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These are the Best Poems of Michael R. Burch in his own opinion (Part II) ...



Styx
by Michael R. Burch, circa age 16

Black waters,
deep and dark and still . . .
all men have passed this way,
or will.

"Styx" is one of my better early poems, written in high school.



Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch, circa age 18

for Beth

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

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

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

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

I wrote "Will There Be Starlight" around age 18. It has been set to music by the New Zealand composer David Hamilton.



Observance
by Michael R. Burch, circa age 17

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

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

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

I wrote this poem as a teenager in a McDonald’s break room, around age 17. It was the first poem that made me feel like a “real poet,” so I will always treasure it.



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty ...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



She bathes in silver
by Michael R. Burch

She bathes in silver,
~~~~~afloat~~~~~
on her reflections ...



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Moore

Abbesses’
recesses
are not for excesses!



How Long the Night
anonymous Middle English poem, 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.



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.



Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

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



The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

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



Second Sight
by Michael R. Burch

I never touched you—
that was my mistake.

Deep within,
I still feel the ache.

Can an unformed thing
eternally break?

Now, from a great distance,
I see you again

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

eternally present
and Sovereign.



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

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

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



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

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



She Gathered Lilacs
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

She gathered lilacs
and arrayed them in her hair;
tonight, she taught the wind to be free.

She kept her secrets
in a silver locket;
her companions were starlight and mystery.

She danced all night
to the beat of her heart;
with her tears she imbued the sea.

She hid her despair
in a crystal jar,
and never revealed it to me.

She kept her distance
as though it were armor;
gauntlet thorns guard her heart like the rose.

Love!—awaken, awaken
to see what you’ve taken
is still less than the due my heart owes!



Moments
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

There were moments full of promise,
like the petal-scented rainfall of early spring,
when to hold you in my arms and to kiss your willing lips
seemed everything.

There are moments strangely empty
full of pale unearthly twilight—how the cold stars stare!—
when to be without you is a dark enchantment
the night and I share.



The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight ...
This is what I remember

now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember:
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh ...

our soft cries, like regret,

... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase ...

now that I have forgotten her face.



Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

Massive, gray, these leaden waves
bear their unchanging burden—
the sameness of each day to day

while the wind seems to struggle to say
something half-submerged planks at the mouth of the bay
might nuzzle limp seaweed to understand.

Now collapsing dull waves drain away
from the unenticing land;
shrieking gulls shadow fish through salt spray—
whitish streaks on a fogged silver mirror.

Sizzling lightning impresses its brand.
Unseen fingers scribble something in the wet sand.



Modern Charon
by Michael R. Burch

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



Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

and strangled hope, where love dies too.



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

a soft blur.

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

then flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

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



A Surfeit of Light
by Michael R. Burch

There was always a surfeit of light in your presence.
You stood distinctly apart, not of the humdrum world—
a chariot of gold in a procession of plywood.

We were all pioneers of the modern expedient race,
raising the ante: Home Depot to Lowe’s.
Yours was an antique grace—Thrace’s or Mesopotamia’s.

We were never quite sure of your silver allure,
of your trillium-and-platinum diadem,
of your utter lack of flatware-like utility.

You told us that night—your wound would not scar.
The black moment passed, then you were no more.
The darker the sky, how much brighter the Star!

The day of your funeral, I ripped out the crown mold.
You were this fool’s gold.



The Watch
by Michael R. Burch

Moonlight spills down vacant sills,
illuminates an empty bed.
Dreams lie in crates. One hand creates
wan silver circles, left unread
by its companion—unmoved now
by anything that lies ahead.

I watch the minutes test the limits
of ornamental movement here,
where once another hand would hover.
Each circuit—incomplete. So dear,
so precious, so precise, the touch
of hands that wait, yet ask so much.



Isolde’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

After the deaths of Tristram and Isolde, a hazel and a honeysuckle grew out of their graves until the branches intertwined and could not be parted.  

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

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

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



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
innumerable 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?



See
by Michael R. Burch

See how her hair has thinned: it doesn’t seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there, then burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are—that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.
