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jennifer wayland
closet poet, living room pianist, various other rooms and hobbies

Poems

Upon the mighty raging sea, whirlpools of fiery sparks, Catherine wheels of light and mist mix with the foam of time. Tossed by unseen movements a tiny globe is floating on the tides and flotsam swirls around its contours, attracted by invisible smooth ripples. Dashed to smooth curves, rare and precious treasure pebbles dance in the flotsam, around the tiny globe, lost in that vast sea, tossed aside by finned entities. Together they ride the foam of endless ocean.

Upon his bed of green soft flotsam, in peaceful tranquillity, gazing out at other treasure pebbles, upon the most precious jewelled blue sapphire, swimming in the azure sea, the purple man soaks up the rays of green made by the yellow globe.

The purple man sees and understands.

The lines of his world are shining silver light, for him there is no darkness in the night. Beset by cares he glances at the fractal flotsam and sees himself reflected, unfolding, timeless. Cares melt in mellow green.

The purple man fades and expands, his nebula fills the ocean wide and everything folds, unfolds; breathes in and out. Allfather stands beside the gate.

Where the fish swim and water snakes, where rivers run and wash the mountains silt upon the shore, there one day the star man came descending from a ship that sails the ocean Sky. The purple man was dreaming as before. From far away where people live in light, from where there is no hunger, fear or pain, where none deceive because there is no gain, where power is within and all are free, Wayland came.

Sitting by the river in the mud his fingers sinking into rich red clay he saw this world so full of music and in love, he sought the matrix seeds that dormant lay. Weaving the matrix then this Wayland made a pair of people from the clay and calling to the green fire of life, he gave them this garden free, to care for and in which to learn and play.

The purple man, who on his misty pillow lay said to Wayland then,

“Will you not stay?” The star man answered,

“I have so far to go and there is so much I want to see, you stay here awhile and tell them this: they are the keepers now of flotsam Zu, and you can teach them all that they must know. Say to them and get it right, 'you are the children of the light, travel where you will; you are not bound here by the clay. In all who say, “I am“ there is the life, and all who live are one in truth, this moment does not pass away.' I will return to visit you one day.”

Purple light shines green around the gate and all pass to and fro. There were the flying elephants of old, bright butterfly wings and iridescent scales, and fire within they blew and rose to mate high in the careless foam of space.

“I see, I see,” the purple man exclaims, “And I will leave a legacy.” Then taking out his notebook draws a stone and then another, places both together high upon the hill.

“All shall know!” he cries and gives them eyes and crowns. Thrones they hold with firm rock fingers, king and queen in rock of jewels tiny crystal shimmers. Eyes gaze out along the silver lines of truth, eyes of stone, and he cuts a small notch in the place the eyes alight their vision.

“Now all will know.” He spreads his cloak and sleeps beneath the hill in quiet satisfaction but dreams he did the task and lost in thought forgets. Stones stand waiting in dreams of eyes that only dreamers see and ride the light that only globe green rays can ride in pale yellow day.

“Forget, forget.” The whispers of the shining huntress sing sweetly and the residents of the butterfly house are soothed and filled with wonder. Dancing light reflects from yellow sand. Lifting hot feet to cool in baking oven rays.

Skating on tension, walking on invisible support a fish jumps from the water of a lake, cascading diamond spray around golden wings, then plunges back into the familiar world. Together all are one and life renewed. Wisps of purple smoke rise from a burning pile of old splendid green boughs now brown and brittle and delicious waves cook as chatter rises in anticipation. Toes muddy and wet warm as much as they dare and faces shine as globe of green gives energy. Wisteria sweet twists its tendrils on the gatepost and spreads its fingers wide to reach the stars.

The white and shining orb that, with full sails, is dancing with the flotsam sapphire tells her story in the ripples of a darkened pool. As in each drop the orb is, so it is with all and in all flows the green.

A grey cat-wolf with silky coat, who sweetly purrs sinks her teeth into feathers and warm nourishment flows from vein to vein. Carrying proudly to the doorstep leaves the gift but pricked purple fingers drip blood as tears flow for the tiny, feathered form.

Misunderstanding of the gift and weary sleep claim the mourner. In the corner stands a child of dusty clothes, untidy and ragged feathers. Grey coloured and brown his hair, face, and hair all dusty and brown. In mind of purple song was singing sad songs of green trees and fields of flowers and seeds. The child turns and eyes as old as time look deep as hands are stretched to greet. The purple man takes outstretched hands and they dance to music of the ocean deep.

“It cannot end, the green can never end, it just returns.” and round they dance, as the child is filled with light and transparent power touches purple hands and spirit surges to pull the purple man to stand before the gate.

Purple man rides on steed of unicorn; who sheds his twisted horn of white and says,

“With this you may write and tell the keepers of Zu to teach their subjects true.” His purple fingers hold the shining torch as on the saddle of his steed he carves the key, the binary. “All is here!” he shouts, “it is enough for all to be and all who will to see! Freedom is my gift to humanity!” Walking to the golden shore, he breathes the green fire to his steed, “Fly now and take my pattern home for all to learn.” The unicorn, now dragon born and horse is manifest, with fiery nostrils and shining fins swims into the long and winding currents of the thread of gold.

From that island home is cast the stone and off it goes into the seas of time, the circle seas. Music wafts around the globe as jewelled pebbles sing. The purple man, his eyes upon the depths, his head on soft flotsam pillow looks horizontally and wanders paths of space between.

A king of Zu in earnest thought upon the shore, a hornless unicorn has caught. A dragon horse who will not bear but shakes his saddle, burden gone he flies into the air. This trinket fine will grace the royal belt and a medallion the king does wear; magic token lost in time as those who knew could not stay and to the music danced away. Beyond the gate, into the ocean deep they to while away, until the wafting air lifts up the drops to bear.

