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Apr 2020
What Works
by Michael R. Burch

for David Gosselin

What works—
hewn stone;
the blush the iris shows the sun;
the lilac’s pale-remembered bloom.

The frenzied fly: mad-lively, gay,
as seconds tick his time away,
his sentence—one brief day in May,
a period. And then decay.

A frenzied rhyme’s mad tip-toed time,
a ballad’s languid as the sea,
seek, striving—immortality.

When gloss peels off, what works will shine.
When polish fades, what works will gleam.
When intellectual prattle pales,
the dying buzzing in the hive
of tedious incessant bees,
what works will soar and wheel and dive
and milk all honey, leap and thrive,

and teach the pallid poem to seethe.



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today ...
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away ...
We loved and life we left alone and deftly was it done;
we sang our song all summer long beneath the sultry sun.

I wrote this poem as a boy, after seeing an ad for the movie "Summer of ’42," which starred the lovely Jennifer O’Neill and a young male actor who might have been my nebbish twin. I didn’t see the R-rated movie at the time: too young, according to my parents! But something about the ad touched me; even thinking about it today makes me feel sad and a bit out of sorts. The movie came out in 1971, so the poem was probably written around 1971-1972. In any case, the poem was published in my high school literary journal, The Lantern, in 1976. The poem is “rhyme rich” with eleven rhymes in the first four lines: well, farewell, tell, bells, within, din, in, say, today, had, bad. The last two lines appear in brackets because they were part of the original poem but I later chose to publish just the first six lines. I didn’t see the full movie until 2001, around age 43, after which I addressed two poems to my twin, Hermie …



Listen, Hermie
by Michael R. Burch

Listen, Hermie . . .
you can hear the strangled roar
of water inundating that lost shore . . .

and you can see how white she shone

that distant night, before
you blinked
and she was gone . . .

But is she ever really gone from you . . . or are
her lips the sweeter since you kissed them once:
her waist wasp-thin beneath your hands always,
her stockinged shoeless feet for that one dance
still whispering their rustling nylon trope
of―“Love me. Love me. Love me. Give me hope
that love exists beyond these dunes, these stars.”

How white her prim brassiere, her waist-high briefs;
how lustrous her white slip. And as you danced―
how white her eyes, her skin, her eager teeth.
She reached, but not for *** . . . for more . . . for you . . .
You cannot quite explain, but what is true
is true despite our fumblings in the dark.

Hold tight. Hold tight. The years that fall away
still make us what we are. If love exists,
we find it in ourselves, grown wan and gray,
within a weathered hand, a wrinkled cheek.

She cannot touch you now, but I would reach
across the years to touch that chord in you
which still reverberates, and play it true.



Tell me, Hermie
by  Michael R. Burch

Tell me, Hermie ― when you saw
her white brassiere crash to the floor
as she stepped from her waist-high briefs
into your arms, and mutual griefs ―
did you feel such fathomless awe
as mystics do, in artists’ reliefs?

How is it that dark night remains
forever with us ― present still ―
despite her absence and the pains
of dreams relived without the thrill
of any ecstasy but this ―
one brief, eternal, transient kiss?

She was an angel; you helped us see
the beauty of love’s iniquity.



Fountainhead
by Michael R. Burch

I did not delight in love so much
as in a kiss like linnets' wings,
the flutterings of a pulse so soft
the heart remembers, as it sings:
to bathe there was its transport, brushed
by marble lips, or porcelain,—
one liquid kiss, one cool outburst
from pale rosettes. What did it mean ...
to float awhirl on minute tides
within the compass of your eyes,
to feel your alabaster bust
grow cold within? Ecstatic sighs
seem hisses now; your eyes, serene,
reflect the sun's pale tourmaline.

Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetica Victorian, Nutty Stories (South Africa)



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
each day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels’ white chorales
sing, and astound you.



A Possible Argument for Mercy
by Michael R. Burch

Did heaven ever seem so far?
Remember-we are as You were,
but all our lives, from birth to death―
Gethsemane in every breath.



Gethsemane in Every Breath
by Michael R. Burch

LORD, we have lost our way, and now
we have mislaid love―earth's fairest rose.
We forgot hope's song―the way it goes.
Help us reclaim their gifts, somehow.

LORD, we have wondered long and far
in search of Bethlehem's retrograde star.
Now in night's dead cold grasp, we gasp:
our lives one long-drawn rattling rasp

of misspent breath... before we drown.
LORD, help us through this spiral down
because we faint, and do not see
above or beyond despair's trajectory.

Remember that You, too, once held
imperiled life within your hands
as hope withdrew... that where You knelt
―a stranger in a stranger land―

the chalice glinted cold afar
and red with blood as hellfire.
Did heaven ever seem so far?
Remember―we are as You were,

but all our lives, from birth to death―
Gethsemane in every breath.



Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch

We’d like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard,
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps,
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy "boo-boo!," only two.

We’d like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile,
that baseball’s just as fun with just one arm,
that God is always Just, that girls will smile,
not frown down at his thousand livid scars,
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.

We do not want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks,
that lips aren’t easily fashioned, that his smile’s
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears,
when tears are out of fashion.
O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life’s Mysteries ...

Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, "It’s me I see. Just me."

