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Sixty-seven children have been slaughtered.
Sixty-seven dreams have been shattered.
Sixty-seven beautiful faces have now vanished.
Sixty-seven vibrant smiles have faded.
Sixty-seven beds are left empty.

Palestinian children, like all children, love to play.
Palestinian children are longing for peace.
The children of Gaza dream to be teachers, nurses, artists, engineers, and doctors.
Palestinian children want to breathe.
Palestinian children's lives matter!

(Palestinian children killed by Israel in Gaza in May, 2021)

Hussein Dekmak
Michael R Burch Oct 2020
Mahmoud Darwish: English Translations

Mahmoud Darwish is the essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging ... his is an utterly necessary voice, unforgettable once discovered.―Naomi Shihab Nye



Palestine
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
April's blushing advances,
the aroma of bread warming at dawn,
a woman haranguing men,
the poetry of Aeschylus,
love's trembling beginnings,
a boulder covered with moss,
mothers who dance to the flute's sighs,
and the invaders' fear of memories.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
September's rustling end,
a woman leaving forty behind, still full of grace, still blossoming,
an hour of sunlight in prison,
clouds taking the shapes of unusual creatures,
the people's applause for those who mock their assassins,
and the tyrant's fear of songs.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings!
In the past she was called Palestine
and tomorrow she will still be called Palestine.
My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life!



Identity Card
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Record!
I am an Arab!
And my identity card is number fifty thousand.
I have eight children;
the ninth arrives this autumn.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
Employed at the quarry,
I have eight children.
I provide them with bread,
clothes and books
from the bare rocks.
I do not supplicate charity at your gates,
nor do I demean myself at your chambers' doors.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
I have a name without a title.
I am patient in a country
where people are easily enraged.
My roots
were established long before the onset of time,
before the unfolding of the flora and fauna,
before the pines and the olive trees,
before the first grass grew.
My father descended from plowmen,
not from the privileged classes.
My grandfather was a lowly farmer
neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Still, they taught me the pride of the sun
before teaching me how to read;
now my house is a watchman's hut
made of branches and cane.
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name, but no title!

Record!
I am an Arab!
You have stolen my ancestors' orchards
and the land I cultivated
along with my children.
You left us nothing
but these bare rocks.
Now will the State claim them
as it has been declared?

Therefore!
Record on the first page:
I do not hate people
nor do I encroach,
but if I become hungry
I will feast on the usurper's flesh!
Beware!
Beware my hunger
and my anger!

NOTE: Darwish was married twice, but had no children. In the poem above, he is apparently speaking for his people, not for himself personally.



Excerpt from “Speech of the Red Indian”
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let's give the earth sufficient time to recite
the whole truth ...
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

In tombs you build
the dead lie sleeping.
Over bridges you *****
file the newly slain.

There are spirits who light up the night like fireflies.
There are spirits who come at dawn to sip tea with you,
as peaceful as the day your guns mowed them down.

O, you who are guests in our land,
please leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to sit and ponder
the conditions for peace
in your treaty with the dead.



Passport
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

They left me unrecognizable in the shadows
that bled all colors from this passport.
To them, my wounds were novelties―
curious photos for tourists to collect.
They failed to recognize me. No, don't leave
the palm of my hand bereft of sun
when all the trees recognize me
and every song of the rain honors me.
Don't set a wan moon over me!

All the birds that flocked to my welcoming wave
as far as the distant airport gates,
all the wheatfields,
all the prisons,
all the albescent tombstones,
all the barbwired boundaries,
all the fluttering handkerchiefs,
all the eyes―
they all accompanied me.
But they were stricken from my passport
shredding my identity!

How was I stripped of my name and identity
on soil I tended with my own hands?
Today, Job's lamentations
re-filled the heavens:
Don't make an example of me, not again!
Prophets! Gentlemen!―
Don't require the trees to name themselves!
Don't ask the valleys who mothered them!
My forehead glistens with lancing light.
From my hand the riverwater springs.
My identity can be found in my people's hearts,
so invalidate this passport!