Within the turbulence of that wild sea of calmness where regular tides disguise, mountains are ground, their pieces smashed and broken into shimmering beads of light. Each piece the matrix seed does hold within its crystal frame and life its energy. They shoot forth in forces, travel star to star, globe upon globe they circumnavigate and chaos brings movement to the stagnant ponds of flotsam, pools stirring, breathing life.

In Zu, the wanderers, who had no houses yet, who lived among the stars and trees, gathered round fires to eat their fruit and seeds at Mothers knee and told their oral histories.

Memories of mine and theirs and time distorts the tales so pictures made they to endure but meanings lost as careless child is watching dripping fat of meat and mouth is watering at the food to eat. Within the ring of warmth and fire the wild beast fears, the stories fall distorted on deaf ears.

“Remember well the lessons here: Once our world was full of fear. The seas rose up and swallowed whole the land of Zu, the air was cold. The globe its shining rays of green was hid beneath a reddish sheen of fire as worlds collided higher. The cold it came, the ice giants walked upon the land, so I was taught. Now eat this meat the hunter men have brought.” Within the shamans cave the purple man sleeps and walks on paths of many feet.

On bellies laid upon a hill of hot dry golden sand, the purple man looks down with his band of friends upon the tall city gate below. Beyond he sees the golden domes and tall white towers of so fair a place. A white wall stretches far as he can see and by the gate two fierce lions guard with swords of shining steel.

“I know not how to enter there.” he says, but then finds he is inside, alone and the white city walls are high around him. Trepidation grips his thought and on tiptoes he intrudes in wonder, clinging to the walls. The giant who stoops to lift him smiles, gold flashes from ornaments, turquoise beads on olive skin, and strong muscular arms pick up the purple man who looks around and down to see the white towers are but square pools of proportion huge. The strong hands plunge him down into clear water cool, so fresh it cleans, from showers of silver droplets a babe is raised up to the shining pale blue sky.

Seeing a tortoise then beside the waters edge, the purple man, still having horn of unicorn, inscribed the pattern of the nine with movement of the all, so that he would remember all that Wayland said. Then silence and dreams were once more inside his head.

Purple man sat at the foot of a great tree. A red furred squirrel ran up and down the bark, collecting food and going deep to keep its secret safe. Above the tree the globe was shining bright and yellow light was all around. The good folk who dwell in light transparent crystal vessels sang their song for all to hear and as the squirrel gathered food she heard their voices clear. Then, scampering along the ground quietly in case the purple man should wake, she buried down to the deep pools where three watch the water that feeds the sap. She hummed the song but had not listened to the words and got it wrong before those there to guide the destiny.

“Oh, careless child who listens not when at the fire, who now will tell the history?” The purple man saw the green sap of the tree within and understood.

“Make a machine!” the keepers say, “for you are bound by clay. Rip out the sapphires heart and give us power so that in darkness is the light of day. We have the words and wisdom here,” the keepers fight and hide the secret words, “the nine is ours not yours to know, we only have the power, is it not so? We are your keepers, guardians true; we would not lie to you.

“We took the power from Mother of the tribes to keep you safe from beasts who roam. They would not stay outside the ring of warmth and fire but come inside, devour you in your home.

“The seas rose up before and swallowed Zu, the people perished all except a few. Those few were chosen by the unicorn and here to us a tortoise bore its horn. We stole the fire that came on flotsam Zu, we have the lightening here entombed, the stars that fell in dire punishment, we kept them to remind you of your doom.

“We took the prophets all and kept their words, we wrote them down and only we can give those words to you. He who was here is gone for now but will return, to judge all those who will not heed our rule.

“We must make war to punish those who hate, we must sacrifice to please the beast. Then within our boundaries you will be safe in service to our cause for we are wise.”

The slaves of Zu who toil and sweat all day, all fearful of whatever comes their way; the slaves who have no water and no food and not because they have not loved the good, the slaves who weep for flotsam Zu, the ones who try to do what they believe is true, all listened to the keepers and were quiet, they had no heart to war and die in riot. They had no heart to disobey the rules well taught from their first day. Some turned and struck their fellows in dismay.

The feet upon the pavement hard in hardness crunch and shocks run up the legs and bounce the brains of those who cannot see. Purple streaks the sunrise comes and petals yawn to greet the sailing globe of yellow breathing green. Herded and obedient, the subjects of the kingdom of Zu wake and queue politely as keepers set the tasty morsels. Wheels and tides, time and ocean turn as globe spins in eddies and careless diamonds sprinkled in the flakes of cornfields tell the story unfolding.

Shadows play. The sickle shines its ****** sweetness horned and lovely; sparks of stars surround the misty blue. Knees and cries on time forget the sly insertions and nourish soon forgotten virtues.

A bell is ringing on the shore. Sound bounces wave to wave and lost in purple wandering a passing bee remembers that it cannot fly and hurriedly taking scissors cuts a fine raft of leaf, pointed as a ships bow and hops aboard to surf and glide on currents of the sky.

From the deep oceans light, Wayland sees and sends a whisper from his mind, the purple man is dreaming still among the many others of his kind.

“Its time to wake now, of slumber is enough. Zu needs to have its gardeners intact, its time to plant the Iris bulbs to grow in pasture and in desert before the ice comes back. Seeds of the rainbow must be sown on every track. When summer dawns on frosted fields, fingers of warmth probing into the hearts of seeds that sleep, come now its time for growing. Plough the furrows deep. When summer dawns on frosted fields, fingers of warmth probing into cold frost hardened hearts. Awake, its time for knowing!”

