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Michael R Burch Oct 2020
These are poems about Ann Rutledge and her romantic relationship with Abraham Lincoln.

Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge
by Michael R. Burch

Winter was not easy,
nor would the spring return.
I knew you by your absence,
as men are wont to burn
with strange indwelling fire —
such longings you inspire!

But winter was not easy,
nor would the sun relent
from sculpting ****** images
and how could I repent?
I left quaint offerings in the snow,
more maiden than I care to know.



Ann Rutledge’s Irregular Quilt
by Michael R. Burch

based on “Lincoln the Unknown” by Dale Carnegie

I.
Her fingers “plied the needle” with “unusual swiftness and art”
till Abe knelt down beside her: then her demoralized heart
set Eros’s dart a-quiver; thus a crazy quilt emerged:
strange stitches all a-kilter, all patterns lost. (Her host
kept her vicarious laughter barely submerged.)

II.
Years later she’d show off the quilt with its uncertain stitches
as evidence love undermines men’s plans and women’s strictures
(and a plethora of scriptures.)

III.
But O the sacred tenderness Ann’s reckless stitch contains
and all the world’s felicities: rich cloth, for love’s fine gains,
for sweethearts’ tremulous fingers and their bright, uncertain vows
and all love’s blithe, erratic hopes (like now’s).

IV.
Years later on a pilgrimage, by tenderness obsessed,
Dale Carnegie, drawn to her grave, found weeds in her place of rest
and mowed them back, revealing the spot of the Railsplitter’s joy and grief
(and his hope and his disbelief).

V.
For such is the tenderness of love, and such are its disappointments.
Love is a book of rhapsodic poems. Love is an grab bag of ointments.
Love is the finger poised, the smile, the Question — perhaps the Answer?
Love is the pain of betrayal, the two left feet of the dancer.

VI.
There were ladies of ill repute in his past. Or so he thought. Was it true?
And yet he loved them, Ann (sweet Ann!), as tenderly as he loved you.

Ann Rutledge was Abraham Lincoln’s first love interest. Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man when they met, then died with typhoid fever at age 22. According to a friend, Isaac Cogdal, when asked if he had loved her, Lincoln replied: “It is true—true indeed I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl—would have made a good, loving wife… I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Ann Rutledge’s grave marker in Petersburg, Illinois, contains a poem written by Edgar Lee Masters in which she is “Beloved of Abraham Lincoln, / Wedded to him, not through union, / But through separation.”

Ann Rutledge’s original grave at Old Concord, once neglected, has a fairly new marker provided by her family. One side of the maker, along with her name and dates, reads: “Where Lincoln Wept.” An account popularized by William Herndon in his biography is that Lincoln was so distraught by Ann’s death that he knelt and wept at her grave. On the reverse side of the marker is carved “I cannot bear to think of her out there alone in the storm. A. Lincoln.”

Herndon was Lincoln’s law partner and a friend. He also attended poetry readings with Lincoln, who wrote poems himself. Lincoln called Herndon "my man always above all other men on the globe."

Following Lincoln's assassination, Herndon began collecting accounts of Lincoln's life from people who knew him. Herndon wanted to write a faithful portrait of his friend, based on the hundreds of letters and interviews he had compiled, plus his own recollections. He was determined to present Lincoln as the man he actually was, not as a romanticized national hero and saint, and this meant revealing things other biographers would omit or elide, due to the puritanical conventions of that day. Such details included Lincoln’s suicidal depression and his contentious relationship with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. And Herndon maintained that Ann Rutledge was Lincoln’s only true love.

Keywords/Tags: Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln, poem, poems, poetry, love, lover, mistress, paramour, romance, romantic, quilt, grave, Dale Carnegie, William Herndon
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
The Lonely Earth
by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
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.

Keywords/Tags: Kajal Ahmad, Kurd, Kurdish, lonely, Earth, stars, moon, sun, rays, lodgers, tenants, boarders, renters, mrbch



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.



Kurds are Birds
by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
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 for 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!



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 anthology is to teach students about human rights through poetry.



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



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



Death Fugue
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
We’re digging a grave like a hole in the sky;
there’s sufficient room to lie there.
The man of the house plays with vipers; he writes
in the Teutonic darkness, “Your golden hair Margarete...”
He composes by starlight, whistles hounds to stand by,
whistles Jews to dig graves, where together they’ll lie.
He commands us to strike up bright tunes for the dance!

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come dawn, come midday, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house plays with serpents; he writes...
he writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete...
Your ashen hair Shulamith...”
We are digging dark graves where there’s more room, on high.
His screams, “Hey you, dig there!” and “Hey you, sing and dance!”
He grabs his black nightstick, his eyes pallid blue,
screaming, “Hey you―dig deeper! You others―sing, dance!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house writes, “Your golden hair Margarete...
Your ashen hair Shulamith...” as he cultivates snakes.
He screams, “Play Death more sweetly! Death’s the master of Germany!”
He cries, “Scrape those dark strings, soon like black smoke you’ll rise
to your graves in the skies; there’s sufficient room for Jews there!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come midnight;
we drink you come midday; Death’s the master of Germany!
We drink you come dusk; we drink you and drink you...
He’s a master of Death, his pale eyes deathly blue.
He fires leaden slugs, his aim level and true.
He writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete...”
He unleashes his hounds, grants us graves in the skies.
He plays with his serpents; Death’s the master of Germany...