Keywords/Tags: Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine, Palestinian, Arab, Arabic, translation, Gaza, Israel, children, mothers, injustice, violence, war, race, racism, intolerance, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Michael R Burch Jul 2020
Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

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

Keywords/Tags: Einstein, Adolph, ******, Berlin, Jew, Jews, Arab, Arabs, Palestinian, Palestinians, Vietnam, Vietnamese, American, Americans, Yankees, Domino, Theory, Dominoes, Jesus, Christ, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Slave, Slaves, Slavery, Israel, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
Michael R Burch May 2020
This Distant Light
by Walid Khazindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.

If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from your fingertips
and release a smile―that shy, tentative smile―
from the imprisoned anguish I see.

Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
sheltered by shade from a sweltering sun?

Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire: more beautiful than expected, in reverie?

Darkness increases and we must remain vigilant
since this distant light is our sole consolation ...
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has constantly flickered,
in danger of going out.

Come to me, closer and closer.
I don't want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let's stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

Walid Khazindar was born in Gaza City. He is considered to be one of the very best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997. Keywords/Tags: Arabic, translation, Arab, Palestine, Palestinian, Gaza, distant, light, flame, fire, autumn, winter, trees, birds, sparrows, fingertips, smile, sing, shade, sun, fire, darkness, hand, hands, snow
Michael R Burch May 2020
Nothing Remains
by Fadwa Tuqan the "Poet of Palestine"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, we're together,
but tomorrow you'll be hidden from me again,
thanks to life's cruelty.

The seas will separate us...
Oh! Oh! If only I could see you!
But I'll never know
where your steps led you,
which routes you took,
or to what unknown destinations
your feet were compelled.

You will depart and the thief of hearts,
the denier of beauty,
will rob us of all that's dear to us,
will steal this happiness from us,
leaving our hands empty.

Tomorrow at sunrise you'll vanish like a phantom,
dissipating into a delicate mist
dissolving quickly in the summer sun.

Your scent! Your scent contains the essence of life,
filling my heart
as the earth absorbs the lifegiving rain.

I will miss you like the fragrance of trees
when you leave tomorrow,
and nothing remains.

Just as everything beautiful and all that's dear to us
is lost! Lost, and nothing remains.

Keywords/Tags: Fadwa Tuqan, Palestine, Palestinian, Arabic, translation, nothing, remains, parting, separation, loss


Fadwa Tuqan has been called the Grand Dame of Palestinian letters and The Poet of Palestine. These are my translations of Fadwa Tuqan poems originally written in Arabic.



Enough for Me
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Enough for me to lie in the earth,
to be buried in her,
to sink meltingly into her fecund soil, to vanish ...
only to spring forth like a flower
brightening the play of my countrymen's children.

Enough for me to remain
in my native soil's embrace,
to be as close as a handful of dirt,
a sprig of grass,
a wildflower.

Published by Palestine Today, Free Journal and Lokesh Tripathi



Existence
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In my solitary life, I was a lost question;
in the encompassing darkness,
my answer lay concealed.

You were a bright new star
revealed by fate,
radiating light from the fathomless darkness.

The other stars rotated around you
—once, twice—
until I perceived
your unique radiance.

Then the bleak blackness broke
and in the twin tremors
of our entwined hands
I had found my missing answer.

Oh you! Oh you intimate and distant!
Don't you remember the coalescence
Of our spirits in the flames?
Of my universe with yours?
Of the two poets?
Despite our great distance,
Existence unites us.

Published by This Week in Palestine, Arabic Literature (ArabLit.org) and Art-in-Society (Germany)



Labor Pains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight the wind wafts pollen through ruined fields and homes.
The earth shivers with love, with the agony of giving birth,
while the Invader spreads stories of submission and surrender.

O, Arab Aurora!

Tell the Usurper: childbirth’s a force beyond his ken
because a mother’s wracked body reveals a rent that inaugurates life,
a crack through which light dawns in an instant
as the blood’s rose blooms in the wound.



Hamza
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hamza was one of my hometown’s ordinary men
who did manual labor for bread.

When I saw him recently,
the land still wore its mourning dress in the solemn windless silence
and I felt defeated.

