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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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author’s note:

The haiku above was translated by R. H. Blyth.  It can be found (I think) in The Classic Tradition of Haiku (Dover Thrift Editions).
 

ANY WISE SNAIL WILL TELL YOU

I’m anxious to get past
the many blocks in my path
’cause I’m told:
on the other side of all that
bric-a-brac
I’ll find a place of peace.

In the past
(feeling desperate and doubtful)
I tried to blast
through my blocks
in the manner of a resolute ram.

But
after butting my head
again and again and again
I finally accepted
this unmovable truth:

I must go slow
when working my way through
the unavoidable obstacle.

As any wise snail will tell you:
honest progress occurs at a crawl.

But even at this pace
I must occasionally pause
for a breath…

At such times
if my stop becomes still enough
I may again sense
the mysterious music hidden within
all the cacophonous curiosities
of our path

then
if I can deepen my listening
I’ll find that same harmony
within me
and for a moment know
the reality of the peace I seek.

After that moment passes
I’ll remember why—
why I must continue
this wonderful crawl.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

author’s note:

A wounded paradise is still a paradise.
 

A WOUNDED PARADISE

Maybe I’ll make for myself
a black booth—
a sanctuary where
I could confess crimes
I would never ever commit:

wild capers
malicious mischief
rabid fancies—

a devilish release
but with a heavenly purpose:
to bark this growling dog
out of me.

Thus relieved
maybe I could relax
for just a bit…

or maybe not—
I’ve flared many times before
and afterwards
while sitting in the silent ashes
I have heard the sad pain
hidden behind my cry

and again realized
the truth behind
the fiery cry rising
from our wounded paradise.

We bark…we howl
but no amount
can ever heal the wound—
actually
an eruption too extreme
only seems to tear me more.

Nevertheless, I wonder if
a little private yelp could help
me cool occasionally
when I feel the hackles rising

and afterwards, in the silence
maybe I’d hear again the great pain
that drives the violence of our world

and so, remember
what I must never forget:
I am truly doing some good
for us all
as I work to doctor
this human being
born into
a wounded paradise.
 


© 2017, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book



author’s note:

I believe we’re all working in the same way…

…and we never retire.
 

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF MY EYELIDS

Years ago, I woke to find
a whirling circle of sun-fire
descending from a fog
hovering above me—

threatening
yet harmonious—
like the aerial view of a hurricane:
a swirling blaze
of orange and gold tentacles
spiraling
into a cool aqua eye.

I felt myself lift—drawn in
despite the fire

and in sudden response
the eye expanded
to envelop my vision
so I could know
how the soft surface hue
deepens down into
a well of cobalt blue—

ominous and yet
I wanted to dive in

but in an instant—by instinct—
I shut my shocked eyes

and found relief
for my palpitating heart
in that old familiar darkness

however…
amid the growing stillness
I could sense
the awakening desire
of a higher instinct.

In answer
I tried to open again
but soon learned:
I’d not yet earned
more than that brief glimpse.

Ever since
I’ve worked to build
the strength needed
to accept
that which I want
yet fearfully reject.

Yes—
in fatigue, I often sloth

but even then
I can sense the mystery lurking
on the other side of my eyelids

so I remain tantalized…

driven.
 


© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

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