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Johnny Zhivago Aug 2013
Spanish influenza
walking pneumonia
icepick headache
common cold
whooping cough
Diabetes
anorexia
getting old

flat foot
bad back
heel spur
heart attack
spasticus
autisticus
tongue tied
amb(i)dextrous

my weakness
is my forte
my sickness is  my skill
my illness
is my realness
it makes my life a thrill


Trying to fight this
bronchitis
gangrene
runny nose
frostbite
tooth decay
hat hair
broken bones

bed bound
shell-shocked
flea ridden
sinusitis
cholera
dropsy
eliphantitis
out-all-nightis

wom­b fever
winter fever
black water fever
remitting fever
ship fever
jail fever
camp fever
or schizophrenia

scarlet fever
tuberculosis
American plague
rock n roll
Wheezing
Paralysed
Got gas
In both holes

rabies
scabies
rickets
and SARS
man flu
bird flu
swine flew
from Mars

multiple sclerosis
tennis elbow-sis
stomach ulcers
and leukaemia
night blindness
hypothermia
lung cancer
sickle-cell anaemia

French pox
Lockjaw
Polio
Gout
Nostalgia
Dropsy
Knocked right
Out

Stuttering
Bellyacher
Anti-social
Leprosy
Sleep walker
Sleep talker
Absent minded
OCD

Tourettes, ****
Pyromania
tonsillitis
Conjunctivitis
Food poisoned!
Warted over
My Psoriasis
(Will I survive this?)

Measles
Malaria
Meningitis
Migraine
Scrum-pox
Worm fit
Water on
the brain

apparitions
seeing things
rattly chest
bad breath
la duzi
tormentation
inflammation
black death

measles
malaria
migrane
mumps
leprosy
lice and
leg bone
lumps

kleptomania
bubonic plague
black *****
feeling ****
bone shave
falling sickness
wanna stop
just cant quit

Huntington's and
Parkingson's and
Hare-lipped
Hay fever
Typhoid fever
Glandular fever
Night fever
And Hysteria

intellectual
dyslexia
dysfunctional
family
cancer crab
stillborn twin
bad blood
epilepsy

Parking spot
disabilities
all the wounds in
all the militaries
pity thee with
lost agility
lost babes or
infertility

ear infection
starvation
Hepatitis
E to A
smallpox
chicken pox
cow pox
what a day

tuberculosis
stuttering
panic stricken
star struck
scurvy
shingles
headless chicken
bad luck


paranoid
in the void
premature
*******
stomach ulcers
feeble pulses
chronicled
*******

autistic
gallstones
double-jointe­d
wrists and knees
consumption
bad digestion
quinsy palsy
ticks and fleas

amnesia
typhus
amnesia
heart failure
radiation
cholera
amnesia
bad behaviour

Hypochondriac?
By gosh, no!
Poorly are ye?
‘Fraid so.


nostalgia
        suffer me
wanderlust
suffer me
insomnia
suffer me
loneliness
let me be



god
complex
mother
complex
father
complex
ego
complex

­

its complicated
im superior
its complicated
im inferior
its complicated
im a short man
got ingrown hairs
got a bad tan



im suffering
ocd
im suffering
obesity
im suffering
jealousy
xenophobia
and nosebleeds



stokholm
syndrome
toxic shock
syndrome
got it down
syndrome
irritable bowel
syndrome

yellow nail
syndrome
stevens-johnson
syndrome
restless leg
syndrome
shoulder-hand
syndrome

lambert-eaton
syndrome
mi­ddle-lobe
syndrome
mobius
syndrome
pickwickian
syndrome

post rubella
syndrome
riley day
syndrome
straight back
syndrome
ulysess
syndrome



alcoholics
we are prone
drug addicts
we are prone
mind benders
we are prone
fortune spenders
we are prone



My illness, my illness
My illness is my realness

*Pick it up
Tide it over
Fight it off or
Cave in

Save it
Suffer it
Pass it on
When its Raining

bleed him
restrain him
shave his
head

he went from being
quite well
to being quite
dead.
unfinished but did you bother to the end?
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Modern Charon
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, have stood―paralyzed at the helm
watching onrushing, inevitable disaster.
I too have felt sweat (or ecstatic tears) plaster
damp hair to my eyes, as a slug’s dense film
becomes mucous-insulate. Always, thereafter
living in darkness, bright things overwhelm.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea. I wrote this poem in 2001 after the 911 terrorist attacks.



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.



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

Sunbathe,
ozone baby,
till your parched skin cracks
in the white-hot flash
of radiation.

Incantation
from your pale parched lips
shall not avail;
you made this hell.
Now burn.



Bikini
by Michael R. Burch

Undersea, by the shale and the coral forming,
by the shell’s pale rose and the pearl’s bright eye,
through the sea’s green bed of lank seaweed worming
like tangled hair where cold currents rise ...
something lurks where the riptides sigh,
something old, and odd, and wise.

Something old when the world was forming
now lifts its beak, its snail-blind eye,
and, with tentacles like Medusa's squirming,
it feels the cloud blot out the skies' ...
then shudders, settles with a sigh,
understanding man’s demise.



This poem has over 800,000 Google results for the eleventh line. That's a lot of cutting and pasting!

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?

Published in Amnesty International’s Words That Burn anthology, and by Borderless Journal (India), The Hindu (India), Matters India, New Age Bangladesh, Convivium Journal, PressReader (India) and Kracktivist (India)

It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by an outstanding organization like Amnesty International. A stated goal for the "Words That Burn" anthology is to teach students about human rights through poetry.



Warming Her Pearls
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Warming her pearls, her *******
gleam like constellations.
Her belly is a bit rotund ...
she might have stepped out of a Rubens.



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, Poetry Life & Times



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Poetry Porch/Sonnet Scroll



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Desire glides in on calico wings,
a breath of a moth
seeking a companionable light,

where it hovers, unsure,
sullen, shy or demure,
in the margins of night,

a soft blur.

With a frantic dry rattle
of alien wings,
it rises and thrums one long breathless staccato

and flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

And yet it returns
to the flame, its delight,
as long as it burns.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty ...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



Water and Gold
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy's a wan illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

You came to me as riches to a miser
when all is gold, or so his heart believes,
until he dies much thinner and much wiser,
his gleaming bones hauled off by chortling thieves.

You gave your heart too soon, too dear, too vastly;
I could not take it in; it was too much.
I pledged to meet your price, but promised rashly.
I died of thirst, of your bright Midas touch.

I dreamed you gave me water of your lips,
then sealed my tomb with golden hieroglyphs.

Published by The Lyric, Black Medina, The Eclectic Muse, Kritya (India), Shabestaneh (Iran), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Captivating Poetry (Anthology), Strange Road, Freshet, Shot Glass Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Famous Poets and Poems, Sonnetto Poesia, Poetry Life & Times



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.



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.

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," that dates to around age 14 or 15.



Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love of my life,
light of my morning―
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.

Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.



Stay With Me Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

Stay with me tonight;
be gentle with me as the leaves are gentle
falling to the earth.
And whisper, O my love,
how that every bright thing, though scattered afar,
retains yet its worth.

Stay with me tonight;
be as a petal long-awaited blooming in my hand.
Lift your face to mine
and touch me with your lips
till I feel the warm benevolence of your breath’s
heady fragrance like wine.

That which we had
when pale and waning as the dying moon at dawn,
outshone the sun.
And so lead me back tonight
through bright waterfalls of light
to where we shine as one.

Originally published by The Lyric



bachelorhoodwinked
by Michael R. Burch

u
are
charming
& disarming,
but mostly alarming
since all my resolve
dissolved!

u
are
chic
as a sheikh's
harem girl in the sheets
but my castle’s no longer my own
and my kingdom's been overthrown!



chrysalis
by Michael R. Burch

these are the days of doom
u seldom leave ur room
u live in perpetual gloom

yet also the days of hope
how to cope?
u pray and u *****

toward self illumination ...
becoming an angel
(pure love)

and yet You must love Your Self



Self Reflection
by Michael R. Burch

(for anyone struggling with self-image)

She has a comely form
and a smile that brightens her dorm ...
but she's grossly unthin
when seen from within;
soon a griefstricken campus will mourn.

Yet she'd never once criticize
a friend for the size of her thighs.
Do unto others—
sisters and brothers?
Yes, but also ourselves, likewise.



War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

Trump’s war is on children and their mothers.
"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." ― Gandhi

War is obsolete;
even the strange machinery of dread
weeps for the child in the street
who cannot lift her head
to reprimand the Man
who failed to countermand
her soft defeat.

But war is obsolete;
even the cold robotic drone
that flies far overhead
has sense enough to moan
and shudder at her plight
(only men bereft of Light
with hearts indurate stone
embrace war’s Siberian night.)

For war is obsolete;
man’s tribal “gods,” long dead,
have fled his awakening sight
while the true Sun, overhead,
has pity on her plight.
O sweet, precipitate Light!―
embrace her, reject the night
that leaves gentle fledglings dead.

For each brute ancestor lies
with his totems and his “gods”
in the slavehold of premature night
that awaited him in his tomb;
while Love, the ancestral womb,
still longs to give birth to the Light.
So which child shall we ****** tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?

Originally published by The Flea. While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump said that, as commander-in-chief of the American military, he would order American soldiers to track down and ****** women and children as "retribution" for acts of terrorism. When aghast journalists asked Trump if he could possibly have meant what he said, he verified more than once that he did. Keywords/Tags: war, terrorism, retribution, violence, ******, children, Gandhi, Trump, drones



In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free―
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.
This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.
I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.
We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina



Shock
by Michael R. Burch

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom―
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain ...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.

I may have been reading too many gothic ghost stories when I wrote this one! I think it shows a good touch with meter for a young poet, since I wrote it in my early teens.



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



Completing the Pattern
by Michael R. Burch

Walk with me now, among the transfixed dead
who kept life’s compact and who thus endure
harsh sentence here—among pink-petaled beds
and manicured green lawns. The sky’s azure,
pale blue once like their eyes, will gleam blood-red
at last when sunset staggers to the door
of each white mausoleum, to inquire—
What use, O things of erstwhile loveliness?



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Published by Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Webring



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



White in the Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

White in the shadows
I see your face,
unbidden. Go, tell
Love it is commonplace;

tell Regret it is not so rare.

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.
Lost in darkness, I fear
the past is our resting place.

Published by Carnelian, The Chained Muse, Poetry Life & Times, A-Poem-A-Day and in a YouTube video by Aurora G. with the titles “Ghost,” “White Goddess” and “White in the Shadows”



The Octopi Jars
by Michael R. Burch

Long-vacant eyes
now lodged in clear glass,
a-swim with pale arms
as delicate as angels'...

you are beyond all hope
of salvage now...
and yet I would pause,
no fear!,
to once touch
your arcane beaks...

I, more alien than you
to this imprismed world,
notice, most of all,
the scratches on the inside surfaces
of your hermetic cells ...

and I remember documentaries
of albino Houdinis
slipping like wraiths
over the walls of shipboard aquariums,
slipping down decks'
brine-lubricated planks,
spilling jubilantly into the dark sea,
parachuting through clouds of pallid ammonia...

and I know now in life you were unlike me:
your imprisonment was never voluntary.



The Children of Gaza

Nine of my poems have been set to music by the composer Eduard de Boer and have been performed in Europe by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab. My poems that became “The Children of Gaza” were written from the perspective of Palestinian children and their mothers. On this page the poems come first, followed by the song lyrics, which have been adapted in places to fit the music …



Epitaph for a Child of Gaza
by Michael R. Burch

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



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 ...



For a Child of Gaza, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails
when thunder howls
when hailstones scream
while winter scowls
and 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?



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of Gaza and their mothers

I pray tonight
the starry Light
might
surround you.

I pray
by 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.



Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.



Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza and their children

There never was a fonder smile
than mother’s smile, no softer touch
than mother’s touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than “much.”

So more than “much,” much more than “all.”
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother’s there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father’s back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,

then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother’s tender smile
will leap and follow after 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?



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?”



My nightmare ...

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.
―The Child Poets of Gaza (written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza)



I, too, have a dream ...

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.
―The Child Poets of Gaza (written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza)



Suffer the Little Children
by Nakba

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?
―Nakba is an alias of Michael R. Burch



Here We Shall Remain
by Tawfiq Zayyad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like twenty impossibilities
in Lydda, Ramla and Galilee ...
here we shall remain.

Like brick walls braced against your chests;
lodged in your throats
like shards of glass
or prickly cactus thorns;
clouding your eyes
like sandstorms.

Here we shall remain,
like brick walls obstructing your chests,
washing dishes in your boisterous bars,
serving drinks to our overlords,
scouring your kitchens' filthy floors
in order to ****** morsels for our children
from between your poisonous fangs.

Here we shall remain,
like brick walls deflating your chests
as we face our deprivation clad in rags,
singing our defiant songs,
chanting our rebellious poems,
then swarming out into your unjust streets
to fill dungeons with our dignity.

Like twenty impossibilities
in Lydda, Ramla and Galilee,
here we shall remain,
guarding the shade of the fig and olive trees,
fermenting rebellion in our children
like yeast in dough.

Here we wring the rocks to relieve our thirst;
here we stave off starvation with dust;
but here we remain and shall not depart;
here we spill our expensive blood
and do not hoard it.

For here we have both a past and a future;
here we remain, the Unconquerable;
so strike fast, penetrate deep,
O, my roots!



Labor Pains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight the wind wafts pollen through ruined fields and homes.
The earth shivers with love, with the agony of giving birth,
while the Invader spreads stories of submission and surrender.

O, Arab Aurora!

Tell the Usurper: childbirth’s a force beyond his ken
because a mother’s wracked body reveals a rent that inaugurates life,
a crack through which light dawns in an instant
as the blood’s rose blooms in the wound.



Hamza
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hamza was one of my hometown’s ordinary men
who did manual labor for bread.

When I saw him recently,
the land still wore its mourning dress in the solemn windless silence
and I felt defeated.

But Hamza-the-unextraordinary said:
“Sister, our land’s throbbing heart never ceases to pound,
and it perseveres, enduring the unendurable, keeping the secrets of mounds and wombs.
This land sprouting cactus spikes and palms also births freedom-fighters.
Thus our land, my sister, is our mother!”

Days passed and Hamza was nowhere to be seen,
but I felt the land’s belly heaving in pain.
At sixty-five Hamza’s a heavy burden on her back.

“Burn down his house!”
some commandant screamed,
“and slap his son in a prison cell!”

As our town’s military ruler later explained
this was necessary for law and order,
that is, an act of love, for peace!

Armed soldiers surrounded Hamza’s house;
the coiled serpent completed its circle.

The bang at his door came with an ultimatum:
“Evacuate, **** it!'
So generous with their time, they said:
“You can have an hour, yes!”

Hamza threw open a window.
Face-to-face with the blazing sun, he yelled defiantly:
“Here in this house I and my children will live and die, for Palestine!”
Hamza's voice echoed over the hemorrhaging silence.

An hour later, with impeccable timing, Hanza’s house came crashing down
as its rooms were blown sky-high and its bricks and mortar burst,
till everything settled, burying a lifetime’s memories of labor, tears, and happier times.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down one of our town’s streets ...
Hamza-the-unextraordinary man who remained as he always was:
unshakable in his determination.



Enough for Me
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Enough for me to lie in the earth,
to be buried in her,
to sink meltingly into her fecund soil, to vanish ...
only to spring forth like a flower
brightening the play of my countrymen's children.

Enough for me to remain
in my native soil's embrace,
to be as close as a handful of dirt,
a sprig of grass,
a wildflower.



Palestine
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
April's blushing advances,
the aroma of bread warming at dawn,
a woman haranguing men,
the poetry of Aeschylus,
love's trembling beginnings,
a boulder covered with moss,
mothers who dance to the flute's sighs,
and the invaders' fear of memories.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
September's rustling end,
a woman leaving forty behind, still full of grace, still blossoming,
an hour of sunlight in prison,
clouds taking the shapes of unusual creatures,
the people's applause for those who mock their assassins,
and the tyrant's fear of songs.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings!
In the past she was called Palestine
and tomorrow she will still be called Palestine.
My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life!



Distant light
by Walid Khazindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.
If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from the tips of your fingers
and release a smile—that shy, tentative smile—
from the imprisoned anguish I see.
Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
shielded by shade from a glaring sun?
Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary, and silent?
Darkness increases; we must remain vigilant
and this distant light is our only consolation—
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has been flickering,
in danger of going out.
Come to me, closer and closer.
I don't want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let's stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

Walid Khazindar was born in 1950 in Gaza City. He is considered one of the best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997.



Excerpt from “Speech of the Red Indian”
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let's give the earth sufficient time to recite
the whole truth ...
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

In tombs you build
the dead lie sleeping.
Over bridges you *****
file the newly slain.

There are spirits who light up the night like fireflies.
There are spirits who come at dawn to sip tea with you,
as peaceful as the day your guns mowed them down.

O, you who are guests in our land,
please leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to sit and ponder
the conditions for peace
in your treaty with the dead.



Existence
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In my solitary life, I was a lost question;
in the encompassing darkness,
my answer lay concealed.

You were a bright new star
revealed by fate,
radiating light from the fathomless darkness.

The other stars rotated around you
—once, twice —
until I perceived
your unique radiance.

Then the bleak blackness broke
and in the twin tremors
of our entwined hands
I had found my missing answer.

Oh you! Oh you intimate, yet distant!
Don't you remember the coalescence
Of our spirits in the flames?
Of my universe with yours?
Of the two poets?
Despite our great distance,
Existence unites us.



Nothing Remains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, we’re together,
but tomorrow you'll be hidden from me again,
thanks to life’s cruelty.

The seas will separate us ...
Oh!—Oh!—If I could only see you!
But I'll never know ...
where your steps led you,
which routes you took,
or to what unknown destinations
your feet were compelled.

You will depart and the thief of hearts,
the denier of beauty,
will rob us of all that's dear to us,
will steal our happiness,
leaving our hands empty.

Tomorrow at dawn you'll vanish like a phantom,
dissipating into a delicate mist
dissolving quickly in the summer sun.

Your scent—your scent!—contains the essence of life,
filling my heart
as the earth absorbs the lifegiving rain.

I will miss you like the fragrance of trees
when you leave tomorrow,
and nothing remains.

Just as everything beautiful and all that's dear to us
is lost—lost!—when nothing remains.



Identity Card
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Record!
I am an Arab!
And my identity card is number fifty thousand.
I have eight children;
the ninth arrives this autumn.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
Employed at the quarry,
I have eight children.
I provide them with bread,
clothes and books
from the bare rocks.
I do not supplicate charity at your gates,
nor do I demean myself at your chambers' doors.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
I have a name without a title.
I am patient in a country
where people are easily enraged.
My roots
were established long before the onset of time,
before the unfolding of the flora and fauna,
before the pines and the olive trees,
before the first grass grew.
My father descended from plowmen,
not from the privileged classes.
My grandfather was a lowly farmer
neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Still, they taught me the pride of the sun
before teaching me how to read;
now my house is a watchman's hut
made of branches and cane.
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name, but no title!

Record!
I am an Arab!
You have stolen my ancestors' orchards
and the land I cultivated
along with my children.
You left us nothing
but these bare rocks.
Now will the State claim them
as it has been declared?

Therefore!
Record on the first page:
I do not hate people
nor do I encroach,
but if I become hungry
I will feast on the usurper's flesh!
Beware!
Beware my hunger
and my anger!

NOTE: Darwish was married twice, but had no children. In the poem above, he is apparently speaking for his people, not for himself personally.



Passport
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

They left me unrecognizable in the shadows
that bled all colors from this passport.
To them, my wounds were novelties—
curious photos for tourists to collect.
They failed to recognize me. No, don't leave
the palm of my hand bereft of sun
when all the trees recognize me
and every song of the rain honors me.
Don't set a wan moon over me!

All the birds that flocked to my welcoming wave
as far as the distant airport gates,
all the wheatfields,
all the prisons,
all the albescent tombstones,
all the barbwired boundaries,
all the fluttering handkerchiefs,
all the eyes—
they all accompanied me.
But they were stricken from my passport
shredding my identity!

