Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Nllne ul the lnldholleriil‘ nan
on Ihlll llnl?i?l the Huun 1| dialed,
?an: that mum qupnuu in
egoing
Enumerator.
Constabulary District.
I
Certify
, as required by the Act 63 Via, c. 6, s. 6 (1), that the for
urn is correct, acoordin
lc/4:’?
1&4”, ***/~
FIIILIES, In.
No. of
nu-In Tubal
wwnied Sinks u: nu 1’@f:=-=-
by ad‘ Pusan: Iii‘ A
Flnily.
(Sec Fol‘:
B at fool.)
¢ he
,3 '
.. I ~
' @2771,
cc 1/ p
I ..q1??‘7"“' iz__
g to the best of my knowledge and belief.
I
J , . . . _
?lfjfnjn 7 and the ?gure 1 entered LII Col. 14, opposite the muidic of the bracket. Sea pattern Table m In?tfuctiun?, page 9,
Rut
John Pane:
I hereby
runcuula or nluunsn nouaaa.
Registrar-General,
T. J. Bsmrxeam B#####Y,
##### J. Bnnw,
FORM B. 1.——HOUSE AND BUILDING RETURN --continued.
BOBERT E. M.aT£n;s0:~.',
Commas loner
"f the Heads of Families so occupying it shculd. be bracketted together in C01. 13, thus :-
2 lst December, 1900.
##### Castle,
It is even more piercingly emotional in its original form as found, please gaze for yourselves: http://i.imgur.com/r21h6.png
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

“Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.”

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

Published by The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse and Poetry Life & Times

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden’s love poem “Lullaby.” Keywords/Tags: Auden, unisphere, lullaby, verse, revelation, cryptic, legislate, enumerator, sins, dreams, value, love, sings, quaint, quaintly, lesser, greater
Michael R Burch Sep 2020
Poems about Poems: Ars Poetica


What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer
~~~~underwater~~~~
watching the shoreline blur
sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles...
Both worlds grow obscure.

Published by ByLine, Mandrake Poetry Review, Poetically Speaking, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Little Brown Poetry,  Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Neovictorian/Cochlea, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems and Bewildering Stories



Muse/Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

“What will you conceive in me?”―
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

“Naked, I bore your child
when the wolf wind howled,
when the cold moon scowled...
naked, and gladly.”

“What will become of me?”―
I asked her, as she
absently stroked my hand.

Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered―“I Am.”

This was the first poem to appear in the first issue of Romantics Quarterly; it has also been published by Penny Dreadful, Unlikely Stories, Underground Poets, Poetically Speaking, Poetry Life & Times and Little Brown Poetry



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

How can I write and not be true
to the rhythm that wells within?
How can the ocean not be blue,
not buck with the clapboard slap of tide,
the clockwork shock of wave on rock,
the motion creation stirs within?

Originally published by The Lyric



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they vanish, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze:
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published in Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly and Poetry Life & Times



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.



escape!
by michael r. burch

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.

This is another poem about poetic kinship ― here, escaping the real world for the world of imagination.



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.



The Better Man
by Michael R. Burch

Dear Ed: I don’t understand why
you will publish this other guy―
when I’m brilliant, devoted,
one hell of a poet!
Yet you publish Anonymous. Fie!

Fie! A pox on your head if you favor
this poet who’s dubious, unsavor
y, inconsistent in texts,
no address (I checked!):
since he’s plagiarized Unknown, I’ll wager!

This double limerick was originally published by The Eclectic Muse (Canada)



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?

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review



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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On...)
by Michael R. Burch

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at “meter,” I crossly concluded
I’d use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I’m under-quaaluded.

Originally published by Grand Little Things



US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

“Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.”

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

Published by The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse and Poetry Life & Times

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden’s love poem “Lullaby.”



The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

To at last be indestructible, a poem
must first glow, almost flammable, upon
a thing inert, as gray, as dull as stone,

then bend this way and that, and slowly cool
at arms-length, something irreducible
drawn out with caution, toughened in a pool

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it―water instantly a mist.

It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness...

And then the driven hammer falls and falls.
The horses ***** their ears in nearby stalls.
A soldier on his cot leans back and smiles.

A sound of ancient import, with the ring
of honest labor, sings of fashioning.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Poetry
by Michael R. Burch

I.

Poetry, I found you
where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you
to torture and confound you,
I found you―shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair
and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh's skies,
had leapt at dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care;
there savage brands had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars;
your bones were broken with the force
with which they'd lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all.
So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call
from where dawn’s milling showers fall―
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth
to temper for a lover’s touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove
each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand
and led my steps from child to man;
now I look back, remember when
you shone, and cannot understand
why now, tonight, you bear their brand.

II.

I will take and cradle you in my arms,
remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight
back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core
of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears
for all those blissful years...
my love, whom I adore.

I consider "Poetry" to be my Ars Poetica. I believe I wrote the first version of "Poetry" in my late teens, around age 18-19. Originally published by The Lyric, then subsequently by Amerikai költok a második (Hungarian translation by by István Bagi), La Luce Che Non Muore (Italy), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Shabestaneh (Iran), Kritya (India), Sailing in the Mist of Time (Anthology of Fifty Award-Winning Poems), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Captivating Poetry (Anthology), Formal Verse, Tucumcari Literary Review, The Chained Muse, Poet’s Haven, Poet’s Corner, Famous Poets and Poems and Inspirational Stories



Instruction
by Michael R. Burch

Toss this poem aside
to the filigreed and the prettified tide
of sunset.

Strike my name,
and still it is all the same.
The onset

of night is in the despairing skies;
each hut shuts its bright bewildered eyes.
The wind sighs

and my heart sighs with her―
my only companion, O Lovely Drifter!
Still, men are not wise.

The moon appears; the arms of the wind lift her,
pooling the light of her silver portent,
while men, impatient,

are beings of hurried and harried despair.
Now willows entangle their fragrant hair.
Men sleep.

Cornsilk tassels the moonbright air.
Deep is the sea; the stars are fair.
I reap.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Chit Chat: In the Poetry Chat Room
by Michael R. Burch

WHY SHULD I LERN TO SPELL?
HELL,
NO ONE REEDS WHAT I SAY
ANYWAY!!!

Sing for the cool night,
whispers of constellations.
Sing for the supple grass,
the tall grass, gently whispering.
Sing of infinities, multitudes,
of all that lies beyond us now,
whispers begetting whispers.
And i am glad to also whisper...

I WUS HURT IN LUV I’M DYIN’
FER TH’ TEARS I BEEN A-CRYIN’!!!

