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author’s note:

I know something about choking on silence.
 

JOY / GRIEF

Today “happy / unhappy”
are merely words of make-believe

because today, I feel joy

because today, I feel grief—

joy and grief in death and life:

those forces of emotion swirl
together in a wind dance
—defying my control—

I can’t possibly express
a spiral so volatile
so grandly powerful

but if I don’t try
I’ll choke on this silence

and anyway
no matter what I rave
I think you’ll understand—

after all, as a human
you’re probably well-acquainted
with whirlwinds

so you’ll tolerate
this spinning man
as he shouts:

these forces of feeling
steal our breath

these forces of feeling
give us new breath.

 

dream steps blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

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author’s note:

Awareness is key.  Maybe I should say “the key”.
 

PULLING MY HAIR

Have you ever heard
an angel weep
as it pulls your hair?

These empathetic
yet merciless attendants
have promised me
they’ll stop being
such demons

if I will only catch myself
when I begin to slip

but oh!—
in a blink, I can slip
and I blink so often.

I swear I’m trying
to keep my eyes open:

I weep and curse
as they pull me up
by the hair.
 

dream steps blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

author’s note:

Written after reading the anthology The Clouds Should Know Me By Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China, edited by Red Cloud and Mike O’Connor.  Recommended.
 

WHILE WAITING IN AN OUTLYING PROVINCE

Despite the exquisite craft
of my song and dance
I’ve yet to receive
a summons from
the distant imperial palace.

As what began as a short wait
became a long wait
I tried to appease my desire
by enjoying the sun
on the stones in the stream

and by telling myself
the rusty nails of my humble hermitage
shine more brightly
than those golden hinges
of the locked palace gates.

In such ways
I managed to muffle
my whimpering disappointment…

until the night
someone cried out to the sky—

in his pain I heard my pain
and as I felt my pain again
I felt his pain more deeply:

I felt life more deeply

so I continued to listen—
I opened myself to the many cries.

In that way
his pain and her pain
and my pain and their pain
soon became our pain.

Yes
I’ve become one of the valley villagers.

Now, I no longer pray for approval
from the imperial palace
because I know
whatever boons or gratuities
I might receive
would not be enough to comfort me—

I would still feel our pain.

So now, I’m working to learn
the song of healing…
the dance.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

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.
 

THE CENTER OF THE WORLD

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—

vowing
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

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