How was I stripped of my name and identity
on soil I tended with my own hands?
Today, Job's lamentations
re-filled the heavens:
Don't make an example of me, not again!
Prophets! Gentlemen!—
Don't require the trees to name themselves!
Don't ask the valleys who mothered them!
My forehead glistens with lancing light.
From my hand the riverwater springs.
My identity can be found in my people's hearts,
so invalidate this passport!



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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



Piercing the Shell

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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



gimME that ol’ time religion!
by michael r. burch

fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-dee,
jesus loves and understands ME!
safe in his grace, I’LL **** them to hell—
the strumpet, the harlot, the wild jezebel,
the alky, the druggie, all queers short and tall!
let them drink ashes and wormwood and gall,
’cause fiddle-dee-DUMB, fiddle-dee-WEEEEEEEEEee ...
jesus loves and understands
ME!



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.



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.



Bittersight
by Michael R. Burch

for Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri, an ancient antinatalist poet

To be plagued with sight
in the Land of the Blind,
—to know birth is death
and that Death is kind—
is to be flogged like Eve
(stripped, sentenced and fined)
because evil is “good”
as some “god” has defined.



In His Kingdom of Corpses
by Michael R. Burch

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many enraged discourses,
high, high from some mountain peak
where He’s lectured man on compassion
while the sparrows around Him fell,
and babes, for His meager ration
of rain, died and went to hell,
unbaptized, for that’s His fashion.

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to vent
in many obscure discourses
on the need for man to repent,
to admit that he’s a sinner;
give up ***, and riches, and fame;
be disciplined at his dinner
though always he dies the same,
whether fatter or thinner.

In his kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many absurd discourses
of man’s Ego, precipitous Peak!,
while demanding praise and worship,
and the bending of every knee.
And though He sounds like the Devil,
all religious men now agree
He loves them indubitably.



Uyghur Poetry Translations

With my translations I am trying to build awareness of the plight of Uyghur poets and their people, who are being sent in large numbers to Chinese "reeducation" concentration camps.

Perhat Tursun (1969-????) is one of the foremost living Uyghur language poets, if he is still alive. Unfortunately, Tursun was "disappeared" into a Chinese "reeducation" concentration camp where extreme psychological torture is the norm. According to a disturbing report he was later "hospitalized." Apparently no one knows his present whereabouts or condition, if he has one. According to John Bolton, when Donald Trump learned of these "reeducation" concentration camps, he told Chinese President Xi Jinping it was "exactly the right thing to do." Trump’s excuse? "Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal."

Elegy
by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"Your soul is the entire world."
―Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Asylum seekers, will you recognize me among the mountain passes' frozen corpses?
Can you identify me here among our Exodus's exiled brothers?
We begged for shelter but they lashed us bare; consider our naked corpses.
When they compel us to accept their massacres, do you know that I am with you?

Three centuries later they resurrect, not recognizing each other,
Their former greatness forgotten.
I happily ingested poison, like a fine wine.
When they search the streets and cannot locate our corpses, do you know that I am with you?

In that tower constructed of skulls you will find my dome as well:
They removed my head to more accurately test their swords' temper.
When before their swords our relationship flees like a flighty lover,
Do you know that I am with you?

When men in fur hats are used for target practice in the marketplace
Where a dying man's face expresses his agony as a bullet cleaves his brain
While the executioner's eyes fail to comprehend why his victim vanishes, ...
Seeing my form reflected in that bullet-pierced brain's erratic thoughts,
Do you know that I am with you?

In those days when drinking wine was considered worse than drinking blood,
did you taste the flour ground out in that blood-turned churning mill?
Now, when you sip the wine Ali-Shir Nava'i imagined to be my blood
In that mystical tavern's dark abyssal chambers,
Do you know that I am with you?

TRANSLATOR NOTES: This is my interpretation (not necessarily correct) of the poem's frozen corpses left 300 years in the past. For the Uyghur people the Mongol period ended around 1760 when the Qing dynasty invaded their homeland, then called Dzungaria. Around a million people were slaughtered during the Qing takeover, and the Dzungaria territory was renamed Xinjiang. I imagine many Uyghurs fleeing the slaughters would have attempted to navigate treacherous mountain passes. Many of them may have died from starvation and/or exposure, while others may have been caught and murdered by their pursuers. If anyone has a better explanation, they are welcome to email me at mikerburch@gmail.com (there is an "r" between my first and last names).



The Fog and the Shadows
adapted from a novel by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“I began to realize the fog was similar to the shadows.”

I began to realize that, just as the exact shape of darkness is a shadow,
even so the exact shape of fog is disappearance
and the exact shape of a human being is also disappearance.
At this moment it seemed my body was vanishing into the human form’s final state.

After I arrived here,
it was as if the danger of getting lost
and the desire to lose myself
were merging strangely inside me.

While everything in that distant, gargantuan city where I spent my five college years felt strange to me; and even though the skyscrapers, highways, ditches and canals were built according to a single standard and shape, so that it wasn’t easy to differentiate them, still I never had the feeling of being lost. Everyone there felt like one person and they were all folded into each other. It was as if their faces, voices and figures had been gathered together like a shaman’s jumbled-up hair.

Even the men and women seemed identical.
You could only tell them apart by stripping off their clothes and examining them.
The men’s faces were beardless like women’s and their skin was very delicate and unadorned.
I was always surprised that they could tell each other apart.
Later I realized it wasn’t just me: many others were also confused.

For instance, when we went to watch the campus’s only TV in a corridor of a building where the seniors stayed when they came to improve their knowledge. Those elderly Uyghurs always argued about whether someone who had done something unusual in an earlier episode was the same person they were seeing now. They would argue from the beginning of the show to the end. Other people, who couldn’t stand such endless nonsense, would leave the TV to us and stalk off.

Then, when the classes began, we couldn’t tell the teachers apart.
Gradually we became able to tell the men from the women
and eventually we able to recognize individuals.
But other people remained identical for us.

The most surprising thing for me was that the natives couldn’t differentiate us either.
For instance, two police came looking for someone who had broken windows during a fight at a restaurant and had then run away.
They ordered us line up, then asked the restaurant owner to identify the culprit.
He couldn’t tell us apart even though he inspected us very carefully.
He said we all looked so much alike that it was impossible to tell us apart.
Sighing heavily, he left.



The Encounter
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I asked her, why aren’t you afraid? She said her God.
I asked her, anything else? She said her People.
I asked her, anything more? She said her Soul.
I asked her if she was content? She said, I am Not.



The Distance
by Tahir Hamut
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We can’t exclude the cicadas’ serenades.
Behind the convex glass of the distant hospital building
the nurses watch our outlandish party
with their absurdly distorted faces.

Drinking watered-down liquor,
half-****, descanting through the open window,
we speak sneeringly of life, love, girls.
The cicadas’ serenades keep breaking in,
wrecking critical parts of our dissertations.

The others dream up excuses to ditch me
and I’m left here alone.

The cosmopolitan pyramid
of drained bottles
makes me feel
like I’m in a Turkish bath.

I lock the door:
Time to get back to work!

I feel like doing cartwheels.
I feel like self-annihilation.



Refuge of a Refugee
by Ablet Abdurishit Berqi aka Tarim
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lack a passport,
so I can’t leave legally.
All that’s left is for me to smuggle myself to safety,
but I’m afraid I’ll be beaten black and blue at the border
and I can’t afford the trafficker.

I’m a smuggler of love,
though love has no national identity.
Poetry is my refuge,
where a refugee is most free.

The following excerpts, translated by Anne Henochowicz, come from an essay written by Tang Danhong about her final meeting with Dr. Ablet Abdurishit Berqi, aka Tarim. Tarim is a reference to the Tarim Basin and its Uyghur inhabitants...

I’m convinced that the poet Tarim Ablet Berqi the associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute, has been sent to a “concentration camp for educational transformation.” This scholar of Uyghur literature who conducted postdoctoral research at Israel’s top university, what kind of “educational transformation” is he being put through?

Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, has said it’s “like the instruction at school, the order of the military, and the security of prison. We have to break their blood relations, their networks, and their roots.”

On a scorching summer day, Tarim came to Tel Aviv from Haifa. In a few days he would go back to Urumqi. I invited him to come say goodbye and once again prepared Sichuan cold noodles for him. He had already unfriended me on Facebook. He said he couldn’t eat, he was busy, and had to hurry back to Haifa. He didn’t even stay for twenty minutes. I can’t even remember, did he sit down? Did he have a glass of water? Yet this farewell shook me to my bones.

He said, “Maybe when I get off the plane, before I enter the airport, they’ll take me to a separate room and beat me up, and I’ll disappear.”

Looking at my shocked face, he then said, “And maybe nothing will happen …”

His expression was sincere. To be honest, the Tarim I saw rarely smiled. Still, layer upon layer blocked my powers of comprehension: he’s a poet, a writer, and a scholar. He’s an associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute. He can get a passport and come to Israel for advanced studies. When he goes back he’ll have an offer from Sichuan University to be a professor of literature … I asked, “Beat you up at the airport? Disappear? On what grounds?”

“That’s how Xinjiang is,” he said without any surprise in his voice. “When a Uyghur comes back from being abroad, that can happen.”…



This poem helps us understand the nomadic lifestyle of many Uyghurs, the hardships they endure, and the character it builds...

Iz (“Traces”)
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We were children when we set out on this journey;
Now our grandchildren ride horses.

We were just a few when we set out on this arduous journey;
Now we're a large caravan leaving traces in the desert.

We leave our traces scattered in desert dunes' valleys
Where many of our heroes lie buried in sandy graves.

But don't say they were abandoned: amid the cedars
their resting places are decorated by springtime flowers!

We left the tracks, the station... the crowds recede in the distance;
The wind blows, the sand swirls, but here our indelible trace remains.

The caravan continues, we and our horses become thin,
But our great-grand-children will one day rediscover those traces.



My Feelings
by Dolqun Yasin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The light sinking through the ice and snow,
The hollyhock blossoms reddening the hills like blood,
The proud peaks revealing their ******* to the stars,
The morning-glories embroidering the earth’s greenery,
Are not light,
Not hollyhocks,
Not peaks,
Not morning-glories;
They are my feelings.

The tears washing the mothers’ wizened faces,
The flower-like smiles suddenly brightening the girls’ visages,
The hair turning white before age thirty,
The night which longs for light despite the sun’s laughter,
Are not tears,
Not smiles,
Not hair,
Not night;
They are my nomadic feelings.

Now turning all my sorrow to passion,
Bequeathing to my people all my griefs and joys,
Scattering my excitement like flowers festooning fields,
I harvest all these, then tenderly glean my poem.

Therefore the world is this poem of mine,
And my poem is the world itself.



To My Brother the Warrior
by Téyipjan Éliyow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I accompanied you,
the commissioners called me a child.
If only I had been a bit taller
I might have proved myself in battle!

The commission could not have known
my commitment, despite my youth.
If only they had overlooked my age and enlisted me,
I'd have given that enemy rabble hell!

Now, brother, I’m an adult.
Doubtless, I’ll join the service soon.
Soon enough, I’ll be by your side,
battling the enemy: I’ll never surrender!

Keywords/Tags: Uyghur, translation, Uighur, Xinjiang, elegy, Kafka, China, Chinese, reeducation, prison, concentration camp, desert, nomad, nomadic, race, racism, discrimination, Islam, Islamic, Muslim, mrbuyghur



Free Fall to Liftoff
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleam
in his still-keen eye,
                                 and I understand his desire
to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...



The One True Poem
by Michael R. Burch

Love was not meaningless ...
nor your embrace, nor your kiss.

And though every god proved a phantom,
still you were divine to your last dying atom ...

So that when you are gone
and, yea, not a word remains of this poem,

even so,
We were One.



The Poem of Poems
by Michael R. Burch

This is my Poem of Poems, for you.
Every word ineluctably true:
I love you.



Peace Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

Be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.

Be one with the buffalo cropping the grass to a safer height.

Seek the composure of the great depths, barely moved by exterior storms.

Lift your face to the dawning light; feel how it warms.

And be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.



Sometimes the Dead
by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes we catch them out of the corners of our eyes—
the pale dead.
After they have fled
the gourds of their bodies, like escaping fragrances they rise.

Once they have become a cloud’s mist, sometimes like the rain
they descend;
they appear, sometimes silver like laughter,
to gladden the hearts of men.

Sometimes like a pale gray fog, they drift
unencumbered, yet lumbrously,
as if over the sea
there was the lightest vapor even Atlas could not lift.

Sometimes they haunt our dreams like forgotten melodies
only half-remembered.
Though they lie dismembered
in black catacombs, sepulchers and dismal graves; although they have committed felonies,

yet they are us. Someday soon we will meet them in the graveyard dust
blood-engorged, but never sated
since Cain slew Abel.
But until we become them, let us steadfastly forget them, even as we know our children must ...



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, 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



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



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 . . .



Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.



Ultimate Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

he now faces the Ultimate Sunset,
his body like the leaves that fray as they dry,
shedding their vital fluids (who knows why?)
till they’ve become even lighter than the covering sky,
ready to fly ...



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleaming
in his still-keen eye,
and I understand his desire
to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons . . .
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears . . .
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
―a man as large as I left―
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim―

"My father!"
"My son!"

NOTE: “Sanctuary at Dawn” was written either in high school or during my first two years of college.



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfathers George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Paul Ray Burch Sr.

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

and remind me that,
once, upon a star,
you taught me

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

and seemed to speak of times before
when you clasped my small glad hand
in your wise paw

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .



Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

With gentleness and fine and tender will,
attend upon them still;
thou art the grass.

Nor let men’s feet here muddy as they pass
thy subtle undulations, nor depress
for long the comforts of thy lovingness,

nor let the fuse
of time wink out amid the violets.
They have their use―

to wave, to grow, to gleam, to lighten their paths,
to shine sweet, transient glories at their feet.
Thou art the grass;

make them complete.



The Composition of Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who write late at night

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 (Poem of the Week), Triplopia, Romantics Quarterly, Hidden Treasures (Selected Poem), ImageNation (United Kingdom), Yellow Bat Review, Poetry Life & Times, Vallance Review, Poetica Victorian



First Steps
by Michael R. Burch

for Caitlin Shea Murphy

To her a year is like infinity,
each day—an adventure never-ending.
She has no concept of time,
but already has begun the climb—
from childhood to womanhood recklessly ascending.

I would caution her, "No! Wait!
There will be time enough another day ...
time to learn the Truth
and to slowly shed your youth,
but for now, sweet child, go carefully on your way! ..."

But her time is not a time for cautious words,
nor a time for measured, careful understanding.
She is just certain
that, by grabbing the curtain,
in a moment she will finally be standing!

Little does she know that her first few steps
will hurtle her on her way
through childhood to adolescence,
and then, finally, pubescence . . .
while, just as swiftly, I’ll be going gray!



brrExit
by Michael R. Burch

what would u give
to simply not exist—
for a painless exit?
he asked himself, uncertain.

then from behind
the hospital room curtain
a patient screamed—
"my life!"



Vacuum
by Michael R. Burch

Over hushed quadrants
forever landlocked in snow,
time’s senseless winds blow ...

leaving odd relics of lives half-revealed,
if still mostly concealed ...
such are the things we are unable to know

that once intrigued us so.

Come then, let us quickly repent
of whatever truths we’d once determined to learn:
for whatever is left, we are unable to discern.

There’s nothing left of us; it’s time to go.



Spring
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Young lovers,
greeting the spring
fling themselves downhill,
making cobblestones ring
with their wild leaps and arcs,
like ecstatic sparks
struck from coal.

What is their brazen goal?

They grab at whatever passes,
so we can only hazard guesses.
But they rear like prancing steeds
raked by brilliant spurs of need,
Young lovers.



Oft in My Thought
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

So often in my busy mind I sought,
Around the advent of the fledgling year,
For something pretty that I really ought
To give my lady dear;
But that sweet thought's been wrested from me, clear,
Since death, alas, has sealed her under clay
And robbed the world of all that's precious here―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

For me to keep my manner and my thought
Acceptable, as suits my age's hour?
While proving that I never once forgot
Her worth? It tests my power!
I serve her now with masses and with prayer;
For it would be a shame for me to stray
Far from my faith, when my time's drawing near—
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

Now earthly profits fail, since all is lost
And the cost of everything became so dear;
Therefore, O Lord, who rules the higher host,
Take my good deeds, as many as there are,
And crown her, Lord, above in your bright sphere,
As heaven's truest maid! And may I say:
Most good, most fair, most likely to bring cheer—
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

When I praise her, or hear her praises raised,
I recall how recently she brought me pleasure;
Then my heart floods like an overflowing bay
And makes me wish to dress for my own bier—
God keep her soul, I can no better say.



Confession of a Stolen Kiss
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you,
That at a window (you know how)
I stole a kiss of great sweetness,
Which was done out of avidness—
But it is done, not undone, now.

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you.

But I shall restore it, doubtless,
Again, if it may be that I know how;
And thus to God I make a vow,
And always I ask forgiveness.

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you.

Translator note: By "ghostly father" I take Charles d'Orleans to be confessing to a priest. If so, it's ironic that the kiss was "stolen" at a window and the confession is being made at the window of a confession booth. But it also seems possible that Charles could be confessing to his human father, murdered in his youth and now a ghost. There is wicked humor in the poem, as Charles is apparently vowing to keep asking for forgiveness because he intends to keep stealing kisses at every opportunity!



Charles d'Orleans translations of Rondels/Roundels/Rondeaux

Note: While there is some confusion about the names and definitions of poetic forms such as the rondel, roundel, rondelle and rondeau, these are all rhyming poems with refrains.

Rondel: Your Smiling Mouth
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms' twin chains,
Your hands so smooth, each finger straight and plain,
Your little feet—please, what more can I say?

It is my fetish when you're far away
To muse on these and thus to soothe my pain—
Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms' twin chains.

So would I beg you, if I only may,
To see such sights as I before have seen,
Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene?

I'll be obsessed until my dying day
By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms' twin chains!



The season has cast its coat aside
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The season has cast its coat aside
of wind and cold and rain,
to dress in embroidered light again:
bright sunlight, fit for a bride!

There isn't a bird or beast astride
that fails to sing this sweet refrain:
"The season has cast its coat aside! "

Now rivers, fountains, springs and tides
dressed in their summer best
with silver beads impressed
in a fine display now glide:
the season has cast its coat aside!



The year lays down his mantle cold
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The year lays down his mantle cold
of wind, chill rain and bitter air,
and now goes clad in clothes of gold
of smiling suns and seasons fair,
while birds and beasts of wood and fold
now with each cry and song declare:
"The year lays down his mantle cold! "
All brooks, springs, rivers, seaward rolled,
now pleasant summer livery wear
with silver beads embroidered where
the world puts off its raiment old.
The year lays down his mantle cold.



Winter has cast his cloak away
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Winter has cast his cloak away
of wind and cold and chilling rain
to dress in embroidered light again:
the light of day—bright, festive, gay!
Each bird and beast, without delay,
in its own tongue, sings this refrain:
"Winter has cast his cloak away! "
Brooks, fountains, rivers, streams at play,
wear, with their summer livery,
bright beads of silver jewelry.
All the Earth has a new and fresh display:
Winter has cast his cloak away!

Note: This rondeau was set to music by Debussy in his "Trois chansons de France."



Caedmon's Hymn (circa 658-680 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Humbly now we honour heaven-kingdom's Guardian,
the Measurer's might and his mind-plans,
the goals of the Glory-Father. First he, the Everlasting Lord,
established earth's fearful foundations.
Then he, the First Scop, hoisted heaven as a roof
for the sons of men: Holy Creator,
mankind's great Maker! Then he, the Ever-Living Lord,
afterwards made men middle-earth: Master Almighty!



Les Bijoux (The Jewels)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My lover **** and knowing my heart's whims
Wore nothing more than a few bright-flashing gems;
Her art was saving men despite their sins—
She ruled like harem girls crowned with diadems!

She danced for me with a gay but mocking air,
My world of stone and metal sparking bright;
I discovered in her the rapture of everything fair—
Nay, an excess of joy where the spirit and flesh unite!