i abide beyond serenities
and realms of grace,
above love’s misdirected earth,
i lift my face.
i am beyond finding now...

I WAS IN, LOVE, AND HE ******* ME!!!
THE ****!!! TOTALLY!!!

i loved her once, before, when i
was mortal too, and sometimes i
would listen and distinctly hear
her laughter from the juniper,
but did not go...

I JUST DON’T GET POETRY, SOMETIMES.
IT’S OKAY, I GUESS.
I REALLY DON’T READ THAT MUCH AT ALL,
I MUST CONFESS!!! ;-)

Travail, inherent to all flesh,
i do not know, nor how to feel.
Although i sing them nighttimes still:
the bitter woes, that do not heal...

POETRY IS BORING.
SEE, IT *****!!!, I’M SNORING!!! ZZZZZZZ!!!

The words like breath, i find them here,
among the fragrant juniper,
and conifers amid the snow,
old loves imagined long ago...

WHY DON’T YOU LIKE MY PERFICKT WORDS
YOU USELESS UN-AMERIC’N TURDS?!!!

What use is love, to me, or Thou?
O Words, my awe, to fly so smooth
above the anguished hearts of men
to heights unknown, Thy bare remove...

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Finally to Burn
(the Fall and Resurrection of Icarus)
by Michael R. Burch

Athena takes me
sometimes by the hand

and we go levitating
through strange Dreamlands

where Apollo sleeps
in his dark forgetting

and Passion seems
like a wise bloodletting

and all I remember
, upon awaking,

is: to Love sometimes
is like forsaking

one’s Being―to glide

heroically beyond thought,

forsaking the here
for the There and the Not.



O, finally to Burn,
gravity beyond escaping!

To plummet is Bliss
when the blisters breaking

rain down red scabs
on the earth’s mudpuddle...

Feathers and wax
and the watchers huddle...

Flocculent sheep,
O, and innocent lambs!,

I will rock me to sleep
on the waves’ iambs.



To sleep's sweet relief
from Love’s exhausting Dream,

for the Night has Wings
gentler than moonbeams―

they will flit me to Life
like a huge-eyed Phoenix

fluttering off
to quarry the Sphinx.



Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Quixotic, I seek Love
amid the tarnished

rusted-out steel
when to live is varnish.

To Dream―that’s the thing!
Aye, that Genie I’ll rub,

soak by the candle,
aflame in the tub.



Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Somewhither, somewhither
aglitter and strange,

we must moult off all knowledge
or perish caged.

*

I am reconciled to Life
somewhere beyond thought―

I’ll Live the Elsewhere,
I’ll Dream of the Naught.

Methinks it no journey;
to tarry’s a waste,

so fatten the oxen;
make a nice baste.

I’m coming, Fool Tom,
we have Somewhere to Go,

though we injure noone,
ourselves wildaglow.

Published by The Lyric and The Ekphrastic Review



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
a trillion oscillations, yet not lose
a second's beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth's; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.

If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what's been left to chance?
Should poets be more lax―their circumstance

as humble as it is?―or readers wince

to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
the moans of drones drown out the Chanticleer?

Originally published by The Eclectic Muse, then in The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

Published by Shot Glass Journal, Brief Poems, QuoteFancy, IdleHearts, AZquotes



Kin
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



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



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, Grassroots Poetry, Romantics Quarterly, Angle and Poetry Life & Times



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 one brief flurry: 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.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

for Norman Kraeft in memory of his beloved wife and fellow poet June Kysilko Kraeft

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him―obscene illusion!―

made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness―

her ghost beyond perfection―for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.



Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom

Come down, O, come down
from your high mountain tower.
How coldly the wind blows,
how late this chill hour...

and I cannot wait
for a meteor shower
to show you the time
must be now, or not ever.

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
now brittle and brown
as fierce northern gales sever.

Come down, or your heart
will grow cold as the weather
when winter devours
and spring returns never.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



In a Stolen Moment
by Kim Cherub (an alias of Michael R. Burch)

In a stolen moment,
when the clock’s hands complete their inevitable course
and sleep is the night’s dark spell,
I call it a curse,

seeking the force,
the font of candescent words, the electric thrill
tingling from brain to spine
to incessant quill―

the fever, the chill.
I know it as well as I know myself.
Time’s second hand stirs; not I; in my cell,
words spill.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Orpheus
by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who continue to write traditional poetry

The meter I had sought to find, perplexed,
was ripped from books of "verse" that read like prose.
I found it in sheet music, in long rows
of hologramic CDs, in sad wrecks
of long-forgotten volumes undisturbed
half-centuries by archivists, unscanned.
I read their fading numbers, frowned, perturbed―
why should such tattered artistry be banned?

I heard the sleigh bells’ jingles, vampish ads,
the supermodels’ babble, Seuss’s books
extolled in major movies, blurbs for abs...
A few poor thinnish journals crammed in nooks
are all I’ve found this late to sell to those
who’d classify free verse "expensive prose."

Originally published by The Chariton Review



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).

Originally published by Light Quarterly



Observance
by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old and rolling
carefully in their old age;
on the horizon youthful mountains
bathe themselves in windblown fountains...

By dying leaves and falling raindrops,
I have traced time's starts and stops,
and I have known the years to pass
almost unnoticed, whispering through treetops...

For here the valleys fill with sunlight
to the brim, then empty again,
and it seems that only I notice
how the years flood out, and in...

This is an early poem that made me feel like a real poet. I remember writing it in the break room of the McDonald's where I worked as a high school student. I believe that was at age 17. "Observance" was originally published by Nebo as "Reckoning." It was later published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Piedmont Literary Review, Verses, Romantics Quarterly, the anthology There is Something in the Autumn and Poetry Life & Times.



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.)

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms



Radiance
by Michael R. Burch

for Dylan Thomas

The poet delves earth’s detritus―hard toil―
for raw-edged nouns, barbed verbs, vowels’ lush bouquet;
each syllable his pen excretes―dense soil,
dark images impacted, rooted clay.

The poet sees the sea but feels its meaning―
the teeming brine, the mirrored oval flame
that leashes and excites its turgid surface...
then squanders years imagining love’s the same.

Belatedly he turns to what lies broken―
the scarred and furrowed plot he fiercely sifts,
among death’s sicksweet dungs and composts seeking
one element that scorches and uplifts.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

(for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right)

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kites―amazed,
in dream of shocks that suddenly came true...

but came almost as static―background noise,
a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned in to their kite strings, saucer-eared.

