can I stop
when my opponent won’t?
How can I change him?—I can’t!

Unable to answer my dilemma
I then began to climb—
hoping a greater height
would lead to greater insight.

But so far, I only know
what I’ve seen before:

the dread in the step
of so many men

which tells me:
they feel as I feel
they really don’t want to kill—
they too have an angel.

Maybe some who fight don’t
but I’ve seen enough dread
for me to have hope.
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

author’s note:

Today, in the U.S., we honor our military veterans.

I say: we’re all veterans, of one type or another.
 

EMPATHY FOR THREE

One night while standing in line
I heard a man behind me say
with a sneer:

he’s fallen again

and felt a surge of empathy
for someone I did not know

but I knew his pain—
you see, I’ve fallen too

a few times
or maybe more
than a few

and like that guy
been criticized
while still down

if not by someone else
then by myself—
yeah, I can be quite critical of me.

So I think I know something
about that critical man in line—
I believe his sneer belies
anger at some part of himself
he deems weak.

The pain behind his anger
is pain I know, so now
I also feel empathy for him.

Maybe my empathy
is merely self-pity
projected outwards.

But if so, that’s okay
because

when I see myself
in those two mirrors
I want to help them both

and when I want to help them both
I want to help all three of us

and when I want help the three of us
I want to help the whole damn world.
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

author’s note:

Highly recommended: The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden, by Robert A. Johnson.
 

MEETING THE WOUNDED WOMAN

After waking from the sight
of a wounded woman
knee-deep in a dark swamp…

I remembered what I’d read:

the “she” a man meets
in his dream
lives within him.

But though still alive
my receptive side
obviously didn’t feel so well—
after all, she’d lost a hand.

But how and when?—
I did not know…
however

as I pondered
the blank shock
in her blue eyes
I began to feel
what she must have felt
during whatever crime
caused the loss—
what she still feels
in the long aftermath:

horror at a savagery both rabid
and casual—
stunned confusion
at an injustice unpunished.

I could feel
the frozen fire
of her righteous anger

but also sensed
warm moist ashes of grief
beneath that ice.

I then understood why
a violent dream may follow
a routine mundane day:

if forced to confront
our deep wounds
during the waking hours
how could we complete transactions
or work with movable parts?

But we don’t occasionally confront
and deal with that truth
those wounds may kill us.

So, I need my horrific dreams—
painful though the awakening may be
I need to dream of a woman
missing a hand.

I can shelf that secret
in the back room
while I’m totaling receipts

then afterward
return to learning
how to heal the life
that gives me life.

Progress is slow, of necessity
but when I feel discouraged
I think of the green lizard dream:

how the little fellow sang with joy
because he’d finally managed
to grow his tail back—

he sang of sensitivity regained
he sang of better balance—
such fun, being functional!

That regeneration
must’ve cost a lot of energy
but what a return—
his song sounded so strong!
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
what I learned while alone: poetry ebook

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