Naked she lay and offered herself to me,
Parting her legs and smiling receptively,
As gentle and yet profound as the rising sea—
Till her surging tide encountered my cliff, abruptly.

A tigress tamed, her eyes met mine, intent ...
Intent on lust, content to purr and please!
Her breath, both languid and lascivious, lent
An odd charm to her metamorphoses.

Her limbs, her *****, her abdomen, her thighs,
Oiled alabaster, sinuous as a swan,
Writhed pale before my calm clairvoyant eyes;
Like clustered grapes her ******* and belly shone.

Skilled in more spells than evil imps can muster,
To break the peace which had possessed my heart,
She flashed her crystal rocks’ hypnotic luster
Till my quietude was shattered, blown apart.

Her waist awrithe, her ******* enormously
Out-******, and yet ... and yet, somehow, still coy ...
As if stout haunches of Antiope
Had been grafted to a boy ...

The room grew dark, the lamp had flickered out.
Mute firelight, alone, lit each glowing stud;
Each time the fire sighed, as if in doubt,
It steeped her pale, rouged flesh in pools of blood.



Duellem (The Duel)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Two combatants charged! Their fearsome swords
brightened the air with fiery sparks and blood.
Their clashing blades clinked odd serenades,
reminding us: youth's inspired by overloud love.

But now their blades lie broken, like our hearts!
Still, our savage teeth and talon-like fingernails
can do more damage than the deadliest sword
when lovers lash about with such natural flails.

In a deep ravine haunted by lynxes and panthers,
our heroes roll around in a cozy embrace,
leaving their blood to redden the colorless branches.
This abyss is pure hell; our friends occupy the place.

Come, let us roll here too, cruel Amazon;
let our hatred’s ardor never be over and done!



Le Balcon (The Balcony)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Paramour of memory, ultimate mistress,
source of all pleasure, my only desire;
how can I forget your ecstatic caresses,
the warmth of your ******* by the roaring fire,
paramour of memory, ultimate mistress?

Each night illumined by the burning coals
we lay together where the rose-fragrance clings―
how soft your *******, how tender your soul!
Ah, and we said imperishable things,
each night illumined by the burning coals.

How beautiful the sunsets these sultry days,
deep space so profound, beyond life’s brief floods ...
then, when I kissed you, my queen, in a daze,
I thought I breathed the bouquet of your blood
as beautiful as sunsets these sultry days.

Night thickens around us like a wall;
in the deepening darkness our irises meet.
I drink your breath, ah! poisonous yet sweet!,
as with fraternal hands I massage your feet
while night thickens around us like a wall.

I have mastered the sweet but difficult art
of happiness here, with my head in your lap,
finding pure joy in your body, your heart;
because you’re the queen of my present and past
I have mastered love’s sweet but difficult art.

O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!
Can these be reborn from a gulf we can’t sound
as suns reappear, as if heaven misses
their light when they sink into seas dark, profound?
O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!



Il pleure dans mon coeur (“It rains in my heart”)
by Paul Verlaine
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It rains in my heart
As it rains on the town;
Heavy languor and dark
Drenches my heart.

Oh, the sweet-sounding rain
Cleansing pavements and roofs!
For my listless heart's pain
The pure song of the rain!

Still it rains without reason
In my overcast heart.
Can it be there's no treason?
That this grief's without reason?

As my heart floods with pain,
Lacking hatred, or love,
I've no way to explain
Such bewildering pain!



Spleen
by Paul Verlaine
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The roses were so very red;
The ivy, impossibly black.
Dear, with a mere a turn of your head,
My despair’s flooded back!

The sky was too gentle, too blue;
The sea, far too windswept and green.
Yet I always imagined―or knew―
I’d again feel your spleen.

Now I'm tired of the glossy waxed holly,
Of the shimmering boxwood too,
Of the meadowland’s endless folly,
When all things, alas, lead to you!



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.



Dispensing Keys
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile
constructs cages
for everyone he knows,
while the sage
(who has to duck his head
whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys
all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy,
prison gang.



Infectious!
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I became infected with happiness tonight
as I wandered idly, singing in the starlight.
Now I'm wonderfully contagious ...
so kiss me!



The Tally
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lovers
don't reveal
all
their Secrets;
under the covers
they
may
count each other's Moles
(that reside
and hide
in the shy regions
by forbidden holes),
then keep the final tally
strictly
from Aunt Sally!

This is admittedly a VERY loose translation of the original Hafiz poem!



Mirror
by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My era's obscuring mirror
shattered
because it magnified the small
and made the great seem insignificant.
Dictators and monsters filled its contours.
Now when I breathe
its jagged shards pierce my heart
and instead of sweat
I exude glass.



The Lonely Earth
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pale celestial bodies
never bid her “Good morning!”
nor do the creative stars
kiss her.
Earth, where so many tender persuasions and roses lie interred,
might expire for the lack of a glance, or an odor.
She’s a lonely dusty orb,
so very lonely!, as she observes the moon's patchwork attire
knowing the sun's an imposter
who sears with rays he has stolen for himself
and who looks down on the moon and earth like lodgers.



Kurds are Birds
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Per the latest scientific classification, Kurds
now belong to a species of bird!
This is why,
traveling across the torn, fraying pages of history,
they are nomads recognized by their caravans.
Yes, Kurds are birds! And,
even worse, when
there’s nowhere left to nest, no refuge from their pain,
they turn to the illusion of traveling again
between the warm and arctic sectors of their homeland.
So I don’t think it strange Kurds can fly but not land.
They wander from region to region
never realizing their dreams
of settling,
of forming a colony, of nesting.
No, they never settle down long enough
to visit Rumi and inquire about his health,
or to bow down deeply in the gust-
stirred dust,
like Nali.



Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!



After the Deluge
by Michael R. Burch

She was kinder than light
to an up-reaching flower
and sweeter than rain
to the bees in their bower
where anemones blush
at the affections they shower,
and love’s shocking power.

She shocked me to life,
but soon left me to wither.
I was listless without her,
nor could I be with her.
I fell under the spell
of her absence’s power.
in that calamitous hour.

Like blithe showers that fled
repealing spring’s sweetness;
like suns’ warming rays sped
away, with such fleetness ...
she has taken my heart—
alas, our completeness!
I now wilt in pale beams
of her occult remembrance.



grave request
by michael r. burch

come to ur doom
in Tombstone;

the stars stark and chill
over Boot Hill

care nothing for ur desire;

still,

imagine they wish u no ill,
that u burn with the same antique fire;

for there’s nothing to life but the thrill
of living until u expire;

so come, spend ur last hardearned bill
on Tombstone.



Defenses
by Michael R. Burch

Beyond the silhouettes of trees
stark, naked and defenseless
there stand long rows of sentinels:
these pert white picket fences.

Now whom they guard and how they guard,
the good Lord only knows;
but savages would have to laugh
observing the tidy rows.



Pool's Prince Charming
by Michael R. Burch

(this is my tribute poem, written on the behalf of his fellow pool sharks, for the legendary Saint Louie Louie Roberts)

Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool,
making all the ladies drool ...
Take the “nuts”? I'd be a fool!
Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool.

Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis,
owner of (ahem) a similar pelvis ...
Compared to you, the books will shelve us.
Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis.

Louie, Louie, fearless gambler,
ladies' man and constant rambler,
but such a sweet, loquacious ambler!
Louie, Louie, fearless gambler.

Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic,
pool's charming hero, but tragic, Byronic,
winning the Open drinking gin and tonic?
Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic.



The Aery Faery Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira

There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff—
the down of a thistle, butterflies’ wings,
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings,
moonbeams on garlands, strands of bright hair ...
I think she’s just you when you’re floating on air!



pretty pickle
by Michael R. Burch

u’d blaspheme if u could
because ur God’s no good,
but of course u cant:
ur just a lowly ant
(or so u were told by a Hierophant).



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.



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 changed, remaining two ...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on feral claws
as It scratched 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.



Because You Came to Me
by Michael R. Burch

Because you came to me with sweet compassion
and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,
I do not love you after any fashion,
but wildly, in despair.

Because you came to me in my black torment
and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun
upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn’s foment
they melt, I am undone.

Because I am undone, you have remade me
as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow
the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me
and bower me, somehow.



Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem around age 18, wasn't happy with it, put it aside, then revised it six years later.



Besieged
by Michael R. Burch

Life—the disintegration of the flesh
before the fitful elevation of the soul
upon improbable wings?

Life—is this all we know,
the travail one bright season brings? ...

Now the fruit hangs,
impendent, pregnant with death,
as the hurricane builds and flings
its white columns and banners of snow

and the rout begins.



****** or Heroine?
by Michael R. Burch

(for mothers battling addiction)

serve the Addiction;
worship the Beast;
feed the foul Pythons
your flesh, their fair feast ...

or rise up, resist
the huge many-headed hydra;
for the sake of your Loved Ones
decapitate medusa.



Loose Knit
by Michael R. Burch

She blesses the needle,
fetches fine red stitches,
criss-crossing, embroidering dreams
in the delicate fabric.

And if her hand jerks and twitches in puppet-like fits,
she tells herself
reality is not as threadbare as it seems ...
that a little more darning may gather loose seams.

She weaves an unraveling tapestry
of fatigue and remorse and pain; ...
only the nervously pecking needle
****** her to motion, again and again.



I Have Labored Sore
anonymous medieval lyric (circa the fifteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have labored sore / and suffered death,
so now I rest / and catch my breath.
But I shall come / and call right soon
heaven and earth / and hell to doom.
Then all shall know / both devil and man
just who I was / and what I am.

NOTE: This poem has a pronounced caesura (pause) in the middle of each line: a hallmark of Old English poetry. While this poem is closer to Middle English, it preserves the older tradition. I have represented the caesura with a slash.



A Lyke-Wake Dirge
anonymous medieval lyric (circa the sixteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Lie-Awake Dirge is "the night watch kept over a corpse."

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

When from this earthly life you pass
every night and all,
to confront your past you must come at last,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If you ever donated socks and shoes,
every night and all,
sit right down and put pull yours on,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk barefoot through the flames of hell,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If ever you shared your food and drink,
every night and all,
the fire will never make you shrink,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk starving through the black abyss,
and Christ receive thy soul.

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.



This World's Joy
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 14th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Winter awakens all my care
as leafless trees grow bare.
For now my sighs are fraught
whenever it enters my thought:
regarding this world's joy,
how everything comes to naught.



How Long the Night
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts
with the mild pheasants' song...
but now I feel the northern wind's blast:
its severe weather strong.
Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!
And I, because of my momentous wrong
now grieve, mourn and fast.



Adam Lay Ybounden
(anonymous Medieval English lyric, circa early 15th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Adam lay bound, bound in a bond;
Four thousand winters, he thought, were not too long.
And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerics now find written in their book.
But had the apple not been taken, or had it never been,
We'd never have had our Lady, heaven's queen and matron.
So blesséd be the time the apple was taken thus;
Therefore we sing, "God is gracious! "

The poem has also been rendered as "Adam lay i-bounden" and "Adam lay i-bowndyn."



Excerpt from "Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? "
anonymous Middle English poem, circa 1275
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where are the men who came before us,
who led hounds and hawks to the hunt,
who commanded fields and woods?
Where are the elegant ladies in their boudoirs
who braided gold through their hair
and had such fair complexions?

Once eating and drinking made their hearts glad;
they enjoyed their games;
men bowed before them;
they bore themselves loftily...
But then, in an eye's twinkling,
their hearts were forlorn.

Where are their laughter and their songs,
the trains of their dresses,
the arrogance of their entrances and exits,
their hawks and their hounds?
All their joy is departed;
their "well" has come to "oh, well"
and to many dark days...



Westron Wynde
(anonymous Middle English lyric, found in a partbook circa 1530 AD, but perhaps written much earlier)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Western wind, when will you blow,
bringing the drizzling rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
and I in my bed again!

NOTE: The original poem has "the smalle rayne down can rayne" which suggests a drizzle or mist, either of which would suggest a dismal day.



Pity Mary
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now the sun passes under the wood:
I rue, Mary, thy face: fair, good.
Now the sun passes under the tree:
I rue, Mary, thy son and thee.

In the poem above, note how "wood" and "tree" invoke the cross while "sun" and "son" seem to invoke each other. Sun-day is also Son-day, to Christians. The anonymous poet who wrote the poem above may have been been punning the words "sun" and "son." The poem is also known as "Now Goeth Sun Under Wood" and "Now Go'th Sun Under Wood."



Fowles in the Frith
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fowls in the forest,
the fishes in the flood
and I must go mad:
such sorrow I've had
for beasts of bone and blood!

Sounds like an early animal rights activist! The use of "and" is intriguing... is the poet saying that his walks in the wood drive him mad because he is also a "beast of bone and blood, " facing a similar fate?



I am of Ireland
(anonymous Medieval Irish lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am of Ireland,
and of the holy realm of Ireland.
Gentlefolk, I pray thee:
for the sake of saintly charity,
come dance with me
in Ireland!



If I am Syrian, what of it?
Stranger, we all dwell in one world, not its portals.
The same original Chaos gave birth to all mortals.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love, how can I call on you:
does Desire dwell with the dead?
Cupid, that bold boy, never bowed his head
to wail.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, I swear,
your quiver holds only empty air:
for all your winged arrows, set free,
are now lodged in me.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, if you incinerate my soul, touché!
For she too has wings and can fly away!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, the cuddly baby
safe in his mother's lap,
chucking the dice one day,
gambled my heart away.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lie defeated. Set your foot on my neck. Checkmate.
I recognize you by your weight;
yes, and by the gods, you’re a load to bear.
I am also well aware
of your fiery darts.
But if you seek to ignite human hearts,
******* with your tinders;
mine’s already in cinders.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron everything’s revealed.
When he’s gone all’s concealed.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron everything’s defined;
When he’s gone I’m blind.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron my eyes bug out;
When he’s gone even sight is in doubt.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mother-Earth, to all men dear,
Aesigenes was never a burden to you,
so please rest lightly on him here.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Meleager dedicates this lamp to you, dear Cypris, as a plaything,
since it has been initiated into the mysteries of your nocturnal ceremonies.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know you lied, because these ringlets
still dripping scented essences
betray your wantonness.
These also betray you—
your eyes sagging with the lack of sleep,
stray tendrils of your unchaste hair escaping its garlands,
your limbs uncoordinated by the wine.
Away, trollop, they summon you—
the reveling lyre and the clattering castanets rattled by lewd fingers!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moon and Stars,
lighting the way for lovers,
and Night,
and you, my mournful Mandolin, my ***** companion ...
when will we see her, the little wanton one, lying awake and moaning to her lamp?
Or does she embrace some other companion?
Then let me hang conciliatory garlands on her door,
wilted by my tears,
and let me inscribe thereupon these words:
"For you, Cypris,
the one to whom you revealed the mysteries of your revels,
Meleager,
offers these spoiled tokens of his love."
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Silence!
They must have carried her off!
Who could be so barbaric,
to act with such violence,
to wage war against Love himself?
Quick, prepare the torches!
But wait!
A footfall, Heliodora's!
Get back in my *****, heart!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tears, the last gifts of my love,
I send drenching down to you, Heliodora.
Here on your puddling tomb I pour them out—
soul-wrenching tears
in memory of affliction and affection.
Piteously, so piteously Meleager mourns you,
you still so precious, so dear to him in death,
paying vain tributes to Acheron.
Alas! Alas! Where is my beautiful one,
my heart's desire?
Death has taken her from me, has robbed me of her,
and the lustrous blossom lies trampled in dust.
But Earth-Mother, nurturer of us all ...
Mother, I beseech you, hold her gently to your *****,
the one we all bewail.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll "recite" them, if I do.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: The irascible Martial is suggesting that if he shares his poems, they will be plagiarized.

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love the fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his stuffing.
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: Martial concluded his epigram with a variation of the f-word; please substitute it if you prefer it.

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain―you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages―you alone!
Discrimination and wit―you alone!
You have it all―who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife―she is never alone!
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love’s daughter.
She fell a mere six days short of outliving her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell’s three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Alien Nation
by Michael R. Burch

for 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
must have 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.



Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch

“Burn Ovid”—Austin Clarke

Sunday School,
Faith Free Will Baptist, 1973:
I sat imaging watery folds
of pale silk encircling her waist.
Explicit *** was the day’s “hot” topic
(how breathlessly I imagined hers)
as she taught us the perils of lust
fraught with inhibition.

I found her unaccountably beautiful,
rolling implausible nouns off the edge of her tongue:
adultery, fornication, *******, ******.
Acts made suddenly plausible by the faint blush
of her unrouged cheeks,
by her pale lips
accented only by a slight quiver,
a trepidation.

What did those lustrous folds foretell
of our uncommon desire?
Why did she cross and uncross her legs
lovely and long in their taupe sheaths?
Why did her ******* rise pointedly,
as if indicating a direction?

“Come unto me,
(unto me),”
together, we sang,

cheek to breast,
lips on lips,
devout, afire,

my hands
up her skirt,
her pants at her knees:

all night long,
all night long,
in the heavenly choir.

This poem is set at Faith Christian Academy, which I attended for a year during the ninth grade, in 1972-1973. While the poem definitely had its genesis there, I believe I revised it more than once and didn't finish it till 2001, nearly 28 years later, according to my notes on the poem. Another poem, "*** 101," was also written about my experiences at FCA that year.



*** 101
by Michael R. Burch

That day the late spring heat
steamed through the windows of a Crayola-yellow schoolbus
crawling its way up the backwards slopes
of Nowheresville, North Carolina ...

Where we sat exhausted
from the day’s skulldrudgery
and the unexpected waves of muggy,
summer-like humidity ...

Giggly first graders sat two abreast
behind senior high students
sprouting their first sparse beards,
their implausible bosoms, their stranger affections ...

The most unlikely coupling—

Lambert, 18, the only college prospect
on the varsity basketball team,
the proverbial talldarkhandsome
swashbuckling cocksman, grinning ...

Beside him, Wanda, 13,
bespectacled, in her primproper attire
and pigtails, staring up at him,
fawneyed, disbelieving ...

And as the bus filled with the improbable musk of her,
as she twitched impaled on his finger
like a dead frog jarred to life by electrodes,
I knew ...

that love is a forlorn enterprise,
that I would never understand it.

This companion poem to "Burn, Ovid" is also set at Faith Christian Academy, in 1972-1973.



honeybee
by michael r. burch

love was a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and (sometimes) to sting



honeydew
by michael r. burch

i sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle!



Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too.



Huntress
Michael R. Burch

Lynx-eyed cat-like and cruel you creep
across a crevice dropping deep
into a dark and doomed domain
Your claws are sheathed. You smile, insane
Rain falls upon your path and pain
pours down. Your paws are pierced. You pause
and heed the oft-lamented laws
which bid you not begin again
till night returns. You wail like wind,
the sighing of a soul for sin,
and give up hunting for a heart.
Till sunset falls again, depart,
though hate and hunger urge you—"On!"
Heed, hearts, your hope—the break of dawn.



Ibykos Fragment 286 (III)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;

the results are frightening—
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.

Originally published by The Chained Muse



Ince St. Child
by Michael R. Burch

When she was a child
in a dark forest of fear,
imagination cast its strange light
into secret places,
scattering traces
of illumination so bright,
years later, she could still find them there,
their light undefiled.

When she was young,
the shafted light of her dreams
shone on her uplifted face
as she prayed ...
though she strayed
into a night fallen like woven lace
shrouding the forest of screams,
her faith led her home.

Now she is old
and the light that was flame
is a slow-dying ember ...
what she felt then
she would explain;
she would if she could only remember
that forest of shame,
faith beaten like gold.

This was an unusual poem, and it took me some time to figure out who the old woman was. She was a victim of childhood ******, hence the title I eventually came up with.



Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Cherubic laugh; sly, impish grin;
Angelic face; wild chimp within.

It does not matter; sleep awhile
As soft mirth tickles forth a smile.

Gray moths will hum a lullaby
Of feathery wings, then you and I

Will wake together, by and by.