They thought to feel the lightning’s brilliant sparks
electrify their nerves, their brains; the smoke
of words poured from their overheated hearts.
The kite string, knotted, made a nifty rope...

You will not find them here; they blew away―
in tumbling flight beyond nights’ stars. They clung
by fingertips to satellites. They strayed
too far to remain mortal. Elfin, young,

their words are with us still. Devout and fey,
they wink at us whenever skies are gray.

Originally published by The Lyric



The Singer
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp

The sun that swoons at dusk
and seems to die—bright grace!—
breaks over distant shores
as a child’s uplifted face
takes up a song like yours.
We listen, and embrace
its warmth with dawning trust.



Dawn, to the Singer
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp

“O singer, sing to me—
I know the world’s awry—
I know how piteously
the hungry children cry.”

We hear you even now—
your voice is with us yet.
Your song did not desert us,
nor can our hearts forget.

“But I bleed warm and near,
And come another dawn
The world will still be here
When home and hearth are gone.”

Although the world seems colder,
your words will warm it yet.
Lie untroubled, still its compass
and guiding instrument.



The Composition of Shadows (I)
by Michael R. Burch

“I made it out of a mouthful of air.”―W. B. Yeats

We breathe and so we write; the night
hums softly its accompaniment.
Pale phosphors burn; the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants’
strange golden weight, each plosive’s shape―
curved like the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds’ shadows mass beneath bright glass
like singing voles curled in a maze
of blank white space. We touch a face―
long-frozen words trapped in a glaze

that insulates our hearts. Nowhere
can love be found. Just shrieking air.

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Rhyme, Candelabrum, Iambs & Trochees, Triplopia, Romantics Quarterly, Hidden Treasures (Selected Poem), ImageNation (UK), Yellow Bat Review, Poetry Life & Times, Vallance Review, Poetica Victorian



The Composition of Shadows (II)
by Michael R. Burch

We breathe and so we write;
the night
hums softly its accompaniment.

Pale phosphors burn;
the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean
we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants’

strange golden weight,
the blood’s debate
within the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds’ shadows mass
against bright glass,
within the white Labyrinthian maze.

Through simple grace,
I touch your face,
ah words! And I would gaze

the night’s dark length
in waning strength
to find the words to feel

such light again.
O, for a pen
to spell love so ethereal.

Originally published in a different version by The Lyric



The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay),
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,
for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,
for waltzes ending in a hush,
for rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames' exhausted, drifting ash,
and petals falling from the rose,...
I raise my cup before I drink,
saluting ghosts of loves long dead,
and silently propose a toast―
to joys set free, and those I fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme



These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age...

I.
A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time―alone,
not untouched.
And I am as they were

unsure

for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.
Ah, faithless lover―
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation―
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.
A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we seldom gauge Time’s speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.
Ungentle maiden―
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.
A measureless rhythm rules the night―
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.
So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills'
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar’s shrill, cryptic trills.
But I will not sleep this night, nor any...
how can I―when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
and a tear upon your pillowcase?

VII.
If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled savage lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today―
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude―
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone, by himself, to think.

VIII.
And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.
Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.

X.
A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.
This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these hallowed halls.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.

Published by MahMag (translated into Farsi by Mahnaz Badihian), Other Voices International, Thanal Online (India), Deviant Art, Portal Vapasin (Farsi)



To Please The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who still write musical verse

To please the poet, words must dance―
staccato, brisk, a two-step:
so!
Or waltz in elegance to time
of music―mild,
adagio.

To please the poet, words must chance
emotion in catharsis―
flame.
Or splash into salt seas, descend
in sheets of silver-shining
rain.

To please the poet, words must prance
and gallop, gambol, revel,
rail.
Or muse upon a moment―mute,
obscure, unsure, imperfect,
pale.

To please the poet, words must sing,
or croak, wart-tongued, imagining.

Originally published by The Lyric



The Po' Biz Explained
by Michael R. Burch

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The editor’s work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Performing Art
by Michael R. Burch

Who teaches the wren
in its drab existence
to explode into song?

What parodies of irony
does the jay espouse
with its sharp-edged tongue?

What instinctual memories
lend stunning brightness
to the strange dreams

of the dull gray slug
―spinning its chrysalis,
gluing rough seams―

abiding in darkness
its transformation,
till, waving damp wings,

it applauds its performance?
I am done with irony.
Life itself sings.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the "common crowd,"
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most stylish and best-dressed;
it seems he’d never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerks loved the "Hanging Judge" and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, "They'll crucify him!" The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case
by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
"It is obscene,"
he screamed,
"to expose the naked heart!"
The recorder (bewildered Society)
greeted this statement with applause.

"This man is no poet.
Just look―his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar!
He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words
or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an imposter!
I ask that his sentence be
the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster."
The jury left in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair,
"Please, let me answer to my peers."
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times. I wrote this poem around age 18 or 19.



The Century’s Wake
by Michael R. Burch

lines written at the close of the 20th century

Take me home. The party is over,
the century passed―no time for a lover.

And my heart grew heavy
as the fireworks hissed through the dark
over Central Park,
past high-towering spires to some backwoods levee,
hurtling banner-hung docks to the torchlit seas.

And my heart grew heavy;
I felt its disease―
its apathy,
wanting the bright, rhapsodic display
to last more than a single day.

If decay was its rite,
now it has learned to long
for something with more intensity,
more gaudy passion, more song―
like the huddled gay masses,
the wildly-cheering throng.

You ask me―
How can this be?
A little more flair,
or perhaps only a little more clarity.
I leave her tonight to the century’s wake;
she disappoints me.

Originally published by The Centrifugal Eye



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

There is a small cleanness about her,
as though she has always just been washed,
and there is a dull obedience to convention
in her accommodating slenderness
as she feints at her salad.

She has never heard of Faust, or Frost,
and she is unlikely to have been seen
rummaging through bookstores
for mementos of others
more difficult to name.

She might imagine “poetry”
to be something in common between us,
as we write, bridging the expanse
between convention and something...
something the world calls “art”
for want of a better word.

At night I scream
at the conventions of both our worlds,
at the distances between words
and their objects: distances
come lately between us,
like a clean break.

Originally published by Verse Libre



Nashville and Andromeda
by Michael R. Burch

I have come to sit and think in the darkness once again.
It is three a.m.; outside, the world sleeps...

How nakedly now and unadorned
the surrounding hills
expose themselves
to the lithographies of the detached moonlight―
******* daubed by the lanterns
of the ornamental barns,
firs ruffled like silks
casually discarded...