“Your golden hair Margarete...
your ashen hair Shulamith...”



O, Little Root of a Dream
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, little root of a dream
you enmire me here;
I’m undermined by blood―
made invisible,
death's possession.

Touch the curve of my face,
that there may yet be an earthly language of ardor,
that someone else’s eyes
may somehow still see me,
though I’m blind,

here where you
deny me voice.



You Were My Death
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You were my death;
I could hold you
when everything abandoned me―
even breath.



Wulf and Eadwacer
ancient Anglo-Saxon poem, circa 960 AD
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 heart pursued Wulf like a panting hound,
but whenever it rained—how I wept! —
the boldest cur grasped me in its 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.

Keywords/Tags: Anglo-Saxon, Old English, England, translation, scop, female, women, ****, ******, ***, ****** abuse, ******, lament, complaint, tribalism, tribe, clan, pack, chauvinism, war, wolf, wolves, dog, dogs, hound, hounds, cur, curs, whelp, baby, offspring, island



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!



The Love Song Of Shu-Sin
(the earth's oldest love poem, Sumerian, circa 2,000 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Darling of my heart, my belovéd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey.
Darling of my heart, my belovéd,
your enticements are sweet, far sweeter than honey.

You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!
You have captivated me; I stand trembling before you.
Darling, lead me swiftly into the bedroom!

Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things to you!
My precocious caress is far sweeter than honey!
In the bedchamber, dripping love's honey,
let us enjoy life's sweetest thing.
Sweetheart, let me do the sweetest things to you!
My precocious caress is far sweeter than honey!

Bridegroom, you will have your pleasure with me!
Speak to my mother and she will reward you;
speak to my father and he will award you gifts.
I know how to give your body pleasure—
then sleep, my darling, till the sun rises.

To prove that you love me,
give me your caresses,
my Lord God, my guardian Angel and protector,
my Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil's heart,
give me your caresses!
My place like sticky honey, touch it with your hand!
Place your hand over it like a honey-*** lid!
Cup your hand over it like a honey cup!

This is a balbale-song of Inanna.

This may be earth's oldest love poem. It may have been written around 2000 BC, long before the Bible's "Song of Solomon, " which had been considered to be the oldest extant love poem by some experts. Shu-Sin was a Mesopotamian king who ruled over the land of Sumer close to four thousand years ago. The poem seems to be part of a rite, probably performed each year, known as the "sacred marriage" or "divine marriage, " in which the king would symbolically marry the goddess Inanna, mate with her, and so ensure fertility and prosperity for the coming year. The king would accomplish this amazing feat by marrying and/or having *** with a priestess or votary of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and war. Her Akkadian name was Istar/Ishtar, and she was also known as Astarte.



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



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 . . .

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. 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 Vulgate Latin Bible (circa 385 AD).



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!



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!



Fadwa Tuqan has been called the Grand Dame of Palestinian letters and The Poet of Palestine. These are my translations of Fadwa Tuqan poems originally written in Arabic.



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.

My translation follows one by Azfar Hussain and borrows a word here, a phrase there.



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.



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt Sr.

Between the prophecies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.



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



Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge

Ann Rutledge was apparently Abraham Lincoln’s first love interest. Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man when they met, then died with typhoid fever at age 22. According to a friend, Isaac Cogdal, when asked if he had loved her, Lincoln replied: “It is true―true indeed, I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl―would have made a good, loving wife … I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge
by Michael R. Burch

Winter was not easy,
nor would the spring return.
I knew you by your absence,
as men are wont to burn
with strange indwelling fire―
such longings you inspire!

But winter was not easy,
nor would the sun relent
from sculpting ****** images
and how could I repent?
I left quaint offerings in the snow,
more maiden than I care to know.



Ann Rutledge’s Irregular Quilt
by Michael R. Burch

based on “Lincoln the Unknown” by Dale Carnegie

I.
Her fingers “plied the needle” with “unusual swiftness and art”
till Abe knelt down beside her: then her demoralized heart
set Eros’s dart a-quiver; thus a crazy quilt emerged:
strange stitches all a-kilter, all patterns lost. (Her host
kept her vicarious laughter barely submerged.)

II.
Years later she’d show off the quilt with its uncertain stitches
as evidence love undermines men’s plans and unevens women’s strictures
(and a plethora of scriptures.)

III.
But O the sacred tenderness Ann’s reckless stitch contains
and all the world’s felicities: rich cloth, for love’s fine gains,
for sweethearts’ tremulous fingers and their bright, uncertain vows
and all love’s blithe, erratic hopes (like now’s).