Life’s not long; those days are best
Spent snuggled to a loving breast.

The earth will wait; a sun-filled sky
Will bronze lean muscle, by and by.

Soon you will sing, and I will sigh,
But sleep here, now, for you and I

Know nothing but this lullaby.



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty ...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



Kindred
by Michael R. Burch

Rise, pale disastrous moon!
What is love, but a heightened effect
of time, light and distance?

Did you burn once,
before you became
so remote, so detached,

so coldly, inhumanly lustrous,
before you were able to assume
the very pallor of love itself?

What is the dawn now, to you or to me?

We are as one,
out of favor with the sun.

We would exhume
the white corpse of love
for a last dance,

and yet we will not.
We will let her be,
let her abide,

for she is nothing now,
to you
or to me.



Reflections
by Michael R. Burch

I am her mirror.
I say she is kind,
lovely, breathtaking.
She screams that I’m blind.

I show her her beauty,
her brilliance and compassion.
She refuses to believe me,
for that’s the latest fashion.

She storms and she rages;
she dissolves into tears
while envious Angels
are, by God, her only Peers.



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

for Trump

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



Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch

Remembrance like a river rises;
the rain of recollection falls;
frail memories, like vines, entangled,
cling to Time's collapsing walls.

The past is like a distant mist,
the future like a far-off haze,
the present half-distinct an hour
before it blurs with unseen days.



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 in Songs of Innocence and The Chained Muse.



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



Righteous
by Michael R. Burch

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
that I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of bright stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

Published by Writer’s Gazette, Tucumcari Literary Review and The Chained Muse



R.I.P.
by Michael R. Burch

When I am lain to rest
and my soul is no longer intact,
but dissolving, like a sunset
diminishing to the west ...

and when at last
before His throne my past
is put to test
and the demons and the Beast

await to feast
on any morsel downward cast,
while the vapors of impermanence
cling, smelling of damask ...

then let me go, and do not weep
if I am left to sleep,
to sleep and never dream, or dream, perhaps,
only a little longer and more deep.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



The Shape of Mourning
by Michael R. Burch

The shape of mourning
is an oiled creel
shining with unuse,

the bolt of cold steel
on a locker
shielding memory,

the monthly penance
of flowers,
the annual wake,

the face in the photograph
no longer dissolving under scrutiny,
becoming a keepsake,

the useless mower
lying forgotten
in weeds,

rings and crosses and
all the paraphernalia
the soul no longer needs.



Tillage
by Michael R. Burch

What stirs within me
is no great welling
straining to flood forth,
but an emptiness
waiting to be filled.

I am not an orchard
ready to be harvested,
but a field
rough and barren
waiting to be tilled.



For All That I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved ...
and yet I hold her close within my thought.
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could ...
I'd reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush
my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Hearthside
by Michael R. Burch

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep...” ― W. B. Yeats

For all that we professed of love, we knew
this night would come, that we would bend alone
to tend wan fires’ dimming bars―the moan
of wind cruel as the Trumpet, gelid dew
an eerie presence on encrusted logs
we hoard like jewels, embrittled so ourselves.

The books that line these close, familiar shelves
loom down like dreary chaperones. Wild dogs,
too old for mates, cringe furtive in the park,
as, toothless now, I frame this parchment kiss.

I do not know the words for easy bliss
and so my shriveled fingers clutch this stark,
long-unenamored pen and will it: Move.
I loved you more than words, so let words prove.

This sonnet is written from the perspective of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats in his loose translation or interpretation of the Pierre de Ronsard sonnet “When You Are Old.” The aging Yeats thinks of his Muse and the love of his life, the fiery Irish revolutionary Maude Gonne. As he seeks to warm himself by a fire conjured from ice-encrusted logs, he imagines her doing the same. Although Yeats had insisted that he wasn’t happy without Gonne, she said otherwise: “Oh yes, you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you!”



I Know The Truth
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!

There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes―generals, poets, lovers?

The wind is calming now; the earth is bathed in dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll sleep together, under the earth,
we who never gave each other a moment's rest above it.



I Know The Truth (Alternate Ending)
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!

There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes―generals, poets, lovers?

The wind caresses the grasses; the earth gleams, damp with dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll lie together under the earth,
we who were never united above it.



Poems about Moscow
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

5
Above the city Saint Peter once remanded to hell
now rolls the delirious thunder of the bells.

As the thundering high tide eventually reverses,
so, too, the woman who once bore your curses.

To you, O Great Peter, and you, O Great Tsar, I kneel!
And yet the bells above me continually peal.

And while they keep ringing out of the pure blue sky,
Moscow's eminence is something I can't deny ...

though sixteen hundred churches, nearby and afar,
all gaily laugh at the hubris of the Tsars.

8
Moscow, what a vast
uncouth hostel of a home!
In Russia all are homeless
so all to you must come.

A knife stuck in each boot-top,
each back with its shameful brand,
we heard you from far away.
You called us: here we stand.

Because you branded us criminals
for every known kind of ill,
we seek the all-compassionate Saint,
the haloed one who heals.

And there behind that narrow door
where the uncouth rabble pour,
we seek the red-gold radiant heart
of Iver, who loved the poor.

Now, as "Halleluiah" floods
bright fields that blaze to the west,
O sacred Russian soil,
I kneel here to kiss your breast!



Insomnia
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2
In my enormous city it is night
as from my house I step beyond the light;
some people think I'm daughter, mistress, wife ...
but I am like the blackest thought of night.

July's wind sweeps a way for me to stray
toward soft music faintly blowing, somewhere.
The wind may blow until bright dawn, new day,
but will my heart in its rib-cage really care?

Black poplars brushing windows filled with light ...
strange leaves in hand ... faint music from distant towers ...
retracing my steps, there's nobody lagging behind ...
This shadow called me? There's nobody here to find.

The lights are like golden beads on invisible threads ...
the taste of dark night in my mouth is a bitter leaf ...
O, free me from shackles of being myself by day!
Friends, please understand: I'm only a dreamlike belief.



Poems for Akhmatova
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

4
You outshine everything, even the sun
at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are ...

to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness ...



This gypsy passion of parting!
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This gypsy passion of parting!
We meet, and are ready for flight!
I rest my dazed head in my hands,
and think, staring into the night ...

that no one, perusing our letters,
will ever understand the real depth
of just how sacrilegious we were,
which is to say we had faith,

in ourselves.



The Appointment
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I will be late for the appointed meeting.
When I arrive, my hair will be gray,
because I abused spring.
And your expectations were much too high!

I shall feel the effects of the bitter mercury for years.
(Ophelia tasted, but didn't spit out, the rue.)
I will trudge across mountains and deserts,
trampling souls and hands without flinching,

living on, as the earth continues
with blood in every thicket and creek.
But always Ophelia's pallid face will peer out
from between the grasses bordering each stream.

She took a swig of passion, only to fill her mouth
with silt. Like a shaft of light on metal,
I set my sights on you, highly. Much too high
in the sky, where I have appointed my dust its burial.



Rails
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The railway bed's steel-blue parallel tracks
are ruled out, neatly as musical staves.

Over them, people are transported
like possessed Pushkin creatures
whose song has been silenced.
See them: arriving, departing?

And yet they still linger,
the note of their pain remaining ...
always rising higher than love, as the poles freeze
to the embankment, like Lot's wife transformed to salt, forever.

Despair has arranged my fate
as someone arranges a wedding;
then, like a voiceless Sappho
I must weep like a pain-wracked seamstress

with the mute lament of a marsh heron!
Then the departing train
will hoot above the sleepers
as its wheels slice them to ribbons.

In my eye the colors blur
to a glowing but meaningless red.
All young women, at times,
are tempted by such a bed!



Every Poem is a Child of Love
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every poem is a child of love,
A destitute ******* chick
A fledgling blown down from the heights above―
Left of its nest? Not a stick.
Each heart has its gulf and its bridge.
Each heart has its blessings and griefs.
Who is the father? A liege?
Maybe a liege, or a thief.



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 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.



Her Preference
by Michael R. Burch

Not for her the pale incandescence of dreams,
the warm glow of imagination,
the hushed whispers of possibility,
or frail, blossoming hope.

No, she prefers the anguish and screams
of bitter condemnation,
the hissing of hostility,
damnation's rope.



hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

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

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar."



Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore
shall the haunts of the sea―
the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore―
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her ******* and hips
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never **** her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure ...
She sleeps forevermore.

She sleeps forevermore,
a ****** save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way!
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea ...

their skeletal love―impossibility!

This is one of my Poe-like creations, written around age 19. I think the poem has an interesting ending, since the male skeleton is missing an important "member."



Mehmet Akif Ersoy: Modern English Translations of Turkish Poems

Mehmet Âkif Ersoy (1873-1936) was a Turkish poet, author, writer, academic, member of parliament, and the composer of the Turkish National Anthem.



Snapshot
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Earth’s least trace of life cannot be erased;
even when you lie underground, it encompasses you.
So, those of you who anticipate the shadows,
how long will the darkness remember you?



Zulmü Alkislayamam
"I Can’t Applaud Tyranny"
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I can't condone cruelty; I will never applaud the oppressor;
Yet I can't renounce the past for the sake of deluded newcomers.
When someone curses my ancestors, I want to strangle them,
Even if you don’t.
But while I harbor my elders,
I refuse to praise their injustices.
Above all, I will never glorify evil, by calling injustice “justice.”
From the day of my birth, I've loved freedom;
The golden tulip never deceived me.
If I am nonviolent, does that make me a docile sheep?
The blade may slice, but my neck resists!
When I see someone else's wound, I suffer a great hardship;
To end it, I'll be whipped, I'll be beaten.
I can't say, “Never mind, just forget it!” I'll mind,
I'll crush, I'll be crushed, I'll uphold justice.
I'm the foe of the oppressor, the friend of the oppressed.
What the hell do you mean, with your backwardness?



Çanakkale Sehitlerine
"For the Çanakkale Martyrs"
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Was there ever anything like the Bosphorus war?―
The earth’s mightiest armies pressing Marmara,
Forcing entry between her mountain passes
To a triangle of land besieged by countless vessels.
Oh, what dishonorable assemblages!
Who are these Europeans, come as rapists?
Who, these braying hyenas, released from their reeking cages?
Why do the Old World, the New World, and all the nations of men
now storm her beaches? Is it Armageddon? Truly, the whole world rages!
Seven nations marching in unison!
Australia goose-stepping with Canada!
Different faces, languages, skin tones!
Everything so different, but the mindless bludgeons!
Some warriors Hindu, some African, some nameless, unknown!
This disgraceful invasion, baser than the Black Death!
Ah, the 20th century, so noble in its own estimation,
But all its favored ones nothing but a parade of worthless wretches!
For months now Turkish soldiers have been vomited up
Like stomachs’ retched contents regarded with shame.
If the masks had not been torn away, the faces would still be admired,
But the ***** called civilization is far from blameless.
Now the ****** demand the destruction of the doomed
And thus bring destruction down on their own heads.
Lightning severs horizons!
Earthquakes regurgitate the bodies of the dead!
Bombs’ thunderbolts explode brains,
rupture the ******* of brave soldiers.
Underground tunnels writhe like hell
Full of the bodies of burn victims.
The sky rains down death, the earth swallows the living.
A terrible blizzard heaves men violently into the air.
Heads, eyes, torsos, legs, arms, chins, fingers, hands, feet...
Body parts rain down everywhere.
Coward hands encased in armor callously scatter
Floods of thunderbolts, torrents of fire.
Men’s chests gape open,
Beneath the high, circling vulture-like packs of the air.
Cannonballs fly as frequently as bullets
Yet the heroic army laughs at the hail.
Who needs steel fortresses? Who fears the enemy?
How can the shield of faith not prevail?
What power can make religious men bow down to their oppressors
When their stronghold is established by God?
The mountains and the rocks are the bodies of martyrs!...
For the sake of a crescent, oh God, many suns set, undone!
Dear soldier, who fell for the sake of this land,
How great you are, your blood saves the Muslims!
Only the lions of Bedr rival your glory!
Who then can dig the grave wide enough to hold you. and your story?
If we try to consign you to history, you will not fit!
No book can contain the eras you shook!
Only eternities can encompass you!...
Oh martyr, son of the martyr, do not ask me about the grave:
The prophet awaits you now, his arms flung wide open, to save!



W. S. Rendra translations

Willibrordus Surendra Broto Rendra (1935-2009), better known as W. S. Rendra or simply Rendra, was an Indonesian dramatist and poet. He said, “I learned meditation and the disciplines of the traditional Javanese poet from my mother, who was a palace dancer. The idea of the Javanese poet is to be a guardian of the spirit of the nation.” The press gave him the nickname Burung Merak (“The Peacock”) for his flamboyant poetry readings and stage performances.

SONNET
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering.

Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers―complex & undefined.

And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.
But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.

How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon―such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.

THE WORLD'S FIRST FACE
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations―
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.

Keywords/Tags: Rendra, Indonesian, Javanese, translation, love, fate, god, gods, goddess, groom, bride, world, time, life, sun, hill, hills, moon, moonlight, stars, life, animals?, international, travel, voyage, wedding, relationship, mrbtran



Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

Alone again as evening falls,
I join gaunt shadows and we crawl
up and down my room's dark walls.

Up and down and up and down,
against starlight―strange, mirthless clowns―
we merge, emerge, submerge . . . then drown.

We drown in shadows starker still,
shadows of the somber hills,
shadows of sad selves we spill,

tumbling, to the ground below.
There, caked in grimy, clinging snow,
we flutter feebly, moaning low

for days dreamed once an age ago
when we weren't shadows, but were men . . .
when we were men, or almost so.



Recursion
by Michael R. Burch

In a dream I saw boys lying
under banners gaily flying
and I heard their mothers sighing
from some dark distant shore.

For I saw their sons essaying
into fields—gleeful, braying—
their bright armaments displaying;
such manly oaths they swore!

From their playfields, boys returning
full of honor’s white-hot burning
and desire’s restless yearning
sired new kids for the corps.

In a dream I saw boys dying
under banners gaily lying
and I heard their mothers crying
from some dark distant shore.



THE RUIN
an Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

well-hewn was this wall-stone, till Wyrdes wrecked it
and the Colossus sagged inward ...

broad battlements broken;
the Builders' work battered;

the high ramparts toppled;
tall towers collapsed;

the great roof-beams shattered;
gates groaning, agape ...

mortar mottled and marred by scarring ****-frosts ...
the Giants’ dauntless strongholds decaying with age ...

shattered, the shieldwalls,
the turrets in tatters ...

where now are those mighty Masons, those Wielders and Wrights,
those Samson-like Stonesmiths?

the grasp of the earth, the firm grip of the ground
holds fast those fearless Fathers
men might have forgotten
except that this slow-rotting siege-wall still stands
after countless generations!

for always this edifice, grey-lichened, blood-stained,
stands facing fierce storms with their wild-whipping winds
because those master Builders bound its wall-base together
so cunningly with iron!

it outlasted mighty kings and their claims!

how high rose those regal rooftops!
how kingly their castle-keeps!
how homely their homesteads!
how boisterous their bath-houses and their merry mead-halls!
how heavenward flew their high-flung pinnacles!
how tremendous the tumult of those famous War-Wagers ...
till mighty Fate overturned it all, and with it, them.

then the wide walls fell;
then the bulwarks were broken;
then the dark days of disease descended ...

as death swept the battlements of brave Brawlers;
as their palaces became waste places;
as ruin rained down on their grand Acropolis;
as their great cities and castles collapsed
while those who might have rebuilt them lay gelded in the ground:
those marvelous Men, those mighty master Builders!

therefore these once-decorous courts court decay;
therefore these once-lofty gates gape open;
therefore these roofs' curved arches lie stripped of their shingles;
therefore these streets have sunk into ruin and corroded rubble ...

when in times past light-hearted Titans flushed with wine
strode strutting in gleaming armor, adorned with splendid ladies’ favors,
through this brilliant city of the audacious famous Builders
to compete for bright treasure: gold, silver, amber, gemstones.

here the cobblestoned courts clattered;
here the streams gushed forth their abundant waters;
here the baths steamed, hot at their fiery hearts;
here this wondrous wall embraced it all, with its broad *****.

... that was spacious ...



Victor Hugo "Love Stronger Than Time"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael Burch

Since I first set my lips to your full cup,
Since my pallid face first nested in your hands,
Since I sensed your soul and every bloom lit up—
Till those rare perfumes were lost to deepening sands;

Since I was once allowed those pleasures deep—
To hear your heart speak mysteries, divine;
Since I have seen you smile, have watched you weep,
Your lips pressed to my lips, your eyes on mine;

Since I have sensed above my thoughts the gleam
Of a ray, a single ray, of your bright star
(If sometimes veiled), and felt light falling stream,
Like one rose petal plucked from high, afar;

I now can say to time's swift-changing hours:
Pass, pass upon your way, for you grow old;
Flee to the dark abyss with your drear flowers,
but one unmarred within my heart I hold.

Your flapping wings may jar but cannot spill
The cup fulfilled of love, from which I drink;
My heart has fires your frosts can never chill,
My soul more love to fly than you can sink.



We Came Together
by Michael R. Burch

We came together – people of two lands
so unalike, at first, we hardly knew
how to be friends. We went to war, and drew
lines in the sand. And yet the sky was blue
for everyone, and big enough to share.

We came together, and our friendships grew.
We had to learn to share the selfsame air,
to find the path to harmony,
to find some common ground and let peace bloom.

We came together and we gave hope room
to blossom in our hearts. We learned to be
together in our common destiny.

We come together – people of many lands
so unalike, at first, and now we know
how to be friends.




Lines for My Ascension
by Michael R. Burch

I.
If I should die,
there will come a Doom,
and the sky will darken
to the deepest Gloom.

But if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

II.
If I should die,
let no mortal say,
“Here was a man,
with feet of clay,

or a timid sparrow
God’s hand let fall.”
But watch the sky darken
to an eerie pall

and know that my Spirit,
unvanquished, broods,
and cares naught for graves,
prayers, coffins, or roods.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

III.
If I should die,
let no man adore
his incompetent Maker:
Zeus, Jehovah, or Thor.

Think of Me as One
who never died―
the unvanquished Immortal
with the unriven side.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

IV.
And if I should “die,”
though the clouds grow dark
as fierce lightnings rend
this bleak asteroid, stark ...

If you look above,
you will see a bright Sign―
the sun with the moon
in its arms, Divine.

So divine, if you can,
my bright meaning, and know―
my Spirit is mine.
I will go where I go.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.



The Quickening
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

I never meant to love you
when I held you in my arms
promising you sagely
wise, noncommittal charms.

And I never meant to need you
when I touched your tender lips
with kisses that intrigued my own—
such kisses I had never known,
nor a heartbeat in my fingertips!



ITALIAN POETRY TRANSLATIONS

These are my modern English translations of the Roman, Latin and Italian poets Anonymous, Marcus Aurelius, Catullus, ***** Cavalcanti, Cicero, Dante Alighieri, Veronica Franco, ***** Guinizelli, Hadrian, Primo Levi, Martial, Michelangelo, Seneca, Seneca the Younger and Leonardo da Vinci. I also have translations of Latin poems by the English poets Aldhelm, Thomas Campion and Saint Godric of Finchale.

Wall, I'm astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
—Ancient Roman graffiti, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great Infernos.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation Michael R. Burch



MARTIAL

I must admit I'm partial
to Martial.
—Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll 'recite' them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his *******.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain—you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages—you alone!
Discrimination, taste and wit—you alone!
You have it all—who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife—
she is never alone!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love's daughter,
who died six days short of completing her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell's three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, with much emotion,
I commend my little lost darling, my much-kissed Erotion,
who died six days short of completing her sixth bitter winter.
Protect her, I pray, from hell's hound and its dark shades a-flitter;
and please don't let fiends leave her maiden heart dismayed!
But lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade
with her cherished friends, excitedly lisping my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was such a slight burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



CATULLUS

Catullus LXXXV: 'Odi et Amo'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
I hate. I love.
You ask, 'Why not refrain?'
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.

