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Michael R Burch Mar 2020
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.

NOTE: I dedicated this poem to Harold Bloom after reading his introduction to the Best American Poetry anthology he edited. Bloom seemed intent on claiming poetry as the province of the uber-reader (i.e., himself), but I remember reading poems by Blake, Burns, cummings, Dickinson, Frost, Housman, Eliot, Pound, Shakespeare, Whitman, Yeats, et al, and grokking them as a boy, without any “advanced” instruction from anyone. Keywords/Tags: Harold Bloom, literary, critic, criticism, elitist, elitism, ivory, tower, heights, mountain, winter, cold, frigid

Rant: The Elite
by Michael R. Burch

When I heard Harold Bloom unsurprisingly say:
Poetry is necessarily difficult. It is our elitist art ...
I felt a small suspicious thrill. After all, sweetheart,
isn’t this who we are? Aren’t we obviously better,
and certainly fairer and taller, than they are?

Though once I found Ezra Pound
perhaps a smidgen too profound,
perhaps a bit over-fond of Benito
and the advantages of fascism
to be taken ad finem, like high tea
with a pure white spot of intellectualism
and an artificial sweetener, calorie-free.

I know! I know! Politics has nothing to do with art
And it tempts us so to be elite, to stand apart ...
but somehow the word just doesn’t ring true,
echoing effetely away—the distance from me to you.

Of course, politics has nothing to do with art,
but sometimes art has everything to do with becoming elite,
with climbing the cultural ladder, with being able to meet
someone more Exalted than you, who can demonstrate how to ****
so that everyone below claims one’s odor is sweet.
You had to be there! We were falling apart
with gratitude! We saw him! We wept at his feet!
Though someone will always be far, far above you, clouding your air,
gazing down at you with a look of wondering despair.
Sharon Talbot Dec 2018
Old Harold lived on the second floor
In a darkened room with an old locked door.
My cousins and I used to tease him there,
And he’d chase us out, give us a scare.
I didn’t know exactly who  he was,
“He’s a mean old man,” said my favorite cos’.
“Grandma let him live here after Grandpa died.
She doesn’t even like him and we don’t know why.”
When he was out we would take a peek.
Around the ocher walls and his bed we’d sneak.
There was nothing but an iron bunk
And a glass-front chest filled with lots of junk.
One day Old Harold must have complained
About our pestering…we really were pains!
But no parent’s lecture could keep us away.
And Grandma’s yelling at him not to stay.

Old Uncle Harold disappeared for years.
We would make up stories for littler ears.
But one day my father had news of him.
He lived with “a harlot” and his checks she’d skim.
I was old enough to know what it meant
And asked Dad why uncle Harold seemed bent.
“He was gassed in the War in a field at Verdun.”
Dad told me in a tone that left me stunned;
“And was then sent around to pick up the dead.
With the gas and the horror, his mind just went.”

Now I recalled all the times we had teased
And agonized him when we should have pleased.
But now it was too late to apologize,
He was so lost, he wouldn’t recognize
His grown tormentors, when he hardly
Knew my father, the kindly mentor,
Who visited him every week,
Who paid for anything to make him last,
And reminded him of better times past;
Telling him of the time he caught a butterfly
And brought it to show the girls and guys.
How he wanted to let it fly away,
But when the boys had killed it anyway.
He cried and was called a coward then,
And as my father spoke and wept again.

Old Uncle Harold died alone
In a sterile, cold-floored nursing home.
None but Dad came to grieve
And I, only an hour away, shunned
the feeling and just felt numb,
Until Dad called and told me the story
Of Harold’s death and only then
Could I say, “I’m sorry!” to his ghost.
I should have said it long ago; the one who
Maddened him least repented the most.
If I could say “Sorry” for the times we made him shout.
I realised he’d just have yelled, “Get the hell out!”
This is about my great uncle, a casualty of WWI, who was the "bogeyman" of my youth and then the sad story of a forgotten veteran.
I was drinking at the Legion

The place wasn't really busy

But there was one man at a table

Who made me really dizzy

He was waving all around the room

He was really in a zone

The funny thing about it

He was sitting all alone

He spoke in quiet whispers

And he heard silent replies

From chairs that sat there empty

He heard their mournful cries

He had a beer before him

But he never left his chair

And no one sat beside him

It's just like he wasn't there

So, I went about my business

Playing darts and shooting pool

Buying tickets for the meat draws

Watching young ones acting cool

The other active members

Who'd spent some time in battle

Always checked to see his beer was full

As he sat there spouting prattle

It's unwritten at the Legion

You never ask about the war

You just revel in their company

That's what the place is for

There's veterans who'll tell stories

Of years gone bye and bye

But, you never ask a question

"Did you see somebody die?"

The Actives know their station

The young ones though do not

It's because of all the Actives

They've got all that they've got

As time went on I wondered

The story of this man

So , I went and asked the barkeep

He said "I'll tell you what I can"

He served two brews and wiped a glass

He stood flashing a smile

"You'd better grab a chair my boy"

"This here might take a while"

I sat and listened as he talked

About this man distressed

He told me "His name's Harold"

"And you can say his mind is messed"

"I've been working here for twenty years

And he's been here twice that

He's never moved from that **** chair

That's where Harold's always sat"

He got up once to fill a glass

And then came back to me

"When I came here, I had just got home

"I'd been fighting overseas"

"From what I heard at first" he said

"Harold's always been that way"

"And as you can see from watching"

"He'll always stay that way"

"He's lost inside his mind you know

To June 6  in forty four"

"We both know that as D-Day

"But he knows it as more"

"It was Juno Beach from what I've told

he landed with his squad

Over 14,000 Canadians

And now most lie with God"

I then got up and went outside

I said "I need a break"

I went out for a cigarette

For this tale had made me shake

I went back in, got two more beers

And sat right down again

"His whole platoon went down that day

They'd lost 3,000 men"

"There was Harold and 300

"others who survived"

"But living life inside their heads"

"I think they'd wished they'd died"

"He lives with Jean, his sister"She's been there all his life

"She put her life on hold for him

"She's never been a wife"

"She pays me for his beer every month

"And says to keep some for me

"But a penny's never crossed my bar

"You see ...Old Harold drinks for free"

"I give her money now and then

"I say he won a draw"

"Just for showing up each day I say

"just that and nothing more"

I went and grabbed a bar rag

And I wiped my teary eyes

I then paid for my drinks and

I left fifty bucks besides

He said your bill's eight fifty

What's all the extra for?

I said that he could keep it

Or just put it in his draw

He nodded and he smiled

And I left the bar for home

And as I left I watched poor Harold

On Juno Beach, his mind, his home

I came back three months later

And I saw no Harold there

There was now an empty table

And now, four empty chairs

"Dear God, it's you"....the barkeep said

"Grab your coat, come with me"

"Harold died on Saturday"

"And his funeral's at three"

He died a war time hero

But still a prisoner all the same

And down at our old Legion

Very few knew Harold's name

When we got out to the gravesite

I expected to see more

But there was just Old Harold's sister

The priest and us two...made it four.

We said a prayer, and sang a Hymn

He was back with his Platoon

He was back on Juno Beach again

Where his life ended that June

It's a shame that no one came out

To see him on his way

But, there'll be me and Bill the barkeep

Every year and on this day.

— The End —