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Exclusion is just another form of prejudice.

Elitism and dogma is deeply seated within society
It's much easier to shun, or attack outsiders and remain safely entrenched in our own truths.

Perseverance, inclusiveness, honesty, kindness and welcoming each and every truth is the key to cultural success.

Real change cannot be forced with militancy, and it's painfully slow, so much so that the effects can only be seen from one generation to the next.
Peace.
Naveen Malhotra Dec 2020
He looked at the Moon
It was night's afternoon
It was a blue moon
No reason for gloom
Warp and weft in a loom
Love affair zoomed and zoomed
For his talent he was hired
For everything he was admired
Suddenly a change in the air
They had seen their love affair
Things didn't look fair
He was pulled by the hair
He was tired and wired
He was surrounded by the goons
He begged for his life
As he looked at the Moon
It was night's afternoon
His cries died in the air
He lay dead on the floor
Shilpa Harilal Aug 2020
I crumble in fear,
a cold shiver shrivels up my spine,
as your names are yelled across the town.
Though I call you not the same;
Still I see no difference,
And yearn to respect every one of your child

The blood that rushes through my veins,
holds nothing sweet to the name I call;
The very skin and torso you made for me,
does not bear any sign that signals me apart
We brothers are all the same; But its war out there;
cutting the throat; that calls you unalike

I am dragged down to the dust,
beaten to the chill of my spine;
As the bloodshot eyes, holds no mercy,
I give up my physical being, hold no pain;
I understand; the heavy cuts on my flesh aren’t as deep
As the vengeance in those eyes.

The heart that pumps thousand drops of blood,
lies unaware of the name of the God I call;
As I lie strewn on the streets, on your name
I cry, ‘Why so many names you have, God’?
Why couldn’t you be the same, like the heart
that thumps in every man’s chest.
'To be Lynched is a crime,To be poor is a crime, To defend the poor is to plot to overthrow the government ' - Arundhati Roy
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
gimME that ol’ time religion!
by michael r. burch

fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-dee,
jesus loves and understands ME!
safe in his grace, I’LL **** them to hell—
the strumpet, the harlot, the wild jezebel,
the alky, the druggie, all queers short and tall!
let them drink ashes and wormwood and gall,
’cause fiddle-dee-DUMB, fiddle-dee-WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEee . . .
jesus loves and understands
ME!

Keywords/Tags: Christianity, intolerance, hell, chosen few, love, grace, salvation, favoritism, Jesus, wormwood, gall, fire, brimstone, eternal torture
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
gimME that ol’ time religion!
by michael r. burch

fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-dee,
jesus loves and understands ME!
safe in his grace, I’LL **** them to hell—
the strumpet, the harlot, the wild jezebel,
the alky, the druggie, all queers short and tall!
let them drink ashes and wormwood and gall,
’cause fiddle-dee-DUMB, fiddle-dee-WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEee . . .
jesus loves and understands
ME!

Keywords/Tags: Christianity, intolerance, hell, chosen few, love, grace, salvation, favoritism, Jesus, wormwood, gall, fire, brimstone, eternal torture
Michael R Burch Feb 2020
First they came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

"First they came for the Muslims" was published in Amnesty International’s "Words That Burn" anthology and is now being used as training material for budding human rights activists. My poem was inspired by and patterned after Martin Niemoller’s famous Holocaust poem. Niemoller, a German pastor, supported Adolph ****** in the early going, but ended up in a **** concentration camp and nearly lost his life. So his was a true poem based on his actual life experience. Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, genocide, apartheid, racism, intolerance, Jew, Jews, Muslim, Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, apathy, sisters, brothers, Islam, Islamic, God, religion, intolerance, race, racism, racist, discrimination, feminist, feminists, feminism, sexuality, gay, homosexual, homosexuals, LGBT, mrbmuslim, mrbpal, mrbnakba



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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.



Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness―as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now―
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness―time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?―insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask―

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?



I, too, have a Dream ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.



My Nightmare ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.