But Hamza-the-unextraordinary said:
“Sister, our land’s throbbing heart never ceases to pound,
and it perseveres, enduring the unendurable, keeping the secrets of mounds and wombs.
This land sprouting cactus spikes and palms also births freedom-fighters.
Thus our land, my sister, is our mother!”

Days passed and Hamza was nowhere to be seen,
but I felt the land’s belly heaving in pain.
At sixty-five Hamza’s a heavy burden on her back.

“Burn down his house!”
some commandant screamed,
“and slap his son in a prison cell!”

As our town’s military ruler later explained
this was necessary for law and order,
that is, an act of love, for peace!

Armed soldiers surrounded Hamza’s house;
the coiled serpent completed its circle.

The bang at his door came with an ultimatum:
“Evacuate, **** it!'
So generous with their time, they said:
“You can have an hour, yes!”

Hamza threw open a window.
Face-to-face with the blazing sun, he yelled defiantly:
“Here in this house I and my children will live and die, for Palestine!”
Hamza's voice echoed over the hemorrhaging silence.

An hour later, with impeccable timing, Hanza’s house came crashing down
as its rooms were blown sky-high and its bricks and mortar burst,
till everything settled, burying a lifetime’s memories of labor, tears, and happier times.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down one of our town’s streets ...
Hamza-the-unextraordinary man who remained as he always was:
unshakable in his determination.

My translation follows one by Azfar Hussain and borrows a word here, a phrase there.



Biography of Fadwa Tuqan (aka Touqan or Toukan)

Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003), called the "Grande Dame of Palestinian letters," is also known as "The Poet of Palestine." She is generally considered to be one of the very best contemporary Arab poets. Palestine’s national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, named her “the mother of Palestinian poetry.”
Michael R Burch May 2020
Existence
by Fadwa Tuqan the "Poet of Palestine"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In my solitary life, I was a lost question;
in the encompassing darkness,
my answer lay concealed.

You were a bright new star
revealed by fate,
radiating light from the fathomless darkness.

The other stars rotated around you
—once, twice —
until I perceived
your unique radiance.

Then the bleak blackness broke
And in the twin tremors
of our entwined hands
I had found my missing answer.

Oh you! Oh you intimate, yet distant!
Don't you remember the coalescence
Of your spirit in flames?
Of my universe with yours?
Of the two poets?
Despite our great distance,
Existence unites us.

Keywords/Tags: Fadwa Tuqan, Palestine, Palestinian, Arabic, translation, existence, love, darkness, star, stars, orbit, radiance



Enough for Me
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Enough for me to lie in the earth,
to be buried in her,
to sink meltingly into her fecund soil, to vanish ...
only to spring forth like a flower
brightening the play of my countrymen's children.

Enough for me to remain
in my native soil's embrace,
to be as close as a handful of dirt,
a sprig of grass,
a wildflower.

Published by Palestine Today, Free Journal and Lokesh Tripathi



Nothing Remains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, we’re together,
but tomorrow you'll be hidden from me
thanks to life’s cruelty.

The seas will separate us ...
Oh!—Oh!—If I could only see you!
But I'll never know
where your steps led you,
which routes you took,
or to what unknown destinations
your feet were compelled.

You will depart and the thief of hearts,
the denier of beauty,
will rob us of all that's dear to us,
will steal this happiness,
leaving our hands empty.

Tomorrow at dawn you'll vanish like a phantom,
dissipating into a delicate mist
dissolving quickly in the summer sun.

Your scent—your scent!—contains the essence of life,
filling my heart
as the earth gulps up the lifegiving rain.

I will miss you like the fragrance of trees
when you leave tomorrow,
and nothing remains.

Just as everything beautiful and all that's dear to us
is lost—lost!—and nothing remains.

Published by This Week in Palestine and Hypercritic (read in Arabic by Souad Maddahi with my translation as a reference)



Labor Pains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight the wind wafts pollen through ruined fields and homes.
The earth shivers with love, with the agony of giving birth,
while the Invader spreads stories of submission and surrender.

O, Arab Aurora!

Tell the Usurper: childbirth’s a force beyond his ken
because a mother’s wracked body reveals a rent that inaugurates life,
a crack through which light dawns in an instant
as the blood’s rose blooms in the wound.



