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author’s note:

A snake once showed me: you can’t get rid of your old skin unless you keep moving.
 

THE BEAUTIFUL OBSESSION OF THE HOTEL GHOST

Each night, I hear her soft steps
on the carpet outside my door
as she walks the hotel hallway.

Like me, she is driven
by the painful desire
to leave the skin
of a worn life behind
and live a new way.

Both of us frustrated—
weary of our slowness
but beautifully obsessed:
we can’t stop ourselves
from putting
one foot
in front of the other
one foot
in front of the other…

People believe she wanders lost
and some believe the same of me
but the sages say:
as long as you keep walking
you will surely find your way.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps blog

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author’s note:

“Walking on water wasn’t built in a day.”
                  — Jack Kerouac
 

WORKING WITH WATER

When I realized
what mental blocks
held me in check
I thought
(or hoped)
I could just jump over
those impediments

but though I was often able to elevate
I’d always land back in captivity

finally I conceded:
one must wear down such resistances
slowly—
the way water wears down rock.

Now, many years later
I’m still working to rid myself
of various barriers
through the tedious process
of erosion

even though I’ve come to see:
no matter how much I scrub
I’ll never be completely free

but the more freedom I earn
the more I want
so though I may pause
I’ll never stop washing

and besides

life constantly pours water
down our back
so why not use it
to optimal effect?

A child will whine about a bath
yet jump into a bubbling fountain
and dance

so whenever I’m doused
nearly to drowning
I tell myself:
think of the fountain of your life
and dance

dance and scrub and dance.
 

myth steps blog
© 2017, Michael R. Patton

author’s note:

“The worms crawl in…the worms crawl out.”
               — from The Hearse Song
 

BETWEEN A LION & A WORM

I’ve seen so much shape-shifting:

I’ve seen lions
accept the lie told to them
and crawl under stones
to survive as worms.

But fortunately
a big cat can benefit
from living subterranean

if as a worm
it feeds upon
the rich life to be found
within the black loam.

But as that worm-cat expands
its safe space will become suffocating…

for our lion to rise
we must die the good death—
we must shift once again.

Afterwards
when I look back
on my life as a worm
a sigh of melancholy
may slip from my lips…

but no—
I’ll reject all regrets

because by then
I’ll finally fully accept
I had to lose
in order to grow.
 

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
myth steps: a blog

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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