He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures.
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms



Aflutter
by Michael R. Burch

This rainbow is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh.—Yahweh

You are gentle now, and in your failing hour
how like the child you were, you seem again,
and smile as sadly as the girl (age ten?)
who held the sparrow with the mangled wing
close to her heart. It marveled at your power
but would not mend. And so the world renews
old vows it seemed to make: false promises
spring whispers, as if nothing perishes
that does not resurrect to wilder hues
like rainbows’ eerie pacts we apprehend
but cannot fail to keep. Now in your eyes
I see the end of life that only dies
and does not care for bright, translucent lies.
Are tears so precious? These few, let us spend
together, as before, then lay to rest
these sparrows’ hearts aflutter at each breast.



Gallant Knight
by Michael R. Burch

for Alfred Dorn and Anita Dorn

Till you rest with your beautiful Anita,
rouse yourself, Poet; rouse and write.
The world is not ready for your departure,
Gallant Knight.

Teach us to sing in the ringing cathedrals
of your Verse, as you outduel the Night.
Give us new eyes to see Love's bright Vision
robed in Light.

Teach us to pray, that the true Word may conquer,
that the slaves may be freed, the blind have Sight.
Write the word LOVE with a burning finger.
I shall recite.

O, bless us again with your chivalrous pen,
Gallant Knight!

It was my honor to have been able to publish the poetry of Dr. Alfred Dorn and his wife Anita Dorn.



To Have Loved
by Michael R. Burch

"The face that launched a thousand ships ..."

Helen, bright accompaniment,
accouterment of war as sure as all
the polished swords of princes groomed to lie
in mausoleums all eternity ...

The price of love is not so high
as never to have loved once in the dark
beyond foreseeing. Now, as dawn gleams pale
upon small wind-fanned waves, amid white sails, ...

now all that war entails becomes as small,
as though receding. Paris in your arms
was never yours, nor were you his at all.
And should gods call

in numberless strange voices, should you hear,
still what would be the difference? Men must die
to be remembered. Fame, the shrillest cry,
leaves all the world dismembered.

Hold him, lie,
tell many pleasant tales of lips and thighs;
enthrall him with your sweetness, till the pall
and ash lie cold upon him.

Is this all? You saw fear in his eyes, and now they dim
with fear’s remembrance. Love, the fiercest cry,
becomes gasped sighs in his once-gallant hymn
of dreamed “salvation.” Still, you do not care

because you have this moment, and no man
can touch you as he can ... and when he’s gone
there will be other men to look upon
your beauty, and have done.

Smile―woebegone, pale, haggard. Will the tales
paint this―your final portrait? Can the stars
find any strange alignments, Zodiacs,
to spell, or unspell, what held beauty lacks?

Published by The Raintown Review, Triplopia, The Electic Muse, The Chained Muse, and The Pennsylvania Review



Fahr an' Ice
(Apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash)
by Michael R. Burch

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

Originally published by Light Quarterly



Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribable—our love—and still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray
to warm ourselves. We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we're older now, that "love" has had its day.
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest; published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, Mandrake Poetry Review, Carnelian, and Famous Poets and Poems



The Locker
by Michael R. Burch

All the dull hollow clamor has died
and what was contained,
removed,

reproved
adulation or sentiment,
left with the pungent darkness

as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Tremble
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,
scans.

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged ******,
juts.

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,
waits.

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,
tremble.

Published by The Lyric, Verses Magazine, Romantics Quarterly, Journeys, The Raintown Review, MahMag (Iran), The Eclectic Muse (Canada)



Millay Has Her Way with a Vassar Professor
by Michael R. Burch

After a night of hard drinking and spreading her legs,
Millay hits the dorm, where the Vassar don begs:
“Please act more chastely, more discretely, more seemly!”
(His name, let’s assume, was, er... Percival Queemly.)

“Expel me! Expel me!”—She flashes her eyes.
“Oh! Please! No! I couldn’t! That wouldn’t be wise,
for a great banished Shelley would tarnish my name...
Eek! My game will be lame if I can’t milque your fame!”

“Continue to live here—carouse as you please!”
the beleaguered don sighs as he sags to his knees.
Millay grinds her crotch half an inch from his nose:
“I can live in your hellhole, strange man, I suppose...
but the price is your firstborn, whom I’ll sacrifice to Moloch.”
(Which explains what became of pale Percy’s son, Enoch.)



Shrill Gulls and Other Skeptics
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gulls,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss―
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back―
one long, descending glide...

3.
Disgruntledly you ***** dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells’ bright forts...
You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts―
this way and that...
Contentious, shrewd, you scan―
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.

Originally published by Able Muse



Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

It’s better not to speculate
"continually" on who is great.
Though relentless awe’s
a Célèbre Cause,
please reserve some time for the contemplation
of the perils of EXAGGERATION.



At Wilfred Owen’s Grave
by Michael R. Burch

A week before the Armistice, you died.
They did not keep your heart like Livingstone’s,
then plant your bones near Shakespeare’s. So you lie
between two privates, sacrificed like Christ
to politics, your poetry unknown
except for that brief flurry’s: thirteen months
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death.
Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of “ergotherapists” that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful’s merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath’s transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine—scalding eyes,
and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.



Safe Harbor
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

The sea at night seems
an alembic of dreams—
the moans of the gulls,
the foghorns’ bawlings.