The purple man in forest sees green light of yellow globe is shining energetically its light on all, and one with all he walks in joyful song. Along a branch a leg is stretched, a long leg, there a person sits within the tree, smiling song of life,

“He's just like me!” the purple man does not intrude but curiosity is wakened as the man is standing tall and then is gone before his eyes of sight. A figure dressed in light, not vaporous, a solid man who flickers on and off he sees. The purple man perplexed is wondering, when at his side a figure tall and grey is standing, branches on his head, without a face in the full light of day. The purple man looks for the face, the seat of senses known to know who is it there and meets an eye as old as universe. The eye is looking for the same and as they meet in trap of combined senses all, there is a spark and purple man is travelling then, he is not in the planet Zu at all. The visitor who comes to show the way gives him a choice of paths to take, he forward walks along a narrow lane with strange and pointed leaves of maize. Rustling in the plants the other chases past, he greets him at the other side, and man of light is shining on and off out of the gate the purple man to guide. The rainbow bridge connecting all the worlds, the green path that all who live must share, the purple man looks for the visitor but turning finds that nothing's there. Then rippling wave of green comes flowing through the woodland and the day, it passes through all that lies before, and purple man is standing in its way. Green fire! The life! The sap of tree! I see! His spirit soars as Wayland flies away.

Looking down at hands and feet with rainbows shine, in great delight he finds he is not purple now but made of light sublime and at his step the irises spring bright.
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
Poems about Leaves and Leave Taking (i.e., leaving friends and family, loss, death, parting, separation, divorce, etc.)


Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees,
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
"goodbye."

Published by The Lyric, Mindful of Poetry, There is Something in the Autumn (anthology). Keywords/Tags: autumn, leaves, fall, falling, wind, barren, trees, goodbye, leaving, farewell, separation, age, aging, mortality, death, mrbepi, mrbleave

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," which dates to around age 14 or 15, or perhaps a bit later. But I worked on the poem several times over the years until it was largely finished in 1978. I am sure of the completion date because that year the poem was included in my first large poetry submission manuscript for a chapbook contest.



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has since been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish, Arabic and Romanian.



Something

for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality swept into a corner... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Published by There is Something in the Autumn, The Eclectic Muse, Setu, FreeXpression, Life and Legends, Poetry Super Highway, Poet's Corner, Promosaik, Better Than Starbucks and The Chained Muse. Also translated into Romanian by Petru Dimofte, into Turkish by Nurgül Yayman, turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong, and used by the Windsor Jewish Community Centre during a candle-lighting ceremony



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth's gravitron―
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn's cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful―
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we'd feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Herbsttag ("Autumn Day")
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lord, it is time. Let the immense summer go.
Lay your long shadows over the sundials
and over the meadows, let the free winds blow.
Command the late fruits to fatten and shine;
O, grant them another Mediterranean hour!
Urge them to completion, and with power
convey final sweetness to the heavy wine.
Who has no house now, never will build one.
Who's alone now, shall continue alone;
he'll wake, read, write long letters to friends,
and pace the tree-lined pathways up and down,
restlessly, as autumn leaves drift and descend.

Originally published by Measure



Flight
by Michael R. Burch

It is the nature of loveliness to vanish
as butterfly wings, batting against nothingness
seek transcendence...

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)



Less Heroic Couplets: ****** Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

"****** most foul! "
cried the mouse to the owl.

"Friend, I'm no sinner;
you're merely my dinner! "
the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Published by Lighten Upand in Potcake Chapbook #7



escape!

for anaïs vionet

to live among the daffodil folk...
slip down the rainslickened drainpipe...
suddenly pop out
the GARGANTUAN SPOUT...
minuscule as alice, shout
yippee-yi-yee!
in wee exultant glee
to be leaving behind the
LARGE
THREE-DENALI GARAGE.

Published by Andwerve and Bewildering Stories



Love Has a Southern Flavor

Love has a Southern flavor: honeydew,
ripe cantaloupe, the honeysuckle's spout
we tilt to basking faces to breathe out
the ordinary, and inhale perfume...

Love's Dixieland-rambunctious: tangled vines,
wild clematis, the gold-brocaded leaves
that will not keep their order in the trees,
unmentionables that peek from dancing lines...

Love cannot be contained, like Southern nights:
the constellations' dying mysteries,
the fireflies that hum to light, each tree's
resplendent autumn cape, a genteel sight...

Love also is as wild, as sprawling-sweet,
as decadent as the wet leaves at our feet.

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Sonnet, The Eclectic Muse, Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse, Setu (India) , Victorian Violet Press and Trinacria



Daredevil
by Michael R. Burch

There are days that I believe
(and nights that I deny)
love is not mutilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There are tightropes leaps bereave—
taut wires strumming high
brief songs, infatuations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were cannon shots’ soirees,
hearts barricaded, wise . . .
and then . . . annihilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were nights our hearts conceived
dawns’ indiscriminate sighs.
To dream was our consolation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were acrobatic leaves
that tumbled down to lie
at our feet, bright trepidations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were hearts carved into trees—
tall stakes where you and I
left childhood’s salt libations . . .

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

Where once you scraped your knees;
love later bruised your thighs.
Death numbs all, our sedation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.



Talent
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

I liked the first passage
of her poem―where it led
(though not nearly enough
to retract what I said.)
Now the book propped up here
flutters, scarcely half read.
It will keep.
Before sleep,
let me read yours instead.

There's something like love
in the rhythms of night
―in the throb of streets
where the late workers drone,
in the sounds that attend
each day’s sad, squalid end―
that reminds us: till death
we are never alone.

So we write from the hearts
that will fail us anon,
words in red
truly bled
though they cannot reveal
whence they came,
who they're for.
And the tap at the door
goes unanswered. We write,
for there is nothing more
than a verse,
than a song,
than this chant of the blessed:
"If these words
be my sins,
let me die unconfessed!
Unconfessed, unrepentant;
I rescind all my vows!"
Write till sleep:
it’s the leap
only Talent allows.



Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the trees stand stark-naked in the sun.

Now it is always summer
and the bees buzz in cesspools,
adapted to a new life.

There are no flowers,
but the weeds, being hardier,
have survived.

The small town has become
a city of millions;
there is no longer a sea,
only a huge sewer,
but the children don't mind.

They still study
rocks and stars,
but biology is a forgotten science ...
after all, what is life?

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the children murmur through vein-streaked gills
whispered wonders of long-ago.



Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch

Though you possessed the moon and stars,
you are bound to fate and wed to chance.
Your lips deny they crave a kiss;
your feet deny they ache to dance.
Your heart imagines wild romance.

Though you cupped fire in your hands
and molded incandescent forms,
you are barren now, and―spent of flame―
the ashes that remain are borne
toward the sun upon a storm.

You, who demanded more, have less,
your heart within its cells of sighs
held fast by chains of misery,
confined till death for peddling lies―
imprisonment your sense denies.

You, who collected hearts like leaves
and pressed each once within your book,
forgot. None―winsome, bright or rare―
not one was worth a second look.
My heart, as others, you forsook.

But I, though I loved you from afar
through silent dawns, and gathered rue
from gardens where your footsteps left
cold paths among the asters, knew―
each moonless night the nettles grew

and strangled hope, where love dies too.

Published by Penny Dreadful, Carnelian, Romantics Quarterly, Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Life & Times



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, Poem Kingdom, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Famous Poets and Poems, FreeXpression, PW Review, Poetic Voices, Poetry Renewal and Poetry Life & Times



Are You the Thief
by Michael R. Burch

When I touch you now,
O sweet lover,
full of fire,
melting like ice
in my embrace,

when I part the delicate white lace,
baring pale flesh,
and your face
is so close
that I breathe your breath
and your hair surrounds me like a wreath...

tell me now,
O sweet, sweet lover,
in good faith:
are you the thief
who has stolen my heart?

Originally published as “Baring Pale Flesh” by Poetic License/Monumental Moments



At Tintagel
by Michael R. Burch

That night,
at Tintagel,
there was darkness such as man had never seen...
darkness and treachery,
and the unholy thundering of the sea...

In his arms,
who is to say how much she knew?
And if he whispered her name...
"Ygraine"
could she tell above the howling wind and rain?

Could she tell, or did she care,
by the length of his hair
or the heat of his flesh,...
that her faceless companion
was Uther, the dragon,

and Gorlois lay dead?

Originally published by Songs of Innocence, then subsequently by Celtic Twilight, Fables, Fickle Muses and Poetry Life & Times



Isolde's Song
by Michael R. Burch

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night's deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring's urgency, midsummer's heat, fall's lash,
wild winter's ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life's great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold
and you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



The Wild Hunt
by Michael R. Burch

Near Devon, the hunters appear in the sky
with Artur and Bedwyr sounding the call;
and the others, laughing, go dashing by.
They only appear when the moon is full:

Valerin, the King of the Tangled Wood,
and Valynt, the goodly King of Wales,
Gawain and Owain and the hearty men
who live on in many minstrels' tales.

They seek the white stag on a moonlit moor,
or Torc Triath, the fabled boar,
or Ysgithyrwyn, or Twrch Trwyth,
the other mighty boars of myth.

They appear, sometimes, on Halloween
to chase the moon across the green,
then fade into the shadowed hills
where memory alone prevails.

Originally published by Celtic Twilight, then by Celtic Lifestyles and Auldwicce



Morgause's Song
by Michael R. Burch

Before he was my brother,
he was my lover,
though certainly not the best.

I found no joy
in that addled boy,
nor he at my breast.

Why him? Why him?
The years grow dim.
Now it's harder and harder to say...

Perhaps girls and boys
are the god's toys
when the skies are gray.

Originally published by Celtic Twilight as "The First Time"



Pellinore's Fancy
by Michael R. Burch

What do you do when your wife is a nag
and has sworn you to hunt neither fish, fowl, nor stag?
When the land is at peace, but at home you have none,
Is that, perchance, when... the Questing Beasts run?



The Last Enchantment
by Michael R. Burch

Oh, Lancelot, my truest friend,
how time has thinned your ragged mane
and pinched your features; still you seem
though, much, much changed—somehow unchanged.

Your sword hand is, as ever, ready,
although the time for swords has passed.
Your eyes are fierce, and yet so steady
meeting mine... you must not ask.

The time is not, nor ever shall be.
Merlyn's words were only words;
and now his last enchantment wanes,
and we must put aside our swords...



Northern Flight: Lancelot's Last Love Letter to Guinevere
by Michael R. Burch

"Get thee to a nunnery..."

Now that the days have lengthened, I assume
the shadows also lengthen where you pause
to watch the sun and comprehend its laws,
or just to shiver in the deepening gloom.

But nothing in your antiquarian eyes
nor anything beyond your failing vision
repeals the night. Religion's circumcision
has left us worlds apart, but who's more wise?

I think I know you better now than then—
and love you all the more, because you are
... so distant. I can love you from afar,
forgiving your flight north, far from brute men,
because your fear's well-founded: God, forbid,
was bound to fail you here, as mortals did.

Originally published by Rotary Dial



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Truces
by Michael R. Burch

We must sometimes wonder if all the fighting related to King Arthur and his knights was really necessary. In particular, it seems that Lancelot fought and either captured or killed a fairly large percentage of the population of England. Could it be that Arthur preferred to fight than stay at home and do domestic chores? And, honestly now, if he and his knights were such incredible warriors, who would have been silly enough to do battle with them? Wygar was the name of Arthur's hauberk, or armored tunic, which was supposedly fashioned by one Witege or Widia, quite possibly the son of Wayland Smith. The legends suggest that Excalibur was forged upon the anvil of the smith-god Wayland, who was also known as Volund, which sounds suspiciously like Vulcan...

