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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


heart eye gray eyes b - May 25, 2016s

author’s note:

With regret, I cut this stanza from the poem below, for the sake of continuity:

and because someone
wants to punch us
after we’ve written “loss is gain”
we know our words
must be accurate arrows.


She said
her heart had exiled her writing
to the land of love lost.

But I told her
that land need not be the island—
it can be the continent:

on the island
when we write of love lost
we write of the garden lost
we write of childhood lost

and we also write of that
on the continent
but we add:
we must lose the garden
in order to evolve.

On both the island
and the continent, we write
of the confusion of love lost

but on the continent
we write of the drive
to find our way back home.

On the island, we write
of returning
and not knowing
the one we once loved.

But on the continent
we write of returning
and again knowing the one within.

On the island
we write of open wounds
that refuse to mend

but on the continent
we write of how
those open wounds
can lead us down
to the deep wounds:

we write of mending
of mending all the way down—

we write of gaining from loss.

On the island
we’re afraid of losing—
of losing again

and we’re also afraid
on the continent—
despite all our gains:

we’re afraid of a love
we can not escape
a love we can not release
a love we can not hold—

we’re afraid
yet willfully go ahead
because we know we must.

All this I told her
but then admitted:
I don’t always inhabit
the continent

but when I do, I’m able to honor
the past and the present
with memorials and celebration:

because on the continent
we refuse to ignore our grief

and celebration
because on the continent
even shadows have light.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
finding Beauty: the book

coffin electric b - March 21, 2016s

author’s note:

You’re important to me.


Apparently, death is often
more important

than what we could’ve done or been
if not for death…

more important
than the planned Spring wedding

more important than being
a mother to that child

more important than how
the broken woman could’ve grown
if not for her important death…

more important than
all the creative passion
left unexpressed.

But I don’t mean to diminish
our life before death—

if this life wasn’t damn important
why would I have taken the pain
to be born?—

don’t bother to debate me
’cause I’ve already decided
it’s better for me to believe
I’m living something
truly important:

how could we bear the pain
if we didn’t believe
the things, ideas, and activities
of our life were quite important?

On the other hand…

when an important life
seems to end too soon
I say we should accept:
death is often more important
than what we have to give.

By holding that belief
I help myself
bear the pain of loss

and whenever I remind myself
of that belief, I realize:
death may not wait
for me to roll out
all my important plans

and then the moment
becomes monumental.

Yes, I believe I have
some very important plans…

yet if I should fall
down dead tomorrow
I think I’d rest in peace—
comforted by the belief
this life was quite important.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Survival: the book

butterfly soul - June 15, 2014s

a shameless self-promotion:

This poem didn’t arrive in time to be included in my latest collection of poems, Butterfly Soul (book cover above).

But maybe that’s just as well.  Because the poems in that collection speak of dealing with grief…

…and this poem, of not.


My brother walks upstairs
with steps so soft

yet we all hear him

though we never dare
to say his name

for fear he might come down—
we can’t bear to feel him so near:

our grief burdens me
all through the sunny day
all through the moonlit night.

But with that shadow weight
comes the awareness
of how immense
all human life is.

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
BUTTERFLY SOUL: poems of death/grief/joy

find COMMON COURAGE on amazon

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