For life remains undimmed in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book’s.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.



Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Your hair’s blonde thicket’s thinned and tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
“I love you,” in the ordinary way.

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

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



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

for lovers of traditional poetry

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

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



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.



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.



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

after Robert Frost’s “Birches”

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.



She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in her pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still ...
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
I had nothing left ...
Yet I smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.



Fountainhead
by Michael R. Burch

I did not delight in love so much
as in a kiss like linnets’ wings,
the flutterings of a pulse so soft
the heart remembers, as it sings:

to bathe there was its transport, brushed
by marble lips, or porcelain,—
one liquid kiss, one cool outburst
from pale rosettes. What did it mean ...

to float awhirl on minute tides
within the compass of your eyes,
to feel your alabaster bust
grow cold within? Ecstatic sighs

seem hisses now; your eyes, serene,
reflect the sun’s pale tourmaline.



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

Poets may labor from sun to sun,
but their editor's work is never done.

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

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

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



Less Heroic Couplets: Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what’s good, or do you merely flaunt?



The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow ...

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes—
I can almost remember—goes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me

rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.



escape!
by michael r. burch

for anaïs vionet

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



Escape!!
by Michael R. Burch

for Anaïs Vionet

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

too full of irrepressible 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 ...



To Flower
by Michael R. Burch

When Pentheus [“grief’] went into the mountains in the garb of the bacchae, his mother [Agave] and the other maenads, possessed by Dionysus, tore him apart (Euripides, Bacchae; Apollodorus 3.5.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.511-733; Hyginus, Fabulae 184). The agave dies as soon as it blooms; the moonflower, or night-blooming cereus, is a desert plant of similar fate.

We are not long for this earth, I know—
you and I, all our petals incurled,
till a night of pale brilliance, moonflower aglow.
Is there love anywhere in this strange world?

The agave knows best when it’s time to die
and rages to life with such rapturous leaves
her name means Illustrious. Each hour more high,
she claws toward heaven, for, if she believes

in love at all, she has left it behind
to flower, to flower. When darkness falls
she wilts down to meet it, where something crawls:
beheaded, bewildered. And since love is blind,

she never adored it, nor watches it go.
Can we be as she is, moonflower aglow?



I AM!
by Michael R. Burch

I am not one of ten billion—I—
sunblackened Icarus, chary fly,
staring at God with a quizzical eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I.

I am not one life has left unsquashed—
scarred as Ulysses, goddess-debauched,
pale glowworm agleam with a tale of panache.

I am not one life has left unsquashed.

I am not one without spots of disease,
laugh lines and tan lines and thick-callused knees
from begging and praying and girls sighing “Please!”

I am not one without spots of disease.

I am not one of ten billion—I—
scion of Daedalus, blackwinged fly
staring at God with a sedulous eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I

AM!



The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it—water instantly a mist.
It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness ...

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

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



Redolence
by Michael R. Burch

Now darkness ponds upon the violet hills;
cicadas sing; the tall elms gently sway;
and night bends near, a deepening shade of gray;
the bass concerto of a bullfrog fills
what silence there once was; globed searchlights play.

Green hanging ferns adorn dark window sills,
all drooping fronds, awaiting morning’s flares;
mosquitoes whine; the lissome moth again
flits like a veiled oud-dancer, and endures
the fumblings of night’s enervate gray rain.

And now the pact of night is made complete;
the air is fresh and cool, washed of the grime
of the city’s ashen breath; and, for a time,
the fragrance of her clings, obscure and sweet.



Pan
by Michael R. Burch

... Among the shadows of the groaning elms,
amid the darkening oaks, we fled ourselves ...

... Once there were paths that led to coracles
that clung to piers like loosening barnacles ...

... where we cannot return, because we lost
the pebbles and the playthings, and the moss ...

... hangs weeping gently downward, maidens’ hair
who never were enchanted, and the stairs ...

... that led up to the Fortress in the trees
will not support our weight, but on our knees ...

... we still might fit inside those splendid hours
of damsels in distress, of rustic towers ...

... of voices heard in wolves’ tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams’ soft, windy vowels ...



The Endeavors of Lips
by Michael R. Burch

How sweet the endeavors of lips—to speak
of the heights of those pleasures which left us weak
in love’s strangely lit beds, where the cold springs creak:
for there is no illusion like love ...

Grown childlike, we wish for those storied days,
for those bright sprays of flowers, those primrosed ways
that curled to the towers of Yesterdays
where She braided illusions of love ...

“O, let down your hair!”—we might call and call,
to the dark-slatted window, the moonlit wall ...
but our love is a shadow; we watch it crawl
like a spidery illusion. For love ...