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 and 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



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this―
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

Published by The Lyric, Promosaik (Germany), Setu (India) and Poetry Life & Times; translated into Arabic by Nizar Sartawi and into Italian by Mario Rigli

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza, who know all too well how fragile life and human happiness can be. What can I say, but that I hope, dream, wish and pray that one day ruthless men will no longer have power over the lives and happiness of innocents? Women, children and babies are not “terrorists” so why are they being punished collectively for the “crime” of having been born “wrong”? How can the government of Israel practice systematic racism and apartheid, and how can the government of the United States fund and support such a barbaric system?



who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same―
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

(In the poem "US" means both the United States and "us" the people of the world, wherever we live. The name "jesus" is uncapitalized while "Room" is capitalized because it seems evangelical Christians are more concerned about land and not sharing it with the less fortunate, than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus and his parents were refugees for whom there was "no Room" to be found. What would Jesus think of Christian scorn for the less fortunate, one wonders? What would he think of people adopting his name for their religion, then voting for someone like Trump, as four out of five evangelical Christians did, according to exit polls?)



Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.  

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus



Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all *******
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp.

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something more important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure
that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure.
After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.



Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.



These are my translations of Holocaust poems by Ber Horvitz (also known as Ber Horowitz); his bio follows the poems. Poems about the Holocaust and Nakba often bear striking resemblances, especially when written from the perspective of a child.



Der Himmel
"The Heavens"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These skies
are leaden, heavy, gray ...
I long for a pair
of deep blue eyes.

The birds have fled
far overseas;
"Tomorrow I’ll migrate too,"
I said ...

These gloomy autumn days
it rains and rains.
Woe to the bird
Who remains ...



Doctorn
"Doctors"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Early this morning I bandaged
the lilac tree outside my house;
I took thin branches that had broken away
and patched their wounds with clay.

My mother stood there watering
her window-level flower bed;
The morning sun, quite motherly,
kissed us both on our heads!

What a joy, my child, to heal!
Finished doctoring, or not?
The eggs are nicely poached
And the milk's a-boil in the ***.



Broit
“Bread”
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness. Why?
On the hard uncomfortable floor the exhausted people lie.

Flung everywhere, scattered over the broken theater floor,
the exhausted people sleep. Night. Late. Too tired to snore.

At midnight a little boy cries wildly into the gloom:
"Mommy, I’m afraid! Let’s go home!”

His mother, reawakened into this frightful place,
presses her frightened child even closer to her breast …

"If you cry, I’ll leave you here, all alone!
A little boy must sleep ... this, now, is our new home.”

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness all around,
exhausted people sleeping on the hard ground.



"My Lament"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothingness enveloped me
as tender green toadstools
lie blanketed by snow
with its thick, heavy prayer shawl …
After that, nothing could hurt me …



Ber Horvitz aka Ber Horowitz (1895-1942): Born to village people in the woods of Maidan in the West Carpathians, Horowitz showed art talent early on. He went to gymnazie in Stanislavov, then served in the Austrian army during WWI, where he was a medic to Italian prisoners of war. He studied medicine in Vienna and was published in many Yiddish newspapers. Fluent in several languages, he translated Polish and Ukrainian to Yiddish. He also wrote poetry in Yiddish. A victim of the Holocaust, he was murdered in 1942 by the Nazis.


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.



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.

Published by Angle and Poem Today



Annual
by Michael R. Burch

Silence
steals upon a house
where one sits alone
in the shadow of the itinerant letterbox,
watching the disconnected telephone
collecting dust ...

hearing the desiccate whispers of voices’
dry flutters,—
moths’ wings
brittle as cellophane ...

Curled here,
reading the yellowing volumes of loss
by the front porch light
in the groaning swing . . .
through thin adhesive gloss
I caress your face.

Published by The HyperTexts



US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

“Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.”

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

Published by The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse and Poetry Life & Times

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden’s love poem “Lullaby.”



Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen.
By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days’
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.
Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.
I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset’s scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no man has sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's "immortal" souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing . . .

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
and I bow my head to pray . . .

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs that I used to climb
when the wind was **** with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner’s dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright.

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow’s desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam . . .
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then . . . what then?

I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach . . .
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams . . .
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
and dream
and dream.