IV.
Years later on a pilgrimage, by tenderness obsessed,
Dale Carnegie, drawn to her grave, found weeds in her place of rest
and mowed them back, revealing the spot of Lincoln’s joy and grief
(and his hope and his disbelief).

V.
Yes, such is the tenderness of love, and such are its disappointments.
Love is a book of rhapsodic poems. Love is an grab bag of ointments.
Love is the finger poised, the smile, the Question ― perhaps ― and the Answer?

Love is the pain of betrayal, the two left feet of the dancer.

VI.
There were ladies of ill repute in his past. Or so he thought. Was it true?
And yet he loved them, Ann (sweet Ann!), as tenderly as he loved you.

Keywords/Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Ann Rutledge, history, president, love, lover, mistress, paramour, romance, romantic, quilt, Dale Carnegie



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?



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



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



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



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.



escape!
by michael r. burch

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.



Escape!!
by Michael R. Burch

You are too beautiful,
too innocent,
too inherently lovely
to merely reflect the sun’s splendor ...

too full of irresistible candor
to remain silent,
too delicately fawnlike
for a world so violent ...

Come, my beautiful Bambi
and I will protect you ...
but of course you have already been lured away
by the dew-laden roses ...



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



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 . . .



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.



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.

ah-men!



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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!”



Yahya Kemal Beyatli translations

Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1884-1958) was a Turkish poet, editor, columnist and historian, as well as a politician and diplomat. Born born Ahmet Âgâh, he wrote under the pen names Agâh Kemal, Esrar, Mehmet Agâh, and Süleyman Sadi. He served as Turkey’s ambassador to Poland, Portugal and Pakistan.



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!

Translator’s notes: “Slavic grief” because Beyatli wrote this poem while in Warsaw, serving as Turkey’s ambassador to Poland, in 1927. Tanburi Cemil Bey was a Turkish composer. Keywords/Tags: Beyatli, Agah, Kemal, Esrar, Turkish, translation, Turkey, silent, ship, anchor, harbor, ghosts, grief, Istanbul, moon, music, snow



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.



To Have Loved
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by The Raintown Review, Triplopia, The Electic Muse, The Chained Muse, The Pennsylvania Review, and in a YouTube recital by David B. Gosselin. This is, of course, a poem about the famous Helen of Troy, whose face "launched a thousand ships."



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!



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 "Kajal"
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
Daredevil
by Michael R. Burch

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were nights our hearts conceived
untruths reborn as sighs.
To dream was our consolation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

Keywords/Tags: Daredevil, love, mutilation, tightrope, high, wire, acrobatic, tumble, bruised, fall, sedation, death, mrbdare, mrbch



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.

My wife Beth has been a Daredevil for Love, sometimes engaging in high-wire acts that defied gravity. At times her acrobatic moves resulted in tumbles, falls, and bruises, but she never stopped loving her family and friends. Thus, the first two poems are related, although the woman in the first poem is imaginary.



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. This is poem about a different kind of high-wire act, a different kind of tension, and a different kind of fall, bruising and mutilation. At the time I wrote this poem, I had hired two fine young black men as programmers and they had keys to my house, where I was the minority on work days.



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

“****** most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

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

Originally published by Lighten Up Online and in Potcake Chapbook #7. In an attempt to demonstrate that not all couplets are heroic, I have created a series of poems called “Less Heroic Couplets.” I believe even poets should abide by truth-in-advertising laws! Mice are acrobatic little daredevils. ― MRB



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea. This is a poem about yet another kind of fall and the kind of bruising that increases with advancing age.



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

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

Originally published by Measure. This is one of my favorite Rilke poems, about the feelings of loneliness a fall day can inspire.



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.



I Loved You
by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
translation by Michael R. Burch

I loved you ... perhaps I love you still ...
perhaps for a while such emotions may remain.
But please don’t let my feelings trouble you;
I do not wish to cause you further pain.

I loved you ... thus the hopelessness I knew ...
The jealousy, the diffidence, the pain
resulted in two hearts so wholly true
the gods might grant us leave to love again.



Wulf and Eadwacer
ancient Anglo-Saxon/Old English poem, circa 960 AD
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 heart pursued Wulf like a panting hound,
but whenever it rained—how I wept! —
the boldest cur grasped me in its 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.



Hymn for Fallen Soldiers
by Michael R. Burch

Sound the awesome cannons.
Pin medals to each breast.
Attention, honor guard!
Give them a hero’s rest.

Recite their names to the heavens
Till the stars acknowledge their kin.
Then let the land they defended
Gather them in again.

When I learned there’s an American military organization, the DPAA (Defense/POW/MIA Accounting Agency) that is still finding and bringing home the bodies of soldiers who died serving their country in World War II, after blubbering like a baby, I managed to eke out this poem.



Attilâ İlhan (1925-2005) was a Turkish poet, translator, novelist, screenwriter, editor, journalist, essayist, reviewer, socialist and intellectual.