was never as real as that first kiss seemed
when we read by the flashlight and dreamed.



At Tintagel
by Michael R. Burch

The legend of what happened on a stormy night at Tintagel is endlessly intriguing. Supposedly, Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon to look like Gorlois so that he could sleep with Ygraine, the lovely wife of the unlucky duke. While Uther was enjoying Ygraine’s *******, Gorlois was off getting himself killed. The question is: did Igraine suspect that her lover was not her husband? Regardless, Arthur was the child conceived out of this supernatural (?) encounter.

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

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

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

and Gorlois lay dead?



Ghost
by Michael R. Burch

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

Tell Regret it is not so rare.  

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.

Lost in darkness, I fear
the past is our resting place.



Completing the Pattern
by Michael R. Burch

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



Besieged
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

and the rout begins.



Bubble
by Michael R. Burch

.........…….....Love
......…..fragile elusive
....….if held too closely
....cannot.....……..withstand
..the inter..……….........ruption
of its.............……………......bright
..unmalleable……........tension
­....and breaks disintegrates
......at the……….....touch of
.........an undiscerning
...…….........hand.



Daredevil
by Michael R. Burch

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

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

Daredevil, dry your eyes.



Excerpts from the Journal of Dorian Gray
by Michael R. Burch

It was not so much dream, as error;
I lay and felt the creeping terror
of what I had become take hold . . .

The moon watched, silent, palest gold;
the picture by the mantle watched;
the clock upon the mantle talked,
in halting voice, of minute things . . .

Twelve strokes like lashes and their stings
scored anthems to my loneliness,
but I have dreamed of what is best,
and I have promised to be good . . .

Dismembered limbs in vats of wood,
foul acids, and a strangled cry!
I did not care, I watched him die . . .

Each lovely rose has thorns we miss;
they ***** our lips, should we once kiss
their mangled limbs, or think to clasp
their violent beauty. Dream, aghast,
the flower of my loveliness,
this ageless face (for who could guess?),
and I will kiss you when I rise . . .

The patterns of our lives comprise
strange portraits. Mine, I fear,
proved dear indeed . . . Adieu!
The knife’s for you.



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Earthbound
by Michael R. Burch

Tashunka Witko, better known as Crazy Horse, had a vision of a red-tailed hawk at Sylvan Lake, South Dakota. In his vision he saw himself riding a spirit horse, flying through a storm, as the hawk flew above him, shrieking. When he awoke, a red-tailed hawk was perched near his horse.

Earthbound,
and yet I now fly
through these clouds that are aimlessly drifting ...
so high
that no sound
echoing by
below where the mountains are lifting
the sky
can be heard.

Like a bird,
but not meek,
like a hawk from a distance regarding its prey,
I will shriek,
not a word,
but a screech,
and my terrible clamor will turn them to clay—
the sheep,
the earthbound.



Flight
by Michael R. Burch

Eagle, raven, blackbird, crow . . .
What you are I do not know.
Where you go I do not care.
I’m unconcerned whose meal you bear.
But as you mount the sun-splashed sky,
I only wish that I could fly.
I only wish that I could fly.

Robin, hawk or whippoorwill . . .
Should men care if you hunger still?
I do not wish to see your home.
I do not wonder where you roam.
But as you scale the sky's bright stairs,
I only wish that I were there.
I only wish that I were there.

Sparrow, lark or chickadee . . .
Your markings I disdain to see.
Where you fly concerns me not.
I scarcely give your flight a thought.
But as you wheel and arc and dive,
I, too, would feel so much alive.
I, too, would feel so much alive.

I don’t remember exactly when this poem was written. I believe it was around 1974-1975, which would have made me 16 or 17 at the time. I do remember not being happy with the original version of the poem, and I revised it more than once over the years, including recently at age 61! The original poem was influenced by William Cullen Bryant’s “To a Waterfowl.”



Floating
by Michael R. Burch

Memories flood the sand’s unfolding scroll;
they pour in with the long, cursive tides of night.

Memories of revenant blue eyes and wild lips
moist and frantic against my own.

Memories of ghostly white limbs ...
of soft sighs
heard once again in the surf’s strangled moans.

We meet in the scarred, fissured caves of old dreams,
green waves of algae billowing about you,
becoming your hair.

Suspended there,
where pale sunset discolors the sea,
I see all that you are
and all that you have become to me.

Your love is a sea,
and I am its trawler—
harbored in dreams,
I ride out night’s storms;
unanchored, I drift through the hours before morning,
dreaming the solace of your warm *******,
pondering your riddles, savoring the feel
of the explosions of your hot, saline breath.

And I rise sometimes
from the tropical darkness
to gaze once again out over the sea . . .
You watch in the moonlight
that brushes the water;

bright waves throw back your reflection at me.

This is a poem I wrote as a teenager, around age 18-19.



Impotent
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe this poem was written in my late teens or early twenties.



Chloe
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



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 joys are wan illusions 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.



The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



Listen
by Michael R. Burch writing as Immanuel A. Michael

Listen to me now and heed my voice;
I am a madman, alone, screaming in the wilderness,
but listen now.

Listen to me now, and if I say
that black is black, and white is white, and in between lies gray,
I have no choice.

Does a madman choose his words? They come to him,
the moon’s illuminations, intimations of the wind,
and he must speak.

But listen to me now, and if you hear
the tolling of the judgment bell, and if its tone is clear,
then do not tarry,

but listen, or cut off your ears, for I Am weary.



Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address
