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Michael R Burch Apr 2020
The Shape of Mourning
by Michael R. Burch

The shape of mourning
is an oiled creel
shining with unuse,

the bolt of cold steel
on a locker
shielding memory,

the monthly penance
of flowers,
the annual wake,

the face in the photograph
no longer dissolving under scrutiny,
becoming a keepsake,

the useless mower
lying forgotten
in weeds,

rings and crosses and
all the paraphernalia
the soul no longer needs.

Keywords/Tags: shape, mourning, bolt, steel, locker, memory, memories, penance, wake, keepsake, memento, rings, crosses, paraphernalia
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
The Locker
by Michael R. Burch

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

adulation or sentiment,
left with the pungent darkness

as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

These are poems about sports like baseball, basketball, boxing, football and soccer. Keywords/Tags: Sports, locker, locker room, clamor, adulation, acclaim, applause, sentiment, darkness, light, retirement, athlete, team, trophy, award, acclamation

Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a ***** a *****.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me ******, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, more bronze than gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—Bold.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child.
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Published by Black Medina, Bashgah (Iran, in a Farsi translation), Other Voices International, Thanal Online (India), Freshet, Formal Verse, Borderless Journal, Interracial Love, and in a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong

Note: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying, “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a ******.” I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in a publication called Bashgah.

(I stole this poem
From Muhammad Ali.)
—Michael R. Burch

hey pete!
by michael r. burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy’s dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then
you'll be a Superstar.

Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player as a boy; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather ironic commentary on the term “superstar.”

Baseball's immeasurable spittin’ mixed with occasional hittin’.—Michael R. Burch

Larry Seivers had golden hands
by Michael R. Burch

Larry Seivers had golden hands,
platinum hands,
diamond hands,
hands of jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst.

Other receivers were more elusive,
more physical,
flashier ...

but Larry Seivers had hands.

by Michael R. Burch

in an unplanned moment
as you rise
will teach your limbs the art of flight:
the waltz of light
through vaulted skies.

A falcon flies:
its keening cries
as sunlight fails
fall hollow to the earth below,
and you must know
how fierce the light of sunset feels.

You hear
those ringing cries, their echoes clear
though far away, and so you pause
—defying even gravity,
suspended over some vast sea—
then fall ... into applause.

Larry Legend
by Michael R. Burch

He's slow, can't jump,
looks pale and plump.
He talks too much;
he brags, and such.
He's not real nice,
has blood like ice
and will like steel
(and steal he will).
But when the game is on the line,
your team, or mine?

Big Mc Attack
by Michael R. Burch

Johnny Mc
is back—
the fierce
of words
and serves,
and taunts.

He flaunts;
he flails,
and rails.
he wails.
His ego
He grunts
and groans
and moans
and gee . . .
I think
he wants
to referee!

Johnny Mc
(thank God)
is back—
ing, fiery,
taking flack
(not hesitant
to give it back).

We love
to watch
him glare
and wince,
and since we sense
his dreams
we sit
on pins
he wins.

For Jack Nicklaus, at the 1987 Open
by Michael R. Burch

When you were young
every putt was makeable
and every dream remarkable;
the stars were unmistakable
you set your sights upon.

Then, in your youth,
time not yet a factor
and age not yet your rector,
you plotted every vector
and victory shone ahead, like truth.

But uncouth youth was fleeting ...
soon losses grew more numerous;
time's skies became more cumulus;
the nerves with age—more tremulous,
as the sun from the sky was setting, retreating.

How have you then, as sunset nears
and the world looks on with unsure eyes,
cast off the crutch of age to rise
and stand as though the butterflies
have no effect, no, nor the cheers?

I wrote this poem after Tom Watson chipped in at the 1982 US Open to defeat Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus was getting older, but he was still competitive.

There Are Dreams
by Michael R. Burch

for Jack Nicklaus

There are dreams
that you have dreamed
that are etched into your eyes.

There are dreams
that you have dreamed
that resignation can’t disguise.

There are dreams
that you have dreamed . . .
O, I’ve dreamed them, esteemed them.

Like fire,
flares most brightly as it dies.

by Michael R. Burch

for Jimmy Connors

Pounce like a panther,
all sinew and nerve;
attack, arched in anger,
your quarry—the serve.
Imagine a moment
of glory to come
as you lunge for the path
of its flight through the sun.

Are you a Templar
like warriors of old,
forsaking your loved ones,
crusading for gold?
Or could it be
need for fame drives you on?
Do you soak up the cheers
as you dash through the sun?

As you battle those younger,
those stronger, more fleet,
still none can be fiercer,
less yielding, complete.
Oh, what drives you onward,
what makes you compete?

I think not the riches, acclaim, even love . . .
but your heart is incentive enough.

