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author’s note:

Just once, I would’ve liked to have seen Wile E. Coyote ring Road Runner’s neck.


As a child, I admired
the heroic defeat—

for instance:

the weary warrior rising to defend
poor children cowering in shadow corners—
she struggles—relentless—
though she knows her sacrifice
will not end the grief

the fallen explorer—
as he slowly fades, he raises his arms
toward the white sparkling peak—
just out of reach.

Such stories told me:
you need not win
in order to ascend to glory—
by remaining strong in abject loss
you can earn a place
in the hall of the brave.

could actually lift me to grace.

But wait—
what about those cartoons
of the desert coyote obsessively pursuing
that empty-headed ground-dwelling bird?—

no grandeur when
the bomb explodes in his hand–
toasting his foolish head
to a burnt-black crisp

or when
the chase leads him off a cliff—
his bewildered eyes looking at us
for a mid-air moment of stillness—
“oh no!—but oh well—
 another hard landing.”

The folly of the coyote
woke me to this risk:

by fighting ever onward
despite repeated failure
I could become rabidly absurd

but no—not if I went for bigger game:

if I elevated my goals
I might still be a fool
but I wouldn’t be a silly fool—

by always reaching higher
I’d feel fulfilled even if I failed—

even if I suffered a million losses
I would not lose.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook


dear reader:

The photo above shows that the yellow orchid does indeed have a lip.


When the Inquisitor appeared
in a dream years ago…

I realized I was trying
to speed my growth
by stretching myself
on a torture rack

so I then began to use gentler tactics

and accepted the tedium
of gradual change.

A wise way, yes—but
by the time I’d finally
washed off enough dross
to shine a bit…

my youth was gone—
its golden possibilities lost:

in a dream, I saw
gold dust fall down
to disappear into the cracks
between worn floorboards.

I woke in grief
and remained in grief

until an old crone
(impatient with my self-pity)
turned my mind by asking:
does anything ever really die?

then opened the door
to a subterranean cache—
a garden flourishing
with spires of golden grain
and yellow orchids
dripping honey from the lip.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
searching for my best beliefs: poetry ebook

Dear Reader:

We’re often told: support those who serve.

I say: we all serve.


On my long trek home from war
I stopped to watch a farmer turn
an old meadow into a fresh field

but when I saw how
the plow blade broke the earth open
I felt my raging shame once more—

once more felt
the sharp wound of defeat—
a cut I’d tried so hard to ignore

but as the child
followed with handfuls of seed
I realized
such destruction creates furrows—

as the wise one said
old life must be torn
so new life can be born

but oh
I did not want to labor!
I wanted to laze:

war had tested my strength
thus, in the aftermath
I felt quite weak


I’d already learned
from such conflict
that if I didn’t fight my inertia
I’d suffer an even worse defeat.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog


author’s note:

I’ll put a lot of mental energy into developing a good belief…

…only to forget it when I most need it.


The headline read:
“No Win for Corwin”

and the photo below showed him
sitting at the end of a hardwood bench
his head lowered
his shoulders slumped
his fist hidden in the darkness
of a baseball glove.

The article said
young Corwin had struck out
thirteen batters

only to wreck
all his good work
with one bad pitch
in the final at bat…

rough, yes
but maybe that loss
will help prepare Corwin
for adult life
we live by a crazy math
in which a positive “13”
is often seen
as less than negative “1”.

In response to such
unjust arithmetic
I long ago adopted
this simple homespun belief
(suitable for needlepoint):

when I look at what I’ve done
I see I must be trying
to teach myself, because
I’m always learning:

learning seems to be
our reason for being—
so I say
we should not measure success
by wins and losses
but instead
by understanding gained.

A belief supported
by my experience:

having known
a lot of blindness
but also a little bit of sight
I can say for certain:
ignorance is not bliss
understanding is.

even good beliefs breed doubt

and so I’ll sometimes wonder
if I’m only using this belief
to soften the pain of loss…

well, maybe I am, but maybe
that’s okay:

because in my darkest days
(when I’m slumped like Corwin)
if I can remember that belief

I’ll see a little light

on especially blessed occasions…
a lot.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
myth steps: a poetry book

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