2.
I hate. I love.
Why? Heavens above!
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.

3.
I hate. I love.
How can that be, turtledove?
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.



Catullus CVI: 'That Boy'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

See that young boy, by the auctioneer?
He's so pretty he sells himself, I fear!



Catullus LI: 'That Man'
This is Catullus's translation of a poem by Sappho of ******
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I'd call that man the equal of the gods,
or,
could it be forgiven
in heaven,
their superior,
because to him space is given
to bask in your divine presence,
to gaze upon you, smile, and listen
to your ambrosial laughter
which leaves men senseless
here and hereafter.

Meanwhile, in my misery,
I'm left speechless.

Lesbia, there's nothing left of me
but a voiceless tongue grown thick in my mouth
and a thin flame running south...

My limbs tingle, my ears ring, my eyes water
till they swim in darkness.

Call it leisure, Catullus, or call it idleness,
whatever it is that incapacitates you.
By any other name it's the nemesis
fallen kings, empires and cities rue.



Catullus 1 ('cui dono lepidum novum libellum')        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To whom do I dedicate this novel book
polished drily with a pumice stone?
To you, Cornelius, for you would look
content, as if my scribblings took
the cake, when in truth you alone
unfolded Italian history in three scrolls,
as learned as Jupiter in your labors.
Therefore, this little book is yours,
whatever it is, which, O patron Maiden,
I pray will last more than my lifetime!



Catullus XLIX: 'A Toast to Cicero'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cicero, please confess:
You're drunk on your success!
All men of good taste attest
That you're the very best—
At making speeches, first class!
While I'm the dregs of the glass.



Catullus CI: 'His Brother's Burial'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these last offerings, these small tributes
blessed by our fathers' traditions, these small gifts for the dead.
Please accept, by custom, these tokens drenched with a brother's tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, 'Hail and Farewell.'

2.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these small tributes, these last gifts,
offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers,
these final votives. Please accept, by custom,
these tokens drenched with a brother's tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, 'Hail and Farewell.'

[Here 'offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers' is from another translation by an unknown translator.]

[What do the gods know, with their superior airs,
wiser than a mother's tears
for her lost child?
If they had hearts, surely they would be beguiled,
repeal the sentence of death!
Since they have none,
or only hearts of stone,
believers, save your breath.
—Michael R. Burch, after Catullus]



Catullus LXV aka Carmina 65
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hortalus, I’m exhausted by relentless grief,
and have thus abandoned the learned virgins;
nor can my mind, so consumed by malaise,
partake of the Muses' mete fruit;
for lately the Lethaean flood laves my brother's
death-pale foot with its dark waves,
where, beyond mortal sight, ghostly Ilium
disgorges souls beneath the Rhoetean shore.

Never again will I hear you speak,
O my brother, more loved than life,
never see you again, unless I behold you hereafter.
But surely I'll always love you,
always sing griefstricken dirges for your demise,
such as Procne sings under the dense branches’ shadows,
lamenting the lot of slain Itys.

Yet even amidst such unfathomable sorrows, O Hortalus,
I nevertheless send you these, my recastings of Callimachus,
lest you conclude your entrusted words slipped my mind,
winging off on wayward winds, as a suitor’s forgotten apple
hidden in the folds of her dress escapes a ******'s chaste lap;
for when she starts at her mother's arrival, it pops out,
then downward it rolls, headlong to the ground,
as a guilty blush flushes her downcast face.




Catullus IIA: 'Lesbia's Sparrow'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sparrow, my sweetheart's pet,
with whom she plays cradled to her breast,
or in her lap,
giving you her fingertip to peck,
provoking you to nip its nib...
Whenever she's flushed with pleasure
my gorgeous darling plays such dear little games:
to relieve her longings, I suspect,
until her ardour abates.
Oh, if only I could play with you as gaily,
and alleviate my own longings!



Catullus V: 'Let us live, Lesbia, let us love'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let us live, Lesbia, let us love,
and let the judgments of ancient moralists
count less than a farthing to us!

Suns may set then rise again,
but when our brief light sets,
we will sleep through perpetual night.

Give me a thousand kisses, a hundred more,
another thousand, then a second hundred,
yet another thousand, then a third hundred...

Then, once we've tallied the many thousands,
let's jumble the ledger, so that even we
(and certainly no malicious, evil-eyed enemy)        
will ever know there were so many kisses!



Catullus VII: 'How Many Kisses'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask, Lesbia, how many kisses
are enough, or more than enough, to satisfy me?

As many as the Libyan sands
swirling in incense-bearing Cyrene
between the torrid oracle of Jove
and the sacred tomb of Battiades.

Or as many as the stars observing amorous men
making love furtively on a moonless night.

As many of your kisses are enough,
and more than enough, for mad Catullus,
as long as there are too many to be counted by inquisitors
and by malicious-tongued bewitchers.



Catullus VIII: 'Advice to Himself'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Snap out of it Catullus, stop this foolishness!
It's time to cut losses!
What is dead is gone, accept it.
Once brilliant suns shone on you both,
when you trotted about wherever she led,
and loved her as never another before.
That was a time of such happiness,
when your desire intersected her will.
But now she doesn't want you any more.
Be resolute, weak as you are, stop chasing mirages!
What you need is not love, but a clean break.
Goodbye girl, now Catullus stands firm.
Never again Lesbia! Catullus is clear:
He won't miss you. Won't crave you. Catullus is cold.
Now it's you who will grieve, when nobody calls.
It's you who will weep that you're ruined.
Who'll submit to you now? Admire your beauty?
Whom will you love? Whose girl will you be?
Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, you must break with the past, hold fast.



Catullus LX: 'Lioness'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did an African mountain lioness
or a howling Scylla beget you from the nether region of her *****,
my harsh goddess? Are you so pitiless you would hold in contempt
this supplicant voicing his inconsolable despair?
Are you really that cruel-hearted?

Catullus LXX: 'Marriage Vows'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My sweetheart says she'd marry no one else but me,
not even Jupiter, if he were to ask her!
But what a girl says to her eager lover
ought to be written on the wind or in running water.



CICERO

The famous Roman orator Cicero employed 'tail rhyme' in this pun:

O Fortunatam natam me consule Romam.
O fortunate natal Rome, to be hatched by me!
—Cicero, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



MICHELANGELO

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is considered by many experts to be the greatest artist and sculptor of all time. He was also a great poet.

Michelangelo Epigram Translations
loose translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch

I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.
I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.
Each stone contains a statue; it is the sculptor's task to release it.
The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.
Our greatness is only bounded by our horizons.
Be at peace, for God did not create us to abandon us.
God grant that I always desire more than my capabilities.
My soul's staircase to heaven is earth's loveliness.
I live and love by God's peculiar light.
Trifles create perfection, yet perfection is no trifle.
Genius is infinitely patient, and infinitely painstaking.
I have never found salvation in nature; rather I love cities.
He who follows will never surpass.
Beauty is what lies beneath superfluities.
I criticize via creation, not by fault-finding.
If you knew how hard I worked, you wouldn't call it 'genius.'



SONNET: RAVISHED
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ravished, by all our eyes find fine and fair,
yet starved for virtues pure hearts might confess,
my soul can find no Jacobean stair
that leads to heaven, save earth's loveliness.
The stars above emit such rapturous light
our longing hearts ascend on beams of Love
and seek, indeed, Love at its utmost height.
But where on earth does Love suffice to move
a gentle heart, or ever leave it wise,
save for beauty itself and the starlight in her eyes?



SONNET: TO LUIGI DEL RICCIO, AFTER THE DEATH OF CECCHINO BRACCI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A pena prima.

I had barely seen the beauty of his eyes
Which unto yours were life itself, and light,
When he closed them fast in death's eternal night
To reopen them on God, in Paradise.

In my tardiness, I wept, too late made wise,
Yet the fault not mine: for death's disgusting ploy
Had robbed me of that deep, unfathomable joy
Which in your loving memory never dies.

Therefore, Luigi, since the task is mine
To make our unique friend smile on, in stone,
Forever brightening what dark earth would dim,
And because the Beloved causes love to shine,

And since the artist cannot work alone,
I must carve you, to tell the world of him!



BEAUTY AND THE ARTIST
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Al cor di zolfo.

A heart aflame; alas, the flesh not so;
Bones brittle wood; the soul without a guide
To curb the will's inferno; the crude pride
Of restless passions' pulsing surge and flow;

A witless mind that - halt, lame, weak - must go
Blind through entrapments scattered far and wide; ...
Why wonder then, when one small spark applied
To such an assemblage, renders it aglow?

Add beauteous Art, which, Heaven-Promethean,
Must exceed nature - so divine a power
Belongs to those who strive with every nerve.
Created for such Art, from childhood given
As prey for her Infernos to devour,
I blame the Mistress I was born to serve.



SONNET XVI: LOVE AND ART
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sì come nella penna.

Just as with pen and ink,
there is a high, a low, and an in-between style;
and, as marble yields its images pure and vile
to excite the fancies artificers might think;
even so, my lord, lodged deep within your heart
are mingled pride and mild humility;
but I draw only what I truly see
when I trust my eyes and otherwise stand apart.
Whoever sows the seeds of tears and sighs
(bright dews that fall from heaven, crystal-clear)        
in various pools collects antiquities
and so must reap old griefs through misty eyes;
while the one who dwells on beauty, so painful here,
finds ephemeral hopes and certain miseries.



SONNET XXXI: LOVE'S LORDSHIP, TO TOMMASO DE' CAVALIERI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A che più debb' io.

Am I to confess my heart's desire
with copious tears and windy words of grief,
when a merciless heaven offers no relief
to souls consumed by fire?

Why should my aching heart aspire
to life, when all must die? Beyond belief
would be a death delectable and brief,
since in my compound woes all joys expire!

Therefore, because I cannot dodge the blow,
I rather seek whoever rules my breast,
to glide between her gladness and my woe.
If only chains and bonds can make me blessed,
no marvel if alone and bare I go
to face the foe: her captive slave oppressed.



LEONARDO DA VINCI

Once we have flown, we will forever walk the earth with our eyes turned heavenward, for there we were and will always long to return.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The great achievers rarely relaxed and let things happen to them. They set out and kick-started whatever happened.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

The greatest deceptions spring from men's own opinions.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

There are three classes of people: Those who see by themselves. Those who see only when they are shown. Those who refuse to see.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes! —Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is easier to oppose evil from the beginning than at the end.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Small minds continue to shrink, but those whose hearts are firm and whose consciences endorse their conduct, will persevere until death.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowledge is not enough; we must apply ourselves. Wanting and being willing are insufficient; we must act.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Time is sufficient for anyone who uses it wisely.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where the spirit does not aid and abet the hand there is no art.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Necessity is the mistress of mother nature's inventions.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nature has no effect without cause, no invention without necessity.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did Leonardo da Vinci anticipate Darwin with his comments about Nature and necessity being the mistress of her inventions? Yes, and his studies of comparative anatomy, including the intestines, led da Vinci to say explicitly that 'apes, monkeys and the like' are not merely related to humans but are 'almost of the same species.' He was, indeed, a man ahead of his time, by at least 350 years.



Excerpts from 'Paragone of Poetry and Painting' and Other Writings
by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1500
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sculpture requires light, received from above,
while a painting contains its own light and shade.

Painting is the more beautiful, the more imaginative, the more copious,
while sculpture is merely the more durable.

Painting encompasses infinite possibilities
which sculpture cannot command.
But you, O Painter, unless you can make your figures move,
are like an orator who can't bring his words to life!

While as soon as the Poet abandons nature, he ceases to resemble the Painter;
for if the Poet abandons the natural figure for flowery and flattering speech,
he becomes an orator and is thus neither Poet nor Painter.

Painting is poetry seen but not heard,
while poetry is painting heard but not seen.

And if the Poet calls painting dumb poetry,
the Painter may call poetry blind painting.

Yet poor is the pupil who fails to surpass his master!
Shun those studies in which the work dies with the worker.

Because I find no subject especially useful or pleasing
and because those who preceded me appropriated every useful theme,
I will be like the beggar who comes late to the fair,
who must content himself with other buyers' rejects.

Thus, I will load my humble cart full of despised and rejected merchandise,
the refuse of so many other buyers,
and I will go about distributing it, not in the great cities,
but in the poorer towns,
selling at discounts whatever the wares I offer may be worth.

And what can I do when a woman plucks my heart?
Alas, how she plays me, and yet I must persist!



The Point
by Leonardo da Vinci
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here forms, colors, the character of the entire universe, contract to a point,
and that point is miraculous, marvelous …
O marvelous, O miraculous, O stupendous Necessity!
By your elegant laws you compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause,
by the shortest path possible.
Such are your miracles!



VERONICA FRANCO

Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was a Venetian courtesan who wrote literary-quality poetry and prose.

A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)      
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
if only you give me the one that lifts
me laughing...
And though it costs you nothing,
still it is of immense value to me.
Your reward will be
not just to fly
but to soar, so high
that your joys vastly exceed your desires.
And my beauty, to which your heart aspires
and which you never tire of praising,
I will employ for the raising
of your spirits. Then, lying sweetly at your side,
I will shower you with all the delights of a bride,
which I have more expertly learned.
Then you who so fervently burned
will at last rest, fully content,
fallen even more deeply in love, spent
at my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
becoming completely free
with the man who loves and enjoys me.

Here is a second version of the same poem...

I Resolved to Make a Virtue of My Desire (II)      
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My rewards will match your gifts
If you give me the one that lifts
Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.
Your reward will be—not just to fly,
But to soar—so incredibly high
That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires
And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit's raising) .
Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,
Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,
Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent
At my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.



Capitolo 24
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(written by Franco to a man who had insulted a woman)        

Please try to see with sensible eyes
how grotesque it is for you
to insult and abuse women!
Our unfortunate *** is always subject
to such unjust treatment, because we
are dominated, denied true freedom!
And certainly we are not at fault
because, while not as robust as men,
we have equal hearts, minds and intellects.
Nor does virtue originate in power,
but in the vigor of the heart, mind and soul:
the sources of understanding;
and I am certain that in these regards
women lack nothing,
but, rather, have demonstrated
superiority to men.
If you think us 'inferior' to yourself,
perhaps it's because, being wise,
we outdo you in modesty.
And if you want to know the truth,
the wisest person is the most patient;
she squares herself with reason and with virtue;
while the madman thunders insolence.
The stone the wise man withdraws from the well
was flung there by a fool...



When I bed a man
who—I sense—truly loves and enjoys me,
I become so sweet and so delicious
that the pleasure I bring him surpasses all delight,
till the tight
knot of love,
however slight
it may have seemed before,
is raveled to the core.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



We danced a youthful jig through that fair city—
Venice, our paradise, so pompous and pretty.
We lived for love, for primal lust and beauty;
to please ourselves became our only duty.
Floating there in a fog between heaven and earth,
We grew drunk on excesses and wild mirth.
We thought ourselves immortal poets then,
Our glory endorsed by God's illustrious pen.
But paradise, we learned, is fraught with error,
and sooner or later love succumbs to terror.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



I wish it were not a sin to have liked it so.
Women have not yet realized the cowardice that resides,
for if they should decide to do so,
they would be able to fight you until death;
and to prove that I speak the truth,
amongst so many women,
I will be the first to act,
setting an example for them to follow.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



ANONYMOUS

The poem below is based on my teenage misinterpretation of a Latin prayer...

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch, who was always a little girl at heart

... qui laetificat juventutem meam...
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
... requiescat in pace...
May she rest in peace.
... amen...

Amen

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager. I later decided to incorporate it into a poem, which I started in high school and revised as an adult. From what I now understand, 'ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam' means 'to the God who gives joy to my youth, ' but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Latin Vulgate Bible (circa 385 AD) . I can't remember exactly when I read the novel or wrote the poem, but I believe it was around my junior year of high school, age 17 or thereabouts. This was my first translation. I revised the poem slightly in 2001 after realizing I had 'misremembered' one of the words in the Latin prayer.



The Latin hymn 'Dies Irae' employs end rhyme:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
***** David *** Sybilla

The day of wrath, that day
which will leave the world ash-gray,
was foretold by David and the Sybil fey.
—attributed to Thomas of Celano, St. Gregory the Great, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Bonaventure; loose translation by Michael R. Burch



HADRIAN

Hadrian's Elegy
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My delicate soul,
now aimlessly fluttering... drifting... unwhole,
former consort of my failing corpse...
Where are we going—from bad to worse?
From jail to a hearse?
Where do we wander now—fraught, pale and frail?
To hell?
To some place devoid of jests, mirth, happiness?
Is the joke on us?



THOMAS CAMPION

NOVELTIES
by Thomas Campion
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as p-mps praise their wh-res for exotic positions.



PRIMO LEVI

These are my translations of poems by the Italian Jewish Holocaust survivor Primo Levi.

Shema
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who live secure
in your comfortable houses,
who return each evening to find
warm food,
welcoming faces...
consider whether this is a man:
who toils in the mud,
who knows no peace,
who fights for crusts of bread,
who dies at another man's whim,
at his 'yes' or his 'no.'
Consider whether this is a woman:
bereft of hair,
of a recognizable name
because she lacks the strength to remember,
her eyes as void
and her womb as frigid
as a frog's in winter.
Consider that such horrors have been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them in your hearts
when you lounge in your house,
when you walk outside,
when you go to bed,
when you rise.
Repeat them to your children,
or may your house crumble
and disease render you helpless
so that even your offspring avert their faces from you.



Buna
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wasted feet, cursed earth,
the interminable gray morning
as Buna smokes corpses through industrious chimneys.
A day like every other day awaits us.
The terrible whistle shrilly announces dawn:
'You, O pale multitudes with your sad, lifeless faces,
welcome the monotonous horror of the mud...
another day of suffering has begun.'
Weary companion, I see you by heart.
I empathize with your dead eyes, my disconsolate friend.
In your breast you carry cold, hunger, nothingness.
Life has broken what's left of the courage within you.
Colorless one, you once were a strong man,
A courageous woman once walked at your side.
But now you, my empty companion, are bereft of a name,
my forsaken friend who can no longer weep,
so poor you can no longer grieve,
so tired you no longer can shiver with fear.
O, spent once-strong man,
if we were to meet again
in some other world, sweet beneath the sun,
with what kind faces would we recognize each other?

Note: Buna was the largest Auschwitz sub-camp.



ALDHELM

'The Leiden Riddle' is an Old English translation of Aldhelm's Latin riddle 'Lorica' or 'Corselet.'

The Leiden Riddle
anonymous Old English riddle poem, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dank earth birthed me from her icy womb.
I know I was not fashioned from woolen fleeces;
nor was I skillfully spun from skeins;
I have neither warp nor weft;
no thread thrums through me in the thrashing loom;
nor do whirring shuttles rattle me;
nor does the weaver's rod assail me;
nor did silkworms spin me like skillfull fates
into curious golden embroidery.
And yet heroes still call me an excellent coat.
Nor do I fear the dread arrows' flights,
however eagerly they leap from their quivers.

Solution: a coat of mail.



SAINT GODRIC OF FINCHALE

The song below is said in the 'Life of Saint Godric' to have come to Godric when he had a vision of his sister Burhcwen, like him a solitary at Finchale, being received into heaven. She was singing a song of thanksgiving, in Latin, and Godric renders her song in English bracketed by a Kyrie eleison.

Led By Christ and Mary
by Saint Godric of Finchale (1065-1170)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By Christ and Saint Mary I was so graciously led
that the earth never felt my bare foot's tread!



