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author’s note:

Actually, I think this is a good poem for the beginning of Spring.


As I watch the shattered jet
smolder in a field…

I notice the wreckage resembles a cross

and begin to wonder if
I’m only using this crash
to mourn my own private losses—

I had to kill
so many childish kings
with their commands and castle dreams
so that my kingly child might live:

this slow painful sacrifice
is still in progress—

no, I haven’t quite arrived
at that new life.

But though I’ve reason to mourn
I’m ashamed to have descended
into self-pity
while witnessing a tragedy


this release of grief
opens a well of feeling

and so, I suddenly swell
with true empathy for the many
who’ll be deep-struck
by the shock of this loss

then realize:
we’re together in grief

and also
together in hope:

as a woman wearing a hood
lifts a baby from the ashes
an artesian tear rises in my eye:

though I know a shadow
will haunt that child
from this time forward…

when I see
that small tear-streaked face
I again believe
in the new life
that follows in the wake
of all our sacrifice.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Butterfly Soul: poems of death and grief and joy


sun heart 303w - June 28, 2015s

author’s note:

During a week of national mourning, I decided to revisit and revise this poem.

It describes an event that may seem beyond belief…

…until you consider the dance mania that swept Medieval Europe.


A woman standing
on our east-side beach
heard about the child
and began to dance

in pain of sadness,
arms down

then slowly expanding
   up to an orange Sun
   up to a wind-swept cloud

and when a man nearby learned
what’d caused her reaction
he responded with his own
clumsy but heart-felt steps

likewise, a teenage girl
responded with heart

and so a dance of life began—
moving from one person
to another and the next
on down the shoreline:

a process fantastic
yet natural
in terms of emotion.

The TV news had featured
the mother and child,
so when word of the dance got out
our island residents
gladly joined in:

maybe many of them
only wanted a chance
to express long-repressed sadness.

In any case
the chain grew link by link—
that magnetic serpent lengthened

over the dune hills
and across a field of wind grass
then along the rolls and folds
of the road passing through town.

Later on, songwriters wrote
of how we were all connected

but weren’t we also separate?—
we danced as individuals
even when we imitated:

several of the women
simply swayed, while holding
an imaginary baby
to the breast…

one old woman
slowly circled
a father and toddler—
her cut arms pressed against
a sunken chest.

A number of dancers
would bow in grief
as they lowered to their knees

then they’d rise once more
then they’d sink once again—

unable to completely be either way.

Some tried to defy gravity
as if to triumph over death—
leaping up, leaping up
again and again:

frustrated, determined, angry, joyful

while a few backslid
from defiant to sarcastic—

even urinary and fecal—

one tore at his own flesh

another tried to tear the flesh of another:

having once suffered similar crimes
they repeated the act committed
against the child.

But despite all the rattling
the human chain held strong

until the dance finally arrived
at our island’s west-side coast

where a high-stepper
—light as a zephyr—
floated in a gossamer gown
at the edge of a cliff
to the echo of waves below.

The lively mourners then began
to wake from their collective trance:

gradually, people fell away
there and there and there
to carry themselves home
in relieved exhaustion

and though many vowed
to return the following year
no staged event would ever be
as grand as the original dance.

Afterwards, the child’s mother
tearfully thanked all participants
from a camera in her kitchen

but in the Winter months
she nearly collapsed…

later, she told us
how she often circled
her solitary floor at night—
how she’d start to sway
with arms crossed across
her battered chest

until finally she’d fall down under
the heaviness of her grief.

But while lying there
on the hardwood
she’d somehow recover
some sense of stability

and as her wash of sadness
began to ebb
a new feeling of life
would rise within:

in response, she’d open up…she’d stand again—

puzzled by her strange new strength.

A mysterious process, yes

yet understandable
as long as you don’t
try to explain it…

© 2015, Michael R. Patton
butterfly soul: poems of death & grief & joy

Dove Ribbon
author’s note:

A poem recently tweaked and now reposted.

Perhaps this poem is just wishful thinking.

But perhaps it’s also way of expressing anger.

And a means of expressing sadness.


Old men keep asking
young men to die, to die
three times:

to die when they kill,
to die when they are wounded,
and then to make the fated mistake:
of allowing themselves to be killed.

In the first two, the soul waits
close by—
hanging from a thread
yet still connected
to the spirit, to the heart—
the soul waits
for the spirit, for the heart
to mourn the pain.

But in the third instance,
the spirit stands outside
with the soul
the spirit may linger
though the spirit knows
the home is now a house
open to the winds
of the plains.

The earth grows poor
with the loss
of such pounding life
and so may press down
to hold the wandering spirit

but in a year or in a hundred
the lost one rises to freedom

and thus abandons
museum ceremonies
that deaden us
with formality.
With flags.

I say,
let old men fight old men,
let them destroy their anger
by eating gray shadows
filled with thorns.

At the first pinprick
I bet the old men
would come down
to their wits
and then sit
for a convivial
game of cards.

Yes, they might still
spudder spittle
but never so much
as to wreck
the ship of friendship.

Until then, I say
to the old eagle women:
allow your eaglets to escape unscathed:
drop them from the nest,
then keep your honed eye
on the machinations of
the old buzzards—
hold your straw brooms
at the ready

—ready to sweep those vultures clean.

Old buzzards, can’t you forgive
your spirit sons
for being so honestly youthful?

Old buzzards, you’ll become old eagles
if you can remember your love—

if you can remember your love
you’ll allow the young
to grow to their age of power.

I believe we’d all actually enjoy
the relaxation of peace
I’ll write you when I get there.

© 2010, Michael R. Patton
dream steps
earnest audio

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