Artur took Cabal, his hound,
and Carwennan, his knife,
    and his sword forged by Wayland
    and Merlyn, his falcon,
and, saying goodbye to his sons and his wife,
he strode to the Table Rounde.

"Here is my spear, Rhongomyniad,
and here is Wygar that I wear,
    and ready for war,
    an oath I foreswore
to fight for all that is righteous and fair
from Wales to the towers of Gilead."

But none could be found to contest him,
for Lancelot had slewn them, forsooth,
so he hastened back home, for to rest him,
till his wife bade him, "Thatch up the roof! "

Originally published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, then by Celtic Twilight



Midsummer-Eve
by Michael R. Burch

What happened to the mysterious Tuatha De Danann, to the Ban Shee (from which we get the term "banshee") and, eventually, to the druids? One might assume that with the passing of Merlyn, Morgause and their ilk, the time of myths and magic ended. This poem is an epitaph of sorts.

In the ruins
of the dreams
and the schemes
of men;

when the moon
begets the tide
and the wide
sea sighs;

when a star
appears in heaven
and the raven
cries;

we will dance
and we will revel
in the devil's
fen...

if nevermore again.

Originally published by Penny Dreadful



The Pictish Faeries
by Michael R. Burch

Smaller and darker
than their closest kin,
the faeries learned only too well
never to dwell
close to the villages of larger men.

Only to dance in the starlight
when the moon was full
and men were afraid.
Only to worship in the farthest glade,
ever heeding the raven and the gull.



The Kiss of Ceridwen
by Michael R. Burch

The kiss of Ceridwen
I have felt upon my brow,
and the past and the future
have appeared, as though a vapor,
mingling with the here and now.

And Morrigan, the Raven,
the messenger, has come,
to tell me that the gods, unsung,
will not last long
when the druids' harps grow dumb.



Merlyn, on His Birth
by Michael R. Burch

Legend has it that Zephyr was an ancestor of Merlin. In this poem, I suggest that Merlin was an albino, which might have led to claims that he had no father, due to radical physical differences between father and son. This would have also added to his appearance as a mystical figure. The reference to Ursa Major, the bear, ties the birth of Merlin to the future birth of Arthur, whose Welsh name ("Artos" or "Artur") means "bear." Morydd is another possible ancestor of Merlin's. In Welsh names "dd" is pronounced "th."

I was born in Gwynedd,
or not born, as some men claim,
and the Zephyr of Caer Myrrdin
gave me my name.

My father was Madog Morfeyn
but our eyes were never the same,
nor our skin, nor our hair;
for his were dark, dark
—as our people's are—
and mine were fairer than fair.

The night of my birth, the Zephyr
carved of white stone a rune;
and the ringed stars of Ursa Major
outshone the cool pale moon;
and my grandfather, Morydd, the seer
saw wheeling, a-gyre in the sky,
a falcon with terrible yellow-gold eyes
when falcons never fly.



Merlyn's First Prophecy
by Michael R. Burch

Vortigern commanded a tower to be built upon Snowden,
but the earth would churn and within an hour its walls would cave in.

Then his druid said only the virginal blood of a fatherless son,
recently shed, would ever hold the foundation.

"There is, in Caer Myrrdin, a faery lad, a son with no father;
his name is Merlyn, and with his blood you would have your tower."

So Vortigern had them bring the boy, the child of the demon,
and, taciturn and without joy, looked out over Snowden.

"To **** a child brings little praise, but many tears."
Then the mountain slopes rang with the brays of Merlyn's jeers.

"Pure poppycock! You fumble and bumble and heed a fool.
At the base of the rock the foundations crumble into a pool! "

When they drained the pool, two dragons arose, one white and one red,
and since the old druid was blowing his nose, young Merlyn said:

"Vortigern is the white, Ambrosius the red; now, watch, indeed."
Then the former died as the latter fed and Vortigern peed.

Published by Celtic Twilight



It Is Not the Sword!
by Michael R. Burch

This poem illustrates the strong correlation between the names that appear in Welsh and Irish mythology. Much of this lore predates the Arthurian legends, and was assimilated as Arthur's fame (and hyperbole)grew. Caladbolg is the name of a mythical Irish sword, while Caladvwlch is its Welsh equivalent. Caliburn and Excalibur are later variants.

"It is not the sword,
but the man, "
said Merlyn.
But the people demanded a sign—
the sword of Macsen Wledig,
Caladbolg, the "lightning-shard."

"It is not the sword,
but the words men follow."
Still, he set it in the stone
—Caladvwlch, the sword of kings—
and many a man did strive, and swore,
and many a man did moan.

But none could budge it from the stone.

"It is not the sword
or the strength, "
said Merlyn,
"that makes a man a king,
but the truth and the conviction
that ring in his iron word."

"It is NOT the sword! "
cried Merlyn,
crowd-jostled, marveling
as Arthur drew forth Caliburn
with never a gasp,
with never a word,

and so became their king.



Uther's Last Battle
by Michael R. Burch

When Uther, the High King,
unable to walk, borne upon a litter
went to fight Colgrim, the Saxon King,
his legs were weak, and his visage bitter.
"Where is Merlyn, the sage?
For today I truly feel my age."

All day long the battle raged
and the dragon banner was sorely pressed,
but the courage of Uther never waned
till the sun hung low upon the west.
"Oh, where is Merlyn to speak my doom,
for truly I feel the chill of the tomb."

Then, with the battle almost lost
and the king besieged on every side,
a prince appeared, clad all in white,
and threw himself against the tide.
"Oh, where is Merlyn, who stole my son?
For, truly, now my life is done."