Ben Sana Mecburum: “You are indispensable”
by Attila Ilhan
translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

You are indispensable; how can you not know
that you’re like nails riveting my brain?
I see your eyes as ever-expanding dimensions.
You are indispensable; how can you not know
that I burn within, at the thought of you?

Trees prepare themselves for autumn;
can this city be our lost Istanbul?
Now clouds disintegrate in the darkness
as the street lights flicker
and the streets reek with rain.
You are indispensable, and yet you are absent ...

Love sometimes seems akin to terror:
a man tires suddenly at nightfall,
of living enslaved to the razor at his neck.
Sometimes he wrings his hands,
expunging other lives from his existence.
Sometimes whichever door he knocks
echoes back only heartache.

A screechy phonograph is playing in Fatih ...
a song about some Friday long ago.
I stop to listen from a vacant corner,
longing to bring you an untouched sky,
but time disintegrates in my hands.
Whatever I do, wherever I go,
you are indispensable, and yet you are absent ...

Are you the blue child of June?
Ah, no one knows you―no one knows!
Your deserted eyes are like distant freighters ...

Perhaps you are boarding in Yesilköy?
Are you drenched there, shivering with the rain
that leaves you blind, beset, broken,
with wind-disheveled hair?

Whenever I think of life
seated at the wolves’ table,
shameless, yet without soiling our hands ...
Yes, whenever I think of life,
I begin with your name, defying the silence,
and your secret tides surge within me
making this voyage inevitable.
You are indispensable; how can you not know?



Fragments
by Attila Ilhan
loose English translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch



The night is a cloudy-feathered owl,
its quills like fine-spun glass.

It gazes out the window,
perched on my right shoulder,
its wings outspread and huge.

If the encroaching darkness seems devastating at first glance,
the sovereign of everything,
its reach infinite ...

Still somewhere within a kernel of light glows secretly
creating an enlightened forest of dialectics.



In September’s waning days one thinks wanly of the arrival of fall
like a ship appearing on the horizon with untrimmed, tattered sails;
for some unfathomable reason fall is the time to consider one’s own demise―
the body smothered by yellowed leaves like a corpse rotting in a ghoulish photograph ...



Bitter words
crack like whips
snapping across prison yards ...

Then there are words like pomegranate trees in bloom,
words like the sun igniting the sea beyond mountainous horizons,
flashing like mysterious knives ...

Such words are the burning roses of an infinite imagination;
they are born and they die with the flutterings of butterflies;
we carry those words in our hearts like pregnant shotguns until the day we expire,
martyred for the words we were prepared to die for ...



What I wrote and what you understood? Curious and curiouser!



escape!
by michael r. burch

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.



Escape!!
by Michael R. Burch

You are too beautiful,
too innocent,
too inherently lovely
to merely reflect the sun’s splendor ...

too full of irresistible candor
to remain silent,
too delicately fawnlike
for a world so violent ...

Come, my beautiful Bambi
and I will protect you ...
but of course you have already been lured away
by the dew-laden roses ...



Dream of Infinity
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

This poem was originally published by TC Broadsheet Verses. I was paid a whopping $10, my first cash payment. It was subsequently published by Piedmont Literary Review, Penny Dreadful, the Net Poetry and Art Competition, Songs of Innocence, Poetry Life & Times, Better Than Starbucks and The Chained Muse.



Heat Lightening
by Michael R. Burch

Each night beneath the elms, we never knew
which lights beyond dark hills might stall, advance,
then lurch into strange headbeams tilted up
like searchlights seeking contact in the distance . . .

Quiescent unions . . . thoughts of bliss, of hope . . .
long-dreamt appearances of wished-on stars . . .
like childhood’s long-occluded, nebulous
slow drift of half-formed visions . . . slip and bra . . .

Wan moonlight traced your features, perilous,
in danger of extinction, should your hair
fall softly on my eyes, or should a kiss
cause them to close, or should my fingers dare

to leave off childhood for some new design
of whiter lace, of flesh incarnadine.



Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge

Ann Rutledge was apparently Abraham Lincoln’s first love interest. Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man when they met, then died with typhoid fever at age 22. According to a friend, Isaac Cogdal, when asked if he had loved her, Lincoln replied: “It is true―true indeed, I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl―would have made a good, loving wife … I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge
by Michael R. Burch

Winter was not easy,
nor would the spring return.
I knew you by your absence,
as men are wont to burn
with strange indwelling fire―
such longings you inspire!

But winter was not easy,
nor would the sun relent
from sculpting ****** images
and how could I repent?
I left quaint offerings in the snow,
more maiden than I care to know.



Ann Rutledge’s Irregular Quilt
by Michael R. Burch

based on “Lincoln the Unknown” by Dale Carnegie

I.
Her fingers “plied the needle” with “unusual swiftness and art”
till Abe knelt down beside her: then her demoralized heart
set Eros’s dart a-quiver; thus a crazy quilt emerged:
strange stitches all a-kilter, all patterns lost. (Her host
kept her vicarious laughter barely submerged.)

II.
Years later she’d show off the quilt with its uncertain stitches
as evidence love undermines men’s plans and unevens women’s strictures
(and a plethora of scriptures.)

