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author’s note:

To be clear: the returning hero could just as well have been a heroine.
 

SHARING THE PRICE OF FIRE

I laid myself down
on the mountain top
until
the thunder god finally blasted me
with a lightning bolt:

by this heroic action
I captured some flames–
yes, I sacrificed my well-being
so the people would have fire.

But when I returned home
—brandishing the torch—
that woman saw how charred and scarred I was
and said:

You’ve frazzled your nerves,
stammered your brain
so now
I’m bound to a tremoring shadow.

“The world and you
  will soon bless my offering,”
  I countered.

The truth is:
you did it for yourself—
now sit down
and let me apply the salve.

Okay, so I didn’t receive
the praise I’d hoped for…

yet I still felt blessed
because I realized she understood me

and not only accepted my foibles
but loved me enough to help me deal
with whatever demons might plague me
after my disastrous triumph.
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
Survival: poetry ebook

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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

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

surrender to ice cube border - April 12, 2015s

author’s note:

“Trouble?  You think I look like trouble?  I’m a poet!”
        — from the movie Young Guns
 

SURRENDER TO THE ICE CUBE

I’ve found this treatment effective
when I’m burning in the heat
of inner conflict:

I move an ice cube
in small delicate circles
from the left side
of my forehead
to the right

then repeat this procedure
going in the opposite direction.

But though the medicinal cube soothes
both my physical and emotional self
I often forget to apply this tonic
when it’s most needed.

Maybe I actually like conflict.
No…but yes.

Even as I sit here calmly
I can feel how the fire
wants to swell—waits to flare:

a vague sense of injustice
seeks a chance for expression

an excuse to explode.

I see explosions everywhere I go
so I know I’m not alone

and certainly not alone
in feeling remorse, afterwards.

But I dare not try
to squelch the fire—
when the forge dies
so do I…

on the other hand
those flare-ups also exhaust me!

To steady my flame
I must surrender
my fevered ego
to the cool of the cube…

I must surrender

or else
live in shame.
 

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
Glorious Tedious Transformation: the book

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