Then Merlyn came unto the king
as the Saxons fled before a sword
that flashed like lightning in the hand
of a prince that day become a lord.
"Oh, Merlyn, speak not, for I see
my son has truly come to me.

And today I need no prophecy
to see how bright his days will be."
So Uther, then, the valiant king
met his son, and kissed him twice—
the one, the first, the one, the last—
and smiled, and then his time was past.



Small Tales
by Michael R. Burch

According to legend, Arthur and Kay grew up together in Ector's court, Kay being a few years older than Arthur. Borrowing from Mary Stewart, I am assuming that Bedwyr (later Anglicized to Bedivere)might have befriended Arthur at an early age. By some accounts, Bedwyr was the original Lancelot. In any case, imagine the adventures these young heroes might have pursued (or dreamed up, to excuse tardiness or "lost" homework assignments). Manawydan and Llyr were ancient Welsh gods. Cath Pulag was a monstrous, clawing cat. ("Sorry teach! My theme paper on Homer was torn up by a cat bigger than a dragon! And meaner, too! ")Pen Palach is more or less a mystery, or perhaps just another old drinking buddy with a few good beery-bleary tales of his own. This poem assumes that many of the more outlandish Arthurian legends began more or less as "small tales, " little white lies which simply got larger and larger with each retelling. It also assumes that most of these tales came about just as the lads reached that age when boys fancy themselves men, and spend most of their free time drinking and puking...

When Artur and Cai and Bedwyr
were but scrawny lads
they had many a ***** adventure
in the still glades
of Gwynedd.
When the sun beat down like an oven
upon the kiln-hot hills
and the scorched shores of Carmarthen,
they went searching
and found Manawydan, the son of Llyr.
They fought a day and a night
with Cath Pulag (or a screeching kitten),
rousted Pen Palach, then drank a beer
and told quite a talltale or two,
till thems wasn't so shore which'un's tails wus true.

And these have been passed down to me, and to you.



The Song of Amergin
by Michael R. Burch

Amergin is, in the words of Morgan Llywelyn, "the oldest known western European poet." Robert Graves said: "English poetic education should, really, begin not with The Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin." Amergin was one of the Milesians, or sons of Mil: Gaels who invaded Ireland and defeated the mysterious Tuatha De Danann, thereby establishing a Celtic beachhead, not only on the shores of the Emerald Isle, but also in the annals of Time and Poetry.

He was our first bard
and we feel in his dim-remembered words
the moment when Time blurs...

and he and the Sons of Mil
heave oars as the breakers mill
till at last Ierne—green, brooding—nears,

while Some implore seas cold, fell, dark
to climb and swamp their flimsy bark
... and Time here also spumes, careers...

while the Ban Shee shriek in awed dismay
to see him still the sea, this day,
then seek the dolmen and the gloam.



Stonehenge
by Michael R. Burch

Here where the wind imbues life within stone,
I once stood
and watched as the tempest made monuments groan
as though blood
boiled within them.

Here where the Druids stood charting the stars
I can tell
they longed for the heavens... perhaps because
hell
boiled beneath them?



The Celtic Cross at Île Grosse
by Michael R. Burch

"I actually visited the island and walked across those mass graves of 30, 000 Irish men, women and children, and I played a little tune on me whistle. I found it very peaceful, and there was relief there." - Paddy Maloney of The Chieftans

There was relief there,
and release,
on Île Grosse
in the spreading gorse
and the cry of the wild geese...

There was relief there,
without remorse
when the tin whistle lifted its voice
in a tune of artless grief,
piping achingly high and longingly of an island veiled in myth.
And the Celtic cross that stands here tells us, not of their grief,
but of their faith and belief—
like the last soft breath of evening lifting a fallen leaf.

When ravenous famine set all her demons loose,
driving men to the seas like lemmings,
they sought here the clemency of a better life, or death,
and their belief in God gave them hope, a sense of peace.

These were proud men with only their lives to owe,
who sought the liberation of a strange new land.
Now they lie here, ragged row on ragged row,
with only the shadows of their loved ones close at hand.

And each cross, their ancient burden and their glory,
reflects the death of sunlight on their story.

And their tale is sad—but, O, their faith was grand!



At Cædmon's Grave
by Michael R. Burch

"Cædmon's Hymn, " composed at the Monastery of Whitby (a North Yorkshire fishing village), is one of the oldest known poems written in the English language, dating back to around 680 A.D. According to legend, Cædmon, an illiterate Anglo-Saxon cowherd, received the gift of poetic composition from an angel; he subsequently founded a school of Christian poets. Unfortunately, only nine lines of Cædmon's verse survive, in the writings of the Venerable Bede. Whitby, tiny as it is, reappears later in the history of English literature, having been visited, in diametric contrast, by Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker's ghoulish yet evocative Dracula.

At the monastery of Whitby,
on a day when the sun sank through the sea,
and the gulls shrieked wildly, jubilant, free,

while the wind and time blew all around,
I paced those dusk-enamored grounds
and thought I heard the steps resound

of Carroll, Stoker and of Bede
who walked there, too, their spirits freed
—perhaps by God, perhaps by need—

to write, and with each line, remember
the glorious light of Cædmon's ember,
scorched tongues of flame words still engender.

Here, as darkness falls, at last we meet.
I lay this pale garland of words at his feet.

Originally published by The Lyric



faith(less), a coronavirus poem
by Michael R. Burch

Those who believed
and Those who misled
lie together at last
in the same narrow bed

and if god loved Them more
for Their strange lack of doubt,
he kept it well hidden
till he snuffed Them out.



Habeas Corpus
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

I have the results of your DNA analysis.
If you want to have children, this may induce paralysis.
I wish I had good news, but how can I lie?
Any offspring you have are guaranteed to die.
It wouldn’t be fair—I’m sure you’ll agree—
to sentence kids to death, so I’ll waive my fee.



Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-******.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-******,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-******,
we first proved we had lives of our own).



Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the ***** Toad)
by Michael R. Burch

He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes) ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously), and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad’s . . .
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats . . .
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted,
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.



Haunted
by Michael R. Burch

Now I am here
and thoughts of my past mistakes are my brethren.
I am withering
and the sweetness of your memory is like a tear.

Go, if you will,
for the ache in my heart is its hollowness
and the flaw in my soul is its shallowness;
there is nothing to fill.

Take what you can;
I have nothing left.
And when you are gone, I will be bereft,
the husk of a man.

Or stay here awhile.
My heart cannot bear the night, or these dreams.
Your face is a ghost, though paler, it seems
when you smile.

Published by Romantics Quarterly



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 14-15 when we were living with my grandfather in his house on Chilton Street, within walking distance of the Nashville fairgrounds. I remember walking to the fairgrounds, stopping at a Dairy Queen along the way, and swimming at a public pool. But I believe the Ferris wheel only operated during the state fair. So my “educated guess” is that this poem was written during the 1973 state fair, or shortly thereafter. I remember watching people hanging suspended in mid-air, waiting for carnies to deposit them safely on terra firma again.



Insurrection
by Michael R. Burch

She has become as the night—listening
for rumors of dawn—while the dew, glistening,
reminds me of her, and the wind, whistling,
lashes my cheeks with its soft chastening.

She has become as the lights—flickering
in the distance—till memories old and troubling
rise up again and demand remembering ...
like peasants rebelling against a mad king.

Originally published by The Chained Muse



Success
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

We need our children to keep us humble
between toast and marmalade;

there is no time for a ticker-tape parade
before bed, no award, no bright statuette

to be delivered for mending skinned knees,
no wild bursts of approval for shoveling snow.

A kiss is the only approval they show;
to leave us―the first great success they achieve.



Sappho's Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Hushed yet melodic, the hills and the valleys
sleep unaware of the nightingale's call,
while the pale calla lilies lie
listening,
glistening . . .
this is their night, the first night of fall.

Son, tonight, a woman awaits you;
she is more vibrant, more lovely than spring.
She'll meet you in moonlight,
soft and warm,
all alone . . .
then you'll know why the nightingale sings.

Just yesterday the stars were afire;
then how desire flashed through my veins!
But now I am older;
night has come,
I’m alone . . .
for you I will sing as the nightingale sings.

NOTE: The calla lily symbolizes beauty, purity, innocence, faithfulness and true devotion. According to Greek mythology, when the Milky Way was formed by the goddess Hera’s breast milk, the drops that fell to earth became calla lilies.



The People Loved What They Had Loved Before
by Michael R. Burch

We did not worship at the shrine of tears;
we knew not to believe, not to confess.
And so, ahemming victors, to false cheers,
we wrote off love, we gave a stern address
to things that we disapproved of, things of yore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We did not build stone monuments to stand
six hundred years and grow more strong and arch
like bridges from the people to the Land
beyond their reach. Instead, we played a march,
pale Neros, sparking flames from door to door.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We could not pipe of cheer, or even woe.
We played a minor air of Ire (in E).
The sheep chose to ignore us, even though,
long destitute, we plied our songs for free.
We wrote, rewrote and warbled one same score.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

At last outlandish wailing, we confess,
ensued, because no listeners were left.
We built a shrine to tears: our goddess less
divine than man, and, like us, long bereft.
We stooped to love too late, too Learned to *****.
And the people loved what they had loved before.



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we’ll discover what the heart is for.



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch

Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over ...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each unembraceable lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their forced laughter’s the wine ...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion ...

and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again “soon” ...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon ...

and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune ...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.

And I know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the Eraser, Fate,
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined ...

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it were something you loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, brimming with the soft light
of the stars winking sagely above ...

Then you whisper, "It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while."
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, "Yes, I would," to your small, troubled smile.

I vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with presumably a lot of office parties). This would have been after my sophomore year in college, making me around 20 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the upper-level managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time. Keywords/Tags: premonition, office, party, parting, eve, evening, stranger, strangers, wine, laughter, moon, shadows



Survivors
by Michael R. Burch

for the victims and survivors of 9/11 and their families

In truth, we do not feel the horror
of the survivors,
but what passes for horror:

a shiver of “empathy.”

We too are “survivors,”
if to survive is to snap back
from the sight of death

like a turtle retracting its neck.



Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who
was born on September 11, 2001 and who
died at age nine, shot to death ...

Child of 9-11, beloved,
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown,
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm ― I hope you hear it.

Much love I bring ― I lay it down
here by your form, which is not you,
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.

Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the evil things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.

And so I make this pledge and vow:
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.

Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short ... bereaved,
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here ...

I give my all: my pen, this tear,
this lily and this eiderdown,
and all soft things my heart can bear;
I bring them to your final bier,
and leave them with my promise, here.



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.



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.



Day, and Night
by Michael R. Burch

The moon exposes pockmarked scars of craters;
her visage, veiled by willows, palely looms.
And we who rise each day to grind a living,
dream each scented night of such perfumes
as drew us to the window, to the moonlight,
when all the earth was steeped in cobalt blue―
an eerie vase of achromatic flowers
bled silver by pale starlight, losing hue.

The night begins her waltz to waiting sunrise―
adagio, the music she now hears;
and we who in the sunlight slave for succor,
dreaming, seek communion with the spheres.
And all around the night is in crescendo,
and everywhere the stars’ bright legions form,
and here we hear the sweet incriminations
of lovers we had once to keep us warm.

And also here we find, like bled carnations,
red lips that whitened, kisses drawn to lies,
that touched us once with fierce incantations
and taught us love was prettier than wise.