“Sea Dreams” is one of my longer and more ambitious early poems, along with the full version of “Jessamyn’s Song.” To the best of my recollection, I wrote “Sea Dreams” around age 18, circa 1976-1977. For years I thought I had written “Sea Dreams” around age 19 or 20, circa 1978. But then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about the poem in my freshman dorm, so the poem must have been started around age 18 or earlier. Dating my early poems has been a bit tricky, because I keep having little flashbacks that help me date them more accurately, but often I can only say, “I know this poem was written by about such-and-such a date, because ...”

The next poem, "Son," is a companion piece to “Sea Dreams” that was written around the same time and discussed in the same freshman dorm conversation. I remember showing this poem to a fellow student and he asked how on earth I came up with a poem about being a father who abandoned his son to live on an island! I think the meter is pretty good for the age at which it was written.

Son
by Michael R. Burch

An island is bathed in blues and greens
as a weary sun settles to rest,
and the memories singing
through the back of my mind
lull me to sleep as the tide flows in.

Here where the hours pass almost unnoticed,
my heart and my home will be till I die,
but where you are is where my thoughts go
when the tide is high.

[etc., see handwritten version, the father laments abandoning his son]

So there where the skylarks sing to the sun
as the rain sprinkles lightly around,
understand if you can
the mind of a man
whose conscience so long ago drowned.



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, 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.



Let Me Give Her Diamonds
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Let me give her diamonds
for my heart's
sharp edges.

Let me give her roses
for my soul's
thorn.

Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.

Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter
season.

Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.

Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.

Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts
require

the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.


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 its sway . . .

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

I believe I wrote the original version of this poem in my 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 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
while yielding all my virtue to her grace.



You Never Listened
by Michael R. Burch

You never listened,
though each night the rain
wove its patterns again
and trembled and glistened . . .

You were not watching,
though each night the stars
shone, brightening the tears
in her eyes palely fetching . . .

You paid love no notice,
though she lay in my arms
as the stars rose in swarms
like a legion of poets,

as the lightning recited
its opus before us,
and the hills boomed the chorus,
all strangely delighted . . .



Through the fields of solitude
by Hermann Allmers
translation by David B. Gosselin with Michael R. Burch

Peacefully, I rest in the tall green grass
For a long time only gazing as I lie,
Caught in the endless hymn of crickets,
And encircled by a wonderful blue sky.

And the lovely white clouds floating across
The depths of the heavens are like silky lace;
I feel as though my soul has long since fled,
Softly drifting with them through eternal space.



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 ...



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.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20, in 1978 or thereabouts. It has since been published in The Lyric, Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and The Aurorean.



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,
and 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 husks into some savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, 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 world of resplendence from which we were seized.

In the whispering night, when the mockingbird calls
while denuded vines barely cling to stone walls,
as the red-rocked rivers rush on to the sea,
like a bright Goddess calling
a meteor falling
may flare like desire through skeletal trees.

If you look to the east, you will see a reminder
of days that broke warmer and nights that fell kinder;
but you and I were not meant for this life,
a life of illusions
and painful delusions:
a life without meaning—unless it is life.

So turn from the east and look to the west,
to the stars—argent fire ablaze at God's breast—
but there you'll find nothing but dreams of lost days:
days lost forever,
departed, and never,
oh never, oh never shall they be regained.

So turn from those heavens—night’s pale host of stars—
to these scarred pitted mountains, these wild grotesque tors
which—looming in darkness—obscure lustrous seas.
We are men, we must sing
till enchanted vales ring;
we are men; though we wither, our spirits soar free.



and then i was made whole
by Michael R. Burch

... and then i was made whole,
but not a thing entire,
glued to a perch
in a gilded church,
strung through with a silver wire ...

singing a little of this and of that,
warbling higher and higher:
a thing wholly dead
till I lifted my head
and spat at the Lord and his choir.



Bowery Boys
by Michael R. Burch

Male bowerbirds have learned
that much respect is earned
when optical illusions
inspire wild delusions.

And so they work for hours
to line their manly bowers
with stones arranged by size
to awe and mesmerize.