A century late
to be melancholy,
I watch the last shrimp boat as it steams
to safe harbor again.

In the twilight she gleams
with a festive light,
done with her trawlings,
ready to sleep...

Deep, deep, in delight
glide the creatures of night,
elusive and bright
as the poet’s dreams.

Published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly and Angle



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

for Harvey Stanbrough

I have not come for the harvest of roses—
the poets' mad visions,
their railing at rhyme...
for I have discerned what their writing discloses:
weak words wanting meaning,
beat torsioning time.

Nor have I come for the reaping of gossamer—
images weak,
too forced not to fail;
gathered by poets who worship their luster,
they shimmer, impendent,
resplendently pale.

Originally published by The Raintown Review when Harvey Stanbrough was the editor



The Pain of Love
by Michael R. Burch

for T.M.

The pain of love is this:
the parting after the kiss;

the train steaming from the station
whistling abnegation;

each interstate’s bleak white bar
that vanishes under your car;

every hour and flower and friend
that cannot be saved in the end;

dear things of immeasurable cost...
now all irretrievably lost.

Note: The title “The Pain of Love” was suggested by an interview with Little Richard, then eighty years old, in Rolling Stone. He said that someone should create a song called “The Pain of Love.” I have always found the departure platforms of railway stations and the vanishing broken white bars of highway dividing lines depressing.



Lean Harvests
by Michael R. Burch

for T.M.

the trees are shedding their leaves again:
another summer is over.
the Christians are praising their Maker again,
but not the disconsolate plover:
i hear him berate
the fate
of his mate;
he claims God is no body’s lover.

Published by The Rotary Dial and Angle



The Heimlich Limerick
by Michael R. Burch

for T. M.

The sanest of poets once wrote:
"Friend, why be a sheep or a goat?
Why follow the leader
or be a blind *******?"
But almost no one took note.



Millay Has Her Way with a Vassar Professor
by Michael R. Burch

After a night of hard drinking and spreading her legs,
Millay hits the dorm, where the Vassar don begs:
“Please act more chastely, more discretely, more seemly!”
(His name, let’s assume, was, er... Percival Queemly.)

“Expel me! Expel me!”—She flashes her eyes.
“Oh! Please! No! I couldn’t! That wouldn’t be wise,
for a great banished Shelley would tarnish my name...
Eek! My game will be lame if I can’t milque your fame!”

“Continue to live here—carouse as you please!”
the beleaguered don sighs as he sags to his knees.
Millay grinds her crotch half an inch from his nose:
“I can live in your hellhole, strange man, I suppose...
but the price is your firstborn, whom I’ll sacrifice to Moloch.”
(Which explains what became of pale Percy’s son, Enoch.)



Abide
by Michael R. Burch

after Philip Larkin's "Aubade"

It is hard to understand or accept mortality—
such an alien concept: not to be.
Perhaps unsettling enough to spawn religion,
or to scare mutant fish out of a primordial sea

boiling like goopy green tea in a kettle.
Perhaps a man should exhibit more mettle
than to admit such fear, denying Nirvana exists
simply because we are stuck here in such a fine fettle.

And so we abide...
even in life, staring out across that dark brink.
And if the thought of death makes your questioning heart sink,
it is best not to drink
(or, drinking, certainly not to think).



Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

Here I scrawl extravagant rainbows.
And there you go, skipping your way to school.
And here we are, drifting apart
like untethered balloons.

Here I am, creating "art,"
chanting in shadows,
pale as the crinoline moon,
ignoring your face.

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.

Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Centrifugal Eye, and The Eclectic Muse



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

Moonbeams on water —
the reflected light
of a halcyon star
now drowning in night ...
So your memories are.

Footprints on beaches
now flooding with water;
the small, broken ribcage
of some primitive slaughter ...
So near, yet so far.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Step Into Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Step into starlight,
lovely and wild,
lonely and longing,
a woman, a child . . .

Throw back drawn curtains,
enter the night,
dream of his kiss
as a comet ignites . . .

Then fall to your knees
in a wind-fumbled cloud
and shudder to hear
oak hocks groaning aloud.

Flee down the dark path
to where the snaking vine bends
and withers and writhes
as winter descends . . .

And learn that each season
ends one vanished day,
that each pregnant moon holds
no spent tides in its sway . . .

For, as suns seek horizons―
boys fall, men decline.
As the grape sags with its burden,
remember―the wine!

Originally published by The Lyric



hymn to Apollo
by Michael R. Burch

something of sunshine attracted my i
as it lazed on the afternoon sky,
golden,
splashed on the easel of god . . .
what,
i thought,
could this airy stuff be,
to, phantomlike,
flit through tall trees
on fall days, such as these?

and the breeze
whispered a dirge
to the vanishing light;
enchoired with the evening, it sang;
its voice
enchantedly
rang
chanting “Night!” . . .

till all the bright light
retired,
expired.

This poem appeared in my high school literary journal; I believe I was around 16 when I wrote it.



****** Analysis
by Michael R. Burch

This is not what I need . . .
analysis,
paralysis,
as though I were a seed
to be planted,
supported
with a stick and some string
until I emerge.
Your words
are not water. I need something
more nourishing,
like cherishing,
something essential, like love
so that when I climb
out of the lime
and the mulch. When I shove
myself up
from the muck . . .
we can ****.



