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Poems about Icarus

These are poems about Icarus, flying and flights of fancy...



Southern Icarus
by Michael R. Burch

Windborne, lover of heights,
unspooled from the truck’s wildly lurching embrace,
you climb, skittish kite...

What do you know of the world’s despair,
gliding in vast... solitariness... there,
so that all that remains is to
fall?

Only a little longer the wind invests its sighs;
you
stall,
spread-eagled, as the canvas snaps

and *****
its white rebellious wings,
and all

the houses watch with baffled eyes.



Flight 93
by Michael R. Burch

I held the switch in trembling fingers, asked
why existence felt so small, so purposeless,
like a minnow wriggling feebly in my grasp...

vibrations of huge engines thrummed my arms
as, glistening with sweat, I nudged the switch
to OFF... I heard the klaxon's shrill alarms

like vultures’ shriekings... earthward, in a stall...
we floated... earthward... wings outstretched, aghast
like Icarus... as through the void we fell...

till nothing was so beautiful, so blue...
so vivid as that moment... and I held
an image of your face, and dreamed I flew

into your arms. The earth rushed up. I knew
such comfort, in that moment, loving you.



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!



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.

This odd poem invokes and merges with the anonymous medieval poem “Tom O’Bedlam’s Song” and W. H. Auden’s modernist poem “Musee des Beaux Arts,” which in turn refers to Pieter Breughel’s painting “The Fall of Icarus.” In the first stanza Icarus levitates with the help of Athena, the goddess or wisdom, through “strange dreamlands” while Apollo, the sun god, lies sleeping. In the second stanza, Apollo predictably wakes up and Icarus plummets to earth, or back to mundane reality, as in Breughel’s painting and Auden’s poem. In the third stanza the grounded Icarus can still fly, but only in flights of imagination through dreams of love. In the fourth and fifth stanzas Icarus joins Tom Rynosseross of the Bedlam poem in embracing madness by deserting “knowledge” and its cages (ivory towers, etc.). In the final stanza Icarus agrees with Tom that it is “no journey” to wherever they’re going together and also agrees with Tom that they will injure no one along the way, no matter how intensely they glow and radiate. The poem can be taken as a metaphor for the death and rebirth of Poetry, and perhaps as a prophecy that Poetry will rise, radiate and reattain its former glory...



Free Fall (II)
by Michael R. Burch

I have no earthly remembrance of you, as if
we were never of earth, but merely white clouds adrift,
swirling together through Himalayan serene altitudes―
no more man and woman than exhaled breath―unable to fall
back to solid existence, despite the air’s sparseness: all
our being borne up, because of our lightness,
toward the sun’s unendurable brightness...

But since I touched you, fire consumes each wing!

We who are unable to fly, stall
contemplating disaster. Despair like an anchor, like an iron ball,
heavier than ballast, sinks on its thick-looped chain
toward the earth, and soon thereafter there will be sufficient pain
to recall existence, to make the coming darkness everlasting.



Fledglings
by Michael R. Burch

With her small eyes, pale 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 not yet learned
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 learn 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 had 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, but Love
melts callow wax the higher atmospheres
leave brittle. I flew high: not high enough
to melt such frozen resins... thus, Her jeers.



Notes toward an Icarian philosophy of life...
by Michael R. Burch

If the mind’s and the heart’s quests were ever satisfied,
what would remain, as the goals of life?

If there was only light, with no occluding matter,
if there were only sunny mid-afternoons but no mysterious midnights,
what would become of the dreams of men?

What becomes of man’s vision, apart from terrestrial shadows?

And what of man’s character, formed
in the seething crucible of life and death,
hammered out on the anvil of Fate, by Will?

What becomes of man’s aims in the end,
when the hammer’s anthems at last are stilled?

If man should confront his terrible Creator,
capture him, hogtie him, hold his ***** feet to the fire,
roast him on the spit as yet another blasphemous heretic
whose faith is suspect, derelict...
torture a confession from him,
get him to admit, “I did it!...

what then?

Once man has taken revenge
on the Frankenstein who created him
and has justly crucified the One True Monster, the Creator...

what then?