III.
But O the sacred tenderness Ann’s reckless stitch contains
and all the world’s felicities: rich cloth, for love’s fine gains,
for sweethearts’ tremulous fingers and their bright, uncertain vows
and all love’s blithe, erratic hopes (like now’s).

IV.
Years later on a pilgrimage, by tenderness obsessed,
Dale Carnegie, drawn to her grave, found weeds in her place of rest
and mowed them back, revealing the spot of Lincoln’s joy and grief
(and his hope and his disbelief).

V.
Yes, such is the tenderness of love, and such are its disappointments.
Love is a book of rhapsodic poems. Love is an grab bag of ointments.
Love is the finger poised, the smile, the Question ― perhaps ― and the Answer?

Love is the pain of betrayal, the two left feet of the dancer.

VI.
There were ladies of ill repute in his past. Or so he thought. Was it true?
And yet he loved them, Ann (sweet Ann!), as tenderly as he loved you.

Keywords/Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Ann Rutledge, history, president, love, lover, mistress, paramour, romance, romantic, quilt, Dale Carnegie



Shattered
by Vera Pavlova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I shattered your heart;
now I limp through the shards
barefoot.



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.

Published by Erosha, The Eclectic Muse, Muse Apprentice Guild, Nisqually Delta Review, Erbacce, Poetry Life & Times and Brief Poems



Squall
by Michael R. Burch

There, in that sunny arbor,
in the aureate light
filtering through the waxy leaves
of a stunted banana tree,

I felt the sudden monsoon of your wrath,
the clattery implosions
and copper-bright bursts
of the bottoms of pots and pans.

I saw your swollen goddess’s belly
wobble and heave
in pregnant indignation,
turned tail, and ran.

Published by Chrysanthemum, Poetry Super Highway, Barbitos and Poetry Life & Times



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).



NOTE: The Natchez Trace is the Nashville bar where I met my future wife Beth. We invented a game called "twister pool" which involved billiards, drinking and a fair bit of physical contortion ...

At the Natchez Trace
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

I.
Solitude surrounds me
though nearby laughter sounds;
around me mingle men who think
to drink their demons down,
in rounds.

Beside me stands a woman,
a stanza in the song
that plays so low and fluting
and bids me sing along.

Beside me stands a woman
whose eyes reveal her soul,
whose cheeks are soft as eiderdown,
whose hips and ******* are full.

Beside me stands a woman
who scarcely knows my name;
but I would have her know my heart
if only I knew where to start.

II.
Not every man is as he seems;
not all are prone to poems and dreams.
Not every man would take the time
to meter out his heart in rhyme.
But I am not as other men—
my heart is sentenced to this pen.

III.
Men speak of their "ambition"
but they only know its name . . .
I never say the word aloud,
but I have felt the Flame.

IV.
Now, standing here, I do not dare
to let her know that I might care;
I never learned the lines to use;
I never worked the wolves' bold ruse.
But if she looks my way again,
perhaps I will, if only then.

V.
How can a man have come so far
in searching after every star,
and yet today,
though years away,
look back upon the winding way,
and see himself as he was then,
a child of eight or nine or ten,
and not know more?

VI.
My life is not empty; I have my desire . . .
I write in a moment that few man can know,
when my nerves are on fire
and my heart does not tire
though it pounds at my breast—
wrenching blow after blow.

VII.
And in all I attempted, I also succeeded;
few men have more talent to do what I do.
But in one respect, I stand now defeated;
In love I could never make magic come true.

VIII.
If I had been born to be handsome and charming,
then love might have come to me easily as well.
But if had that been, then would I have written?
If not, I'd remain; **** that demon to hell!

IX.
Beside me stands a woman,
but others look her way
and in their eyes are eagerness . . .
for passion and a wild caress?
But who am I to say?

Beside me stands a woman;
she conjures up the night
and wraps itself around her
till others flit about her
like moths drawn to firelight.

X.
And I, myself, am just as they,
wondering when the light might fade,
yet knowing should it not dim soon
that I might fall and be consumed.

XI.
I write from despair
in the silence of morning
for want of a prayer
and the need of the mourning.
And loneliness grips my heart like a vise;
my anguish is harsher and colder than ice.
But poetry can bring my heart healing
and deaden the pain, or lessen the feeling.
And so I must write till at last sleep has called me
and hope at that moment my pen has not failed me.

XII.
Beside me stands a woman,
a mystery to me.
I long to hold her in my arms;
I also long to flee.

Beside me stands a woman;
how many has she known
more handsome, charming,
chic, alarming?
I hope I never know.

Beside me stands a woman;
how many has she known
who ever wrote her such a poem?
I know not even one.

Keywords/Tags: Natchez, Trace, love, relationship, relationships, pool, billiards, rhyme, hope, pain, painful, solitude, drink, drinking, enigma, angel, stranger, ambiguity, woman



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."