Hamza
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hamza was one of my hometown’s ordinary men
who did manual labor for bread.

When I saw him recently,
the land still wore its mourning dress in the solemn windless silence
and I felt defeated.

But Hamza-the-unextraordinary said:
“Sister, our land’s throbbing heart never ceases to pound,
and it perseveres, enduring the unendurable, keeping the secrets of mounds and wombs.
This land sprouting cactus spikes and palms also births freedom-fighters.
Thus our land, my sister, is our mother!”

Days passed and Hamza was nowhere to be seen,
but I felt the land’s belly heaving in pain.
At sixty-five Hamza’s a heavy burden on her back.

“Burn down his house!”
some commandant screamed,
“and slap his son in a prison cell!”

As our town’s military ruler later explained
this was necessary for law and order,
that is, an act of love, for peace!

Armed soldiers surrounded Hamza’s house;
the coiled serpent completed its circle.

The bang at his door came with an ultimatum:
“Evacuate, **** it!'
So generous with their time, they said:
“You can have an hour, yes!”

Hamza threw open a window.
Face-to-face with the blazing sun, he yelled defiantly:
“Here in this house I and my children will live and die, for Palestine!”
Hamza's voice echoed over the hemorrhaging silence.

An hour later, with impeccable timing, Hanza’s house came crashing down
as its rooms were blown sky-high and its bricks and mortar burst,
till everything settled, burying a lifetime’s memories of labor, tears, and happier times.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down one of our town’s streets ...
Hamza-the-unextraordinary man who remained as he always was:
unshakable in his determination.

My translation follows one by Azfar Hussain and borrows a word here, a phrase there.



Biography of Fadwa Tuqan (aka Touqan or Toukan)

Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003), called the "Grande Dame of Palestinian letters," is also known as "The Poet of Palestine." She is generally considered to be one of the very best contemporary Arab poets. Palestine’s national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, named her “the mother of Palestinian poetry.”

Fadwa Tuqan was born into an affluent, literary family in Nablus in 1917. Her brother Ibrahim Tuqan was the most famous Palestinian poet of his day. She studied English literature at Oxford University and won several international literary prizes.

Tuqan began writing in traditional forms, but later became a pioneer of Arabic free verse. Her work often deals with feminine explorations of love and social protest.

After the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of 1948 she began to write about Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Then, after the Six Day War of 1967, she also began writing patriotic poems.

Her autobiography "Difficult Journey―Mountainous Journey" was translated into English in 1990. Tuqan received the International Poetry Award, the Jerusalem Award for Culture and Arts and the United Arab Emirates Award, the latter two both in 1990. She also received the Honorary Palestine prize for poetry in 1996. She was the subject of a documentary film directed by novelist Liana Bader in 1999.

Tuqan died on December 12, 2003 during the height of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, while her hometown of Nablus was under siege. Her poem "Wahsha: Moustalhama min Qanoon al Jathibiya" ("Longing: Inspired by the Law of Gravity") was one of the last poems she penned, while largely bedridden.

Tuqan is widely considered to be a symbol of the Palestinian cause and is "one of the most distinguished figures of modern Arabic literature."

In his obituary for "The Guardian," Lawrence Joffe wrote: "The Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, who has died aged 86, forcefully expressed a nation's sense of loss and defiance. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general, likened reading one of Tuqan's poems to facing 20 enemy commandos." In her poem "Martyrs Of The Intifada," Tuqan wrote of young stone-throwers:

They died standing, blazing on the road
Shining like stars, their lips pressed to the lips of life
They stood up in the face of death
Then disappeared like the sun.

Yet the true power of her words derived not from warlike imagery, but from their affirmation of Palestinian identity and the dream of return.

"Her poetry reflected the pain, loss, and anger of the Nakba, the experience of fleeing war and living as a refugee, and the courageous aspirations of the Palestinians to nationhood and return to their homeland. She also wrote about resistance to Israel’s injustices and life under Israeli military occupation, especially after Nablus fell to Israeli forces in 1967, heralding Israel’s long-term occupation of the West Bank, which remains to this day." - Zeina Azzam
Mohammed Arafat Apr 2020
Away from the brown soil where I was born,
away from the red strawberries and the yellow corn,
away from the grave of my grandfather who taught me farming,
and away from my family-jammed home with no backyard or swing,
I sing of my far land,
in which my dreams grew,
with no end.
I sing for the land that gave me patience,
that gave me bravery,
that planted love in me,
which became high green trees,
reaching the skies of other hearts,
I sing for the land where love lives,
with hate trying to replace it.