DANTE

Translations of Dante Epigrams and Quotes by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Beatrice I beheld the outer boundaries of blessedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She made my veins and even the pulses within them tremble.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her sweetness left me intoxicated.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love commands me by determining my desires.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Follow your own path and let the bystanders gossip.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The devil is not as dark as depicted.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is no greater sorrow than to recall how we delighted in our own wretchedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As he, who with heaving lungs escaped the suffocating sea, turns to regard its perilous waters.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you nosedive in the mildest breeze? —Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you quail at the least breath of wind? —Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midway through my life's journey
I awoke to find myself lost in a trackless wood,
for I had strayed far from the straight path.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



INSCRIPTION ON THE GATE OF HELL

Before me nothing existed, to fear.
Eternal I am, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Excerpts from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri

Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
Here is a Deity, stronger than myself, who comes to dominate me.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.
Your blessedness has now been manifested unto you.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps.
Alas, how often I will be restricted now!
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fili mi, tempus est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra.
My son, it is time to cease counterfeiting.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic.
Love said: 'I am as the center of a harmonious circle; everything is equally near me. No so with you.'
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Translations of Dante Cantos by Michael R. Burch

Paradiso, Canto III: 1-33, The Revelation of Love and Truth
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That sun, which had inflamed my breast with love,
Had now revealed to me—as visions move—
The gentle and confounding face of Truth.
Thus I, by her sweet grace and love reproved,
Corrected, and to true confession moved,
Raised my bowed head and found myself behooved
To speak, as true admonishment required,
And thus to bless the One I so desired,
When I was awed to silence! This transpired:
As the outlines of men's faces may amass
In mirrors of transparent, polished glass,
Or in shallow waters through which light beams pass
(Even so our eyes may easily be fooled
By pearls, or our own images, thus pooled) :
I saw a host of faces, pale and lewd,
All poised to speak; but when I glanced around
There suddenly was no one to be found.
A pool, with no Narcissus to astound?
But then I turned my eyes to my sweet Guide.
With holy eyes aglow and smiling wide,
She said, 'They are not here because they lied.'



Excerpt from 'Paradiso'
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O ****** Mother, daughter of your Son,
Humble, and yet held high, above creation,
You are the apex of all Wisdom known!
You are the Pinnacle of human nature,
Your nobility instilled by its Creator
who was not shamed to be born with your features.
Love was engendered in your perfect womb
Where warmth and holy peace were given room
For heaven's Perfect Rose, once sown, to bloom.
Now unto us you are a Torch held high:
Our noonday Sun—the Light of Charity,
Our Wellspring of all Hope, a living Sea.
Madonna, so pure, high and all-availing,
The man who desires Grace of you, though failing,
Despite his grounded state, is given wing!
Your mercy does not fail us, Ever-Blessed!
Indeed, the one who asks may find his wish
Unneeded: you predicted his request!
You are our Mercy; you are our Compassion;
you are Magnificence; in you creation
becomes the sum of Goodness and Salvation.



Translations of Dante Sonnets by Michael R. Burch

Sonnet: 'A Vision of Love' or 'Love's Faithful Ones' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To every gentle heart true Love may move,
And unto whom my words must now be brought
For wise interpretation's tender thought—
I greet you in our Lord's name, which is Love.
Through night's last watch, as winking stars, above,
Kept their high vigil over men, distraught,
Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught
As mortals may not casually speak of.
Love seemed a being of pure Joy and held
My heart, pulsating. On his other arm,
My lady, wrapped in thinnest gossamers, slept.
He, having roused her from her sleep, then made
My heart her feast—devoured, with alarm.
Love then departed; as he left, he wept.



Sonnet: 'Love's Thoroughfare' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

'O voi che par la via'

All those who travel Love's worn tracks,
Pause here awhile, and ask
Has there ever been a grief like mine?
Pause here, from that mad race,
And with patience hear my case:
Is it not a piteous marvel and a sign?
Love, not because I played a part,
But only due to his great heart,
Afforded me a provenance so sweet
That often others, as I went,
Asked what such unfair gladness meant:
They whispered things behind me in the street.
But now that easy gait is gone
Along with all Love proffered me;
And so in time I've come to be
So poor I dread to think thereon.
And thus I have become as one
Who hides his shame of his poverty,
Pretending richness outwardly,
While deep within I moan.



Sonnet: 'Cry for Pity' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts lie shattered in my memory:
When through the past I see your lovely face.
When you are near me, thus, Love fills all Space,
And often whispers, 'Is death better? Fly! '
My face reflects my heart's contentious tide,
Which, ebbing, seeks some shallow resting place;
Till, in the blushing shame of such disgrace,
The very earth seems to be shrieking, 'Die! '
'Twould be a grievous sin, if one should not
Relay some comfort to my harried mind,
If only with some simple pitying thought
For this great anguish which fierce scorn has wrought
Through the faltering sight of eyes grown nearly blind,
Which search for death now, as a blessed thing.



Sonnet: 'Ladies of Modest Countenance' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who wear a modest countenance
With eyelids weighted by such heaviness,
How is it, that among you every face
Is haunted by the same pale troubled glance?
Have you seen in my lady's face, perchance,
the grief that Love provokes despite her grace?
Confirm this thing is so, then in her place,
Complete your grave and sorrowful advance.
And if indeed you match her heartfelt sighs
And mourn, as she does, for her heart's relief,
Then tell Love how it fares with her, to him.
Love knows how you have wept, seen in your eyes,
And is so grieved by gazing on your grief,
His courage falters and his sight grows dim.



Translations of Poems by Other Italian Poets

Sonnet IV: ‘S'io prego questa donna che Pietate'
by ***** Cavalcante
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If I should ask this lady, in her grace,
not to make her heart my enemy,
she'd call me foolish, venturing: 'No man
was ever possessed of such strange vanity! '
Why such harsh judgements, written on a face
where once I'd thought to find humility,
true gentleness, calm wisdom, courtesy?
My soul despairs, unwilling to embrace
the sighs and griefs that flood my drowning heart,
the rains of tears that well my watering eyes,
the miseries to which my soul's condemned...
For through my mind there flows, as rivers part,
the image of a lady, full of thought,
through heartlessness became a thoughtless friend.



***** Guinizelli, also known as ***** di Guinizzello di Magnano, was born in Bologna. He became an esteemed Italian love poet and is considered to be the father of the 'dolce stil nuovo' or 'sweet new style.' Dante called him 'il saggio' or 'the sage.'

Sonetto
by ***** Guinizelli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In truth I sing her honor and her praise:
My lady, with whom flowers can't compare!
Like Diana, she unveils her beauty's rays,
Then makes the dawn unfold here, bright and fair!
She's like the wind and like the leaves they swell:
All hues, all colors, flushed and pale, beside...
Argent and gold and rare stones' brilliant spell;
Even Love, itself, in her, seems glorified.
She moves in ways so tender and so sweet,
Pride fails and falls and flounders at her feet.
The impure heart cannot withstand such light!
Ungentle men must wither, at her sight.
And still this greater virtue I aver:
No man thinks ill once he's been touched by her.



This is a poem of mine that has been translated into Italian by Comasia Aquaro.

Her Grace Flows Freely
by Michael R. Burch

July 7,2007

Her love is always chaste, and pure.
This I vow. This I aver.
If she shows me her grace, I will honor her.
This I vow. This I aver.
Her grace flows freely, like her hair.
This I vow. This I aver.
For her generousness, I would worship her.
This I vow. This I aver.
I will not **** her for what I bear
This I vow. This I aver.
like a most precious incense-desire for her,
This I vow. This I aver.
nor call her '*****' where I seek to repair.
This I vow. This I aver.
I will not wink, nor smirk, nor stare
This I vow. This I aver.
like a foolish child at the foot of a stair
This I vow. This I aver.
where I long to go, should another be there.
This I vow. This I aver.
I'll rejoice in her freedom, and always dare
This I vow. This I aver.
the chance that she'll flee me-my starling rare.
This I vow. This I aver.
And then, if she stays, without stays, I swear
This I vow. This I aver.
that I will joy in her grace beyond compare.
This I vow. This I aver.

Her Grace Flows Freely
by Michael R. Burch
Italian translation by Comasia Aquaro

La sua grazia vola libera

7 luglio 2007

Il suo amore è sempre casto, e puro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Se mi mostra la sua grazia, le farò onore.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
La sua grazia vola libera, come i suoi capelli.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Per la sua generosità, la venererò.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Non la maledirò per ciò che soffro
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
come il più prezioso desiderio d'incenso per lei,
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
non chiamarla 'sgualdrina' laddove io cerco di aggiustare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Io non strizzerò l'occhio, non riderò soddisfatto, non fisserò lo sguardo
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Come un bambino sciocco ai piedi di una scala
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Laddove io desidero andare, ci sarebbe forse un altro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Mi rallegrerò nella sua libertà, e sempre sfiderò
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
la sorte che lei mi sfuggirà—il mio raro storno
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
E dopo, se lei resta, senza stare, io lo garantisco
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Gioirò nella sua grazia al di là del confrontare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.*



A risqué Latin epigram:

C-nt, while you weep and seep neediness all night,
-ss has claimed what would bring you delight.
—Musa Lapidaria, #100A, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



References to Dante in other Translations by Michael R. Burch

THE MUSE
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart — youth, liberty, glory —
now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.
Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes — calm, implacable, pitiless.
'Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell? '
She answers, 'Yes.'



I have also translated this tribute poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

Excerpt from 'Poems for Akhmatova'
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You outshine everything, even the sun
  at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
  through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are...
  to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
  petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness...



Dante-Related Poems and Dante Criticism by Michael R. Burch

Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan's gnawing.
Saint Brendan's curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.
'I'm on parole from Hell today!'
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
'You've fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!'

Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever your can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!

In Dante's 'Inferno' Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot's head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.



Dante's was a defensive reflex
against religion's hex.
—Michael R. Burch



Dante, you Dunce!
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is hell, Dante, you Dunce!
Which you should have perceived—since you lived here once.
God is no Beatrice, gentle and clever.
Judas and Satan were wise to dissever
from false 'messiahs' who cannot save.
Why flit like a bat through Plato's cave
believing such shadowy illusions are real?
There is no 'hell' but to live and feel!



How Dante Forgot Christ
by Michael R. Burch

Dante ****** the brightest and the fairest
for having loved—pale Helen, wild Achilles—
agreed with his Accuser in the spell
of hellish visions and eternal torments.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love,
the fulcrum of his body's, heart's and mind's
sole triumph, and their altogether conquest.
She led him to those heights where Love, enshrined,
blazed like a star beyond religion's hells.
Once freed from Yahweh, in the arms of Love,
like Blake and Milton, Dante forgot Christ.
The Christian gospel is strangely lacking in Milton's and Dante's epics. Milton gave the 'atonement' one embarrassed enjambed line. Dante ****** the Earth's star-crossed lovers to his grotesque hell, while doing exactly what they did: pursing at all costs his vision of love, Beatrice. Blake made more sense to me, since he called the biblical god Nobodaddy and denied any need to be 'saved' by third parties.



Dante's Antes
by Michael R. Burch

There's something glorious about man,
who lives because he can,
who dies because he must,
and in between's a bust.
No god can reign him in:
he's quite intent on sin
and likes it rather, really.
He likes *** touchy-feely.
He likes to eat too much.
He has the Midas touch
and paves hell's ways with gold.
The things he's bought and sold!
He's sold his soul to Mammon
and also plays backgammon
and poker, with such antes
as still befuddle Dantes.
I wonder—can hell hold him?
His chances seem quite dim
because he's rather puny
and also loopy-******.
And yet like Evel Knievel
he dances with the Devil
and seems so **** courageous,
good-natured and outrageous
some God might show him mercy
and call religion heresy.



RE: Paradiso, Canto III
by Michael R. Burch

for the most 'Christian' of poets

What did Dante do,
to earn Beatrice's grace
(grace cannot be earned!)        
but cast disgrace
on the whole human race,
on his peers and his betters,
as a man who wears cheap rayon suits
might disparage men who wear sweaters?
How conventionally 'Christian' — Poet! — to ****
your fellow man
for being merely human,
then, like a contented clam,
to grandly claim
near-infinite 'grace'
as if your salvation was God's only aim!
What a scam!
And what of the lovely Piccarda,
whom you placed in the lowest sphere of heaven
for neglecting her vows —
She was forced!
Were you chaste?



Intimations V
by Michael R. Burch

We had not meditated upon sound
so much as drowned
in the inhuman ocean
when we imagined it broken
open
like a conch shell
whorled like the spiraling hell
of Dante's 'Inferno.'
Trapped between Nature
and God,
what is man
but an inquisitive,
acquisitive
sod?
And what is Nature
but odd,
or God
but a Clod,
and both of them horribly flawed?



Endgame
by Michael R. Burch

The honey has lost all its sweetness,
the hive—its completeness.
Now ambient dust, the drones lie dead.
The workers weep, their King long fled
(who always had been ****, invisible,
his 'kingdom' atomic, divisible,
and pathetically risible) .
The queen has flown,
long Dis-enthroned,
who would have gladly given all she owned
for a promised white stone.
O, Love has fled, has fled, has fled...
Religion is dead, is dead, is dead.

The drones are those who drone on about the love of God in a world full of suffering and death: dead prophets, dead pontiffs, dead preachers. Spewers of dead words and false promises. The queen is disenthroned, as in Dis-enthroned. In Dante's Inferno, the lower regions of hell are enclosed within the walls of Dis, a city surrounded by the Stygian marshes. The river Styx symbolizes death and the journey from life to the afterlife. But in Norse mythology, Dis was a goddess, the sun, and the consort of Heimdal, himself a god of light. DIS is also the stock ticker designation for Disney, creator of the Magic Kingdom. The 'promised white stone' appears in Revelation, which turns Jesus and the Angels into serial killers.



The Final Revelation of a Departed God's Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

Here I am, talking to myself again...
******* at God and bored with humanity.
These insectile mortals keep testing my sanity!
Still, I remember when...
planting odd notions, dark inklings of vanity,
in their peapod heads might elicit an inanity
worth a chuckle or two.
Philosophers, poets... how they all made me laugh!
The things they dreamed up! Sly Odysseus's raft;
Plato's 'Republic'; Dante's strange crew;
Shakespeare's Othello, mad Hamlet, Macbeth;
Cervantes' Quixote; fat, funny Falstaff! ;
Blake's shimmering visions. Those days, though, are through...
for, puling and tedious, their 'poets' now seem
content to write, but not to dream,
and they fill the world with their pale derision
of things they completely fail to understand.
Now, since God has long fled, I am here, in command,
reading this crap. Earth is Hell. We're all ******.



Brief Encounters: Other Roman, Italian and Greek Epigrams

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.—Seneca the Younger, translation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

He who follows will never surpass.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, translation by Michael R. Burch

Time is sufficient for anyone who uses it wisely.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes! —Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

It is easier to oppose evil from the beginning than at the end.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fools call wisdom foolishness.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Not to speak one's mind is slavery.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself by other men's writings, attaining less painfully what they gained through great difficulty.—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel, or a house when it's time to change residences, even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.―Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as p-mps praise their wh-res for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, Latin epigram, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#POEMS #POETRY #LATIN #ROMAN #ITALIAN #TRANSLATION #MRB-POEMS #MRB-POETRY #MRBPOEMS #MRBPOETRY #MRBLATIN #MRBROMAN #MRBITALIAN #MRBTRANSLATION


Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Published as the collection "Modern Charon"

Keywords/Tags: Charon, Styx, death, ferry, boat, ship, captain, steering, helm, wheel, rudder, shipwreck, disaster, night, darkness, 911, 9-11, mrbch
glenn martin Jun 2015
A talking winds pure side  
Blows in a world living told
what you are  meant to be  
not a mere born  you dream
the wind  a wisp of lavender and sage
Starlight of day a lightening in the veins
a thundering heart starlight eye sparkling gold
the body seeping fingertips
at the end of a rainbow a *** of gold eyes
the nature that believes in faerie tails
Earth shine the pure side shows off
the world born from ideas thinking
a spirit created life our flesh and blood
spirit being living life   created shadows
on the edge of night   eternity of Starlight
living Pleiades Star seed temple  Poseidon
Cape SoUnion Greece   eye of the world
Starlight wills  transition from light
sustainable living evolves  a blessing concerned
the Earth tenderness  clutching the living
creatures and Earth creation in the womb
Focus the golden eye of living light
making our eye the world of living beings
all equally living  in dream  the body sustainable
life craving attention  let it live   grow
alive being wonder fulfilled  the eye open
burning the energy to live within you  
rising falling will to survive succeed
in the expansion of eternity  to be more
than we know to be the right of living life
to recreate eternity  Worlds of life creation
rely on sincerity optimism growing Earth
community with love let Starlight reign
in living peace security emanating joy
in spirit amongst all earth creations
intentions plan for the future  set the course
get a compass await the epic the 5th element
Ether a consciousness place a survivor door
a step a layer of oxygen that unites
our cosmic intelligence growth to stop bad karma
its long term death from happening to you
evolution of earth humanity the wisdom
of ancient cycles do well unto others
our brave new world the eye of Star will
yet humans hold an eye in the palm of the hand
denying the hearts thunder swelling muscles
predators ruling the land of Earth sustainable
for all creatures of Earth live the senses
alive together as one  the same glory in life
birthing  babys  a family  a home  air  food
all Earths eye seek the same life living
alive in this sustainable abundance of water
the physical world the achievable reality
the senses within spirit sharing a common life
our Earth being to perceive protect the living
a language our senses of sight and sound
in memory building a path of activity a living womb
Earth gravity    bright Starlight   grows all
the spirits reveal  share the vision of eternity
a living life  do not let the making of products
steal your destiny to live eternity...
oh great earth  and Universe of Star
your world is precious a life of intelligence
a free clean living being  love conceived in joy  
recycle the honor our elements of hope in life
the beings the living pinnacle of modern living
the astral world plain of existing
the apex of creation Earth world gravity
mobius-drift celestial spheres birthing
the souls past-life apex Ether tip of ancient pyramids
blocks of life centering the celestial spheres
birthing  recycling of death cross thru
a magician the right arm skyward gravity
feed above the head a mobius drift celestial spheres
heralding the spirits thoughts in mind
being born thru the spirits the elements joined
the recreation of Earth realm design
giving spirit a body the Higgs *****  recreates eternity
aligning the heavens celestial spheres
a magician the left hand leading the Ether
thru gravity Earth a spirit to survive to build
the living body Higgs ***** an apex mobius drift
our ancient thoughts and present too
all directed by love leading the binding of Higgs
for as to the Ether celestial spheres
the birth of spirit to form the creation of Earth realm
Being born in a body and living after death
returning to the spheres population
pure spirits immaterial beings...
as one leaves the spheres
an eye to the world of living
a wonder in Earth time born
let all life stop eating the creatures
let them live commune in family
let Earth forests grow
let the oceans thrive
live in harmony
share the sustainable diet
stop extinction for the love of life...
planet Earth of the cosmic divine
love peace the joining of life
let all creations family commune...
            gjmars 6/23/15
Classy J Jan 2019
Run rotten, for things have gotten out of hand.
Turn coat ducking, torture got him singing and eating outta my hand.
Getting scraped by the beater like youse a percussion instrument;
maybe that’s why a group of people are called a band?
For we all play our part to either be an influence or to be influenced.
Yet we won’t know anything if you never venture into the forest and meet the temptress.
When one experiences all six senses, when in present tenses, which then puts the body through stresses.
That makes the mind flood with guesses that clouds up our lenses.
But that’s just what war is like for one is always in the trenches.
Whilst other’s sit on benches, but each choice brings rewards and consequences.
Which bears questions on what your quest is?
To run free or to be held back by white picket fences?
For being hard pressed brings out either killers or medics.
To choose to be real or synthetic.
To become abstract or symmetric.
However, things aren’t always so metric.
So be wary of being a critique for just like branches of mathematics in arithmetic,
We have many great qualities but when in a group we can become manipulated.
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
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, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems, Bewildering Stories, Neovictorian/Cochlea

Keywords/Tags: Poet, poetic vision, sight, seeing, swimmer, underwater, breath, bubbles, blur, blurry, blurred, blurring, obscure, obscured, obscuring

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Yes, bring me Homer’s lyre, no doubt,
but first yank the bloodstained strings out!
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here we find Anacreon,
an elderly lover of boys and wine.
His harp still sings in lonely Acheron
as he thinks of the lads he left behind ...
by Anacreon or the Anacreontea, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

We who left behind the Aegean’s bellowings
Now sleep peacefully here on the mid-plains of Ecbatan:
Farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
Farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