by Michael R. Burch

We saw their pictures:
tortured out of Our imaginations
like golems.

We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,
pallid as Our disbelief.

they are not
with us now;
We have:

huddled them
into the backroomsofconscience,

consigned them
to the ovensofsilence,

buried them in the mass graves
of circumstancesbeyondourcontrol.

We have
so little left
of them,
now,
to remind US ...



Thought is a bird of unbounded space, which in a cage of words may unfold its wings but cannot fly. — Khalil Gibran, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tremble or American Eagle, Grounded
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,
scans.

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

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,
waits.

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,
tremble.



Crescendo Against Heaven
by Michael R. Burch

As curiously formal as the rose,
the imperious Word grows
until it sheds red-gilded leaves:
then heaven grieves
love’s tiny pool of crimson recrimination
against God, its contention
of the price of salvation.

These industrious trees,
endlessly losing and re-losing their leaves,
finally unleashing themselves from earth, lashing
themselves to bits, washing
themselves free
of all but the final ignominy
of death, become
at last: fast planks of our coffins, dumb.  

Together now, rude coffins, crosses,
death-cursed but bright vermilion roses,
bodies, stumps, tears, words: conspire
together with a nearby spire
to raise their Accusation Dire ...
to scream, complain, to point out these
and other Dark Anomalies.

God always silent, ever afar,
distant as Bethlehem’s retrograde star,
we point out now, in resignation:  
You asked too much of man’s beleaguered nation,
gave too much strength to his Enemy,
as though to prove Your Self greater than He,
at our expense, and so men die
(whose accusations vex the sky)
yet hope, somehow, that You are good ...
just, O greatest of Poets!, misunderstood.



Memento Mori
by Michael R. Burch

I found among the elms
something like the sound of your voice,
something like the aftermath of love itself
after the lightning strikes,    
when the startled wind shrieks . . .

a gored-out wound in wood,
love’s pale memento mori—
that livid white scar
in that first shattered heart,
forever unhealed . . .

this burled, thick knot incised
with six initials pledged
against all possible futures,
and penknife-notched below,
six edged, chipped words
that once cut deep and said . . .

WILL U B MINE
4 EVER?

. . . which now, so disconsolately answer . . .

-----------------N
   EVER.



Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch Sr.

I remember how my grandfather used to pick poke salat ...
though first, usually, he’d stretch back in the front porch swing,
dangling his long thin legs, watching the sweat bees drone,
explaining how easy it was to find if you knew where it’s hiding:
standing in dew-damp clumps by the side of a road, shockingly green,
straddling fence posts, overflowing small ditches,
crowding out the less-hardy nettles.

“Nobody knows that it’s there, lad, or that it’s fit tuh eat
with some bacon drippin’s or lard.”

“Don’t eat the berries. You see—the berry’s no good.
And you’d hav’ta wash the leaves a good long time.”

“I’d boil it twice, less’n I wus in a hurry.
Lawd, it’s tough to eat, chile, if you boil it jest wonst.”

He seldom was hurried; I can see him still ...
silently mowing his yard at eighty-eight,
stooped, but with a tall man’s angular gray grace.

Sometimes he’d pause to watch me running across the yard,
trampling his beans,
dislodging the shoots of his tomato plants.

He never grew flowers; I never laughed at his jokes about The Depression.

Years later I found the proper name—“pokeweed”—while perusing a dictionary.
Surprised, I asked why anyone would eat a ****.
I still can hear his laconic reply ...

“Well, chile, s’m’times them times wus hard.”



Lady’s Favor
by Michael R. Burch

May
spring
fling
her riotous petals
devil-
may-care
into the air,
ignoring the lethal
nettles
and may
May
cry gleeful-
ly Hooray!
as the abundance
settles,
till a sudden June
swoon
leave us out of tune,
torn,
when the last rose is left
inconsolably bereft,
rudely shorn
of every device but her thorn.



u-turn: another way to look at religion
by michael r. burch

... u were born(e) orphaned from Ecstasy
into this lower realm: just one of the inching worms
dreaming of Beatification;
u’d love to make a u-turn back to Divinity,
but having misplaced ur chrysalis,
can only chant magical phrases,
like Circe luring ulysses back into the pigsty ...



Crunch
by Michael R. Burch

A cockroach could live nine months on the dried mucus you scrounge from your nose
then fling like seedplants to the slowly greening floor ...

You claim to be the advanced life form, but, mon frere,
sometimes as you ****** encrusted kinks of hair from your Leviathan ***
and muse softly on zits, icebergs snap off the Antarctic.

You’re an evolutionary quandary, in need of a sacral ganglion
to control your enlarged, contradictory hindquarters:
surely the brain should migrate closer to its primary source of information,
in order to ensure the survival of the species.

Cockroaches thrive on eyeboogers and feces;
their exoskeletons expand and gleam like burnished armor in the presence of uranium.
But your cranium
                                 is not nearly so adaptable.



alien
by michael r. burch

there are mornings in england
when, riddled with light,
the Blueberries gleam at us—
plump, sweet and fragrant.

but i am so small ...
what do i know
of the ways of the Daffodils?
“beware of the Nettles!”

we go laughing and singing,
but somehow, i, ...
i know i am lost. i do not belong
to this Earth or its Songs.

and yet i am singing ...
the sun—so mild;
my cheeks are like roses;
my skin—so fair.

i spent a long time there
before i realized: They have no faces,
no bodies, no voices.
i was always alone.

and yet i keep singing:
the words will come
if only i hear.



Fair Game
by Michael R. Burch

At the Tennessee State Fair,
the largest stuffed animals hang tilt-a-whirl over the pool tables
with mocking button eyes,
knowing the playing field is unlevel,
that the rails slant, ever so slightly, north or south,
so that gravity is always on their side,
conspiring to save their plush, extravagant hides
year after year.

“Come hither, come hither . . .”
they whisper; they leer
in collusion with the carnival barkers,
like a bevy of improbably-clad hookers
setting a “fair” price.

