by Michael R. Burch
It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.
Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.
Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.
The young men with the outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a *** of gold
near El Dorado.
And the painted “actress” who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of “defeats”
and “triumphs” on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.
Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.
But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.
We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it "just once more."
For this is the big, big apple,
though it is rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.
This is an early poem of mine. I believe I wrote the first version during my “Romantic phase” around age 16 or perhaps a bit later. It was definitely written in my teens because it appears in a poetry contest folder that I put together and submitted during my sophomore year in college. Keywords/Tags: El Dorado, big apple, worms, New York City, junkies, streetwalkers, hookers, prostitutes, actors, actresses, hustlers, conmen
He Lived: Excerpts from “Gilgamesh”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
He who visited hell, his country’s foundation,
Was well-versed in mysteries’ unseemly dark places.
He deeply explored many underworld realms
Where he learned of the Deluge and why Death erases.
He built the great ramparts of Uruk-the-Sheepfold
And of holy Eanna. Then weary, alone,
He recorded his thoughts in frail scratchings called “words”:
But words made immortal, once chiseled in stone.
These walls he erected are ever-enduring:
Vast walls where the widows of dead warriors weep.
Stand by them. O, feel their immovable presence!
For no other walls are as strong as this keep’s.
Come, climb Uruk’s tower on a starless night—
Ascend its steep stairway to escape modern error.
Cross its ancient threshold. You are close to Ishtar,
The Goddess of Ecstasy and of Terror!
Find the cedar box with its hinges of bronze;
Lift the lid of its secrets; remove its dark slate;
Read of the travails of our friend Gilgamesh—
Of his descent into hell and man’s terrible fate!
Surpassing all kings, heroic in stature,
Wild bull of the mountains, the Goddess his dam
—Bedding no other man; he was her sole rapture—
Who else can claim fame, as he thundered, “I am!”
Enkidu Enters the House of Dust
an original poem by Michael R. Burch
I entered the house of dust and grief.
Where the pale dead weep there is no relief,
for there night descends like a final leaf
to shiver forever, unstirred.
There is no hope left when the tree’s stripped bare,
for the leaf lies forever dormant there
and each man cloaks himself in strange darkness, where
all company’s unheard.
No light’s ever pierced that oppressive night
so men close their eyes on their neighbors’ plight
or stare into darkness, lacking sight ...
each a crippled, blind bat-bird.
Were these not once eagles, gallant men?
Who sits here—pale, wretched and cowering—then?
O, surely they shall, they must rise again,
gaining new wings? “Absurd!
For this is the House of Dust and Grief
where men made of clay, eat clay. Relief
to them’s to become a mere windless leaf,
lying forever unstirred.”
“Anu and Enlil, hear my plea!
Ereshkigal, they all must go free!
Beletseri, dread scribe of this Hell, hear me!”
But all my shrill cries, obscured
by vast eons of dust, at last fell mute
as I took my place in the ash and soot.
an original poem by Michael R. Burch
after Robert Graves, with a nod to Mary Shelley
I have come to the dark side of things
where the bat sings
its evasive radar
and Want is a crooked forefinger
attached to a gelatinous wing.
I have grown animate here, a stitched corpse
hooked to electrodes.
moves upon me—progenitor of life
with its foul breath.
Blind eyes have their second sight
and still are deceived. Now my nature
is softly to moan
as Desire carries me
swooningly across her threshold.
is less infinite than her crone’s
gargantuan hooked nose, her driveling lips.
I eye her ecstatically—her dowager figure,
and there is something about her that my words transfigure
to a consuming emptiness.
We are at peace
with each other; this is our venture—
swaying, the strings tautening, as tightropes
tauten, as love tightens, constricts
to the first note.
Lyre of our hearts’ pits,
orchestration of nothing, adits
of emptiness! We have come to the last of our hopes,
sweet as congealed blood sweetens for flies.
Need is reborn; love dies.
Keywords/Tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, epic, epical, orient occident, oriental, ancient, ancestors, ancestry, primal