It’d take a great detective
to grok the false perspective
they use to lure in cuties
to smooch and fill with cooties.

Like human politicians,
they love impressive fictions
as they lie in their randy causes
with props like the Wizard of Oz’s.



THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER’S SKIN

***** Rustaveli (c. 1160-1250), often called simply Rustaveli, was a Georgian poet who is generally considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age. “The Knight in the Panther's Skin” or “The Man in the Panther’s Skin” is considered to be Georgia’s national epic poem and until the 20th century it was part of every Georgian bride’s dowry. It is believed that Rustaveli served Queen Tamar as a treasurer or finance minister and that he may have traveled widely and been involved in military campaigns. Little else is known about his life except through folk tradition and legend.

The Knight in the Panther's Skin
by ***** Rustaveli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

excerpts from the PROLOGUE

I sing of the lion whose image adorns the lances, shields and swords
of our Queen of Queens: Tamar, the ruby-throated and ebon-haired.
How dare I not sing Her Excellency’s manifold praises
when those who attend her must bring her the sweets she craves?

My tears flow profusely like blood as I extol our Queen Tamar,
whose praises I sing in these not ill-chosen words.
For ink I have employed jet-black lakes and for a pen, a flexible reed.
Whoever hears will have his heart pierced by the sharpest spears!

She bade me laud her in stately, sweet-sounding verses,
to praise her eyebrows, her hair, her lips and her teeth:
those rubies and crystals arrayed in bright, even ranks!
A leaden anvil can shatter even the strongest stone.

Kindle my mind and tongue! Fill me with skill and eloquence!
Aid my understanding for this composition!
Thus Tariel will be tenderly remembered,
one of three star-like heroes who always remained faithful.

Come, let us mourn Tariel with undrying tears
because we are men born under similar stars.
I, Rustaveli, whose heart has been pierced through by many sorrows,
have threaded this tale like a necklace of pearls.

Keywords/Tags: ***** Rustaveli, Georgia, Georgian, epic, knight, panther, skin, queen, Tamar, praise, praises, Tariel, Avtandil, Nestan-Darejan



Final Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

Sleep peacefully—for now your suffering’s over.

Sleep peacefully—immune to all distress,
like pebbles unaware of raging waves.

Sleep peacefully—like fields of fragrant clover
unmoved by any motion of the wind.

Sleep peacefully—like clouds untouched by earthquakes.

Sleep peacefully—like stars that never blink
and have no thoughts at all, nor need to think.

Sleep peacefully—in your eternal vault,
immaculate, past perfect, without fault.



don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

I dedicated this poem to the love of my life, but you are welcome to dedicate it to the love of yours, if you like it. The opening lines were inspired by a famous love poem by e. e. cummings. I went through a "cummings phase" around age 15 and wrote a number of poems "under the influence."



Options Underwater: The Song of the First Amphibian
by Michael R. Burch

“Evolution’s a Fishy Business!”

1.
Breathing underwater through antiquated gills,
I’m running out of options. I need to find fresh Air,
to seek some higher Purpose. No porpoise, I despair
to swim among anemones’ pink frills.

2.
My fins will make fine flippers, if only I can walk,
a little out of kilter, safe to the nearest rock’s
sweet, unmolested shelter. Each eye must grow a stalk,
to take in this green land on which it gawks.

3.
No predators have made it here, so I need not adapt.
Sun-sluggish, full, lethargic―I’ll take such nice long naps!

The highest form of life, that’s me! (Quite apt
to lie here chortling, calling fishes saps.)

4.
I woke to find life teeming all around―
mammals, insects, reptiles, loathsome birds.
And now I cringe at every sight and sound.
The water’s looking good! I look Absurd.

5.
The moral of my story’s this: don’t leap
wherever grass is greener. Backwards creep.
And never burn your bridges, till you’re sure
leapfrogging friends secures your Sinecure.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online

Keywords/Tags: amphibian, amphibians, evolution, gills, water, air, lungs, fins, flippers, fish, fishy business


These are my modern English translations of poems by Dante Alighieri.