Or, if revenge is not possible,
if the appearance of matter was merely a random accident,
or a group illusion (and thus a conspiracy, perhaps of dunces, us among them),
or if the Creator lies eternally beyond the reach of justice...

what then?

Perhaps there’s nothing left but for man to perfect his character,
to fly as high as his wings will take him toward unreachable suns,
to gamble everything on some unfathomable dream, like Icarus,
then fall to earth, to perish, undone...

or perhaps not, if the mystics are right
about the true nature of darkness and light.

Is there a source of knowledge beyond faith,
a revelation of heaven, of the Triumph of Love?

The Hebrew prophets seemed to think so,
and Paul, although he saw through a glass darkly,
and Julian of Norwich, who heard the voice of God say,
“All shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well...”

Does hope spring eternal in the human breast,
or does it just blindly *****?



Icarus Bickerous
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Like Icarus, waxen wings melting,
white tail-feathers fall, bystanders pelting.

They look up amazed
and seem rather dazed―

was it heaven’s or hell’s furious smelting

that fashioned such vulturish wings?
And why are they singed?―

the higher you “rise,” the more halting?



Earthbound, a Vision of Crazy Horse
by Michael R. Burch

Tashunka Witko, a Lakota Sioux 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 the 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.

Published by American Indian Pride and Boston Poetry Magazine



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)



The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

(for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right)

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kites―amazed,
in dream of shocks that suddenly came true...

but came almost as static―background noise,
a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned in to their kite strings, saucer-eared.

They thought to feel the lightning’s brilliant sparks
electrify their nerves, their brains; the smoke
of words poured from their overheated hearts.
The kite string, knotted, made a nifty rope...

You will not find them here; they blew away―
in tumbling flight beyond nights’ stars. They clung
by fingertips to satellites. They strayed
too far to remain mortal. Elfin, young,

their words are with us still. Devout and fey,
they wink at us whenever skies are gray.

Originally published by The Lyric



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.

Published as “Tremble” by The Lyric, Verses Magazine, Romantics Quarterly, Journeys, The Raintown Review, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom (All-Star Tribute), The Fabric of a Vision, NPAC―Net Poetry and Art Competition, Poet’s Haven, Listening To The Birth Of Crystals(Anthology), Poetry Renewal, Inspirational Stories, Poetry Life & Times, MahMag (Iranian/Farsi), The Eclectic Muse (Canada)



Album
by Michael R. Burch

I caress them―trapped in brittle cellophane―
and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flight―an old prop plane,
their blissful arc through alien blue skies...

And I touch them here through leaves which―tattered, frayed―
are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects’ wings―pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never merged, remaining two...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on furtive claws
as It scritched Its way into their hearts, depends
on sorrows such as theirs, and works Its jaws...

and slavers for Its meat―those young, unwise,
who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.



Springtime Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

They’ll have to grow like crazy,
the springtime baby geese,
if they’re to fly to balmier climes
when autumn dismembers the leaves...

And so I toss them loaves of bread,
then whisper an urgent prayer:
“Watch over these, my Angels,
if there’s anyone kind, up there.”

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Learning to Fly
by Michael R. Burch

We are learning to fly
every day...

learning to fly―
away, away...

O, love is not in the ephemeral flight,
but love, Love! is our destination―

graced land of eternal sunrise, radiant beyond night!
Let us bear one another up in our vast migration.



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they vanish, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze...
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, The Chained Muse and Poetry Life & Times. This is a poem I wrote for my favorite college English teacher, George King, about poetic kinship, brotherhood and romantic flights of fancy.



For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

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

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab



Sioux Vision Quest
by Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A man must pursue his Vision
as the eagle explores
the sky's deepest blues.

Published by Better Than Starbucks, A Hundred Voices



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 subsequently nominated for the Pushcart Prize



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



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 sunlit sky,
I only wish that I could fly.
I only wish that I could fly.

Robin, hawk or whippoorwill...
Should men care that 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.

This is a poem that I believe I wrote as a high school sophomore. But it could have been written a bit later. I seem to remember the original poem being influenced by William Cullen Bryant's "To a Waterfowl."



