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author’s note:

While rewriting this poem, I realized I’d written yet another Sisyphus tale.


Legend tells us
each night the ghost lady
ascends this hotel stairway

and with every step, she struggles
to understand
the reason for her loss

so when she finally reaches
the top landing
the lady feels such relief—
a moment of peace…

but then she gazes down
and vertigo again overwhelms her—
once again she loses balance
once again she tumbles down—
all the way back down
to the bottom floor

to die, once more.

I mention
the ghost lady’s story
because it mirrors my own:

like her, I’ve worked
to release my pain
and though I’ve often elevated
my perspective…

I can’t maintain—

I’ve slipped and fallen
again and again and again

that moment of vision
before the fall
—that brief reprieve
motivates me
to pick myself back up

and if I need an extra lift
I tell myself:
yes, you continue to trip
but your legs grow stronger
with every step

and if I need
an even bigger lift…
I imagine the day
when I am able
to look down
from the top of the stairway
and remain stable
in my balance—
solid on my feet
because I’ve finally accepted
all of what I see.

Yes, today
I feel quite weak
yet I still believe—

consider this:
no one at the hotel
has witnessed
the ghost lady lately—

apparently, she’s moved on

and if she can, so can I
…so can we.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a book



author’s note:

During this year’s World Series, catcher David Ross offered this excellent advice to a nervous teammate:

“Just continue to breathe.”


After years
of being pushed and pulled
into various precarious situations
by some unknown unseen force
I’d nearly lost hope…

in an effort to save myself
I began to reconsider
the results:

maybe I kept
falling into the mud
in the process of cleaning off
all that slop
I remove so much other
accumulated dirt and dust
—every bath: an education.

maybe I kept letting
that gale wind catch me
because I need to learn
how to bend—

I now see
that unseen force
as an unknown aspect within
that only wants the best for me.

I’m not saying I’m free
of confusion
however, this truth seems obvious:
we’re trying—trying
to educate ourselves…

but to be honest
after so many
harrowing lessons
I’ve become a bit skittish—

though I try to reason with it
my fear keeps screaming at me—
and like the shadow of child
it won’t be left behind

so now I’m teaching myself
how to walk with this dread…
this doubt…
this nervousness…

every step
another wonderful test.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
picturing metaphor blog


author’s note:

Dedicated to all of you.


As a child I felt the need
to keep close watch

which required a safe distance

but this neurosis led
to a healthy obsession:

as I watched I sensed a mystery
and I asked myself: who are we?

In search of an answer
I have studied you well
but my primary subject
has been my own self—
after all, I do have full access

and in the process
of accessing
I’ve grown closer to myself—
close enough to see
the you inside me

and so, I’ve also
grown closer to you—
close enough to see
myself in yourself.

I love this research
I occasionally feel the need
to step back from the both of us

and when I do, I use
what I’ve learned
to view this human life
in broader perspective.

So perhaps if I keep growing closer
to the both of us
I can, in time
realize a grand dream:

to suddenly see
all the pieces I’ve gathered
join together
in one fantastic panorama
of understanding.

When that vision comes
I believe (I hope)
the distance between us
will be seen
as nothing.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Listening to Silence: a book


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

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