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Beatrice I beheld the outer boundaries of blessedness.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She made my veins and even the pulses within them tremble.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her sweetness left me intoxicated.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love commands me by dictating my desires.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Follow your own path and let bystanders gossip.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The devil is not as dark as depicted.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is no greater sorrow than to recall how we delighted in our own wretchedness.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As he, who with heaving lungs escaped the suffocating sea, turns to regard its perilous waters.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you nosedive in the mildest breeze?
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you quail at the least breath of wind?
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midway through my life’s journey
I awoke to find myself lost in a trackless wood,
for I had strayed far from the straight path.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

INSCRIPTION ON THE GATE OF HELL
Before me nothing created existed, to fear.
Eternal I am, eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Sonnet: “Ladies of Modest Countenance” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You, who wear a modest countenance,
With eyelids weighed down by such heaviness,
How is it, that among you every face
Is haunted by the same pale troubled glance?

Have you seen in my lady's face, perchance,
the grief that Love provokes despite her grace?
Confirm this thing is so, then in her place,
Complete your grave and sorrowful advance.

And if, indeed, you match her heartfelt sighs
And mourn, as she does, for the heart's relief,
Then tell Love how it fares with her, to him.

Love knows how you have wept, seeing your eyes,
And is so grieved by gazing on your grief
His courage falters and his sight grows dim.



Paradiso, Canto III:1-33, The Revelation of Love and Truth
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That sun, which had inflamed my breast with love,
Had now revealed to me―as visions move―
The gentle and confounding face of Truth.

Thus I, by her sweet grace and love reproved,
Corrected, and to true confession moved,
Raised my bowed head and found myself behooved

To speak, as true admonishment required,
And thus to bless the One I so desired,
When I was awed to silence! This transpired:

As the outlines of men’s faces may amass
In mirrors of transparent, polished glass,
Or in shallow waters through which light beams pass

(Even so our eyes may easily be fooled
By pearls, or our own images, thus pooled):
I saw a host of faces, pale and lewd,

All poised to speak; but when I glanced around
There suddenly was no one to be found.
A pool, with no Narcissus to astound?

But then I turned my eyes to my sweet Guide.
With holy eyes aglow and smiling wide,
She said, “They are not here because they lied.”



Sonnet: A Vision of Love from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To every gentle heart which Love may move,
And unto which my words must now be brought
For true interpretation’s tender thought―
I greet you in our Lord's name, which is Love.

Through night’s last watch, as winking stars, above,
Kept their high vigil over us, distraught,
Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught
As mortals may not casually absolve.
Love seemed a being of pure joy, and had
My heart held in his hand, while on his arm
My lady, wrapped in her fine mantle, slept.
He, having roused her from her sleep, then made
Her eat my heart; she did, in deep alarm.
He then departed; as he left, he wept.


Excerpts from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri

Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
Here is a Deity, stronger than myself, who comes to dominate me.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.
Your blessedness has now been manifested unto you.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps.
Alas, how often I will be restricted now!
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fili mi, tempus est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra.
My son, it is time to cease counterfeiting.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic.
Love said: “I am as the center of a harmonious circle; everything is equally near me. No so with you.”
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Sonnet: “Love’s Thoroughfare” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“O voi che par la via”

All those who travel Love's worn tracks,
Pause here, awhile, and ask
Has there ever been a grief like mine?

Pause here, from that mad race;
Patiently hear my case:
Is it not a piteous marvel and a sign?

Love, not because I played a part,
But only due to his great heart,
Afforded me a provenance so sweet

That often others, as I went,
Asked what such unfair gladness meant:
They whispered things behind me in the street.

But now that easy gait is gone
Along with the wealth Love afforded me;
And so in time I’ve come to be

So poor that I dread to ponder thereon.
And thus I have become as one
Who hides his shame of his poverty

By pretending happiness outwardly,
While within I travail and moan.



Sonnet: “Cry for Pity” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts lie shattered in my memory:
When through the past I see your lovely face.
When you are near me, thus, Love fills all Space,
And often whispers, “Is death better? Flee!”

My face reflects my heart's blood-red dammed tide,
Which, fainting, seeks some shallow resting place;
Till, in the blushing shame of such disgrace,
The very earth seems to be shrieking, “Die!”