The One and Only
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

If anyone ever loved me,
It was you.

If anyone ever cared
beyond mere things declared;
if anyone ever knew ...
My darling, it was you.

If anyone ever touched
my beating heart as it flew,
it was you,
and only you.



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller

#2 - Love Poetry

She says an epigram’s too terse
to reveal her tender heart in verse ...
but really, darling, ain’t the thrill
of a kiss much shorter still?
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#5 - Criticism

Why don’t I openly criticize the man? Because he’s a friend;
thus I reproach him in silence, as I do my own heart.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#11 - Holiness

What is holiest? This heart-felt love
binding spirits together, now and forever.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#12 - Love versus Desire

You love what you have, and desire what you lack
because a rich nature expands, while a poor one retracts.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#19 - Nymph and Satyr

As shy as the trembling doe your horn frightens from the woods,
she flees the huntsman, fainting, uncertain of love.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#20 - Desire

What stirs the ******’s heaving ******* to sighs?
What causes your bold gaze to brim with tears?
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#23 - The Apex I

Everywhere women yield to men, but only at the apex
do the manliest men surrender to femininity.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#24 - The Apex II

What do we mean by the highest? The crystalline clarity of triumph
as it shines from the brow of a woman, from the brow of a goddess.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#25 -Human Life

Young sailors brave the sea beneath ten thousand sails
while old men drift ashore on any bark that avails.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#35 - Dead Ahead

What’s the hardest thing of all to do?
To see clearly with your own eyes what’s ahead of you.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#36 - Unexpected Consequence

Friends, before you utter the deepest, starkest truth, please pause,
because straight away people will blame you for its cause.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#41 - Earth vs. Heaven

By doing good, you nurture humanity;
but by creating beauty, you scatter the seeds of divinity.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

He walks to the sink,
takes out his teeth,
rubs his gums.
He tries not to think.

In the mirror, on the mantle,
Time—the silver measure—
does not stare or blink,
but in a wrinkle flutters,
in a hand upon the brink
of a second, hovers.

Through a mousehole,
something scuttles
on restless incessant feet.
There is no link

between life and death
or from a fading past
to a more tenuous present
that a word uncovers
in the great wink.

The white foam lathers
at his thin pink
stretched neck
like a tightening noose.
He tries not to think.



These are poems I wrote in my early teens on the themes of play, playing, playmates, vacations, etc.

Playmates
by Michael R. Burch

WHEN you were my playmate and I was yours,
we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and the sorrows and cares of our indentured days
were uncomprehended... far, far away...
for the temptations and trials we had yet to face
were lost in the shadows of an unventured maze.

Then simple pleasures were easy to find
and if they cost us a little, we didn't mind;
for even a penny in a pocket back then
was one penny too many, a penny to spend.

Then feelings were feelings and love was just love,
not a strange, complex mystery to be understood;
while "sin" and "damnation" meant little to us,
since forbidden cookies were our only lusts!

Then we never worried about what we had,
and we were both sure—what was good, what was bad.
And we sometimes quarreled, but we didn't hate;
we seldom gave thought to the uncertainties of fate.

Hell, we seldom thought about the next day,
when tomorrow seemed hidden—adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past,
and wondered, at times, why things couldn't last.

Still, we never worried about getting by,
and we didn't know that we were to die...
when we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and I was your playmate, and we were boys.

This is probably the poem that "made" me, because my high school English teacher called it "beautiful" and I took that to mean I was surely the Second Coming of Percy Bysshe Shelley! "Playmates" is the second longish poem I remember writing; I believe I was around 13 or 14 at the time.



Playthings
by Michael R. Burch

a sequel to “Playmates”

There was a time, as though a long-forgotten dream remembered,
when you and I were playmates and the days were long;
then we were pirates stealing plaits of daisies
from trembling maidens fearing men so strong . . .

Our world was like an unplucked Rose unfolding,
and you and I were busy, then, as bees;
the nectar that we drank, it made us giddy;
each petal within reach seemed ours to seize . . .

But you were more the doer, I the dreamer,
so I wrote poems and dreamed a noble cause;
while you were linking logs, I met old Merlin
and took a dizzy ride to faery Oz . . .

But then you put aside all "silly" playthings;
with sunburned hands you built, from bricks and stone,
tall buildings, then a life, and then you married.
Now my fantasies, again, are all my own.

I believe “Playthings” was written in my late teens, around 1977. According to my notes, I revised the poem in 1991, then again in 2020 and 2021.



hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

This is another of my boyhood poems about play and playing. When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar."



Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown;
the Ferris wheel teeters ...
not up, yet not down.
Have I been too long at the fair?

This is one of my earliest poems, written around age 15.



Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart’s baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!

This is a poem I wrote about a vacation my family took to Salzburg when I was a boy, age 11 or perhaps a bit older. But I wrote the poem much later in life: around 50 years later, in 2020.



Of course the ultimate form of play is love ...



An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion ...

This little dream-poem appeared in my high school literary journal, the Lantern, so I was no older than 18 when I wrote it, probably younger. I will guess around age 16.



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today.
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away ...

This poem appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern, in 1976. It also appeared in my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977. I was probably around 14 when I wrote the poem.