Day, and Night
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Flight
by Michael R. Burch

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

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)



in-flight convergence
by michael r. burch

serene, almost angelic,
the lights of the city                  extend
over lumbering behemoths shrilly screeching displeasure;
they say
that nothing is certain,
that nothing man dreams or ordains
long endures his command

here the streetlights that flicker
and those blazing steadfast seem one
from a                distance;
           descend?
they abruptly
part                    ways,

so that nothing is one
which at times does not suddenly blend
into garish insignificance
in the familiar alleyways,
in the white neon flash
and the billboards of Convenience

and man seems the afterthought of his own Brilliance
as we thunder down the enlightened runways.

Originally published by The Aurorean and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, then published by Grassroots Poetry, Unlikely Stories, Bewildering Stories, Scarlet Leaf Review, Famous Poets & Poems and Inspirational Stories



The Pictish Faeries
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



Chit Chat: in the Poetry Chat Room
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 . . .

Keywords/Tags: Poetry, writing, chit, chat room, forum, website, social media, workshop, mortal, mortality, grass, multitudes, Walt Whitman, love, awe, serenity, serenities, grace, heights, Parnassus, art, spelling, grammar



Renee Vivien Translations

Renee Vivien was a British lesbian and cross-dresser who wrote poems primarily in French.

Song
by Renée Vivien
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When the moon weeps,
illuminating flowers on the graves of the faithful,
my memories creep
back to you, wrapped in flightless wings.

It's getting late; soon we will sleep
(your eyes already half closed)
steeped
in the shimmering air.

O, the agony of burning roses:
your forehead discloses
a heavy despondency,
though your hair floats lightly ...

In the night sky the stars burn whitely
as the Goddess nightly
resurrects flowers that fear the sun
and die before dawn ...



Undine
by Renée Vivien
loose translation/interpretation by Kim Cherub (an alias of Michael R. Burch)

Your laughter startles, your caresses rake.
Your cold kisses love the evil they do.
Your eyes―blue lotuses drifting on a lake.

Lilies are less pallid than your face.

You move like water parting.
Your hair falls in rootlike tangles.
Your words like treacherous rapids rise.
Your arms, flexible as reeds, strangle,

Choking me like tubular river reeds.
I shiver in their enlacing embrace.
Drowning without an illuminating moon,
I vanish without a trace,

lost in a nightly swoon.



Veronica Franco translations

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

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation 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.

Here is a second, more formal version of the same poem, translated into rhymed couplets...

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.

Franco published two books: "Terze rime" (a collection of poems)and "Lettere familiari a diversi" (a collection of letters and poems). She also collected the works of other writers into anthologies and founded a charity for courtesans and their children. And she was an early champion of women's rights, one of the first ardent, outspoken feminists that we know by name today. For example...

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...

Life was not a bed of roses for Venetian courtesans. Although they enjoyed the good graces of their wealthy patrons, religious leaders and commoners saw them as symbols of vice. Once during a plague, Franco was banished from Venice as if her "sins" had helped cause it. When she returned in 1577, she faced the Inquisition and charges of "witchcraft." She defended herself in court and won her freedom, but lost all her material possessions. Eventually, Domenico Venier, her major patron, died in 1582 and left her with no support. Her tax declaration of that same year stated that she was living in a section of the city where many destitute prostitutes ended their lives. She may have died in poverty at the age of forty-five.

Hollywood produced a movie based on her life: "Dangerous Beauty."

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

In response to a friend urging Veronica Franco to help her daughter become a courtesan, Franco warns her that the profession can be devastating:

"Even if Fortune were only benign and favorable to you in this endeavor, this life is such that in any case it would always be wretched. It is such an unhappy thing, and so contrary to human nature, to subject one's body and activity to such slavery that one is frightened just by the thought of it: to let oneself be prey to many, running the risk of being stripped, robbed, killed, so that one day can take away from you what you have earned with many men in a long time, with so many other dangers of injury and horrible contagious disease: to eat with someone else's mouth, to sleep with someone else's eyes, to move according to someone else's whim, running always toward the inevitable shipwreck of one's faculties and life. Can there be greater misery than this? ... Believe me, among all the misfortunes that can befall a human being in the world, this life is the worst."

I confess I became a courtesan, traded yearning for power, welcomed many rather than be owned by one. I confess I embraced a *****'s freedom over a wife's obedience.—"Dangerous Beauty"

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



Yahya Kemal Beyatli translations

Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1884-1958) was a Turkish poet, editor, columnist and historian, as well as a politician and diplomat. Born born Ahmet Âgâh, he wrote under the pen names Agâh Kemal, Esrar, Mehmet Agâh, and Süleyman Sadi. He served as Turkey’s ambassador to Poland, Portugal and Pakistan.

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!

Translator’s notes: “Slavic grief” because Beyatli wrote this poem while in Warsaw, serving as Turkey’s ambassador to Poland, in 1927. Tanburi Cemil Bey was a Turkish composer. Keywords/Tags: Beyatli, Agah, Kemal, Esrar, Turkish, translation, Turkey, silent, ship, anchor, harbor, ghosts, grief, Istanbul, moon, music, snow



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.