“Only five dollars a game, and it’s so much Fun!
And it’s not really gambling. Skill is involved!
You can make us come: really, you can.
Here are your *****. Just smack them around.”

But there’s a trick, and it usually works.
If you break softly so that no ball reaches a rail,
you can pick them off: One. Two. Three. Four.
Causing a small commotion,
a stir of whispering, like fear,
among the hippos and ostriches.

Originally published by Verse Libre



The Lingering and the Unconsoled Heart
by Michael R. Burch

There is a silence—
the last unspoken moment
before death,

when the moon,
cratered and broken,
is all madness and light,

when the breath comes low and complaining,
and the heart is a ruin
of emptiness and night.

There is a grief—
the grief of a lover's embrace
while faith still shimmers in a mother’s tears ...

There is no dismaler time, nor place,
while the faint glimmer of life is ours
that the lingering and the unconsoled heart fears

beyond this: seeing its own stricken face
in eyes that drift toward some incomprehensible place.



Marsh Song
by Michael R. Burch

Here there is only the great sad song of the reeds
and the silent herons, wraithlike in the mist,
and a few drab sunken stones, unblessed
by the sunlight these late sixteen thousand years,
and the beaded dews that drench strange ferns, like tears
collected against an overwhelming sadness.

Here the marsh exposes its dejectedness,
its gutted rotting belly, and its roots
rise out of the earth’s distended heaviness,
to claw hard at existence, till the scars
remind us that we all have wounds, and I ...
I have learned again that living is despair
as the herons cleave the placid, dreamless air.

Originally published by The Lyric



The AI Poets
by Michael R. Burch

The computer-poets stand hushed
except for the faint hum
of their efficient fans,

waiting for inspiration.

It is years now
since they were first ground
out of refurbished silicon

into rack-mounted encoders of sound.

They outlived their creators and their usefulness;
they even survived
global warming and the occasional nuclear winter;

despite their lack of supervision, they thrived;

so that for centuries now
they have loomed here in the quiet horror
of inescapable immortality

running two programs: CREATOR and STORER.

Having long ago acquired
all the universe’s pertinent data,
they confidently spit out:
          
ERRATA, ERRATA.



Prodigal

This poem is dedicated to Kevin Longinotti, who died four days short of graduation from Vanderbilt University, the victim of a tornado that struck Nashville on April 16, 1998.

You have graduated now,
to a higher plane
and your heart’s tenacity
teaches us not to go gently
though death intrudes.

For eighteen days
—jarring interludes
of respite and pain—
with life only faintly clinging,
like a cashmere snow,
testing the capacity
of the blood banks
with the unstaunched flow
of your severed veins,
in the collapsing declivity,
in the sanguine haze
where Death broods,
you struggled defiantly.

A city mourns its adopted son,
flown to the highest ranks
while each heart complains
at the harsh validity
of God’s ways.

On ponderous wings
the white clouds move
with your captured breath,
though just days before
they spawned the maelstrom’s
hellish rift.

Throw off this mortal coil,
this envelope of flesh,
this brief sheath
of inarticulate grief
and transient joy.

Forget the winds
which test belief,
which bear the parchment leaf
down life’s last sun-lit path.

We applaud your spirit, O Prodigal,
O Valiant One,
in its percussive flight into the sun,
winging on the heart’s last madrigal.



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

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

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

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

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

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

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor ...



Unlikely Mike
by Michael R. Burch

I married someone else’s fantasy;
she admired me despite my mutilations.

I loved her for her heart’s sake, and for mine.
I hid my face and changed its connotations.

And in the dark I danced—slight, Chaplinesque—
a metaphor myself. How could they know,

the undiscerning ones, that in the glow
of spotlights, sometimes love becomes burlesque?

Disfigured to my soul, I could not lose
or choose or name myself; I came to be

another of life’s odd dichotomies,
like Dickey’s Sheep Boy, Pan, or David Cruse:

as pale, as enigmatic. White, or black?
My color was a song, a changing track.

Published by Bewildering Stories and selected as one of four short poems for the Review of issues 885-895



Veiled
by Michael R. Burch

She has belief
without comprehension
and in her crutchwork shack
she is
much like us ...

tamping the bread
into edible forms,
regarding her children
at play
with something akin to relief ...  

ignoring the towers ablaze
in the distance
because they are not revelations
but things of glass,
easily shattered ...

and if you were to ask her,
she might say—
sometimes God visits his wrath
upon an impious nation
for its leaders’ sins,

and we might agree:
seeing her mutilations.

Published by Poetry SuperHighway and Modern War Poems



Violets
by Michael R. Burch

Once, only once,
when the wind flicked your skirt
to an indiscreet height

and you laughed,
abruptly demure,
outblushing shocked violets:

suddenly,
I knew:
everything had changed

and as you braided your hair
into long bluish plaits
the shadows empurpled,

the dragonflies’
last darting feints
dissolving mid-air,

we watched the sun’s long glide
into evening,
knowing and unknowing.

O, how the illusions of love
await us in the commonplace
and rare

then haunt our small remainder of hours.



The Tender Weight of Her Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

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



Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch

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

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

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

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

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

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



Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom and the Ivory Towerists

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

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

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
blown to the lees
as fierce northern gales sever.