Myth
by Michael R. Burch

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf—
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain—
golden and humble in all its weary worth.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year of high school, around age 18.



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
  without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
    but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
      felt more than seen.
      I was eighteen,
    my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
  Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant ...
  without words, but with a deeper communion,
    as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
      liquidly our lips met
      —feverish, wet—
    forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
  in the immediacy of our fumbling union ...
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

I believe this poem was written around age 18 as the poem itself says.



Infinity
by Michael R. Burch

Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your heart sought its shell like a crab on a beach,
then scuttled inside to be safe, out of reach?

Might I lift you tonight from earth’s wreckage and damage
on these waves gently rising to pay the moon homage?
Or better, perhaps, let me say that I, too,
have dreamed of infinity ... windswept and blue.

This is one of the first poems that made me feel like a "real" poet. I remember reading the poem and asking myself, "Did I really write that?" I believe I wrote it around age 17 or 18.



Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?

If I remember correctly, I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18, then forgot about it for fifteen years until I met my future wife Beth and she reminded me of the poem’s mysterious enchantress.



Childhood's End
by Michael R. Burch

How well I remember
those fiery Septembers:
dry leaves, dying embers of summers aflame
lay trampled before me
and fluttered, imploring
the bright, dancing rain to descend once again.

Now often I’ve thought on
the meaning of autumn,
how the moons those pale mornings enchanted dark clouds
while robins repeated
gay songs they had heeded
so wisely when winters before they’d flown south.

And still, in remembrance,
I’ve conjured a semblance
of childhood and how the world seemed to me then;
but early this morning,
when, rising and yawning,
my lips brushed your ******* . . . I celebrated its end.

I believe I wrote this poem in my early twenties, no later than 1982, but probably around 1980.



The Tender Weight of Her Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

The tender weight of her sighs
lies heavily upon my heart;
apart from her, full of doubt,
without her presence to revolve around,
found wanting direction or course,
cursed with the thought of her grief,
believing true love is a myth,
with hope as elusive as tears,
hers and mine, unable to lie,
I sigh ...

This poem has an unusual rhyme scheme, with the last word of each line rhyming with the first word of the next line. The final line is a “closing couplet” in which both words rhyme with the last word of the preceding line. I believe I invented this ***** form and will dub it the "End-First Curtal Sonnet."



Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all *******
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp.

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something more important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure
that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure.
After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.



Orpheus
by Michael R. Burch

for and after William Blake

I.
Many a sun
and many a moon
I walked the earth
and whistled a tune.

I did not whistle
as I worked:
the whistle was my work.
I shirked

nothing I saw
and made a rhyme
to children at play
and hard time.

II.
Among the prisoners
I saw
the leaden manacles
of Law,

the heavy ball and chain,
the quirt.
And yet I whistled
at my work.

III.
Among the children’s
daisy faces
and in the women’s
frowsy laces,

I saw redemption,
and I smiled.
Satanic millers,
unbeguiled,

were swayed by neither girl,
nor child,
nor any God of Love.
Yet mild

I whistled at my work,
and Song
broke out,
ere long.



Duet (II)
by Michael R. Burch

If love is just an impulse meant to bring
two tiny hearts together, skittering
like hamsters from their Quonsets late at night
in search of lust’s productive exercise . . .

If love is the mutation of some gene
made radiant—an accident of bliss
played out by two small actors on a screen
of silver mesh, who never even kiss . . .

If love is evolution, nature’s way
of sorting out its DNA in pairs,
of matching, mating, sculpting flesh’s clay . . .
why does my wrinkled hamster climb his stairs

to set his wheel revolving, then descend
and stagger off . . . to make hers fly again?

Originally published by Bewildering Stories



Rant: The Elite
by Michael R. Burch

When I heard Harold Bloom unsurprisingly say:
Poetry is necessarily difficult. It is our elitist art ...
I felt a small suspicious thrill. After all, sweetheart,
isn’t this who we are? Aren’t we obviously better,
and certainly fairer and taller, than they are?

Though once I found Ezra Pound
perhaps a smidgen too profound,
perhaps a bit over-fond of Benito
and the advantages of fascism
to be taken ad finem, like high tea
with a pure white spot of intellectualism
and an artificial sweetener, calorie-free.

I know! I know! Politics has nothing to do with art
And it tempts us so to be elite, to stand apart ...
but somehow the word just doesn’t ring true,
echoing effetely away—the distance from me to you.

Of course, politics has nothing to do with art,
but sometimes art has everything to do with becoming elite,
with climbing the cultural ladder, with being able to meet
someone more Exalted than you, who can demonstrate how to ****
so that everyone below claims one’s odor is sweet.
You had to be there! We were falling apart
with gratitude! We saw him! We wept at his feet!

Though someone will always be far, far above you, clouding your air,
gazing down at you with a look of wondering despair.



Chinese Poets: English Translations

These are modern English translations of poems by some of the greatest Chinese poets of all time, including Du Fu, Huang O, Li Bai, Li Ching-jau, Li Qingzhao, Po Chu-I, Tzu Yeh, Yau Ywe-Hwa and Xu Zhimo.



Lines from Laolao Ting Pavilion
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The spring breeze knows partings are bitter;
The willow twig knows it will never be green again.