The Great GOAT Debate
by Michael R. Burch

The great GOAT debate
can no longer wait:
we MUST know who’s best, and know NOW!

Is it Jordan, Kareem,
or Hakeem the Dream?
Is it Gretzky, the Rocket, or Howe?

Is it O.J. or Brady,
or are they too shady?
Tom Burleson or Monte Towe?

But now that I’m thinking
and done with my drinking,
before I make friends with a large purple cow ...

It’s the Babe, let’s get serious!
Babe Didrikson Zaharias!
Let the Ultimate GOAT take a bow.

Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias was a basketball All-American, a baseball and softball star, a professional golfer who accumulated ten major championships, and a track and field legend who won two gold medals and a silver in three different disciplines at the 1932 Olympics while setting four world records in the process. She was also an expert diver, roller-skater, bowler and billiards player. Didrikson won the 1932 AAU track and field team championships while competing as an individual, by winning five of the eight events she entered and finishing second in another. She remains the only track and field athlete, male or female, to have won individual Olympic medals in a running event (hurdles), a throwing event (javelin), and a jumping event (high jump). Despite taking up golf in her mid-twenties and having to wait until age 31 to regain her amateur status, Didrikson won 17 straight women's amateur tournaments, an unequaled feat. Altogether, she won 82 golf tournaments. She made the cut at two men’s PGA golf tournaments, the only woman to do so, and she did it sixty years before any other woman even tried. In 1934 exhibition games, after being taught the curve ball by Dizzy Dean, she pitched one scoreless inning against the Dodgers and two scoreless innings against the Indians. Didrikson still holds the world record for the longest baseball throw by a woman. The world has never seen anyone like her.

“She is beyond all belief until you see her perform ...Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.” – Grantland Rice, considered by many to be the greatest sportswriter of all time

Ring-a-Ling Bling
by Michael R. Burch

The ring
is mostly bling.

Determining an individual athlete's greatness by counting championship rings (i.e., team success) makes no sense to me and seems disrespectful to all-time greats like Ernie Banks, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, **** Butkus, Ty Cobb, Michelle Kwan, Karl Malone, Dan Marino, Marta (who may be the greatest female soccer player of all time), Barry Sanders, John Stockton, Fran Tarkenton and Ted Williams. Perhaps the best example is the player most cited for rings these days: Michael Jordan. In reality, Jordan didn't win a ring his first six years and was 0-6 against
the Larry Bird Celtics and lost two more playoff series to the Isiah Thomas Pistons. Were Bird and Thomas the better players, or did they simply have better teams? The answer seems obvious.
Jordan only began to win rings after he was joined by outstanding players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, et al, and even then it took time for that team to jell. Jordan was a transcendentally great player before he won a ring. If he had failed to win rings because he never had good-enough teammates, would that make him a lesser player? Judging individuals by team success or failure makes no sense, unless Jordan was a lesser player for six years while his teams struggled and then he miraculously became the GOAT when more capable players showed up. Ditto for LeBron James. The first thing he does after changing teams is use his influence to get better players to join him. LeBron is not foolish enough to believe rings are won by individuals.

The Ring Thing (is entirely Bling)
by Michael R. Burch

The ring
is entirely bling.

Michael Jordan was zero-for-six
against the Larry Bird Celtics;
moreover he was twice sent home
by Isiah’s Pistons;
his ring case only began to gleam
when he had Horace, Scottie and B.J. on his team.

Thus the ring
is bling.

The Ballad of King Henry the Great
(aka Derrick Henry)
by Michael R. Burch

Long live the King!
Send him victorious,
happy and glorious,
long to reign over us:
Long live the King!

Long live the King!
Send him like Sherman tanks
Mowing down cornerbacks,
Stiff-arming tiny ants:
Long live the King!

No T.O.
by Michael R. Burch

Lines written after the aptly-named Eric Eager said, “A. J. Brown is Terrell Owens.”

I’m young, I’m big-hearted,
but I’m just getting started.

I’m running my own race
at my own **** pace.

T.O. belongs in fabled Canton town,
but I’m A. J. Brown.

The second stanza was actually written by A. J. Brown, a budding poet, and published in the form of a tweet.

Charlie Hustle
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

Crouch at the plate,
intensity itself.

Follow the flight
of the streak of white
with avid eyes
and a heartfelt urge
to let it fly.

Sweep the short arc,
feel the crack of a clean hit,
pound the earth
toward first.

Edge into the base path,
eyes relentlessly relentless.

Watch his every movement;
feel his every thought;
forget all save his feet;
see him stretch
toward the plate ...
and fly!

Fly along the basepath
churning up the dirt,
desire in your eyes.