They lounge now―
indolent, languid, spread-eagled―
their wantonness a thing to admire,
like a lover’s ease idly tracing flesh...

They do not know haste,
lust, virtue, or any of the sanctimonious ecstasies of men,
yet they please
if only in the solemn meditations of their loveliness
by the ***** pen...

Perhaps there upon the surrounding hills,
another forsakes sleep
for the hour of introspection,
gabled in loneliness,
swathed in the pale light of Andromeda...

Seeing.
Yes, seeing,
but always ultimately unknowing
anything of the affairs of men.

Published by The Aurorean and The Centrifugal Eye



Resurrecting Passion
by Michael R. Burch

Last night, while dawn was far away
and rain streaked gray, tumescent skies,
as thunder boomed and lightning railed,
I conjured words, where passion failed...

But, oh, that you were mine tonight,
sprawled in this bed, held in these arms,
your ******* pale baubles in my hands,
our bodies bent to old demands...

Such passions we might resurrect,
if only time and distance waned
and brought us back together; now
I pray that this might be, somehow.

But time has left us twisted, torn,
and we are more apart than miles.
How have you come to be so far―
as distant as an unseen star?

So that, while dawn is far away,
my thoughts might not return to you,
I feed your portrait to the flames,
but as they feast, I burn for you.

Published by Songs of Innocence and The Chained Muse



Caveat
by Michael R. Burch

If only we were not so eloquent,
we might sing, and only sing, not to impress,
but only to enjoy, to be enjoyed.

We might inundate the earth with thankfulness
for light, although it dies, and make a song
of night descending on the earth like bliss,

with other lights beyond―not to be known―
but only to be welcomed and enjoyed,
before all worlds and stars are overthrown...

as a lover’s hands embrace a sleeping face
and find it beautiful for emptiness
of all but joy. There is no thought to love

but love itself. How senseless to redress,
in darkness, such becoming nakedness...

Originally published by Clementine Unbound



Imperfect Sonnet
by Michael R. Burch

A word before the light is doused: the night
is something wriggling through an unclean mind,
as rats creep through a tenement. And loss
is written cheaply with the moon’s cracked gloss
like lipstick through the infinite, to show
love’s pale yet sordid imprint on us. Go.

We have not learned love yet, except to cleave.
I saw the moon rise once... but to believe...
was of another century... and now...
I have the urge to love, but not the strength.

Despair, once stretched out to its utmost length,
lies couched in squalor, watching as the screen
reveals "love's" damaged images: its dreams...
and ******* limply, screams and screams.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



To the Post-Modern Muse, Floundering
by Michael R. Burch

The anachronism in your poetry
is that it lacks a future history.
The line that rings, the forward-sounding bell,
tolls death for you, for drowning victims tell
of insignificance, of eerie shoals,
of voices underwater. Lichen grows
to mute the lips of those men paid no heed,
and though you cling by fingertips, and bleed,
there is no lifeline now, for what has slipped
lies far beyond your grasp. Iron fittings, stripped,
have left the hull unsound, bright cargo lost.
The argosy of all your toil is rust.

The anchor that you flung did not take hold
in any harbor where repair is sold.

Originally published by Ironwood



Nightfall
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

Only the long dolor of dusk delights me now,
as I await death.
The rain has ruined the unborn corn,
and the wasting breath
of autumn has cruelly, savagely shorn
each ear of its radiant health.
As the golden sun dims, so the dying land seems to relinquish its vanishing wealth.

Only a few erratic, trembling stalks still continue to stand,
half upright,
and even these the winds have continually robbed of their once-plentiful,
golden birthright.
I think of you and I sigh, forlorn, on edge
with the rapidly encroaching night.
Ten thousand stillborn lilies lie limp, mixed with roses, unable to ignite.

Whatever became of the magical kernel, golden within
at the winter solstice?
What of its promised kingdom, Amen!, meant to rise again
from this balmless poultice,
this strange bottomland where one Scarecrow commands
dark legions of ravens and mice?
And what of the Giant whose bellows demand our negligible lives, his black vice?

I find one bright grain here aglitter with rain, full of promise and purpose
and drive.
Through lightning and hail and nightfalls and pale, cold sunless moons
it will strive
to rise up from its “place” on a network of lace, to the glory
of being alive.
Why does it bother, I wonder, my brother? O, am I unwise to believe?
But Jack had his beanstalk
and you had your poems
and the sun seems intent to ascend
and so I also must climb
to the end of my time,
however the story
may unwind
and
end.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Board
by Michael R. Burch

Accessible rhyme is never good.
The penalty is understood―
soft titters from dark board rooms where
the businessmen paste on their hair
and, Walter Mitties, woo the Muse
with reprimands of Dr. Seuss.

The best book of the age sold two,
or three, or four (but not to you),
strange copies of the ones before,
misreadings that delight the board.
They sit and clap; their revenues
fall trillions short of Mother Goose.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Confession
by Michael R. Burch

What shall I say to you, to confess,
words? Words that can never express
anything close to what I feel?

For words that seem tangible, real,
when I think them
become vaguely surreal when I put ink to them.

And words that I thought that I knew,
like "love" and "devotion"
never ring true.

While "passion"
sounds strangely like the latest fashion
or a perfume.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Revision
by Michael R. Burch

I found a stone
ablaze in a streambed,
honed to a flickering jewel
by all the clear,
swiftly-flowing
millennia of water...

and as I kneeled
to do it obeisance,
the homage of retrieval,
it occurred to me
that perhaps its muddied
underbelly

rooted precariously
in the muck
and excrescence
of its slow loosening
upward...

might not be finished,
like a poem
brilliantly faceted
but only half revised,
which sparkles
seductively
but is not yet worth

ecstatic digging.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Impotent
by Michael R. Burch

Tonight my pen
is barren
of passion, spent of poetry.

I hear your name
upon the rain
and yet it cannot comfort me.

I feel the pain
of dreams that wane,
of poems that falter, losing force.

I write again
words without end,
but I cannot control their course...

Tonight my pen
is sullen
and wants no more of poetry.

I hear your voice
as if a choice,
but how can I respond, or flee?

I feel a flame
I cannot name
that sends me searching for a word,

but there is none
not over-done,
unless it's one I never heard.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Grave Thoughts
by Michael R. Burch

as a poet i’m rather subVerse-ive;
as a writer i much prefer Curse-ive.
and why not be brave
on my way to the grave
since i doubt that i’ll end up reHearse-ive?

Originally published by The HyperTexts. “Subversive,” “cursive” and “rehearse-ive” are double entendres: subversive/below verse, cursive/curse, rehearsed/recited and re-hearsed (reincarnated to end up in a hearse again).