Flying
by Michael R. Burch

I shall rise
and try the ****** wings of thought
ten thousand times
before I fly...

and then I'll sleep
and waste ten thousand nights
before I dream;
but when at last...

I soar the distant heights of undreamt skies
where never hawks nor eagles dared to go,
as I laugh among the meteors flashing by
somewhere beyond the bluest earth-bound seas...

if I'm not told
I’m just a man,
then I shall know
just what I am.

This is one of my early poems, written around age 16-17. According to my notes, I may have revised the poem later, in 1978, but if so the changes were minor because the poem remains very close to the original.



Stage Craft-y
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can’t sing,
but now, here’s the thing―
just think of the tunes you can carry!"



Clyde Lied!
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.



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.

Published by Lighten Up Online and in Potcake Chapbook #7

NOTE: 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! ― MRB



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



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.



Delicacy
by Michael R. Burch

for all good mothers

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate
the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring―
“Fly! Fly! Fly!”
Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.



Lone Wild Goose
by Du Fu (712-770)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned goose refuses food and drink;
he cries querulously for his companions.

Who feels kinship for that strange wraith
as he vanishes eerily into the heavens?

You watch it as it disappears;
its plaintive calls cut through you.

The indignant crows ignore you both:
the bickering, bantering multitudes.

Du Fu (712-770) is also known as Tu Fu. The first poem is addressed to the poet's wife, who had fled war with their children. Ch'ang-an is an ironic pun because it means "Long-peace."



The Red Cockatoo
by Po Chu-I (772-846)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A marvelous gift from Annam―
a red cockatoo,
bright as peach blossom,
fluent in men's language.

So they did what they always do
to the erudite and eloquent:
they created a thick-barred cage
and shut it up.

Po Chu-I (772-846) is best known today for his ballads and satirical poems. Po Chu-I believed poetry should be accessible to commoners and is noted for his simple diction and natural style. His name has been rendered various ways in English: Po Chu-I, Po Chü-i, Bo Juyi and Bai Juyi.



The Migrant Songbird
Li Qingzhao aka Li Ching-chao (c. 1084-1155)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The migrant songbird on the nearby yew
brings tears to my eyes with her melodious trills;
this fresh downpour reminds me of similar spills:
another spring gone, and still no word from you...



Lines from Laolao Ting Pavilion
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The spring breeze knows partings are bitter;
The willow twig knows it will never be green again.



The Day after the Rain
Lin Huiyin (1904-1955)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love the day after the rain
and the meadow's green expanses!
My heart endlessly rises with wind,
gusts with wind...
away the new-mown grasses and the fallen leaves...
away the clouds like smoke...
vanishing like smoke...



Untitled Translations

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

As autumn deepens,
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew.
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, butterfly,
it’s late
and we’ve a long way to go!
―Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Up and at ’em! The sky goes bright!
Let’***** the road again,
Companion Butterfly!
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
―Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
―Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Dry leaf flung awry:
bright butterfly,
goodbye!
―Michael R. Burch, original haiku

Will we remain parted forever?
Here at your grave:
two flowerlike butterflies
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

a soaring kite flits
into the heart of the sun?
Butterfly & Chrysanthemum
―Michael R. Burch, original haiku

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A crow settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall.
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
―O no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Higher than a skylark,
resting on the breast of heaven:
this mountain pass.
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An exciting struggle
with such a sad ending:
cormorant fishing.
―Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gull
in his high, lonely circuits, may tell.
―Glaucus, translation by Michael R. Burch

The eagle sees farther
from its greater height―
our ancestors’ wisdom
―Michael R. Burch, original haiku

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Descent
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this morning
and it has a certain gravity,
as if it knows its destination,
perhaps even its particular destiny.
I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,
although I, too, may be flung precipitously
and from a great height.



Ultimate Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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



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



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.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gulls,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss―
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back―
one long, descending glide...

3.
Disgruntledly you ***** dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells’ bright forts...
You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts―
this way and that...

Contentious, shrewd, you scan―
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.