I still sing of my land,
for which I long night after night
song after song,
curse after curse,
tear after tear,
nightmare after another.

I still sing of my land,
where I lost friends and family,
where good people die, not of hunger,
but of oppression,
where good and bad exist,
where easy gets complex,
where stories are narrated by silence,
voices are heard from the dead,
and decisions are made by the foolish.
I still sing for it,
where infants are born political,
and their worrying about their rights becomes their toys.

I sing of the land, where brains are washed with fear and hate,
where farms are separated with walls,
where people are split by destruction,
where rubble shelter children,
where hearts are divided by revenge.

I will still sing for my land,
for what it gives me,
and for what it takes from me…

Mohammed Arafat
09-04-2020
I was talking to someone dear to my heart, and we both shared photos of passports. The name of my country (Palestine) on the Passover  reminded me of how much I love my homeland. My  love to my land no matter how much it gives me and how much it takes from me
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
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. Keywords/Tags: butterfly, children, storm, lightning, thunder, hailstones, snow, frost, night, shelter, comfort, safety, rose, fire, warmth, Holocaust, Nakba, Gaza, Trail of Tears, slavery, injustice, abuse, ethnic cleansing, genocide
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
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 ...

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 and the Palestinian Nakba. The word Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe."



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.



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Palestine

It’s not that every leaf must finally fall,
it’s just that we can never catch them all.



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?



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?



"War" is a poem I wrote in my teens that mentions the Jordan River and wars waged with axes in ancient Palestine.

War
by Michael R. Burch

lysander lies in lauded greece
and sleeps and dreams, a stone for a pillow,
unseeing as sunset devours limp willows,
but War glares on.

and joab's sightless gaze is turned
beyond the jordan's ravaged shore;
his war-ax lies to be taxed no more,
but War hacks on.

and roland sleeps in poppied fields
with flowers flowing at his feet;
their fragrance lulls his soul to sleep,
but War raves on.

and patton sighs an unheard sigh
for sorties past and those to come;
he does not heed the battle drum,
but War rolls on.

for now new heroes grab up guns
and rush to fight their fathers' wars,
as warriors' children must, of course,
while War laughs on.



War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

War is obsolete;
even the strange machinery of dread
weeps for the child in the street
who cannot lift her head
to reprimand the Man
who failed to countermand
her soft defeat.

But war is obsolete;
even the cold robotic drone
that flies far overhead
has sense enough to moan
and shudder at her plight
(only men bereft of Light
with hearts indurate stone
embrace war’s Siberian night).

For war is obsolete;
man’s tribal “gods,” long dead,
have fled his awakening sight
while the true Sun, overhead,
has pity on her plight.
O sweet, precipitate Light! —
embrace her, reject the night
that leaves gentle fledglings dead.

For each brute ancestor lies
with his totems and his “gods”
in the slavehold of premature night
that awaited him in his tomb;
while Love, the ancestral womb,
still longs to give birth to the Light.
So which child shall we ****** tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?



Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality has swept into a corner ... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.



Keywords/Tags: Frail, envelope, flesh, Nakba, Gaza, Jordan, Palestine, Palestinian, children, mothers, tiny, hand, kiss, mayfly, deluge, tears, epitaph, grave, butterflies



The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Clinging
to the plum tree:
one blossom's worth of warmth
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



One leaf falls, enlightenment!
Another leaf falls,
swept away by the wind ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Advice to Young Poets
by Nicanor Parra Sandoval
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Youngsters,
write however you will
in your preferred style.
Too much blood flowed under the bridge
for me to believe
there’s just one acceptable path.
In poetry everything’s permitted.



Everlasting
by Michael R. Burch

Where the wind goes
when the storm dies,
there my spirit lives
though I close my eyes.

Do not weep for me;
I am never far.
Whisper my name
to the last star ...

then let me sleep,
think of me no more.