Pointed Art
by Michael R. Burch

The point of art is that
there is no point.
(A grinning, quick-dissolving cat
from Cheshire
must have told you that.)

The point of art is this―
the hiss
of Cupid’s bright bolt, should it miss,
is bliss
compared to Truth’s neurotic kiss.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Editor's Notes
by Michael R. Burch

Eat, drink and be merry
(tomorrow, be contrary).

(***** and complain
in bad refrain,
but please―not till I'm on the plane!)

Write no poem before its time
(in your case, this means never).

Linger over every word
(by which, I mean forever).

By all means, read your verse aloud.
I'm sure you'll be a star
(and just as distant, when I'm gone);
your poems are beauteous (afar).

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

The poet's condition
(bother tradition)
is whining contrition.
Supposedly sage,

his editor knows
his brain's in his toes
though he would suppose
to soon be the rage.

His readers are sure
his work's premature
or merely manure,
insipidly trite.

His mother alone
will answer the phone
(perhaps with a moan)
to hear him recite.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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.

Published by Icon and Tucumcari Literary Review



Artificial Smile
by Michael R. Burch

I’m waiting for my artificial teeth
to stretch belief, to hollow out the cob
of zealous righteousness, to grasp life’s stub
between clenched molars, and yank out the grief.

Mine must be art-official―zenlike Art―
a disembodied, white-enameled grin
of Cheshire manufacture. Part by part,
the human smile becomes mock porcelain.

Till in the end, the smile alone remains:
titanium-based alloys undestroyed
with graves’ worm-eaten contents, all the pains
of bridgework unrecalled, and what annoyed

us most about the corpses rectified
to quaintest dust. The Smile winks, deified.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Pity Clarity
by Michael R. Burch

Pity Clarity,
and, if you should find her,
release her from the tangled webs
of dusty verse that bind her.

And as for Brevity,
once the soul of wit―
she feels the gravity
of ironic chains and massive rhetoric.

And Poetry,
before you may adore her,
must first be freed
from those who for her loveliness would ***** her.

Published by Contemporary Rhyme, The Columbus Dispatch (Sunday, April 3, 2005) and Poem Today



Wonderland
by Michael R. Burch

We stood, kids of the Lamb, to put to test
the beatific anthems of the blessed,
the sentence of the martyr, and the pen’s
sincere religion. Magnified, the lens
shot back absurd reflections of each face―
a carnival-like mirror. In the space
between the silver backing and the glass,
we caught a glimpse of Joan, a frumpy lass
who never brushed her hair or teeth, and failed
to pass on GO, and frequently was jailed
for awe’s beliefs. Like Alice, she grew wee
to fit the door, then couldn’t lift the key.
We failed the test, and so the jury’s hung.
In Oz, “The Witch is Dead” ranks number one.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Album
by Michael R. Burch

I caress them—trapped in brittle cellophane—
and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flight—an old prop plane,
their blissful arc through alien blue skies ...

And I touch them here through leaves which—tattered, frayed—
are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects’ wings—pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never merged, remaining two ...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on furtive claws
as It scritched Its way into their hearts, depends
on sorrows such as theirs, and works Its jaws ...

and slavers for Its meat—those young, unwise,
who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Duet, Minor Key
by Michael R. Burch

Without the drama of cymbals
or the fanfare and snares of drums,
I present my case
stripped of its fine veneer:
Behold, thy instrument.

Play, for the night is long.

Originally published by Brief Poems



At Caedmon’s Grave
by Michael R. Burch

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 good 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



An Ecstasy of Fumbling
by Michael R. Burch

The poets believe
everything resolves to metaphor—
a distillation,
a vapor
beyond filtration,
although perhaps not quite as volatile as before.

The poets conceive
of death in the trenches
as the price of art,
not war,
fumbling with their masque-like
dissertations
to describe the Hollywood-like gore

as something beyond belief,
abstracting concrete bunkers to Achaemenid bas-relief.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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 agrees that 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.



Maker, Fakir, Curer
by Michael R. Burch

A poem should be a wild, unearthly cry
against the thought of lying in the dark,
doomed―never having seen bright sparks leap high,
without a word for flame, none for the mark
an ember might emblaze on lesioned skin.

A poet is no crafty artisan―
the maker of some crock. He dreams of flame
he never touched, but―fakir’s courtesan―
must dance obedience, once called by name.

Thin wand, divine!, this world is too the same―
all watery ooze and flesh. Let fire cure
and quickly harden here what can endure.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

The ancient English scops were considered to be makers: for instance, in William Dunbar’s “Lament for the Makiris.” But in some modern literary circles poets are considered to be fakers, with lies being as good as the truth where art is concerned. Hence, this poem puns on “fakirs” and dancing snakes. But according to Shakespeare the object is to leave something lasting, that will stand test of time. Hence, the idea of poems being cured in order to endure. The “thin wand” is the poet’s pen, divining the elixir―the magical fountain of youth―that makes poems live forever.



The Strangest Rain
by Michael R. Burch

"I ... am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur―and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves ..."―Emily Dickinson

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry."―Emily Dickinson

The strangest rain, a few bright sluggish drops,
unsure if they should fall, run through with sun,
came tumbling down and touched me, one by one,
too few to animate the shriveled crops
of nearby farmers (though their daughters might
feel each cool splash, a-shiver with delight).

I thought again of Emily Dickinson,
who felt the tingle down her spine, inspired
to lifting hairs, to nerves’ electric song
of passion for a thing so deep-desired
the heart and gut agree, and so must tremble
as all the neurons of the brain assemble
to whisper: This is love, but what is love?
Wrens darting rainbows, laughter high above.



You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As if you were set on fire from within,
the moon whitens your skin.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Please understand that when I awaken weeping
it's because I dreamed I was a lost child
searching the leaf-heaps for your hands in the darkness.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I’m no longer in love with her, that's certain ...
yet perhaps I love her still.
Love is so short, forgetting so long!
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



I love you only because I love you
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I love you only because I love you;
I am torn between loving and not loving you,
Between apathy and desire.
My heart vacillates between ice and fire.

I love you only because you’re the one I love;
I hate you deeply, but hatred
Bends me all the more toward you, so that the measure of my variableness
Is that I do not see you, but love you blindly.

Perhaps January’s frigid light will consume my heart with its cruel rays,
robbing me of any hope of peace.

In this tragic plot, I am the one who dies,
Love’s only victim,
And I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, my Love, in fire and blood.



Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you like coral or topaz,
or the blazing hearth’s incandescent white flame:
I love you as obscure things are embraced in the dark:
secretly, in shadows, unrevealed & unnamed.