Songstress
by Michael R. Burch

Within its starkwhite ribcage, how the heart
must flutter wildly, O, and always sing
against the pressing darkness: all it knows
until at last it feels the numbing sting
of death. Then life's brief vision swiftly passes,
imposing night on one who clearly saw.
Death held your bright heart tightly, till its maw―
envenomed, fanged―could swallow, whole, your Awe.
And yet it was not death so much as you
who sealed your doom; you could not help but sing
and not be silenced. Here, behold your tomb's
white alabaster cage: pale, wretched thing!
But you'll not be imprisoned here, wise wren!
Your words soar free; rise, sing, fly, live again.

A poet like Nadia Anjuman can be likened to a caged bird, deprived of flight, who somehow finds it within herself to sing of love and beauty. But when the world finally robs her of both flight and song, what is left for her but to leave the world, thus bereaving the world of herself and her song?



Performing Art
by Michael R. Burch

Who teaches the wren
in its drab existence
to explode into song?

What parodies of irony
does the jay espouse
with its sharp-edged tongue?

What instinctual memories
lend stunning brightness
to the strange dreams

of the dull gray slug
―spinning its chrysalis,
gluing rough seams―

abiding in darkness
its transformation,
till, waving damp wings,

it applauds its performance?
I am done with irony.
Life itself sings.



Lean Harvests
by Michael R. Burch

for T.M.

the trees are shedding their leaves again:
another summer is over.
the Christians are praising their Maker again,
but not the disconsolate plover:
i hear him berate
the fate
of his mate;
he claims God is no body’s lover.

Published by The Rotary Dial and Angle



My Forty-Ninth Year
by Michael R. Burch

My forty-ninth year
and the dew remembers
how brightly it glistened
encrusting September,...
one frozen September
when hawks ruled the sky
and death fell on wings
with a shrill, keening cry.

My forty-ninth year,
and still I recall
the weavings and windings
of childhood, of fall...
of fall enigmatic,
resplendent, yet sere,...
though vibrant the herald
of death drawing near.

My forty-ninth year
and now often I've thought on
the course of a lifetime,
the meaning of autumn,
the cycle of autumn
with winter to come,
of aging and death
and rebirth... on and on.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly as “My Twenty-Ninth Year”



Myth
by Michael R. Burch

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf―
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain―
golden and humble in all its weary worth.



What Works
by Michael R. Burch

for David Gosselin

What works―
hewn stone;
the blush the iris shows the sun;
the lilac’s pale-remembered bloom.

The frenzied fly: mad-lively, gay,
as seconds tick his time away,
his sentence―one brief day in May,
a period. And then decay.

A frenzied rhyme’s mad tip-toed time,
a ballad’s languid as the sea,
seek, striving―immortality.

When gloss peels off, what works will shine.
When polish fades, what works will gleam.
When intellectual prattle pales,
the dying buzzing in the hive
of tedious incessant bees,
what works will soar and wheel and dive
and milk all honey, leap and thrive,

and teach the pallid poem to seethe.



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.

Published by Penny Dreadful, Carnelian, Romantics Quarterly, Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Life & Times



Transplant
by Michael R. Burch

You float, unearthly angel, clad in flesh
as strange to us who briefly knew your flame
as laughter to disease. And yet you laugh.
Behind your smile, the sun forfeits its claim
to earth, and floats forever now the same―
light captured at its moment of least height.

You laugh here always, welcoming the night,
and, just a photograph, still you can claim
bright rapture: like an angel, not of flesh―
but something more, made less. Your humanness
this moment of release becomes a name
and something else―a radiance, a strange
brief presence near our hearts. How can we stand
and chain you here to this nocturnal land
of burgeoning gray shadows? Fly, begone.
I give you back your soul, forfeit all claim
to radiance, and welcome grief’s dark night
that crushes all the laughter from us. Light
in someone Else’s hand, and sing at ease
some song of brightsome mirth through dawn-lit trees
to welcome morning’s sun. O daughter! these
are eyes too weak for laughter; for love’s sight,
I welcome darkness, overcome with light.



Prodigal
by Michael R. Burch

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.



Breakings
by Michael R. Burch

I did it out of pity.
I did it out of love.
I did it not to break the heart of a tender, wounded dove.