Slide around the outstretched glove,
hear the throaty cry,
"He's safe!"
And lie in a puddle of sunlight
soaking up the cheers.

A Texas Leaguer dropping
to the left-field side of center
sends you on your way back home.

Take the turn past third
with fervor in your eyes
and a fever in your step,
the game just strides away ...
take them all and then
slide your patented head-first slide
across the guarded plate.

Pause in the dust of your desires,
loving the feel of the scalding sun
and the roar of the crowd.

Shake your head and tip your cap
toward the clouds.

Slap the dirt
from your grass-stained shirt
and head toward the clubhouse ...
just doing your job,
but loving it
because it is your life.

This was an early attempt at free verse, written in my teens.

The Sliding Rule
by Michael R. Burch

If you’re not quite kosher,
like Leo Durocher;
or if you have a Pinocchio nose,
like Peter Edward Rose;
or if your life turns tragic,
like Ervin Johnson’s magic;
or if your earthly heaven
is stopped, like Howe’s, at seven;
or if you’re a disciplinarian
like Knight, but also a contrarian;
or if like Joe you’re shoeless
because you’re also clueless;
or perhaps like Iron Mike Tyson
you work a little vice in;
or like Daly working the jackpot
you’re less unlucky than merely a crackpot;
or like Ruth you’re better at drinking
than at dieting and thinking;
or perhaps like Andre Agassi’s
your triumphs are really your tragedies . . .
though The Judge might call you a sinner,
society’ll proclaim you a WINNER!

by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,

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

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,

Published by The Lyric, Verses Magazine, Romantics Quarterly, Journeys, The Raintown Review, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, 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

Keywords/Tags: Tremble, predator, raptor, hawk, eagle, falcon, talon, beak, wing, preen, preened, preening

Y2k: The Score
by Michael R. Burch

You should have known
when you were giving us wedgies,
pulling down our pants
in front of the cheerleaders,
playing frisbee with our slide rules . . .

that the years are exceedingly cruel.

You should have seen,
dashing across the gridiron
(as the cheerleaders screamed
in a *****-show of ecstasy),
playing the hero, the bull-necked **** . . .

the hands on the face of the unimpressed clock.

Though you were popular,
the backseat Romeo, the star
who drove the flashiest car,
though you lived out our dream
and took the prettiest girls to the dances, the prom . . .

you never had a chance.  Something was wrong.

We missed the big dances and proms
as we hissed and we schemed,
as we wrote and re-wrote our revenge
while you partied like Stonehenge.
Now your business is in debt to the hilt.
It’s too late to cry: Foul! Unsportsmanlike! Tilt!

One statement of ours and yours are all lost!
Your receivables, aging and gathering dust,
will yellow like ***** one soon-coming day.
While you were scoring, you missed this play—

Jocks: Zero. Nerds: Y2k.

Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

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

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

Winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest; published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, Mandrake Poetry Review, Carnelian, Poem Kingdom, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Famous Poets and Poems, FreeXpression, PW Review, Poetic Voices, Poetry Renewal and Poetry Life & Times
Anya Jan 2020
And who
are you
to wonder why
The seas and suns
may never die
And who
are you
to ask and beg
To want and pry
upon one leg
And who
are you
to love the sick
The weak and meek
who all die quick
And who
are you
to see the world
The bane you cried
and rock you hurled
And who
are you
to mend what broke
With hands of bone
and grey torn cloak
And who
are you
to take my life
My love, my praise,
my distanced strife
And who
are you
to heed cold breath
To leave your form
with name of Death
are soon
to greet me there
Beneath the walk
of Davy’s lair
A stream of strawberry argot
and swift her auburn hair
let her shoal uptick in sluice
only a cheeseburger made grace
as her mamilla bare her cheek in crest there
if the goat made milk for perfect cheese
where she must have peas too
that keep her neat and trim
and with her dessert of ice cream
when she'll delight in luxury bob again.
Dream Fisher Mar 2017
I remember all those terribly awkward years
In a time capsule that dropped me right here.
I'd stay up with an unplugged microphone
Singing some songs about being alone
Writing so many poems of being unknown
How everyone looked so perfect,
They had a plan that seemed perfect,
They weren't like me, they weren't like you.
Masks of perfection that made me feel less than you
Questioning all of the life we've been through

I had a combination to a lock I still know
Even if it's to a door, now unknown
Down the hall you can find me, number 345
studying chapters in books on how to feel alive
Then graduate, jumping off that high dive
And we splash, knowing nothing
Praying we don't drown
Sick from the vertigo of a planet spinning us around.

Everyone looked so perfect,
They had a plan that seemed perfect
Just like me, just like you
With a mask having each the other fooled
Questioning how they made it through
I'm so perfect.
You're so perfect too.
My plan is, I haven't got a clue.

— The End —