I love you like shrubs that refuse to bloom
while pregnant with the radiance of mysterious flowers;
now thanks to your love an earthy fragrance
lives dimly in my body’s odors.

I love you without knowing how, when, why or where;
I love you forthrightly, without complications or care:
I love you this way because I know no other.

Here, where “I” no longer exists, nor “you”...
so close that your hand on my chest is my own,
so close that your eyes close gently on my dreams.



Every Day You Play
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Every day you play with Infinity’s rays.
Exquisite visitor, you arrive with the flowers and the water.
You are vastly more than this immaculate head I clasp tightly
like a cornucopia, every day, between my hands ...



Love Sonnet XI
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
I stalk the streets, silent and starving.
Bread does not satisfy me; dawn does not divert me
from my relentless pursuit of your fluid spoor.

I long for your liquid laughter,
for your sunburned hands like savage harvests.
I lust for your fingernails' pale marbles.
I want to devour your ******* like almonds, whole.

I want to ingest the sunbeams singed by your beauty,
to eat the aquiline nose from your aloof face,
to lick your eyelashes' flickering shade.

I pursue you, snuffing the shadows,
seeking your heart's scorching heat
like a puma prowling the heights of Quitratue.



The Book of Questions
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Is the rose ****
or is that just how she dresses?

Why do trees conceal
their spectacular roots?

Who hears the confession
of the getaway car?

Is there anything sadder
than a train standing motionless in the rain?



In El Salvador, Death
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death still surveils El Salvador.
The blood of murdered peasants has never clotted;
time cannot congeal it,
nor does the rain erase it from the roads.
Fifteen thousand were machine-gunned dead
by Martinez, the murderer.
To this day the coppery taste of blood still flavors
the land, bread and wine of El Salvador.



If You Forget Me
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I need you to know one thing ...
You know
how it goes:
if I gaze up at the glowing moon,
if observe the blazing autumn’s reddening branches from my window,
if I touch the impalpable ash of the charred log’s wrinkled body ...
everything returns me to you,
as if everything that exists
―all aromas, sights, solids―
were small boats
sailing toward those isles of yours that await me.

However ...
if little by little you stop loving me
then I shall stop loving you, little by little.

And if you suddenly
forget me,
do not bother to investigate,
for I shall have immediately
forgotten you
also.

If you think my love strange and mad―
this whirlwind of streaming banners
gusting through me,
so that you elect to leave me at the shore
where my heart lacks roots,
just remember that, on that very day,
at that very hour,
I shall raise my arms
and my roots will sail off
to find some more favorable land.

But
if each day
and every hour,
you feel destined to be with me,
if you greet me with implacable sweetness,
and if each day
and every hour
flowers blossom on your lips to entice me, ...
then ah my love,
oh my only, my own,
all that fire will be reinfernoed in me
and nothing within me will be extinguished or forgotten;
my love will feed on your love, my beloved,
and as long as you live it will be me in your arms ...
as long as you never leave mine.



Sonnet XLV
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don't wander far away, not even for a day, because―
how can I explain? A day is too long ...
and I’ll be waiting for you, like a man in an empty station
where the trains all stand motionless.

Don't leave me, my dear, not even for an hour, because―
then despair’s raindrops will all run blurrily together,
and the smoke that drifts lazily in search of a home
will descend hazily on me, suffocating my heart.

Darling, may your lovely silhouette never dissolve in the surf;
may your lashes never flutter at an indecipherable distance.
Please don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because then you'll have gone far too far
and I'll wander aimlessly, amazed, asking all the earth:
Will she ever return? Will she spurn me, dying?



My Dog Died
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My dog died;
so I buried him in the backyard garden
next to some rusted machine.

One day I'll rejoin him, over there,
but for now he's gone
with his shaggy mane, his crude manners and his cold, clammy nose,
while I, the atheist who never believed
in any heaven for human beings,
now believe in a paradise I'm unfit to enter.

Yes, I somehow now believe in a heavenly kennel
where my dog awaits my arrival
wagging his tail in furious friendship!

But I'll not indulge in sadness here:
why bewail a companion
who was never servile?

His friendship was more like that of a porcupine
preserving its prickly autonomy.

His was the friendship of a distant star
with no more intimacy than true friendship called for
and no false demonstrations:
he never clambered over me
coating my clothes with mange;
he never assaulted my knee
like dogs obsessed with ***.

But he used to gaze up at me,
giving me the attention my ego demanded,
while helping this vainglorious man
understand my concerns were none of his.

Aye, and with those bright eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd gaze up at me
contentedly;
it was a look he reserved for me alone
all his entire sweet, gentle life,
always merely there, never troubling me,
never demanding anything.

Aye, and often I envied his energetic tail
as we strode the shores of Isla Negra together,
in winter weather, wild birds swarming skyward
as my golden-maned friend leapt about,
supercharged by the sea's electric surges,
sniffing away wildly, his tail held *****,
his face suffused with the salt spray.

Joy! Joy! Joy!
As only dogs experience joy
in the shameless exuberance
of their guiltless spirits.

Thus there are no sad good-byes
for my dog who died;
we never once lied to each other.

He died, he's gone, I buried him;
that's all there is to it.



Tonight I will write the saddest lines
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I will write the saddest lines.
I will write, for example, “The night is less bright
and a few stars shiver in the distance
as I remember her unwarranted light ...”

Tonight I will write her the saddest lines:
that I loved her as she loved me too, sometimes,
all those long, lonely nights when I held her tight
and filled her ears with indecipherable rhymes ...

Then she loved me too, as I also loved her,
compelled by the spell of her enormous eyes.
Tonight I will write her the saddest lines
as I ponder love’s death and our mutual crimes.

Outside I hear night―silent, cold, dark, immense―
as these delicate words fall, useless as dew.
Oh, what does it matter that love came to naught
if love was false, or perhaps even true?

And yet I hear songs being sung in the distance.
How can I forget her, so soon since I lost her?
I seek to regain her, somehow bring her closer.
But my heart has been blinded; she will not appear!

Now moonlight and starlight whiten dark trees.
We also are ghosts, by love’s failing light.
My love has failed me, but how I once loved her!
My voice ... this cursed wind ... what use to recite?

Another’s. She will soon be another’s.
Her body, her voice, her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her! And why should I love her
when love is sad, short, mad, fickle, unwise?

Because of cold nights we clung through so closely,
I’m not satisfied to know she is gone.
And while I must end this hell I now suffer,
It’s sad to remember all love left undone.


Alien Nation
by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a "Christian" poet who believes in "hell"

On a lonely outpost on Mars
the astronaut practices “speech”
as alien to primates below
as mute stars winking high, out of reach.