A Toast to Uncle Yun
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water reforms, though we slice it with our swords;
Sorrow returns, though we drown it with our wine.

Li Bai (701-762) was a romantic figure who has been called the Lord Byron of Chinese poetry. He and his friend Du Fu (712-770) were the leading poets of the Tang Dynasty era, which has been called the "Golden Age of Chinese poetry." Li Bai is also known as Li Po, Li Pai, Li T’ai-po, and Li T’ai-pai.



Moonlit Night
by Du Fu (712-770)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Alone in your bedchamber
you gaze out at the Fu-Chou moon.

Here, so distant, I think of our children,
too young to understand what keeps me away
or to remember Ch'ang-an ...

A perfumed mist, your hair's damp ringlets!
In the moonlight, your arms' exquisite jade!

Oh, when can we meet again within your bed's drawn curtains,
and let the heat dry our tears?



Moonlit Night
by Du Fu (712-770)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight the Fu-Chou moon
watches your lonely bedroom.

Here, so distant, I think of our children,
too young to understand what keeps me away
or to remember Ch'ang-an ...

By now your hair will be damp from your bath
and fall in perfumed ringlets;
your jade-white arms so exquisite in the moonlight!

Oh, when can we meet again within those drawn curtains,
and let the heat dry our tears?



Lone Wild Goose
by Du Fu (712-770)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned goose refuses food and drink;
he cries querulously for his companions.

Who feels kinship for that strange wraith
as he vanishes eerily into the heavens?

You watch it as it disappears;
its plaintive calls cut through you.

The indignant crows ignore you both:
the bickering, bantering multitudes.

Du Fu (712-770) is also known as Tu Fu. The first poem is addressed to the poet's wife, who had fled war with their children. Ch'ang-an is an ironic pun because it means "Long-peace."



The Red Cockatoo
by Po Chu-I (772-846)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A marvelous gift from Annam—
a red cockatoo,
bright as peach blossom,
fluent in men's language.

So they did what they always do
to the erudite and eloquent:
they created a thick-barred cage
and shut it up.

Po Chu-I (772-846) is best known today for his ballads and satirical poems. Po Chu-I believed poetry should be accessible to commoners and is noted for his simple diction and natural style. His name has been rendered various ways in English: Po Chu-I, Po Chü-i, Bo Juyi and Bai Juyi.



The Migrant Songbird
Li Qingzhao aka Li Ching-chao (c. 1084-1155)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The migrant songbird on the nearby yew
brings tears to my eyes with her melodious trills;
this fresh downpour reminds me of similar spills:
another spring gone, and still no word from you ...



The Plum Blossoms
Li Qingzhao aka Li Ching-chao (c. 1084-1155)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This year with the end of autumn
I find my reflection graying at the edges.
Now evening gales hammer these ledges ...
what shall become of the plum blossoms?

Li Qingzhao was a poet and essayist during the Song dynasty. She is generally considered to be one of the greatest Chinese poets. In English she is known as Li Qingzhao, Li Ching-chao and The Householder of Yi’an.



Star Gauge
Sui Hui (c. 351-394 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

So much lost so far away
on that distant rutted road.

That distant rutted road
wounds me to the heart.

Grief coupled with longing,
so much lost so far away.

Grief coupled with longing
wounds me to the heart.

This house without its master;
the bed curtains shimmer, gossamer veils.

The bed curtains shimmer, gossamer veils,
and you are not here.

Such loneliness! My adorned face
lacks the mirror's clarity.

I see by the mirror's clarity
my Lord is not here. Such loneliness!

Sui Hui, also known as Su Hui and Lady Su, appears to be the first female Chinese poet of note. And her "Star Gauge" or "Sphere Map" may be the most impressive poem written in any language to this day, in terms of complexity. "Star Gauge" has been described as a palindrome or "reversible" poem, but it goes far beyond that. According to contemporary sources, the original poem was shuttle-woven on brocade, in a circle, so that it could be read in multiple directions. Due to its shape the poem is also called Xuanji Tu ("Picture of the Turning Sphere"). The poem is now generally placed in a grid or matrix so that the Chinese characters can be read horizontally, vertically and diagonally. The story behind the poem is that Sui Hui's husband, Dou Tao, the governor of Qinzhou, was exiled to the desert. When leaving his wife, Dou swore to remain faithful. However, after arriving at his new post, he took a concubine. Lady Su then composed a circular poem, wove it into a piece of silk embroidery, and sent it to him. Upon receiving the masterwork, he repented. It has been claimed that there are up to 7,940 ways to read the poem. My translation above is just one of many possible readings of a portion of the poem.



Reflection
Xu Hui (627–650)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Confronting the morning she faces her mirror;
Her makeup done at last, she paces back and forth awhile.
It would take vast mountains of gold to earn one contemptuous smile,
So why would she answer a man's summons?

Due to the similarities in names, it seems possible that Sui Hui and Xu Hui were the same poet, with some of her poems being discovered later, or that poems written later by other poets were attributed to her.



Waves
Zhai Yongming (1955-)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The waves manhandle me like a midwife pounding my back relentlessly,
and so the world abuses my body—
accosting me, bewildering me, according me a certain ecstasy ...



Monologue
Zhai Yongming (1955-)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am a wild thought, born of the abyss
and—only incidentally—of you. The earth and sky
combine in me—their concubine—they consolidate in my body.