’Twould be a grievous sin, if one should not
Relay some comfort to my harried mind,
If only with some simple pitying
For this great anguish which fierce scorn has wrought
Through faltering sights of eyes grown nearly blind,
Which search for death now, like a blessed thing.



Excerpt from Paradiso
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

****** Mother, daughter of your Son,
Humble, yet exalted above creation,
And the eternal counsel’s apex shown,

You are the Pinnacle of human nature,
Your nobility instilled by its Creator,
Who did not, having you, disdain his creature.

Love was rekindled in your perfect womb
Where warmth and holy peace were given room
For this, Perfection’s Rose, once sown, to bloom.

Now unto us you are a Torch held high
Our noonday sun―the light of Charity,
Our wellspring of all Hope, a living sea.

Madonna, so pure, high and all-availing,
The man who desires grace of you, though failing,
Despite his grounded state, is given wing!

Your mercy does not fail, but, Ever-Blessed,
The one who asks finds oftentimes his quest
Unneeded: you foresaw his first request!

You are our Mercy; you are our Compassion;
you are Magnificence; in you creation
Unites whatever Goodness deems Salvation.



THE MUSE

by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart ― youth, liberty, glory ―
now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.

Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes ― calm, implacable, pitiless.
“Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell?”

She answers, “Yes.”



I have also translated this poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

Excerpt from “Poems for Akhmatova”
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You outshine everything, even the sun
at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are ...
to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness ...


Dante Criticism by Michael R. Burch

Dante’s was a defensive reflex
against religion’s hex.
―Michael R. Burch


Dante, you Dunce!
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is hell, Dante, you Dunce!
Which you should have perceived―since you lived here once.

God is no Beatrice, gentle and clever.
Judas and Satan were wise to dissever
from false “messiahs” who cannot save.
Why flit like a bat through Plato’s cave
believing such shadowy illusions are real?
There is no "hell" but to live and feel!



How Dante Forgot Christ
by Michael R. Burch

Dante ****** the brightest and the fairest
for having loved―pale Helen, wild Achilles―
agreed with his Accuser in the spell
of hellish visions and eternal torments.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love.

His only savior, Beatrice, was Love,
the fulcrum of his body’s, heart’s and mind’s
sole triumph, and their altogether conquest.
She led him to those heights where Love, enshrined,
blazed like a star beyond religion’s hells.

Once freed from Yahweh, in the arms of Love,
like Blake and Milton, Dante forgot Christ.

The Christian gospel is strangely lacking in Milton’s and Dante’s epics. Milton gave the “atonement” one embarrassed enjambed line. Dante ****** the Earth’s star-crossed lovers to his grotesque hell, while doing exactly what they did: pursing at all costs his vision of love, Beatrice. Blake made more sense to me, since he called the biblical god Nobodaddy and denied any need to be “saved” by third parties.



Dante’s Antes
by Michael R. Burch

There’s something glorious about man,
who lives because he can,
who dies because he must,
and in between’s a bust.

No god can reign him in:
he’s quite intent on sin
and likes it rather, really.
He likes *** touchy-feely.

He likes to eat too much.
He has the Midas touch
and paves hell’s ways with gold.
The things he’s bought and sold!

He’s sold his soul to Mammon
and also plays backgammon
and poker, with such antes
as still befuddle Dantes.

I wonder―can hell hold him?
His chances seem quite dim
because he’s rather puny
and also loopy-******.

And yet like Evel Knievel
he dances with the Devil
and seems so **** courageous,
good-natured and outrageous

some God might show him mercy
and call religion heresy.



Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan’s gnawing.
Saint Brendan’s curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.

I’m on parole from Hell today!
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
You’ve fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!

Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever your can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!

In Dante’s Inferno, Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot’s head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.



RE: Paradiso, Canto III
by Michael R. Burch

for the most “Christian” of poets

What did Dante do,
to earn Beatrice’s grace
(grace cannot be earned!)
but cast disgrace
on the whole human race,
on his peers and his betters,
as a man who wears cheap rayon suits
might disparage men who wear sweaters?

