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author’s note:

Today, in the U.S., we honor our military veterans.

I say: we’re all veterans, of one type or another.
 

EMPATHY FOR THREE

One night while standing in line
I heard a man behind me say
with a sneer:

he’s fallen again

and felt a surge of empathy
for someone I did not know

but I knew his pain—
you see, I’ve fallen too

a few times
or maybe more
than a few

and like that guy
been criticized
while still down

if not by someone else
then by myself—
yeah, I can be quite critical of me.

So I think I know something
about that critical man in line—
I believe his sneer belies
anger at some part of himself
he deems weak.

The pain behind his anger
is pain I know, so now
I also feel empathy for him.

Maybe my empathy
is merely self-pity
projected outwards.

But if so, that’s okay
because

when I see myself
in those two mirrors
I want to help them both

and when I want to help them both
I want to help all three of us

and when I want help the three of us
I want to help the whole damn world.
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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author’s note:

It is apparently more important to nature that one should have consciousness, understanding, than to avoid suffering.
             — C.G. Jung
 

HOW PAIN BECOMES BEAUTIFUL

In the dream
pain became beautiful

as I watched you
embrace the tree—
a lover finding the lover
who knows her need:

the need to heal
and be healed.

A symbiotic relationship
working by osmosis:

as you healed yourself
with the tree’s love
you fed the tree with your love

and so your eyes gleamed
on one of its emerald leaves

but many eyes appeared on the leaves above

next time
I hope to see mine

so I’ve renewed my vow
to open and embrace

despite the slow pain of surrender…
 

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
finding Beauty: poetry ebook

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

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

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