I am an ordinary embryo, encased in pale, watery flesh,
and yet in the sunlight I dazzle and amaze you.

I am the gentlest, the most understanding of women.
Yet I long for winter, the interminable black night, drawn out to my heart's bleakest limit.

When you leave, my pain makes me want to ***** my heart up through my mouth—
to destroy you through love—where's the taboo in that?

The sun rises for the rest of the world, but only for you do I focus the hostile tenderness of my body.
I have my ways.

A chorus of cries rises. The sea screams in my blood but who remembers me?
What is life?

Zhai Yongming is a contemporary Chinese poet, born in Chengdu in 1955. She was one of the instigators and prime movers of the “Black Tornado” of women’s poetry that swept China in 1986-1989. Since then Zhai has been regarded as one of China’s most prominent poets.



Pyre
Guan Daosheng (1262-1319)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You and I share so much desire:
this love―like a fire—
that ends in a pyre's
charred coffin.



"Married Love" or "You and I" or "The Song of You and Me"
Guan Daosheng (1262-1319)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You and I shared a love that burned like fire:
two lumps of clay in the shape of Desire
molded into twin figures. We two.
Me and you.

In life we slept beneath a single quilt,
so in death, why any guilt?
Let the skeptics keep scoffing:
it's best to share a single coffin.

Guan Daosheng (1262-1319) is also known as Kuan Tao-Sheng, Guan Zhongji and Lady Zhongji. A famous poet of the early Yuan dynasty, she has also been called "the most famous female painter and calligrapher in the Chinese history ... remembered not only as a talented woman, but also as a prominent figure in the history of bamboo painting." She is best known today for her images of nature and her tendency to inscribe short poems on her paintings.



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I heard my love was going to Yang-chou
So I accompanied him as far as Ch'u-shan.
For just a moment as he held me in his arms
I thought the swirling river ceased flowing and time stood still.



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Will I ever hike up my dress for you again?
Will my pillow ever caress your arresting face?



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Night descends ...
I let my silken hair spill down my shoulders as I part my thighs over my lover.
Tell me, is there any part of me not worthy of being loved?



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I will wear my robe loose, not bothering with a belt;
I will stand with my unpainted face at the reckless window;
If my petticoat insists on fluttering about, shamelessly,
I'll blame it on the unruly wind!



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When he returns to my embrace,
I’ll make him feel what no one has ever felt before:
Me absorbing him like water
Poured into a wet clay jar.



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bare branches tremble in a sudden breeze.
Night deepens.
My lover loves me,
And I am pleased that my body's beauty pleases him.



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do you not see
that we
have become like branches of a single tree?



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I could not sleep with the full moon haunting my bed!
I thought I heard―here, there, everywhere―
disembodied voices calling my name!
Helplessly I cried "Yes!" to the phantom air!



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have brought my pillow to the windowsill
so come play with me, tease me, as in the past ...
Or, with so much resentment and so few kisses,
how much longer can love last?



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When she approached you on the bustling street, how could you say no?
But your disdain for me is nothing new.
Squeaking hinges grow silent on an unused door
where no one enters anymore.



Tzu Yeh (circa 400 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I remain constant as the Northern Star
while you rush about like the fickle sun:
rising in the East, drooping in the West.

Tzŭ-Yeh (or Tzu Yeh) was a courtesan of the Jin dynasty era (c. 400 BC) also known as Lady Night or Lady Midnight. Her poems were pinyin ("midnight songs"). Tzŭ-Yeh was apparently a "sing-song" girl, perhaps similar to a geisha trained to entertain men with music and poetry. She has also been called a "wine shop girl" and even a professional concubine! Whoever she was, it seems likely that Rihaku (Li-Po) was influenced by the lovely, touching (and often very ****) poems of the "sing-song" girl. Centuries later, Arthur Waley was one of her translators and admirers. Waley and Ezra Pound knew each other, and it seems likely that they got together to compare notes at Pound's soirees, since Pound was also an admirer and translator of Chinese poetry. Pound's most famous translation is his take on Li-Po's "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter." If the ancient "sing-song" girl influenced Li-Po and Pound, she was thus an influence―perhaps an important influence―on English Modernism. The first Tzŭ-Yeh poem makes me think that she was, indeed, a direct influence on Li-Po and Ezra Pound.―Michael R. Burch



The Day after the Rain
Lin Huiyin (1904-1955)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love the day after the rain
and the meadow's green expanses!
My heart endlessly rises with wind,
gusts with wind ...
away the new-mown grasses and the fallen leaves ...
away the clouds like smoke ...
vanishing like smoke ...



Music Heard Late at Night
Lin Huiyin (1904-1955)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

for Xu Zhimo

I blushed,
hearing the lovely nocturnal tune.

The music touched my heart;
I embraced its sadness, but how to respond?

The pattern of life was established eons ago:
so pale are the people's imaginations!

Perhaps one day You and I
can play the chords of hope together.

It must be your fingers gently playing
late at night, matching my sorrow.

Lin Huiyin (1904-1955), also known as Phyllis Lin and Lin Whei-yin, was a Chinese architect, historian, novelist and poet. Xu Zhimo died in a plane crash in 1931, allegedly flying to meet Lin Huiyin.



Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again
Xu Zhimo (1897-1931)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Quietly I take my leave,
as quietly as I came;
quietly I wave good-bye
to the sky's dying flame.

The riverside's willows
like lithe, sunlit brides
reflected in the waves
move my heart's tides.

Weeds moored in dark sludge
sway here, free of need,
in the Cam's gentle wake ...
O, to be a waterweed!

Beneath shady elms
a nebulous rainbow
crumples and reforms
in the soft ebb and flow.

Seek a dream? Pole upstream
to where grass is greener;
rig the boat with starlight;
sing aloud of love's splendor!

But how can I sing
when my song is farewell?
Even the crickets are silent.
And who should I tell?

So quietly I take my leave,
as quietly as I came;
gently I flick my sleeves ...
not a wisp will remain.

(6 November 1928)

Xu Zhimo's most famous poem is this one about leaving Cambridge. English titles for the poem include "On Leaving Cambridge," "Second Farewell to Cambridge," "Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again,"  and "Taking Leave of Cambridge Again."



The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch

The nature of Nature
is bitter survival
from Winter’s bleak fury
till Spring’s brief revival.

The weak implore Fate;
bold men ravish, dishevel her . . .
till both are cut down
by mere ticks of the Leveler.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20, in 1978 or thereabouts. It has since been published in The Lyric, Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and The Aurorean.



The Insurrection of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

She was my Shiloh, my Gethsemane;
she nestled my head to her breast
and breathed upon my insensate lips
the fierce benedictions of her ubiquitous sighs,
the veiled allegations of her disconsolate tears . . .

Many years I abided the agile assaults of her flesh . . .
She loved me the most when I was most sorely pressed;
she undressed with delight for her ministrations
when all I needed was a good night’s rest . . .

She anointed my lips with her soft lips’ dews;
the insurrection of sighs left me fallen, distressed, at her elegant heel.
I felt the hard iron, the cold steel, in her words and I knew:
the terrible arrow showed through my conscripted flesh.

The sun in retreat left her victor and all was Night.
The last peal of surrender went sinking and dying—unheard.



Star Crossed
by Michael R. Burch

Remember—
night is not like day;
the stars are closer than they seem ...
now, bending near, they seem to say
the morning sun was merely a dream
ember.



The State of the Art (?)
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Shall poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?



Options Underwater: The Song of the First Amphibian
by Michael R. Burch

“Evolution’s a Fishy Business!”

1.
Breathing underwater through antiquated gills,
I’m running out of options. I need to find fresh Air,
to seek some higher Purpose. No porpoise, I despair
to swim among anemones’ pink frills.

2.
My fins will make fine flippers, if only I can walk,
a little out of kilter, safe to the nearest rock’s
sweet, unmolested shelter. Each eye must grow a stalk,
to take in this green land on which it gawks.

3.
No predators have made it here, so I need not adapt.
Sun-sluggish, full, lethargic―I’ll take such nice long naps!

The highest form of life, that’s me! (Quite apt
to lie here chortling, calling fishes saps.)

4.
I woke to find life teeming all around―
mammals, insects, reptiles, loathsome birds.
And now I cringe at every sight and sound.
The water’s looking good! I look Absurd.

5.
The moral of my story’s this: don’t leap
wherever grass is greener. Backwards creep.
And never burn your bridges, till you’re sure
leapfrogging friends secures your Sinecure.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online


Yasna 28, Verse 6
by Zarathustra (Zoroaster)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lead us to pure thought and truth
by your sacred word and long-enduring assistance,
O, eternal Giver of the gifts of righteousness.

O, wise Lord, grant us spiritual strength and joy;
help us overcome our enemies’ enmity!

Translator’s Note: The Gathas consist of 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra.



“Whoso List to Hunt” is a famous early English sonnet written by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) in the mid-16th century.

Whoever Longs to Hunt
by Sir Thomas Wyatt
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Whoever longs to hunt, I know the deer;
but as for me, alas!, I may no more.
This vain pursuit has left me so bone-sore
I'm one of those who falters, at the rear.
Yet friend, how can I draw my anguished mind
away from the doe?
                               Thus, as she flees before
me, fainting I follow.
                                I must leave off, therefore,
since in a net I seek to hold the wind.

Whoever seeks her out,
                                     I relieve of any doubt,
that he, like me, must spend his time in vain.
For graven with diamonds, set in letters plain,
these words appear, her fair neck ringed about:
Touch me not, for Caesar's I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame.



The First Complete Musical Composition

Shine, while you live;
blaze beyond grief,
for life is brief
and Time, a thief.
—Michael R. Burch, after Seikilos of Euterpes

The so-called Seikilos Epitaph is the oldest known surviving complete musical composition which includes musical notation. It is believed to date to the first or second century AD. The epitaph appears to be signed “Seikilos of Euterpes” or dedicated “Seikilos to Euterpe.” Euterpe was the ancient Greek Muse of music.



Keywords/Tags: amphibian, amphibians, evolution, gills, water, air, lungs, fins, flippers, fish, fishy business, poets, poetry, writing, art, work, works, rhyme, ballad, immortality, passion, emotion, desire, mrbwork, mrbworks

Published as the collection "What Works"
Written by
Michael R Burch  62/M/Nashville, Tennessee
(62/M/Nashville, Tennessee)   
532
 
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