Published as the collection "Daredevil"
Ourfirstfarewell Nov 2014
Profound, that he lost his sight.
He couldn't get the harmonies to blend quite right,
So he gave up seeing,
For music was the life and the fiber in his being.
He didn't need another soul
To change his note from half to whole,
For he had something else to hold,
And music couldn't make his spirit old.
So, he wed the chord, he played the piece,
And he dubbed musicality the worst disease.
Funny that a musical obsession
Would correspond with loneliness at life's discretion.
--Emily Rutledge
betterdays Sep 2015
Ragged breath
pushed through  lips
paperthin and dry

Clouded moons
in once sparkling  eyes

Skin of face
folded and creased
by years of laughter

Age has wearied you
beyond repair

Your first foot treads
heavily upon heavens stair

And in this pastel room
the reward for a life of care

As we come to usher you away
to your final, hopeful jubilee day

All have come, none have missed
the opportunity to thank you
for, the gifts you gave...

One word of kindness, from your lips
ripples through the lives you touched
and all your students learnt well
to live, love and give freely,
of caring humanities touch.

In this pastel room, we stand,
touching one last time,
the gnarled and giving hand

And when we leave, we do weep
for loss, but also joy....
knowing your soul does keep
to the pieties of love.

So in the days to come,
know your grace will live on
through lives and generations
your teaching will be the yardstick
to which our hearts are measured
YOUR WORDS, YOUR LIFE,
REMEMBERED AND TREASURED
One of my earlier teachers, a philanthropist, died over the past week, I was one of many who spent time with him in his last days...
The church overflowed with his past students. He was a simple man, single, but gave his life to his student, teaching lessons far beyond his field of english....and impacting this world a thousandfold by the legacy he leftin each student....In my teaching and my life I aspire to his character...
May he rest now, in peace.
Ourfirstfarewell Nov 2014
She didn't see the life left to be had,
All she saw was Darling Dear dark and sad.
She held so tightly Darling Dear, four years old
Little did she know, Darling Dear had grown up dark and cold.
Mama didn't know the strength in Darling Dear,
Befriended by the shadows, she had no remaining fears.
She loved Mama and Mama loved her back,
But nothing was as beautiful as Darling Dear gone black.
--Emily Rutledge
Seth Keplinger Dec 2017
I miss
my friends.
While they
laugh, revel
and skip.
I miss
the point
While I
hide, cower
and drip.
I miss
my friends.
While they
fly, displace
and ascertain.
I miss
the invite.
While I
spin, clot
and complain.
Ourfirstfarewell Nov 2014
The world tells their young
That abstinence is old fashion, that innocence is over and done.
That to make something of themselves
They must give this much
to someone else
That *** paves the road to success.
What standards should I view best?
Am I a woman now?
Look at me.
trying to understand my insecurity
Wallowing in pathetic purity
They tell me I'll never find love for more than a day
If I can't even let him get to second base.
That I should give my innocence to him,
I should join him in a ****** rhythm.
That I should have fun and forget what the bible has to say,
To find temporary bliss for a night and misery the following day.
Maybe I should fall into the mainstream,
Because popularity should fix my self esteem..
Am I a woman now?
I've tried so hard to lock myself away,
To keep myself pure in the light of day,
But night comes around and leads my thoughts astray,
Maybe *** is just a game we play.
Perhaps I'll test the waters but on the ground my feet with stay
I'll try things out but not go "all the way"
Am I a woman now?
God, I need you here right now.
I went too far and broke every single vow
Of innocence that I pledged to you.
And asking for forgiveness is all I know to do.
Am I a woman now?
Being broken by the worlds expectation,
Being deceived in my contemplation.
Don't ever lose yourself,
Not to birth control or the ****** on the shelf.
Not to boys or to loneliness in the middle of the week,
Be strong, be as much of yourself that you can possibly bear to be.
Because the negativity and hatred of the earth,
Will try to **** your spirit and tell you what your worth.
We're no better than the world and *** is a natural inclination,
But if we are the body of Christ we have a God-given obligation
I'm scared, have I done what I'm supposed to do?
Did I do what's right according to God or you?
Am I a woman now?
That's all I wanted, to be beautiful or gorgeous in someone else's eyes,
But I think I've only accomplished that by the words that humans make into deadly lies.
They looked so appealing and delicious,
But I'd advise you to avoid something so malicious,
Because there's remorse and expensive emotional debt,
When we conform to the world and allow ourselves to forget,
That God made *** a spiritual experience to share as a couple,
Only with each other,
It's a passionate emotion that should be known solely by a significant other,
The two bound by marriage, in spirit, and with rings
So that the world can see  they
Can show the world what each spirit brings
To a relationship in Christ alone
In whom my unwavering worth is known.
Am I a woman now?
--Emily Rutledge
Ourfirstfarewell May 2015
I won't take back the path I took
And I can't change the ground it shook
To face the earthquake of tough decisions
And the natural disaster of life revisions.
Nothing takes the earth apart like looking to the past
To remember the different kinds of love that wouldn't last.
I'd tell you ours was different, but the rubble begs to differ,
Each night I rest in the freezing makes my bones grow stiffer.
We're a dying race.
God is showing us our place.
We aren't all we think we are,
We won't survive without a scar,
But maybe we can climb out of this abyss,
If as a species we remember this:

We respect the rain, as she falls by design,
But neglect the lightning and pretend extinction's fine.
We stand in awe as snow falls asleep on the ground,
Everything's peaceful until we're frozen like the snow all around.
Desensitized to tragedy,
Immune to life and gravity,
Death becomes the living
And apathy keeps giving.
Will we step up, get up, and prove the flesh is wrong,
Or lay down and stay down, to admit that we're not strong?
How could we let hope die in vain,
And, without a fight, return to the dust where we belong?

Life seems well composed, happy and satisfied,
Until we face the wind that blows, and scramble so much to strategize
Just to protect the house we've built,
That stands so proud until the lilies wilt
And prove that all along, there was nothing we could do
To keep the hurricane from killing the righteous few.
Myself not included, there are honest men,
Though we wonder where all our leadership has been.
Now's the time to step up and do what's right,
Our lives may flood, but we won't drown without a fight.

We respect the rain, as she falls by design,
But neglect the lightning and pretend extinction's fine.
We stand in awe as snow falls asleep on the ground,
Everything's peaceful until we're frozen like the snow all around.
Desensitized to tragedy,
Immune to life and gravity,
Death becomes the living
And apathy keeps giving.
Will we step up, get up, and prove the flesh is wrong,
Or lay down and stay down, to admit that we're not strong?
How could we let hope die in vain,
And, without a fight, return to the dust where we belong?

We fight pain and constant pressure until the top explodes,
But we won't give up until we've exhausted all the roads,
Looking for a way out, preferably the best,
But if that fails, we'll make do with any of the rest.
It's hard to see with the ash impairing our sight,
But even in darkness, through fire, we strive for what is right.
The only way to keep the magma from burning through the earth,
Is to show the nature around us what righteousness is worth.

We respect the rain, as she falls by design,
But neglect the lightning and pretend extinction's fine.
We stand in awe as snow falls asleep on the ground,
Everything's peaceful until we're frozen like the snow all around.
Desensitized to tragedy,
Immune to life and gravity,
Death becomes the living
And apathy keeps giving.
Will we step up, get up, and prove the flesh is wrong,
Or lay down and stay down, to admit that we're not strong?
How could we let hope die in vain,
And, without a fight, return to the dust where we belong?

Maybe nature is the trees and all the flowers
Or maybe it's the sum or lack there of of human powers.
You decide what you defend and what you think is true,
Because it's passion and conviction that truly define you.

We respect the rain, as she falls by design,
But neglect the lightning and pretend extinction's fine.
Death becomes the living
And apathy keeps giving.
Will we step up, get up, and prove the flesh is wrong,
Lay down and stay down, to admit that we're not strong?
Or will we, so soon, return to the dust where we belong?



--Emily Rutledge
Ourfirstfarewell Nov 2014
Plastered to the atmosphere
Breathing in my almost fear
Of being lost or being here
Or being the cry I've begun to hear
When I've become dust in the stratosphere
When the sun expands and burns away
A million cells of human display.
Like the H from two O
All my senses begin to go.
I'm the afraid and lost
That comes with the daunting cost
Of my life unraveled
Like a galaxy untraveled.
I've fallen into space.
I've finally found my place.
I'm nothing in a galaxy of existential being
Not worth hearing. Not worth seeing.
Just a little star dust
Cast out from the sun
But life broke my trust
And the universe won.
--Emily Rutledge
Her skin appeared prematurely wrinkled with
anguish filling her face
She dragged a menthol cigarette , staring into space
Her teeth were decayed , a cheap radio played
She tapped her pinky finger to Travis Tritt
She wore a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt , she openly
railed against Obama and the "clandestine government"
Her friends were truckers , pensioners and the
local jobless
She was chatty with the boiled peanut man ,
her friend on the cell phone , anyone willing to
strike up a conversation* ...
Copyright October 24 , 2017 by Randolph L Wilson * All Rights Reserved
Ourfirstfarewell Nov 2014
You're so much more than me.
And all I'll ever be,
Is the shadow in your head,
And the sum of all the things you've ever said.
I'm like the past that haunts you.
I'm the dark that wants you.
You don't deserve rain on your parade,
But I'd be honored to be some mistake you made.
You don't deserve a mistake like me,
You don't deserve faith as fake as me.
All I want is you.
All I want is faith that's new.
I want you to lead me with strong hands
To lead me to peace in God's plans.
The truth is,I would hold you down,
You don't need me around.
I wish that I was worth enough
I wish I was worth your love.
But here I am. Vulnerable in my desire,
With nothing to offer but to hold you higher
Than anything else on earth.
I don't know how to tell you what you're worth..

--Emily Rutledge

— The End —