To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
translation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?

A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss

from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:

the lost gold of vanished stars.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: I believe that in the second stanza the blood on Elis's forehead may be a reference to the apprehensive ****** sweat of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. If my interpretation is correct, Elis hears the blackbird's cries, anticipates the danger represented by a harbinger of death, but elects to continue rather than turn back. From what I have been able to gather, the color blue had a special significance for Georg Trakl: it symbolized longing and perhaps a longing for death. The colors blue, purple and black may represent a progression toward death in the poem.



Komm, Du ("Come, You")
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This was Rilke’s last poem, written ten days before his death. He died open-eyed in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium, of leukemia and its complications. I had a friend who died of leukemia and he was burning up with fever in the end. I believe that is what Rilke was describing here: he was literally burning alive.

Come, you—the last one I acknowledge; return—
incurable pain searing this physical mesh.
As I burned in the spirit once, so now I burn
with you; meanwhile, you consume my flesh.

This wood that long resisted your embrace
now nourishes you; I surrender to your fury
as my gentleness mutates to hellish rage—
uncaged, wild, primal, mindless, outré.

Completely free, no longer future’s pawn,
I clambered up this crazy pyre of pain,
certain I’d never return—my heart’s reserves gone—
to become death’s nameless victim, purged by flame.

Now all I ever was must be denied.
I left my memories of my past elsewhere.
That life—my former life—remains outside.
Inside, I’m lost. Nobody knows me here.



This is my translation of the first of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Rilke began the first Duino Elegy in 1912, as a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea.

First Elegy
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Who, if I objected, would hear me among the angelic orders?
For if the least One pressed me intimately against its breast,
I would be lost in its infinite Immensity!
Because beauty, which we mortals can barely endure, is the beginning of terror;
we stand awed when it benignly declines to annihilate us.
Every Angel is terrifying!

And so I restrain myself, swallowing the sound of my pitiful sobbing.
For whom may we turn to, in our desire?
Not to Angels, nor to men, and already the sentient animals are aware
that we are all aliens in this metaphorical existence.
Perhaps some tree still stands on a hillside, which we can study with our ordinary vision.
Perhaps the commonplace street still remains amid man’s fealty to materiality—
the concrete items that never destabilize.
Oh, and of course there is the night: her dark currents caress our faces ...

But whom, then, do we live for?
That longed-for but mildly disappointing presence the lonely heart so desperately desires?
Is life any less difficult for lovers?
They only use each other to avoid their appointed fates!
How can you fail to comprehend?
Fling your arms’ emptiness into this space we occupy and inhale:
may birds fill the expanded air with more intimate flying!

Yes, the springtime still requires you.
Perpetually a star waits for you to recognize it.
A wave recedes toward you from the distant past,
or as you walk beneath an open window, a violin yields virginally to your ears.
All this was preordained. But how can you incorporate it? ...
Weren't you always distracted by expectations, as if every event presaged some new beloved?
(Where can you harbor, when all these enormous strange thoughts surging within you keep
you up all night, restlessly rising and falling?)

When you are full of yearning, sing of loving women, because their passions are finite;
sing of forsaken women (and how you almost envy them)
because they could love you more purely than the ones you left gratified.

Resume the unattainable exaltation; remember: the hero survives;
even his demise was merely a stepping stone toward his latest rebirth.

But spent and exhausted Nature withdraws lovers back into herself,
as if lacking the energy to recreate them.
Have you remembered Gaspara Stampa with sufficient focus—
how any abandoned girl might be inspired by her fierce example
and might ask herself, "How can I be like her?"

Shouldn't these ancient sufferings become fruitful for us?

Shouldn’t we free ourselves from the beloved,
quivering, as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension,
so that in the snap of release it soars beyond itself?
For there is nowhere else where we can remain.

Voices! Voices!

Listen, heart, as levitating saints once listened,
until the elevating call soared them heavenward;
and yet they continued kneeling, unaware, so complete was their concentration.

Not that you could endure God's voice—far from it!

But heed the wind’s voice and the ceaseless formless message of silence:
It murmurs now of the martyred young.

Whenever you attended a church in Naples or Rome,
didn't they come quietly to address you?
And didn’t an exalted inscription impress its mission upon you
recently, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa?
What they require of me is that I gently remove any appearance of injustice—
which at times slightly hinders their souls from advancing.

Of course, it is endlessly strange to no longer inhabit the earth;
to relinquish customs one barely had the time to acquire;
not to see in roses and other tokens a hopeful human future;
no longer to be oneself, cradled in infinitely caring hands;
to set aside even one's own name,
forgotten as easily as a child’s broken plaything.

How strange to no longer desire one's desires!
How strange to see meanings no longer cohere, drifting off into space.
Dying is difficult and requires retrieval before one can gradually decipher eternity.

The living all err in believing the too-sharp distinctions they create themselves.

Angels (men say) don't know whether they move among the living or the dead.
The eternal current merges all ages in its maelstrom
until the voices of both realms are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

In the end, the early-departed no longer need us:
they are weaned gently from earth's agonies and ecstasies,
as children outgrow their mothers’ *******.

But we, who need such immense mysteries,
and for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's progress—
how can we exist without them?

Is the legend of the lament for Linos meaningless—
the daring first notes of the song pierce our apathy;
then, in the interlude, when the youth, lovely as a god, has suddenly departed forever,
we experience the emptiness of the Void for the first time—
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and aids us?



Keywords/Tags: Rilke, elegy, elegies, angels, beauty, terror, terrifying, desire, vision, reality, heart, love, lovers, beloved, rose, saints, spirits, souls, ghosts, voices, torso, Apollo, Rodin, panther, autumn, beggar

Published as the collection "Leave Taking"