They observed our fearful fetters,
braved the overwhelming darkness.
Now we extol their excellence:
bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas:
that these valorous men lack breath.
Assume, like pale chattels,
an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me―where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Here I lie dead and sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that reared and nurtured me;
once again I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch, Epitaph for a Palestinian Child

Sail on, mariner, sail on,
for while we were perishing,
greater ships sailed on.
Michael R. Burch, after Theodorides

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie―whether heaven, or hell?
Perhaps when the gulls repent―
their shriekings may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

His white bones lie bleaching on some inhospitable shore:
a son lost to his father, his tomb empty; the poor-
est beggars have happier mothers!
Michael R. Burch, after Damegtus

A mother only as far as the birth pangs,
my life cut short at the height of life’s play:
only eighteen years old, so brief was my day.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Little I knew―a child of five―
of what it means to be alive
and all life’s little thrills;
but little also―(I was glad not to know)―
of life’s great ills.
Michael R. Burch, after Lucian

Pity this boy who was beautiful, but died.
Pity his monument, overlooking this hillside.
Pity the world that bore him, then foolishly survived.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Insatiable Death! I was only a child!
Why did you ****** me away, in my infancy,
from those destined to love me?
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Tell Nicagoras that Strymonias
at the setting of the Kids
lost his.
Michael R. Burch, after Nicaenetus

Here Saon, son of Dicon, now rests in holy sleep:
say not that the good die young, friend,
lest gods and mortals weep.
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

The light of a single morning
exterminated the sacred offspring of Lysidice.
Nor do the angels sing.
Nor do we seek the gods’ advice.
This is the grave of Nicander’s lost children.
We merely weep at its bitter price.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Pluto, delighting in tears,
why did you bring our son, Ariston,
to the laughterless abyss of death?
Why―why?―did the gods grant him breath,
if only for seven years?
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Heartlessly this grave
holds our nightingale speechless;
now she lies here like a stone,
who voice was so marvelous;
while sunlight illumining dust
proves the gods all reachless,
as our prayers prove them also
unhearing or beseechless.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I, Homenea, the chattering bright sparrow,
lie here in the hollow of a great affliction,
leaving tears to Atimetus
and all scattered―that great affection.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

We mourn Polyanthus, whose wife
placed him newly-wedded in an unmarked grave,
having received his luckless corpse
back from the green Aegean wave
that deposited his fleshless skeleton
gruesomely in the harbor of Torone.
Michael R. Burch, after Phaedimus

Once sweetest of the workfellows,
our shy teller of tall tales
―fleet Crethis!―who excelled
at every childhood game . . .
now you sleep among long shadows
where everyone’s the same . . .
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Although I had to leave the sweet sun,
only nineteen―Diogenes, hail!―
beneath the earth, let’s have lots more fun:
till human desire seems weak and pale.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Though they were steadfast among spears, dark Fate destroyed them
as they defended their native land, rich in sheep;
now Ossa’s dust seems all the more woeful, where they now sleep.
Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Aeschylus, graybeard, son of Euphorion,
died far away in wheat-bearing Gela;
still, the groves of Marathon may murmur of his valor
and the black-haired Mede, with his mournful clarion.
Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner’s faithful Maltese . . .
but will he still bark again, on sight?
Michael R. Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly . . .
so she shan’t get at you again!
Michael R. Burch, after Agathias

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
Michael R. Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius

Not Rocky Trachis,
nor the thirsty herbage of Dryophis,
nor this albescent stone
with its dark blue lettering shielding your white bones,
nor the wild Icarian sea dashing against the steep shingles
of Doliche and Dracanon,
nor the empty earth,
nor anything essential of me since birth,
nor anything now mingles
here with the perplexing absence of you,
with what death forces us to abandon . . .
Michael R. Burch, after Euphorion

We who left the thunderous surge of the Aegean
of old, now lie here on the mid-plain of Ecbatan:
farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

My friend found me here,
a shipwrecked corpse on the beach.
He heaped these strange boulders above me.
Oh, how he would wail
that he “loved” me,
with many bright tears for his own calamitous life!
Now he sleeps with my wife
and flits like a gull in a gale
―beyond reach―
while my broken bones bleach.
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Cloud-capped Geraneia, cruel mountain!
If only you had looked no further than Ister and Scythian
Tanais, had not aided the surge of the Scironian
sea’s wild-spurting fountain
filling the dark ravines of snowy Meluriad!
But now he is dead:
a chill corpse in a chillier ocean―moon led―
and only an empty tomb now speaks of the long, windy voyage ahead.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides


Erinna Epigrams

This portrait is the work of sensitive, artistic hands.
See, my dear Prometheus, you have human equals!
For if whoever painted this girl had only added a voice,
she would have been Agatharkhis entirely.
by Erinna, translation by Michael R. Burch

You, my tall Columns, and you, my small Urn,
the receptacle of Hades’ tiny pittance of ash―
remember me to those who pass by
my grave, as they dash.
Tell them my story, as sad as it is:
that this grave sealed a young bride’s womb;
that my name was Baucis and Telos my land;
and that Erinna, my friend, etched this poem on my Tomb.
by Erinna, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …
… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...
... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …
… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …
… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...
... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...
… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...
... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...
... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...
... Desire becomes oblivion ...
... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …
... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eyeing this strange distaff ...
O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!

On a Betrothed Girl
by Errina
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"
Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis―
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.
*****! O Hymenaeus!


Roman Epigrams

Wall, we're astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
Ancient Roman graffiti, translation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.
Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening―
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.

Originally published by The Chained Muse


Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

. . . qui laetificat juventutem meam . . .
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
. . . requiescat in pace . . .
May she rest in peace.
. . . amen . . .
Amen.


Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!


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.


W. S. Rendra translations

SONNET
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering.
Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers―complex & undefined.
And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.
But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.
How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon―such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.


THE WORLD'S FIRST FACE
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations―
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.


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.


Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

Love of my life,
light of my morning―
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.

Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.


In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free―
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.
This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.
I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.
We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.


faith(less)
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.



Bittersight
by Michael R. Burch

for Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri, an ancient antinatalist poet

To be plagued with sight
in the Land of the Blind,
—to know birth is death
and that Death is kind—
is to be flogged like Eve
(stripped, sentenced and fined)
because evil is “good”
as some “god” has defined.



veni, vidi, etc.
by Michael R. Burch

the last will and testament of a preemie, from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

i came, i saw, i figured
it was better to be transfigured,
so rather than cross my Rubicon
i fled to the Great Beyond.
i bequeath my remains, so small,
to Brutus, et al.



Paradoxical Ode to Antinatalism
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

A stay on love
would end death’s hateful sway,
someday.

A stay on love
would thus be love,
I say.

Be true to love
and thus end death’s
fell sway!



Lighten your tread:
The ground beneath your feet is composed of the dead.

Walk slowly here and always take great pains
Not to trample some departed saint's remains.

And happiest here is the hermit with no hand
In making sons, who dies a childless man.

Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri (973-1057), antinatalist Shyari
loose translation by Michael R. Burch



There were antinatalist notes in Homer, around 3,000 years ago...

For the gods have decreed that unfortunate mortals must suffer, while they remain sorrowless. — Homer, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It is best not to be born or, having been born, to pass on as swiftly as possible.—attributed to Homer, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One of the first great voices to directly question whether human being should give birth was that of Sophocles, around 2,500 years ago...

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: birth, control, procreation, childbearing, children,  antinatalist, antinatalism, contraception



Shock
by Michael R. Burch

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom―
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain ...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.


evol-u-shun
by Michael R. Burch

does GOD adore the Tyger
while it’s ripping ur lamb apart?

does GOD applaud the Plague
while it’s eating u à la carte?

does GOD admire ur intelligence
while u pray that IT has a heart?

does GOD endorse the Bible
you blue-lighted at k-mart?


Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.


The Temple Hymns of Enheduanna
with modern English translations by Michael R. Burch

Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You hack down everything you see, War God!

Rising on fearsome wings
you rush to destroy our land:
raging like thunderstorms,
howling like hurricanes,
screaming like tempests,
thundering, raging, ranting, drumming,
whiplashing whirlwinds!

Men falter at your approaching footsteps.
Tortured dirges scream on your lyre of despair.

Like a fiery Salamander you poison the land:
growling over the earth like thunder,
vegetation collapsing before you,
blood gushing down mountainsides.

Spirit of hatred, greed and vengeance!
******* of heaven and earth!
Your ferocious fire consumes our land.
Whipping your stallion
with furious commands,
you impose our fates.

You triumph over all human rites and prayers.
Who can explain your tirade,
why you carry on so?


Temple Hymn 15
to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain,
dark like a mother's womb ...

Dark shrine,
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...

Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair stands on end as we near you!

Gishbanda,
like a neck-stock,
like a fine-eyed fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!

But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!

Your prince
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's Holy One,
Lord Ningishzida!

Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!

Oh Gishbanda,
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!


The Exaltation of Inanna: Opening Lines and Excerpts
Nin-me-šara by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lady of all divine powers!
Lady of the resplendent light!
Righteous Lady adorned in heavenly radiance!
Beloved Lady of An and Uraš!
Hierodule of An, sun-adorned and bejeweled!
Heaven’s Mistress with the holy diadem,
Who loves the beautiful headdress befitting the office of her own high priestess!

Powerful Mistress, seizer of the seven divine powers!
My Heavenly Lady, guardian of the seven divine powers!
You have seized the seven divine powers!
You hold the divine powers in your hand!
You have gathered together the seven divine powers!
You have clasped the divine powers to your breast!
You have flooded the valleys with venom, like a viper;
all vegetation vanishes when you thunder like Iškur!
You have caused the mountains to flood the valleys!
When you roar like that, nothing on earth can withstand you!
Like a flood descending on floodplains, O Powerful One, you will teach foreigners to fear Inanna!
You have given wings to the storm, O Beloved of Enlil!
The storms do your bidding, blasting the unbelievers!
Foreign cities cower at the chaos You cause!
Entire countries cower in dread of Your deadly South Wind!
Men cower before you in their anguished implications,
raising their pitiful outcries,
weeping and wailing, beseeching Your benevolence with many wild lamentations!
But in the van of battle, everything falls before You, O Mighty Queen!
My Queen,
You are all-conquering, all-devouring!
You continue Your attacks like relentless storms!
You howl louder than the howling storms!
You thunder louder than Iškur!
You moan louder than the mournful winds!
Your feet never tire from trampling Your enemies!
You produce much wailing on the lyres of lamentations!
My Queen,
all the Anunna, the mightiest Gods,
fled before Your approach like fluttering bats!
They could not stand in Your awesome Presence
nor behold Your awesome Visage!
Who can soothe Your infuriated heart?
Your baleful heart is beyond being soothed!
Uncontrollable Wild Cow, elder daughter of Sin,
O Majestic Queen, greater than An,
who has ever paid You enough homage?
O Life-Giving Goddess, possessor of all powers,
Inanna the Exalted!
Merciful, Live-Giving Mother!
Inanna, the Radiant of Heart!
I have exalted You in accordance with Your power!
I have bowed before You in my holy garb,
I the En, I Enheduanna!
Carrying my masab-basket, I once entered and uttered my joyous chants ...
But now I no longer dwell in Your sanctuary.
The sun rose and scorched me.
Night fell and the South Wind overwhelmed me.
My laughter was stilled and my honey-sweet voice grew strident.
My joy became dust.
O Sin, King of Heaven, how bitter my fate!
To An, I declared: An will deliver me!
I declared it to An: He will deliver me!
But now the kingship of heaven has been seized by Inanna,
at Whose feet the floodplains lie.
Inanna the Exalted,
who has made me tremble together with all Ur!
Stay Her anger, or let Her heart be soothed by my supplications!
I, Enheduanna will offer my supplications to Inanna,
my tears flowing like sweet intoxicants!
Yes, I will proffer my tears and my prayers to the Holy Inanna,
I will greet Her in peace ...
O My Queen, I have exalted You,
Who alone are worthy to be exalted!
O My Queen, Beloved of An,
I have laid out Your daises,
set fire to the coals,
conducted the rites,
prepared Your nuptial chamber.
Now may Your heart embrace me!
These are my innovations,
O Mighty Queen, that I made for You!
What I composed for You by the dark of night,
The cantor will chant by day.
Now Inanna’s heart has been restored,
and the day became favorable to Her.
Clothed in beauty, radiant with joy,
she carried herself like the elegant moonlight.
Now to the Noble Hierodule,
to the Wrecker of foreign lands
presented by An with the seven divine powers,
and to my Queen garbed in the radiance of heaven ...
O Inanna, praise!


Temple Hymn 7: an Excerpt
to the Kesh Temple of Ninhursag
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, high-situated Kesh,
form-shifting summit,
inspiring fear like a venomous viper!

O, Lady of the Mountains,
Ninhursag’s house was constructed on a terrifying site!

O, Kesh, like holy Aratta: your womb dark and deep,
your walls high-towering and imposing!

O, great lion of the wildlands stalking the high plains! ...


Temple Hymn 17: an Excerpt
to the Badtibira Temple of Dumuzi
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of jeweled lapis illuminating the radiant bed
in the peace-inducing palace of our Lady of the Steppe!


Temple Hymn 22: an Excerpt
to the Sirara Temple of Nanshe
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house, you wild cow!
Made to conjure signs of the Divine!
You arise, beautiful to behold,
bedecked for your Mistress!


Temple Hymn 26: an Excerpt
to the Zabalam Temple of Inanna
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O house illuminated by beams of bright light,
dressed in shimmering stone jewels,
awakening the world to awe!


Temple Hymn 42: an Excerpt
to the Eresh Temple of Nisaba
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of brilliant stars
bright with lapis stones,
you illuminate all lands!

...

The person who put this tablet together
is Enheduanna.
My king: something never created before,
did she not give birth to it?


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.


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?


Her Preference
by Michael R. Burch

Not for her the pale incandescence of dreams,
the warm glow of imagination,
the hushed whispers of possibility,
or frail, blossoming hope.

No, she prefers the anguish and screams
of bitter condemnation,
the hissing of hostility,
damnation's rope.


hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

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


Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Starlit recorder of summer nights,
what magic spell bewitches you?
They say that all lovers love first in the dark . . .
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true?

Starry-eyed seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared―
What sights have you seen?
What dreams have you dreamed?
What rhetoric have you heard?

Is love an oration,
or is it a word?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?


Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
alone, ever lonely . . .
yes, go down to die.

And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
Go down to the valley;
go down to Tomb Lake.

Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours―
mad souls without meaning,
frail souls without force.

Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
They lie in her shallows
and sleep in her bed.


Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore
shall the haunts of the sea―
the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore―
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her ******* and hips
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never **** her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure ...
She sleeps forevermore.

She sleeps forevermore,
a ****** save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way!
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea ...
their skeletal love―impossibility!


Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret . . .
a pain
I chose to bear . . .

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again―
how rare.


Veronica Franco translations

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
if only you give me the one that lifts
me laughing ...

And though it costs you nothing,
still it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be
not just to fly
but to soar, so high
that your joys vastly exceed your desires.

And my beauty, to which your heart aspires
and which you never tire of praising,
I will employ for the raising
of your spirits. Then, lying sweetly at your side,
I will shower you with all the delights of a bride,
which I have more expertly learned.

Then you, who so fervently burned,
will at last rest, fully content,
fallen even more deeply in love, spent
at my comfortable *****.

When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
becoming completely free
with the man who loves and enjoys me.


Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (II)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will match your gifts
If you give me the one that lifts

Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be―not just to fly,
But to soar―so incredibly high

That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires

And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit's raising).

Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,

Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,

Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent

At my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,

Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.


Capitolo 24
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(written by Franco to a man who had insulted a woman)

Please try to see with sensible eyes
how grotesque it is for you
to insult and abuse women!
Our unfortunate *** is always subject
to such unjust treatment, because we
are dominated, denied true freedom!
And certainly we are not at fault
because, while not as robust as men,
we have equal hearts, minds and intellects.
Nor does virtue originate in power,
but in the vigor of the heart, mind and soul:
the sources of understanding;
and I am certain that in these regards
women lack nothing,
but, rather, have demonstrated
superiority to men.
If you think us "inferior" to yourself,
perhaps it's because, being wise,
we outdo you in modesty.
And if you want to know the truth,
the wisest person is the most patient;
she squares herself with reason and with virtue;
while the madman thunders insolence.
The stone the wise man withdraws from the well
was flung there by a fool ...

When I bed a man
who―I sense―truly loves and enjoys me,
I become so sweet and so delicious
that the pleasure I bring him surpasses all delight,
till the tight
knot of love,
however slight
it may have seemed before,
is raveled to the core.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We danced a youthful jig through that fair city―
Venice, our paradise, so pompous and pretty.
We lived for love, for primal lust and beauty;
to please ourselves became our only duty.
Floating there in a fog between heaven and earth,
We grew drunk on excesses and wild mirth.
We thought ourselves immortal poets then,
Our glory endorsed by God's illustrious pen.
But paradise, we learned, is fraught with error,
and sooner or later love succumbs to terror.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I wish it were not considered a sin
to have liked *******.
Women have yet to realize
the cowardice that presides.
And if they should ever decide
to fight the shallow,
I would be the first, setting an example for them to follow.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Sessiz Gemi (“Silent Ship”)
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

for the refugees

The time to weigh anchor has come;
a ship departing harbor slips quietly out into the unknown,
cruising noiselessly, its occupants already ghosts.
No flourished handkerchiefs acknowledge their departure;
the landlocked mourners stand nurturing their grief,
scanning the bleak horizon, their eyes blurring ...
Poor souls! Desperate hearts! But this is hardly the last ship departing!
There is always more pain to unload in this sorrowful life!
The hesitations of lovers and their belovèds are futile,
for they cannot know where the vanished are bound.
Many hopes must be quenched by the distant waves,
since years must pass, and no one returns from this journey.


Full Moon
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

You are so lovely
the full moon just might
delight
in your rising,
as curious
and bright,
to vanquish night.

But what can a mortal man do,
dear,
but hope?
I’ll ponder your mysteries
and (hmmmm) try to
cope.

We both know
you have every right to say no.


The Music of the Snow
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This melody of a night lasting longer than a thousand years!
This music of the snow supposed to last for thousand years!

Sorrowful as the prayers of a secluded monastery,
It rises from a choir of a hundred voices!

As the *****’s harmonies resound profoundly,
I share the sufferings of Slavic grief.

Then my mind drifts far from this city, this era,
To the old records of Tanburi Cemil Bey.

Now I’m suddenly overjoyed as once again I hear,
With the ears of my heart, the purest sounds of Istanbul!

Thoughts of the snow and darkness depart me;
I keep them at bay all night with my dreams!


She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in a pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still,
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
I had nothing left . . .
yet I smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.


The Stake
by Michael R. Burch

Love, the heart bets,
if not without regrets,
will still prove, in the end,
worth the light we expend
mining the dark
for an exquisite heart.


If
by Michael R. Burch

If I regret
fire in the sunset
exploding on the horizon,
then let me regret loving you.

If I forget
even for a moment
that you are the only one,
then let me forget that the sky is blue.

If I should yearn
in a season of discontentment
for the vagabond light of a companionless moon,
let dawn remind me that you are my sun.

If I should burn―one moment less brightly,
one instant less true―
then with wild scorching kisses,
inflame me, inflame me, inflame me anew.


Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.
Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.


East Devon Beacon
by Michael R. Burch

Evening darkens upon the moors,
Forgiveness--a hairless thing
skirting the headlamps, fugitive.

Why have we come,
traversing the long miles
and extremities of solitude,
worriedly crisscrossing the wrong maps
with directions
obtained from passing strangers?

Why do we sit,
frantically retracing
love’s long-forgotten signal points
with cramping, ink-stained fingers?

Why the preemptive frowns,
the litigious silences,
when only yesterday we watched
as, out of an autumn sky this vast,
over an orchard or an onion field,
wild Vs of distressed geese
sped across the moon’s face,
the sound of their panicked wings
like our alarmed hearts
pounding in unison?


The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

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.


I, Too, Sang America (in my diapers!)
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, served my country,
first as a tyke, then as a toddler, later as a rambunctious boy,
growing up on military bases around the world,
making friends only to leave them,
saluting the flag through veils of tears,
time and time again ...