How conventionally “Christian” ― Poet! ― to ****
your fellow man
for being merely human,
then, like a contented clam,
to grandly claim
near-infinite “grace,”
as if your salvation was God’s only aim!
What a scam!

And what of the lovely Piccarda,
whom you placed in the lowest sphere of heaven
for neglecting her vows ―
She was forced!
Were you chaste?



Intimations V
by Michael R. Burch

We had not meditated upon sound
so much as drowned
in the inhuman ocean
when we imagined it broken
open
like a conch shell
whorled like the spiraling hell
of Dante’s Inferno.

Trapped between Nature
and God,
what is man
but an inquisitive,
acquisitive
sod?

And what is Nature
but odd,
or God
but a Clod,
and both of them horribly flawed?



Endgame
by Michael R. Burch

The honey has lost all its sweetness,
the hive―its completeness.

Now ambient dust, the drones lie dead.
The workers weep, their King long fled
(who always had been ****, invisible,
his “kingdom” atomic, divisible,
and pathetically risible).

The queen has flown,
long Dis-enthroned,
who would have given all she owned
for a promised white stone.

O, Love has fled, has fled, has fled ...
Religion is dead, is dead, is dead.



The Final Revelation of a Departed God’s Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

Here I am, talking to myself again . . .

******* at God and bored with humanity.
These insectile mortals keep testing my sanity!

Still, I remember when . . .

planting odd notions, dark inklings of vanity,
in their peapod heads might elicit an inanity

worth a chuckle or two.

Philosophers, poets . . . how they all made me laugh!
The things they dreamed up! Sly Odysseus’s raft;

Plato’s Republic; Dante’s strange crew;

Shakespeare’s Othello, mad Hamlet, Macbeth;
Cervantes’ Quixote; fat, funny Falstaff!;

Blake’s shimmering visions. Those days, though, are through . . .

for, puling and tedious, their “poets” now seem
content to write, but not to dream,

and they fill the world with their pale derision

of things they completely fail to understand.
Now, since God has long fled, I am here, in command,

reading this crap. Earth is Hell. We’re all ******.

Keyword/Tags: sonnet, Italian sonnet, crown of sonnets, rhyme, love, affinity and love, Rome, Italy, Florence

Published as the collection "First they came for the Muslims"
neha Dec 2016
seconds, minutes, hours, days

spent hoping it was just a phase

as his parents sent him to a church where they'd say

"son, you better pray the gay away"

surely this "God" had far more important issues

than a boy in a closet with a handful of tissues

surely this "hell" was a place for far worse people

than a boy forced to confess his sins under a church steeple
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
hate sings a love song,
blithe, pretty, little tune
in honor of its heritage.
hate sings sweetly, a song
of marches and hangings,
of ghettos and slavery
it hums admiration for its people.
it sings of this land.
the majestic peaks and playful meadows.
it sings, with love, of blood-drenched cotton and  
trenches adorned with crooked bodies.
it sings of its forefathers-  
the conquistadors and pioneers.
saintly butchers and child rapists.
hate paints it’s history holier than the Sistine Chapel,  
singing blindly like a hymn.

hate sings a love song,  
possessive and vicious.  
it scrawls the lyrics on
subway walls and sycamore trees.
it sings in symbols and metaphors,
accompanied by the beat of temple gunshots and kicks to the ribcage.
hate sings through the pulpit and the pew,
clipping it’s verses from a holy book,
it sways to the rhythm of “Amens” and “Hallelujahs”

hate breathes down my neck and yours,
knocking door to door,  
bearing music with a message,  
it weeds out the undesirables one by one.
for the greater good,
hate tortures children therapeutically,
and executes those presumed guilty.
it erases generations
in concrete rooms  
and in the bellies of ships.  
it explodes homes,
smashes panes of glass,
and burns every convenient symbolism.
hate roves and rages and spits and howls,
singing the song of a beautiful future.
Merri Kathryn Mar 2019
(...or, “to Mother”)

When I removed my mask of being straight,

She removed her mask of motherly love.

How could she, seeing 17 year old me, claim to have had no clue?

How could I, seeing 50 year old her, been so intentionally ignorant?
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