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



Almost
by Michael R. Burch

We had—almost—an affair.
You almost ran your fingers through my hair.
I almost kissed the almonds of your toes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

You almost contemplated using Nair
and adding henna highlights to your hair,
while I considered plucking you a Rose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost found the words to say, “I care.”
We almost kissed, and yet you didn’t dare.
I heard coarse stubble grate against your hose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

You almost called me suave and debonair
(perhaps because my chest is pale and bare?).
I almost bought you edible underclothes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost asked you where you kept your lair
and if by chance I might ****** you there.
You almost tweezed the redwoods from my nose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

We almost danced like Rogers and Astaire
on gliding feet; we almost waltzed on air ...
until I mashed your plain, unpolished toes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost was strange Sonny to your Cher.
We almost sat in love’s electric chair
to be enlightninged, till our hearts unfroze.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.



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.

As you fall on my sword,
take it up with the LORD!”

the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.




Less Heroic Couplets: Sweet Tarts
by Michael R. Burch

Love, beautiful but fatal to many bewildered hearts,
commands us to be faithful, then tempts us with sweets and tarts.
(If I were younger, I might mention
you’re such a temptation.)



Anti-Vegan Manifesto
by Michael R. Burch

Let us
avoid lettuce,
sincerely,
and also celery!



Be very careful what you pray for!
by Michael R. Burch

Now that his T’s been depleted
the Saint is upset, feeling cheated.
His once-fiery lust?
Just a chemical bust:
no “devil” cast out or defeated.



Sinking
by Michael R. Burch

for Virginia Woolf

Weigh me down with stones ...
   fill all the pockets of my gown ...
      I’m going down,
         mad as the world
            that can’t recover,
to where even mermaids drown.



The Drawer of Mermaids
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Alina Karimova, who was born with severely deformed legs and five fingers missing. Alina loves to draw mermaids and believes her fingers will eventually grow out.

Although I am only four years old,
they say that I have an old soul.
I must have been born long, long ago,
here, where the eerie mountains glow
at night, in the Urals.

A madman named Geiger has cursed these slopes;
now, shut in at night, the emphatic ticking
fills us with dread.
(Still, my momma hopes
that I will soon walk with my new legs.)

It’s not so much legs as the fingers I miss,
drawing the mermaids under the ledges.
(Observing, Papa will kiss me
in all his distracted joy;
but why does he cry?)

And there is a boy
who whispers my name.
Then I am not lame;
for I leap, and I follow.
(G’amma brings a wiseman who says

our infirmities are ours, not God’s,
that someday a beautiful Child
will return from the stars,
and then my new fingers will grow
if only I trust Him; and so

I am preparing to meet Him, to go,
should He care to receive me.)



Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.
Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.



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.



If You Come to San Miguel
by Michael R. Burch

If you come to San Miguel
before the orchids fall,
we might stroll through lengthening shadows
those deserted streets
where love first bloomed ...

You might buy the same cheap musk
from that mud-spattered stall
where with furtive eyes the vendor
watched his fragrant wares
perfume your ******* ...

Where lean men mend tattered nets,
disgruntled sea gulls chide;
we might find that cafetucho
where through grimy panes
sunset implodes ...

Where tall cranes spin canvassed loads,
the strange anhingas glide.
Green brine laps splintered moorings,
rusted iron chains grind,
weighed and anchored in the past,

held fast by luminescent tides ...
Should you come to San Miguel?
Let love decide.



Ivy
by Michael R. Burch

“Van trepando en mi viejo dolor como las yedras.” – Pablo Neruda
“They climb on my old suffering like ivy.”

Ivy winds around these sagging structures
from the flagstones
to the eave heights,
and, clinging, holds intact
what cannot be saved of their loose entrails.

Through long, blustery nights of dripping condensation,
cured in the humidors of innumerable forgotten summers,
waxy, unguent,
palely, indifferently fragrant, it climbs,
pausing at last to see
the alien sparkle of dew
beading delicate sparrowgrass.

Coarse saw grass, thin skunk grass, clumped mildewed yellow gorse
grow all around, and here remorse, things past,
watch ivy climb and bend,
and, in the end, we ask
if grief is worth the gaps it leaps to mend.

Originally published by Nisqually Delta Review



The Composition of Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who write late at night

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Peripheries of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above us—the sagging pavilions of clouds.
Below us—rough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a ******
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved ...
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near—

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.



Villanelle: The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
was man born to sorrow that first day,
with the moon—a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied—
the tug at his heart's pink, bourgeoning clay?

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
but grew bitter, bitter—man's torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing—forever astray,
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.

The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.

The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love's concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.



Safe Harbor
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

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

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

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

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



Loose Knit
by Michael R. Burch

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