In defense of my country,
I too did my awesome duty―
cursing the Communists,
confronting Them in backyard battles where They slunk around disguised as my sniggling Sisters,
while always demonstrating the immense courage
to start my small life over and over again
whenever Uncle Sam called ...

Building and rebuilding my shattered psyche,
such as it was,
dealing with PTSD (preschool traumatic stress disorder)
without the adornments of medals, ribbons or epaulets,
serving without pay,
following my father’s gruffly barked orders,
however ill-advised ...

A true warrior!
Will you salute me?


Wulf and Eadwacer (ancient Anglo-Saxon poem)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My clan’s curs pursue him like crippled game;
they'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

Wulf's on one island; we’re on another.
His island's a fortress, fastened by fens.
Here, bloodthirsty curs howl for carnage.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

My hopes pursued Wulf like panting hounds,
but whenever it rained―how I wept!―
the boldest cur grasped me in his paws:
good feelings for him, but for me loathsome!

Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you
has made me sick; your seldom-comings
have left me famished, deprived of real meat.
Have you heard, Eadwacer? Watchdog!
A wolf has borne our wretched whelp to the woods!
One can easily sever what never was one:
our song together.


Advice to Young Poets
by Nicanor Parra Sandoval
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Youngsters,
write however you will
in your preferred style.
Too much blood flowed under the bridge
for me to believe
there’s just one acceptable path.
In poetry everything’s permitted.


Prayer for a Merciful, Compassionate, etc., God to ****** His Creations Quickly & Painlessly, Rather than Slowly & Painfully
by Michael R. Burch

Lord, **** me fast and please do it quickly!
Please don’t leave me gassed, archaic and sickly!
Why render me mean, rude, wrinkly and prickly?
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re an expert killer!
Please, don’t leave me aging like Phyllis Diller!
Why torture me like some poor sap in a thriller?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, we all know you’re an expert at ******
like Abram―the wild-eyed demonic goat-herder
who’d slit his son’s throat without thought at your order.
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re a terrible sinner!
What did dull Japheth eat for his 300th dinner
after a year on the ark, growing thinner and thinner?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Dear Lord, did the lion and tiger compete
for the last of the lambkin’s sweet, tender meat?
How did Noah preserve his fast-rotting wheat?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, why not be a merciful Prelate?
Do you really want me to detest, loathe and hate
the Father, the Son and their Ghostly Mate?
Lord, why procrastinate?


Progress
by Michael R. Burch

There is no sense of urgency
at the local Burger King.

Birds and squirrels squabble outside
for the last scraps of autumn:
remnants of buns,
goopy pulps of dill pickles,
mucousy lettuce,
sesame seeds.

Inside, the workers all move
with the same très-glamorous lethargy,
conserving their energy, one assumes,
for more pressing endeavors: concerts and proms,
pep rallies, keg parties,
reruns of Jenny McCarthy on MTV.

The manager, as usual, is on the phone,
talking to her boyfriend.
She gently smiles,
brushing back wisps of insouciant hair,
ready for the cover of Glamour or Vogue.

Through her filmy white blouse
an indiscreet strap
suspends a lace cup
through which somehow the ****** still shows.
Progress, we guess, ...

and wait patiently in line,
hoping the Pokémons hold out.


Reclamation
by Michael R. Burch

I have come to the dark side of things
where the bat sings
its evasive radar
and Want is a crooked forefinger
attached to a gelatinous wing.

I have grown animate here, a stitched corpse
hooked to electrodes.
And night
moves upon me―progenitor of life
with its foul breath.

Blind eyes have their second sight
and still are deceived. Now my nature
is softly to moan
as Desire carries me
swooningly across her threshold.

Stone
is less infinite than her crone’s
gargantuan hooked nose, her driveling lips.
I eye her ecstatically―her dowager figure,
and there is something about her that my words transfigure
to a consuming emptiness.

We are at peace
with each other; this is our venture―
swaying, the strings tautening, as tightropes
tauten, as love tightens, constricts
to the first note.

Lyre of our hearts’ pits,
orchestration of nothing, adits
of emptiness! We have come to the last of our hopes,
sweet as congealed blood sweetens for flies.
Need is reborn; love dies.


ANCIENT GREEK EPIGRAMS

These are my translations of ancient Greek and Roman epigrams, or they may be better described as interpretations or poems “after” the original poets …

You begrudge men your virginity?
Why? To what purpose?
You will find no one to embrace you in the grave.
The joys of love are for the living.
But in Acheron, dear ******,
we shall all lie dust and ashes.
—Asclepiades of Samos (circa 320-260 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me live with joy today, since tomorrow is unforeseeable.
―Michael R Burch, after Palladas of Alexandria

Laments for Animals

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner’s faithful Maltese . . .
but will he still bark again, on sight?
―Michael R Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly . . .
so she shan’t get at you again!
―Michael R Burch, after Agathias

Hunter partridge,
we no longer hear your echoing cry
along the forest's dappled feeding ground
where, in times gone by,
you would decoy speckled kinsfolk to their doom,
luring them on,
for now you too have gone
down the dark path to Acheron.
―Michael R Burch, after Simmias

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
―Michael R Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

Dead as you are, though you lie as
still as cold stone, huntress Lycas,
my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness
as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would leap and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
―Michael R Burch, after Simonides

Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Epigrams

Euryalus, born of the blue-eyed Graces,
scion of the bright-tressed Seasons,
son of the Cyprian,
whom dew-lidded Persuasion birthed among rose-blossoms.
—Ibykos/Ibycus (circa 540 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 286, circa 564 B.C.
this poem has been titled "The Influence of Spring"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;

the results are frightening—
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 282, circa 540 B.C.
Ibykos fragment 282, Oxyrhynchus papyrus, lines 1-32
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

... They also destroyed the glorious city of Priam, son of Dardanus,
after leaving Argos due to the devices of death-dealing Zeus,
encountering much-sung strife over the striking beauty of auburn-haired Helen,
waging woeful war when destruction rained down on longsuffering Pergamum
thanks to the machinations of golden-haired Aphrodite ...

But now it is not my intention to sing of Paris, the host-deceiver,
nor of slender-ankled Cassandra,
nor of Priam’s other children,
nor of the nameless day of the downfall of high-towered Troy,
nor even of the valour of the heroes who hid in the hollow, many-bolted horse ...

Such was the destruction of Troy.

They were heroic men and Agamemnon was their king,
a king from Pleisthenes,
a son of Atreus, son of a noble father.

The all-wise Muses of Helicon
might recount such tales accurately,
but no mortal man, unblessed,
could ever number those innumerable ships
Menelaus led across the Aegean from Aulos ...
"From Argos they came, the bronze-speared sons of the Achaeans ..."

Antipater Epigrams

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
―Michael R Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho,
wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

O Aeolian land, you lightly cover Sappho,
the mortal Muse who joined the Immortals,
whom Cypris and Eros fostered,
with whom Peitho wove undying wreaths,
who was the joy of Hellas and your glory.
O Fates who twine the spindle's triple thread,
why did you not spin undying life
for the singer whose deathless gifts
enchanted the Muses of Helicon?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here, O stranger, the sea-crashed earth covers Homer,
herald of heroes' valour,
spokesman of the Olympians,
second sun to the Greeks,
light of the immortal Muses,
the Voice that never diminishes.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This herald of heroes,
this interpreter of the Immortals,
this second sun shedding light on the life of Greece,
Homer,
the delight of the Muses,
the ageless voice of the world,
lies dead, O stranger,
washed away with the sea-washed sand ...
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

As high as the trumpet's cry exceeds the thin flute's,
so high above all others your lyre rang;
so much the sweeter your honey than the waxen-celled swarm's.
O Pindar, with your tender lips witness how the horned god Pan
forgot his pastoral reeds when he sang your hymns.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here lies Pindar, the Pierian trumpet,
the heavy-smiting smith of well-stuck hymns.
Hearing his melodies, one might believe
the immortal Muses possessed bees
to produce heavenly harmonies in the bridal chamber of Cadmus.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Harmonia, the goddess of Harmony, was the bride of Cadmus, so his bridal chamber would have been full of pleasant sounds.

Praise the well-wrought verses of tireless Antimachus,
a man worthy of the majesty of ancient demigods,
whose words were forged on the Muses' anvils.
If you are gifted with a keen ear,
if you aspire to weighty words,
if you would pursue a path less traveled,
if Homer holds the scepter of song,
and yet Zeus is greater than Poseidon,
even so Poseidon his inferior exceeds all other Immortals;
and even so the Colophonian bows before Homer,
but exceeds all other singers.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I, the trumpet that once blew the ****** battle-notes
and the sweet truce-tunes, now hang here, Pherenicus,
your gift to Athena, quieted from my clamorous music.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Behold Anacreon's tomb;
here the Teian swan sleeps with the unmitigated madness of his love for lads.
Still he sings songs of longing on the lyre of Bathyllus
and the albescent marble is perfumed with ivy.
Death has not quenched his desire
and the house of Acheron still burns with the fevers of Cypris.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May the four-clustered clover, Anacreon,
grow here by your grave,
ringed by the tender petals of the purple meadow-flowers,
and may fountains of white milk bubble up,
and the sweet-scented wine gush forth from the earth,
so that your ashes and bones may experience joy,
if indeed the dead know any delight.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Stranger passing by the simple tomb of Anacreon,
if you found any profit in my books,
please pour drops of your libation on my ashes,
so that my bones, refreshed by wine, may rejoice
that I, who so delighted in the boisterous revels of Dionysus,
and who played such manic music, as wine-drinkers do,
even in death may not travel without Bacchus
in my sojourn to that land to which all men must come.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Anacreon, glory of Ionia,
even in the land of the lost may you never be without your beloved revels,
or your well-loved lyre,
and may you still sing with glistening eyes,
shaking the braided flowers from your hair,
turning always towards Eurypyle, Megisteus, or the locks of Thracian Smerdies,
sipping sweet wine,
your robes drenched with the juices of grapes,
wringing intoxicating nectar from its folds ...
For all your life, old friend, was poured out as an offering to these three:
the Muses, Bacchus, and Love.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

You sleep amid the dead, Anacreon,
your day-labor done,
your well-loved lyre's sweet tongue silenced
that once sang incessantly all night long.
And Smerdies also sleeps,
the spring-tide of your loves,
for whom, tuning and turning you lyre,
you made music like sweetest nectar.
For you were Love's bullseye,
the lover of lads,
and he had the bow and the subtle archer's craft
to never miss his target.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Erinna's verses were few, nor were her songs overlong,
but her smallest works were inspired.
Therefore she cannot fail to be remembered
and is never lost beneath the shadowy wings of bleak night.
While we, the estranged, the innumerable throngs of tardy singers,
lie in pale corpse-heaps wasting into oblivion.
The moaned song of the lone swan outdoes the cawings of countless jackdaws
echoing far and wide through darkening clouds.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Who hung these glittering shields here,
these unstained spears and unruptured helmets,
dedicating to murderous Ares ornaments of no value?
Will no one cast these virginal weapons out of my armory?
Their proper place is in the peaceful halls of placid men,
not within the wild walls of Enyalius.
I delight in hacked heads and the blood of dying berserkers,
if, indeed, I am Ares the Destroyer.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May good Fortune, O stranger, keep you on course all your life before a fair breeze!
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Docile doves may coo for cowards,
but we delight in dauntless men.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here by the threshing-room floor,
little ant, you relentless toiler,
I built you a mound of liquid-absorbing earth,
so that even in death you may partake of the droughts of Demeter,
as you lie in the grave my plough burrowed.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This is your mother’s lament, Artemidorus,
weeping over your tomb,
bewailing your twelve brief years:
"All the fruit of my labor has gone up in smoke,
all your heartbroken father's endeavors are ash,
all your childish passion an extinguished flame.
For you have entered the land of the lost,
from which there is no return, never a home-coming.
You failed to reach your prime, my darling,
and now we have nothing but your headstone and dumb dust."
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the Sea
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the same;
why then do we idly blame
the Cyclades
or the harrowing waves of narrow Helle?

To protest is vain!

Justly, they have earned their fame.

Why then,
after I had escaped them,
did the harbor of Scarphe engulf me?

I advise whoever finds a fair passage home:
accept that the sea's way is its own.
Man is foam.
Aristagoras knows who's buried here.


Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains;
Leave beasts to wander stony plains;
No longer sing fierce winds to sleep,
Nor seek to enchant the tumultuous deep;
For you are dead; each Muse, forlorn,
Strums anguished strings as your mother mourns.
Mind, mere mortals, mind—no use to moan,
When even a Goddess could not save her own!


Orpheus, now you will never again enchant
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch



Orpheus, now you will never again enchant the charmed oaks,
never again mesmerize shepherdless herds of wild beasts,
never again lull the roaring winds,
never again tame the tumultuous hail
nor the sweeping snowstorms
nor the crashing sea,
for you have perished
and the daughters of Mnemosyne weep for you,
and your mother Calliope above all.
Why do mortals mourn their dead sons,
when not even the gods can protect their children from Hades?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch


The High Road to Death
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Men skilled in the stars call me brief-lifed;
I am, but what do I care, O Seleucus?
All men descend to Hades
and if our demise comes quicker,
the sooner we shall we look on Minos.
Let us drink then, for surely wine is a steed for the high-road,
when pedestrians march sadly to Death.


The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I have set my eyes upon
the lofty walls of Babylon
with its elevated road for chariots
... and upon the statue of Zeus
by the Alpheus ...
... and upon the hanging gardens ...
... upon the Colossus of the Sun ...
... upon the massive edifices
of the towering pyramids ...
... even upon the vast tomb of Mausolus ...
but when I saw the mansion of Artemis
disappearing into the cirri,
those other marvels lost their brilliancy
and I said, "Setting aside Olympus,
the Sun never shone on anything so fabulous!"


Sophocles Epigrams

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Never to be born may be the biggest boon of all.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oblivion: What a blessing, to lie untouched by pain!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The happiest life is one empty of thought.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Consider no man happy till he lies dead, free of pain at last.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What is worse than death? When death is desired but denied.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When a man endures nothing but endless miseries, what is the use of hanging on day after day,
edging closer and closer toward death? Anyone who warms his heart with the false glow of flickering hope is a wretch! The noble man should live with honor and die with honor. That's all that can be said.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Children anchor their mothers to life.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How terrible, to see the truth when the truth brings only pain to the seer!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wisdom outweighs all the world's wealth.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fortune never favors the faint-hearted.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wait for evening to appreciate the day's splendor.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Homer Epigrams

For the gods have decreed that unfortunate mortals must suffer, while they themselves are sorrowless.
—Homer, Iliad 24.525-526, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“It is best not to be born or, having been born, to pass on as swiftly as possible.”
—attributed to Homer (circa 800 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ancient Roman Epigrams

Wall, I'm astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
—Ancient Roman graffiti, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

There is nothing so pointless, so perfidious as human life! ... The ultimate bliss is not to be born; otherwise we should speedily slip back into the original Nothingness.
—Seneca, On Consolation to Marcia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Less Heroic Couplets: Rejection Slips
by Michael R. Burch

pour Melissa Balmain

Whenever my writing gets rejected,
I always wonder how the rejecter got elected.
Are we exchanging at the same Bourse?
(Excepting present company, of course!)

I consider the term “rejection slip” to be a double entendre. When editors reject my poems, did I slip up, or did they? Is their slip showing, or is mine?



Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all

for children, however tall.
And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call

the one who was everything.
That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all

for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won’t remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.
No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.



Sailing to My Grandfather, for George Hurt
by Michael R. Burch

This distance between us
―this vast sea
of remembrance―
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spray―light fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfathers George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

and remind me that,
once, upon a star,
you taught me

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

and seemed to speak of times before
when you clasped my small glad hand
in your wise paw

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .



Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

With gentleness and fine and tender will,
attend upon them still;
thou art the grass.

Nor let men’s feet here muddy as they pass
thy subtle undulations, nor depress
for long the comforts of thy lovingness,

nor let the fuse
of time wink out amid the violets.
They have their use―

to wave, to grow, to gleam, to lighten their paths,
to shine sweet, transient glories at their feet.
Thou art the grass;

make them complete.



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons ...
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears ...
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
―a man as large as I left―
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim―

"My father!"
"My son!"


Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star ...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …

… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...

... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …

… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …

… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...

... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...

… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...

... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...

... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...

... Desire becomes oblivion ...

... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …

... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eying this strange distaff ...

O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!



On a Betrothed Girl
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"

Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis —
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.

*****! O Hymenaeus!

Keywords/Tags: elegy, eulogy, child, childhood, death, death of a friend, lament, lamentation, epitaph, grave, funeral

Published as the collection "Ancient Greek Epigrams"
Pisceanesque  Apr 2017
MOBIUS
Pisceanesque Apr 2017
He said those words
I can't
and my heart fell out of its pocket
like there was a hole in my
chest and
that very last stitch
heard him speak
Our mobius strip
lay suddenly flattened
- I on one side and
he on the reverse
like destiny and distance
were the same bridge to gap

Now I want life to end
as I lean down to hold
what's left in my lungs
- my final breath leaving as
I fall beyond the edge where
by some miracle
this leap of faith might save me
and I am captured by the arms
that wait beneath
- my fate finally showing its purpose
until the only strip that remains
is the one where
we remove each other's clothing
© Tamara Natividad
www.pisceanesque.com
Written 10 April, 2017
Janos Toth Jan 2016
What exactly am I supossed to write now?
I actually decided on the title before figuring out what to say.

just seen a youtube video on the subject
it completely changed my life... again

metaphors about closed curves or loops don't come to mind
but maybe I shouldn't stress too much about the title
what if I simply forget about it, push it away?

but it's right there...
at the back of my head
after every line I write my eyes pop back to that title
I just did it again.

I can't decide if I should include a 'the'.
'a mobius strip' also doesn't satisfy me.
Mobius strips never satisfy me.

It's easy to give up, isn't it?
another fix. then they keep trying to drag me out
telling me I'm addicted to it,
that I should join a Mobius strip rehab center
but I can quit
whenever I want
I promise
Akira Chinen May 2016
You be the bee
And I'll be the honey
We'll stay busy
Busy busy
Living and loving
In that treehouse
Under the sea
You be the ocean
And I'll be the waves
We'll always move
Each other
And handle every storm
Laughing and crying
Never torn apart
You be the stars
I'll be the night
I'll catch every piece
Of you that falls
I'll never let you down
My soul
Your forever home
You be truth
And I'll be love
Meant to be together
We'll write our own fates
Happily ever after
Page after page
No end to our song
Our tale
Always fresh ink
On forevers
Mobius strip
Denise Ann  Dec 2013
Mobius Strip
Denise Ann Dec 2013
The time for brooding is over
Let them say I invented the stars
when they were born
That I weaved the fabric of the universe
while I remained awake at night
Let them see that I'm no longer suffering

For tears are no more than mist
And my irises are the color of laughter
Laughter which I crafted from sunlight
So they can say that I breathe tempests
And spring's flower petals float in my bloodstream
Let them see I'm more than what I was

For the sky is the face of unraveled smiles
Where masks are shattered shards
And truth is blatant on heaven's eye
Now they can say I am true
That I am in every blade of grass
And every pebble on the riverbed

So now let them say what they want
For they can see
I have been my own nightmares
Just as now I am my own dreams.
The Good Pussy Mar 2015
.

                                    r
                        ­  e      e p        e
                        p        e a          p
                       e           t              e
                      a         r     e           a
                      t         p      e           t
                      P         r      f           p
                       e        o     r           e
                        r        m  a           r
                         f         n  c          f
                          o         e          o
                             r       r        r
                               m   e   m
                                      p
                       ­               e
                                      a
        ­                              t
"Riddle:
Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip?
A:
To get to the same side. "
Atlas  May 2019
Mobius Strip
Atlas May 2019
I'm stuck in the mobius strip
An infinite loop

U
P
and
        O V E R
U
P
and
        O V E R

And just when it looks like the end is near
I'm back where I started
How do I escape this mobius strip?

— The End —