But gods without compassion
ordained: Frail things must break!
Now what can I do for her shattered psyche’s sake?

I did it not to push.
I did it not to shove.
I did it to assist the flight of indiscriminate Love.

But gods, all mad as hatters,
who legislate in all such matters,
ordained that everything irreplaceable shatters.



An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion...

This is one of my early poems, written around age 16 and published in my high school literary journal, The Lantern.



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 Locker
by Michael R. Burch

All the dull hollow clamor has died
and what was contained,
removed,

reproved
adulation or sentiment,
left with the pungent darkness

as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Keywords/Tags: Sports, locker, lockerroom, clamor, adulation, acclaim, applause, sentiment, darkness, light, retirement, athlete, team, trophy, award, acclamation


Keywords/Tags: Icarus, Daedalus, flight, fly, flying, wind, wings, sun, height, heights, fall, falling, ascent, descent, imagination, bird, birds, butterfly, butterflies, hawk, eagle, geese, plane, kite, kites, mrbfly, mrbflight, mrbicarus
Nylee Nov 6
I've been sitting on the top of the ladder
looking at the world from the high I can reach
every once in a while someone glances my way
I look back straight in the eye till they look away.

There is peace which I can attain here
no one looks down on me even if they want to
But there is nothing straight up to my height
Everything is placed below my sight.
Light walks into my life,
Like a shining stone at some height.
It show the path and made it bright.
Whenever I find myself in dark, it came to show right sight.
My strength is in me, it taught and made me strong to fight.
light, the source of which is unknown but most of us has encountered it once or more which tell us what is righteous to be done, we doubt it first,but at the end it was right.
Colm Apr 30
Hovering where here
On the edge of a mountain
Holding steady fast
A tired high, a subtle cliff
A calling fall which rings out
This one is about that lost feeling when you're traveling between work and personal time. Stuck between repetitious duty and selfish desire.
Stark trees on the hill line
intertwine with the sky
Their branches be parted
bent by the wind

Sourced from a height
Droplets dance
Ripples spit
Wet doesn't quit

No gold in sight
at ten degrees
Given what is seen
only green grey and white
(@PoeticTetra - instagram/twitter)
annh Nov 2019
Did you decide who I was before or after you spoke to me?

Did you decide to speak to me - or not - because of how I was dressed, what I looked like, my job, my education, my choice of beverage, my height, my accent, or my scintillating conversation with your plus one about the benefits of suburban parking spaces?

And who are you? Do you know? Are you sure? Did you dress yourself or did your date choose that sweater for you? Did you grow that ironic beard for her? Are you happy in your work, or just pretend to be to keep the peace? Did you miss taking up that scholarship because your family moved out of state?
Did someone ask you to hold their glass while they whipped to the loo? Do you slouch to compensate for those years of dance lessons which make you look too...straight? Are you trying to hide that southern twang? Do you talk ******* when conversing with strangers and tend to come across as a complete *****?

I thought so, go figure!

The more I think about it, it becomes clear to me - ironically enough - that who we are and how we communicate, interact, love and live is based on a pancake stack of impressions and fragmented contexts; a continuum of sliced-and-diced perspectives, learnt behaviours, and erroneous assumptions. Life is a veritable rabbit hole, thank goodness for poetry! :)

‘Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.’
- Isaac Asimov
Skye Nov 2019
It is not the fear of heights

It is the fear that from them we will

f

   a

     l
      
       l
Flight is dangerous
farhan Jun 2019
Feet Lies,
Head Flies.
The gravity acting on head is negligibly less than on feet.
Miss Luna May 2019
Oh you,
my lovely dandy,
it's not easy to understand you.
You're on the top -

Superior
in everything,
above
everyone.
Salmabanu Hatim Feb 2019
Black,Brown,yellow or white,
Tall or short,what's in a height,
Thin, fat or obese,
What's to do with size,
From zero to XXL,
Beautiful,ugly or normal,
What the hell!
It's Your life,
Live it without strife.
Savour its flavours,
Reach out for experiences, newer and richer,
Be a Rockstar.
Soon before you die,
Your life before you will flash by,
Make sure,your ending is your best goodbye.
24/2/2019.
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