And his words fall as bright and as chill
as ice crystals on Kilimanjaro―
far colder than Jesus’s words
over the “fortunate” sparrow.

And I understand how gentle Emily
felt, when all comfort had flown,
gazing into those inhuman eyes,
feeling zero at the bone.

Oh, how can I grok his arctic thought?
For if he is human, I am not.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Keywords/Tags: poems, poets, poetry, muse, goddess, rhythm, rhyme, creation, words, works, mrbpoems, mrbars

Published as the collection “Poems about Poems”
Geno Cattouse Mar 2014
Truth be told...as mysteries unfold
Let seven be one all falshoods undone.
                 Standing on the jagged cliffs
      Looking  inward.
Touched by the hand .....words revealed
Revealed........now and...always.
The revelator.
Enumerator
Enunciator
Eluminator
Written.

Who's that writter ?
John the revelator.
Michael R Burch Feb 2020
First they came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

"First they came for the Muslims" was published in Amnesty International’s "Words That Burn" anthology and is now being used as training material for budding human rights activists. My poem was inspired by and patterned after Martin Niemoller’s famous Holocaust poem. Niemoller, a German pastor, supported Adolph ****** in the early going, but ended up in a **** concentration camp and nearly lost his life. So his was a true poem based on his actual life experience. Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, genocide, apartheid, racism, intolerance, Jew, Jews, Muslim, Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, apathy, sisters, brothers, Islam, Islamic, God, religion, intolerance, race, racism, racist, discrimination, feminist, feminists, feminism, sexuality, gay, homosexual, homosexuals, LGBT, mrbmuslim, mrbpal, mrbnakba



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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.



Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness―as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now―
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness―time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?―insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask―

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?



I, too, have a Dream ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.



My Nightmare ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.



For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go ...
when lightning rails ...
when thunder howls ...
when hailstones scream ...
when winter scowls ...
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times and Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this―
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

Published by The Lyric, Promosaik (Germany), Setu (India) and Poetry Life & Times; translated into Arabic by Nizar Sartawi and into Italian by Mario Rigli

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza, who know all too well how fragile life and human happiness can be. What can I say, but that I hope, dream, wish and pray that one day ruthless men will no longer have power over the lives and happiness of innocents? Women, children and babies are not “terrorists” so why are they being punished collectively for the “crime” of having been born “wrong”? How can the government of Israel practice systematic racism and apartheid, and how can the government of the United States fund and support such a barbaric system?



who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same―
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

(In the poem "US" means both the United States and "us" the people of the world, wherever we live. The name "jesus" is uncapitalized while "Room" is capitalized because it seems evangelical Christians are more concerned about land and not sharing it with the less fortunate, than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus and his parents were refugees for whom there was "no Room" to be found. What would Jesus think of Christian scorn for the less fortunate, one wonders? What would he think of people adopting his name for their religion, then voting for someone like Trump, as four out of five evangelical Christians did, according to exit polls?)



Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.  

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus



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.



Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.



These are my translations of Holocaust poems by Ber Horvitz (also known as Ber Horowitz); his bio follows the poems. Poems about the Holocaust and Nakba often bear striking resemblances, especially when written from the perspective of a child.



Der Himmel
"The Heavens"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These skies
are leaden, heavy, gray ...
I long for a pair
of deep blue eyes.

The birds have fled
far overseas;
"Tomorrow I’ll migrate too,"
I said ...

These gloomy autumn days
it rains and rains.
Woe to the bird
Who remains ...



Doctorn
"Doctors"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Early this morning I bandaged
the lilac tree outside my house;
I took thin branches that had broken away
and patched their wounds with clay.

My mother stood there watering
her window-level flower bed;
The morning sun, quite motherly,
kissed us both on our heads!

What a joy, my child, to heal!
Finished doctoring, or not?
The eggs are nicely poached
And the milk's a-boil in the ***.



Broit
“Bread”
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness. Why?
On the hard uncomfortable floor the exhausted people lie.

Flung everywhere, scattered over the broken theater floor,
the exhausted people sleep. Night. Late. Too tired to snore.

At midnight a little boy cries wildly into the gloom:
"Mommy, I’m afraid! Let’s go home!”

His mother, reawakened into this frightful place,
presses her frightened child even closer to her breast …

"If you cry, I’ll leave you here, all alone!
A little boy must sleep ... this, now, is our new home.”

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness all around,
exhausted people sleeping on the hard ground.



"My Lament"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothingness enveloped me
as tender green toadstools
lie blanketed by snow
with its thick, heavy prayer shawl …
After that, nothing could hurt me …



Ber Horvitz aka Ber Horowitz (1895-1942): Born to village people in the woods of Maidan in the West Carpathians, Horowitz showed art talent early on. He went to gymnazie in Stanislavov, then served in the Austrian army during WWI, where he was a medic to Italian prisoners of war. He studied medicine in Vienna and was published in many Yiddish newspapers. Fluent in several languages, he translated Polish and Ukrainian to Yiddish. He also wrote poetry in Yiddish. A victim of the Holocaust, he was murdered in 1942 by the Nazis.


Second Sight
by Michael R. Burch

I never touched you—
that was my mistake.

Deep within,
I still feel the ache.

Can an unformed thing
eternally break?

Now, from a great distance,
I see you again

not as you are now,
but as you were then—

eternally present
and Sovereign.



The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

With every wearying year
the weight of the winter grows
and while the schoolgirl outgrows
her clothes,
the widow disappears
in hers.

Published by Angle and Poem Today



Annual
by Michael R. Burch

Silence
steals upon a house
where one sits alone
in the shadow of the itinerant letterbox,
watching the disconnected telephone
collecting dust ...

hearing the desiccate whispers of voices’
dry flutters,—
moths’ wings
brittle as cellophane ...

Curled here,
reading the yellowing volumes of loss
by the front porch light
in the groaning swing . . .
through thin adhesive gloss
I caress your face.

Published by The HyperTexts



US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

“Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.”

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

Published by The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse and Poetry Life & Times

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden’s love poem “Lullaby.”



Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen.
By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days’
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.
Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.
I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset’s scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no man has sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's "immortal" souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing . . .

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
and I bow my head to pray . . .

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs that I used to climb
when the wind was **** with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner’s dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright.

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow’s desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam . . .
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then . . . what then?

I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach . . .
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams . . .
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
and dream
and dream.