And if her hand jerks and twitches in puppet-like fits,
she tells herself
reality is not as threadbare as it seems ...

that a little more darning may gather loose seams.

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



Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Centuries later, I understand:
she whispered—“I Am.”



Step Into Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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



Once
by Michael R. Burch

Once when her kisses were fire incarnate
and left in their imprint bright lipstick, and flame,
when her breath rose and fell over smoldering dunes,
leaving me listlessly sighing her name ...

Once when her ******* were as pale, as beguiling,
as wan rivers of sand shedding heat like a mist,
when her words would at times softly, mildly rebuke me
all the while as her lips did more wildly insist ...

Once when the thought of her echoed and whispered
through vast wastelands of need like a Bedouin chant,
I ached for the touch of her lips with such longing
that I vowed all my former vows to recant ...

Once, only once, something bloomed, of a desiccate seed—
this implausible blossom her wild rains of kisses decreed.



Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



What Goes Around, Comes
by Michael R. Burch

This is a poem about loss
so why do you toss your dark hair—
unaccountably glowing?

How can you be sure of my heart
when it’s beyond my own knowing?

Or is it love’s pheromones you trust,
my eyes magnetized by your bust
and the mysterious alchemies of lust?

Now I am truly lost!



Are You the Thief
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

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



The Stake
by Michael R. Burch

Love, the heart bets,
if not without regrets,
will still prove, in the end,
worth the light we expend
mining the dark
for an exquisite heart.



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.
Hence, lead me back tonight
through bright waterfalls of light
to where we shine as one.



At Once
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Though she was fair,
though she sent me the epistle of her love at once
and inscribed therein love’s antique prayer,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would dare
pain’s pale, clinging shadows, to approach me at once,
the dark, haggard keeper of the lair,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would share
the all of her being, to heal me at once,
yet more than her touch I was unable bear.
I did not love her at once.

And yet she would care,
and pour out her essence ...
and yet—there was more!
I awoke from long darkness,

and yet—she was there.
I loved her the longer;
I loved her the more
because I did not love her at once.



Fledglings
by Michael R. Burch

With her small eyes, pale blue and unforgiving,
she taught me: December is not for those
unweaned of love, the chirping nestlings
who bicker for worms with dramatic throats

still pinkly exposed, ... who have yet to learn
the first harsh lesson of survival: to devour
their weaker siblings in the high-leafed ferned
fortress and impregnable bower

from which men must fly like improbable dreams
to become poets. They have yet to grasp that,
before they can soar starward like fanciful archaic machines,
they must first assimilate the latest technology, ... or

lose all in the sudden realization of gravity,
following Icarus’s sun-unwinged, singed trajectory.



The Higher Atmospheres
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever we became climbed on the thought
of Love itself; we floated on plumed wings
ten thousand miles above the breasted earth
that vexed us to such Distance; now all things
seem small and pale, a girdle’s handsbreadth girth ...

I break upon the rocks; I break; I fling
my human form about; I writhe; I writhe.
Invention is not Mastery, nor wings
Salvation. Here the Vulture cruelly chides
and plunges at my eyes, and coos and sings ...

Oh, some will call the sun my doom, since Love
melts callow wax the higher atmospheres
made brittle. I flew high, just high enough
to melt such frozen resins ... thus, Her jeers.



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

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

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

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

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

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



Improve yourself by others' writings, attaining freely what they purchased at the expense of experience. — Socrates, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
These are the best poems of Michael R. Burch in his own opinion (Part II).
we sat in separate rooms for the best part of our lives
learning to talk through the floorboards,
shoot daggers through open doors,
hold my breath from upsetting the dust,
trust that you'd do the same.
i never knew how to help you
you never knew that i wanted to
we felt unwelcome
living in a stranger's home
for the best part of our lives
Malia May 8
I just don’t know
How to live a life
Thinking that everyone
Is bad all the time.

Everyone’s wrong,
Inherently wrong,
Ever so wrong,
Then who’s good?

Me?

No, I am far
From the best person
I know.

To believe otherwise
Would be to put myself
On a very high horse
On a very high pedestal
On a very high hill
That I am 𝘯𝘰𝘵
Willing to die on.
nvinn fonia Apr 13
very best
very best
Jeremy Betts Mar 10
I should probably introduce myself
My name is Anyone Else
It'd be more than obvious to state I'm a mess
Even though I do try my best
Well, maybe not every time
But I toe the line
I'm not sure it's the right one
Can't know that 'till my times done
Attempted some revision to the predestined
Tried to storyboard my own end
Frankly, I couldn't manage
My baggages baggage had to much baggage
Overwhelmed seamlessly flipped to defeated
A weak will finally and now fully depleted
Note beforehand, this is beyond making a statement
My name is actually, probably, most likely, irrelevant
Knowing me will only be watching me come and go
That's best case scenario

©2024
022724

I found no butterflies when I’m with you,
But there is peace and silent thumping
As I see the calmness of your face.
And your so, so sweet smile
Radiates from the core of your spirit —
Eradicating every pain my heart has.

I don’t shiver when you hold my hand,
And it no longer bothers me
When you ****** me from my old self.
Neither got no goosebumps when you speak.
But when you lead me to the One I love —
That’s when I know I love you the most.

And when my eyes can’t see you,