“Sea Dreams” is one of my longer and more ambitious early poems, along with the full version of “Jessamyn’s Song.” To the best of my recollection, I wrote “Sea Dreams” around age 18, circa 1976-1977. For years I thought I had written “Sea Dreams” around age 19 or 20, circa 1978. But then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about the poem in my freshman dorm, so the poem must have been started around age 18 or earlier. Dating my early poems has been a bit tricky, because I keep having little flashbacks that help me date them more accurately, but often I can only say, “I know this poem was written by about such-and-such a date, because ...”

The next poem, "Son," is a companion piece to “Sea Dreams” that was written around the same time and discussed in the same freshman dorm conversation. I remember showing this poem to a fellow student and he asked how on earth I came up with a poem about being a father who abandoned his son to live on an island! I think the meter is pretty good for the age at which it was written.

Son
by Michael R. Burch

An island is bathed in blues and greens
as a weary sun settles to rest,
and the memories singing
through the back of my mind
lull me to sleep as the tide flows in.

Here where the hours pass almost unnoticed,
my heart and my home will be till I die,
but where you are is where my thoughts go
when the tide is high.

[etc., see handwritten version, the father laments abandoning his son]

So there where the skylarks sing to the sun
as the rain sprinkles lightly around,
understand if you can
the mind of a man
whose conscience so long ago drowned.



Ode to Postmodernism, or, Bury Me at St. Edmonds!
by Michael R. Burch

"Bury St. Edmonds—Amid the squirrels, pigeons, flowers and manicured lawns of Abbey Gardens, one can plug a modem into a park bench and check e-mail, files or surf the Web, absolutely free."—Tennessean News Service. (The bench was erected free of charge by the British division of MSN, after a local bureaucrat wrote a contest-winning ode of sorts to MSN.)

Our post-modernist-equipped park bench will let
you browse the World Wide Web, the Internet,
commune with nature, interact with hackers,
design a virus, feed brown bitterns crackers.

Discretely-wired phone lines lead to plugs—
four ports we swept last night for nasty bugs,
so your privacy's assured (a *******'s fine)
while invited friends can scan the party line:

for Internet alerts on new positions,
the randier exploits of politicians,
exotic birds on web cams (DO NOT FEED!) .
The cybersex is great, it's guaranteed

to leave you breathless—flushed, free of disease
and malware viruses. Enjoy the trees,
the birds, the bench—this product of Our pen.
We won in with an ode to MSN.



Let Me Give Her Diamonds
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Let me give her diamonds
for my heart's
sharp edges.

Let me give her roses
for my soul's
thorn.

Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.

Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter
season.

Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.

Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.

Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts
require

the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.


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!

I believe I wrote the original version of this poem in my early twenties.



Chloe
by Michael R. Burch

There were skies onyx at night ... moons by day ...
lakes pale as her eyes ... breathless winds
******* tall elms; ... she would say
that we loved, but I figured we’d sinned.

Soon impatiens too fiery to stay
sagged; the crocus bells drooped, golden-limned;
things of brightness, rinsed out, ran to gray ...
all the light of that world softly dimmed.

Where our feet were inclined, we would stray;
there were paths where dead weeds stood untrimmed,
distant mountains that loomed in our way,
thunder booming down valleys dark-hymned.

What I found, I found lost in her face
while yielding all my virtue to her grace.



You Never Listened
by Michael R. Burch

You never listened,
though each night the rain
wove its patterns again
and trembled and glistened . . .

You were not watching,
though each night the stars
shone, brightening the tears
in her eyes palely fetching . . .

You paid love no notice,
though she lay in my arms
as the stars rose in swarms
like a legion of poets,

as the lightning recited
its opus before us,
and the hills boomed the chorus,
all strangely delighted . . .



Through the fields of solitude
by Hermann Allmers
translation by David B. Gosselin with Michael R. Burch

Peacefully, I rest in the tall green grass
For a long time only gazing as I lie,
Caught in the endless hymn of crickets,
And encircled by a wonderful blue sky.

And the lovely white clouds floating across
The depths of the heavens are like silky lace;
I feel as though my soul has long since fled,
Softly drifting with them through eternal space.



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 ...



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.



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky,
and the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our husks into some savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze,
blown high, upward yearning,
twin spirits returning
to the world of resplendence from which we were seized.

In the whispering night, when the mockingbird calls
while denuded vines barely cling to stone walls,
as the red-rocked rivers rush on to the sea,
like a bright Goddess calling
a meteor falling
may flare like desire through skeletal trees.

If you look to the east, you will see a reminder
of days that broke warmer and nights that fell kinder;
but you and I were not meant for this life,
a life of illusions
and painful delusions:
a life without meaning—unless it is life.

So turn from the east and look to the west,
to the stars—argent fire ablaze at God's breast—
but there you'll find nothing but dreams of lost days:
days lost forever,
departed, and never,
oh never, oh never shall they be regained.

So turn from those heavens—night’s pale host of stars—
to these scarred pitted mountains, these wild grotesque tors
which—looming in darkness—obscure lustrous seas.
We are men, we must sing
till enchanted vales ring;
we are men; though we wither, our spirits soar free.



and then i was made whole
by Michael R. Burch

... and then i was made whole,
but not a thing entire,
glued to a perch
in a gilded church,
strung through with a silver wire ...

singing a little of this and of that,
warbling higher and higher:
a thing wholly dead
till I lifted my head
and spat at the Lord and his choir.



Bowery Boys
by Michael R. Burch

Male bowerbirds have learned
that much respect is earned
when optical illusions
inspire wild delusions.

And so they work for hours
to line their manly bowers
with stones arranged by size
to awe and mesmerize.

It’d take a great detective
to grok the false perspective
they use to lure in cuties
to smooch and fill with cooties.

Like human politicians,
they love impressive fictions
as they lie in their randy causes
with props like the Wizard of Oz’s.



Final Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

Sleep peacefully—for now your suffering’s over.

Sleep peacefully—immune to all distress,
like pebbles unaware of raging waves.

Sleep peacefully—like fields of fragrant clover
unmoved by any motion of the wind.

Sleep peacefully—like clouds untouched by earthquakes.

Sleep peacefully—like stars that never blink
and have no thoughts at all, nor need to think.

Sleep peacefully—in your eternal vault,
immaculate, past perfect, without fault.



don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

don’t forget to remember
that Space is curved
(like your Heart)
and that even Light is bent
by your Gravity.

I dedicated this poem to the love of my life, but you are welcome to dedicate it to the love of yours, if you like it. The opening lines were inspired by a famous love poem by e. e. cummings. I went through a "cummings phase" around age 15 and wrote a number of poems "under the influence."

Published as the collection "First they came for the Muslims"

— The End —