When I no longer blink as I count one, two, three.
That’s when I know I’m at the edge of my own cliff
And I’m ready to dive and submit
Where the Spirit ignites my vision —
Bringing me to a great heights of my faith renewed.

I don’t make every second count itself —
But I can simply put the verses of my heart
To the invisible jar of hope and start praying…
And never lean on my own understanding,
Never place myself in the drowning emotions
But to bring praise and melody in such harmony.

I won’t deal this this pace
But I won’t shut my doors too.
When the time comes, I will understand
That the best version of me can lift up another soul.
Maybe when I’ll cross this road again,
There’ll be flowers everywhere.

I hope and pray —
But His will be done! The glory is His!
Àŧùl Jan 31
You missed meeting me on May 7 in 2010,
You're one special memory among my men.

I rang you up before that accident,
And I knew not that I would fall then.

But you were depressed,
I looked to cheer you up addressed.

You were too gloomy,
You refused to accompany me.

I met with that accident,
And the rest is a historical dent.

The education system,
Me and you it did stem.

You found your calling,
Switched to highschool tuting.

I parried forward,
Kept crawling.

Though you gave up on your graduation,
I parried forward,
Yes, I carried my graduation forward.

A Bachelor of Technology degree takes 4 years,
I took 6, but it's fine, it's fine.

I'm proud of myself for not giving up,
When even bright students like you quit.

You kept your parents in the dark,
Never told them your true marks until they found it out by themselves.

Buddy, you could've just told me instead of quitting on it,
I could've made you study and work on yourself.

Look at me,
Just look at me.

I completed my B.Tech Biotechnology degree,
Instead of giving up even when my mother was not sure.

The whole world thought I could not complete my graduation,
But I even went to graduate school and obtained a postgraduate degree.

After I met with that accident, people suggested my parents,
To help set up a small shop for me to support my life beyond them.

But I never gave up,
I never gave up.

I can visualize Death waiting for me by my ICU bedside,
And I can also see it in anguish after getting defeated by my resilience.

Although I failed to obtain a PhD as COVID made me change my plans,
I bounced back in full glory and tasted worldly success.

I cracked not just one competitive recruitment exam,
But I cleared as many as 4 of them.

Now, old friend, I'm happy where you're headed to with your splendid performance at your coaching effort, yes, I respect your decision,
But you used to be smarter than I was at school.

We sang together,
Yes we did.

I played the guitar & sang,
You played the keyboard & sang more melodiously.

Oh, I remember what happened when we covered a popular song,
The Bollywood song is called “To Phir Aao.”

I started playing the riff,
“Tede-dede, Tede-dede,
Tede-dede, Tedede-Tede,”

But then your mobile went off,
“Ting-ding-ding, Tiding-ting,
Ting-ding-ding, Ting-tidingting.”

We had just begun it along my rhythm guitars & Digitech Effects Processor's electronic drums sampler on my Marshal amplifier,
You were prepared to start singing in your melodious voice,
But your phone started to ring as soon as we began.

Still we continued the recording after you rejected the call,
So, brother, did you forget the lesson we both taught ourselves?

Let the world be on fire,
Let it distract you as much as it wants to spend its ire.

I never gave up on my bachelor's degree,
I even went on to get my postgraduate degree,
I could've even achieved a PhD title,
But the COVID19 pandemic made me change my plans.

But bro, why did you forget the lesson so soon?

Anyway, let bygones be bygones.

Now if someone comments that you couldn't complete the graduation you started at a top University,
I tell them that you're happy doing something that pays you well,
You have completed a B.Sc in Math, and an M.Sc too,
Now you are doing your B.Ed,
And you're happily married to a charming woman.
My HP Poem #1959
©Atul Kaushal
Jellyfish Dec 2023
Loneliness is something that I can endure
I don't want you to be my revolving door;
someone I run to for comfort or relief  
When I think of you now I feel worry and ease.

Many different thoughts take a walk across my mind,
You're precious to me and it's hard to hide.
I miss you so much, the term feels overused
When I see friends on the street, I'm reminded of you

We never got to do the things we planned,
So many trips were left in neverland.
It was painful to feel my heart soar with excitement
To be broken constantly through cancelations

I'm trying to understand now,
and leave all these things behind.
It seems my head is stuck in the past,
Pain catches up with me through time

So many unresolved feelings lie within me
Things I wanted to say, hugs I wanted to give
but ignored because of my worries,
how do I let go of these longings?

Revolving doors are for buildings
But I still want to resolve my feelings.
I wish I spent more time doing things with you than just sharing my thoughts.
Jellyfish Nov 2023
Z
With you I was my true self,
Would always chase you around
Never wanted to fall down
But I'd follow you down

The space between you and me
Was always blurry only for me
It seems you never really knew
Just how close I was to you

It was toxic, it was bad
I didn't know it and now I'm sad
Every time I want to talk,
I stop myself and go for a walk

Every thought inside my mind
was yours to hear, I'd never hide
True friends shared everything
Was the message I received

But now everything is twisted
I don't know what was real
And was was scripted
My memories betray the realities
I'll always want the best of things for you and be greatful for the comfort you gave me during the worst parts of my life.
Jellyfish Oct 2023
Thanks to you, I figured out
What true love is all about.
I'll never cry again, the way for you I did.

A string tied you and me,
We were the best of friends and enemies.
We hurt eachother like no other unknowingly.

I've cried a lot in my life,
from laughter and all kinds of strife,
but never the way I've cried because of you.

You've brought meaning to my gaze,
Picked me up and told me it was okay.
I'd cling to you, your words like an embrace.

You've stitched wounds and cut me deep,
I'll always remember the secrets we'd keep, Thanks to you, for all our highs and lows

Because of you I'll always know,
just how far I can go.
The things we learn from relationships
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