Still ...

By denying death
its terminal sting,
in my words I remain
everlasting.


I have the most childlike heart ...
—Sappho, fragment 120, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Awed by the moon’s splendor,
stars covered their undistinguished faces.
Even so, we.
—Sappho, fragment 34, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Those I most charm
do me the most harm.
—Sappho, fragment 12, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Even as their hearts froze,
their feathers molted.
—Sappho, fragment 42, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your voice beguiles me.
Your laughter lifts my heart’s wings.
If I listen to you, even for a moment, I am left speechless.
—Sappho, fragment 31, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Sappho, fragment 138, loose translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch

1.
Darling, let me see your face;
unleash your eyes' grace.

2.
Turn to me, favor me
with your eyes' indulgence.

3.
Look me in the face,
           smile,
reveal your eyes' grace ...

4.
Turn to me, favor me with your eyes’ acceptance.



Sappho, fragment 52 (Voigt 168B / Diehl 94 / *** 48)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1a.
Midnight.
The hours drone on
as I moan here, alone.

1b.
Midnight.
The hours drone.
I moan,
alone.

2.
The moon has long since set;
the Pleiades are gone;
now half the night is spent
and yet
here I lie—alone.



Sappho, fragment 24, loose translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch

1a.
Dear, don't you remember how, in days long gone,
we did such things, being young?

1b.
Dear, don't you remember, in days long gone,
how we did such things, being young?

2.
Don't you remember, in days bygone,
how we did such things, being young?

3.
Remember? In our youth
we too did such reckless things.



Sappho, fragment 154, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
The moon rose and we women
thronged it like an altar.

2.
Maidens throng
at the altar of Love
all night long.



Once again I dive into this fathomless ocean,
intoxicated by lust.
—Sappho, after Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did the epigram above perhaps inspire the legend that Sappho leapt into the sea to her doom, over her despair for her love for the ferryman Phaon? See the following poem ...

The Legend of Sappho and Phaon, after Menander
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Some say Sappho was an ardent maiden
goaded by wild emotion
to fling herself from the white-frothed rocks of Leukas
into this raging ocean
for love of Phaon ...
but others reject that premise
and say it was Aphrodite, for love of Adonis.

In Menander's play The Leukadia he refers to a legend that Sappho flung herself from the White Rock of Leukas in pursuit of Phaon. We owe the preservation of those verses to Strabo, who cited them. Phaon appears in works by Ovid, Lucian and Aelian. He is also mentioned by Plautus in Miles Gloriosus as being one of only two men in the whole world, who "ever had the luck to be so passionately loved by a woman."



You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll "recite" them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it, mon frère.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
—Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his f---ing.
—Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain—you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages—you alone!
Discrimination and wit—you alone!
You have it all—who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife—she is never alone!
—Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love’s daughter.
who died six days short of completing her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell’s three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2.
To you, my departed parents, with much emotion,
I commend my little lost darling, my much-kissed Erotion,
who died six days short of completing her sixth bitter winter.
Protect her, I pray, from hell’s hound and its dark shades a-flitter;
and please don’t let fiends leave her maiden heart dismayed!
But lead her to romp in some happy Elysian glade
with her cherished friends, excitedly lispingly my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was such a slight burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Martial wrote this touching elegy for a little slave girl, Erotion, who died six days before her sixth birthday. The poem has been nominated as Martial’s masterpiece by L. J. Lloyd and others. Erotion means “little love” and may correspond to our term “love child.” It has been suggested that Erotion may have been Martial’s child by a female slave. That could explain why Martial is asking  his parents’ spirits to welcome, guide and watch over her  spirit. Martial uses the terms patronos (patrons) and commendo (commend); in Rome a freed slave would be commended to a patron. A girl freed from slavery by death might need patrons as protectors on the “other side,” according to Roman views of the afterlife, since the afterworld houses evil shades and is guarded by a monstrous three-headed dog, Cerebus. Martial is apparently asking his parents to guide the girl’s spirit away from Cerebus and the dark spirits to the heavenly Elysian fields where she can play and laugh without fear. If I am correct, Martial’s poem is not just an elegy, but a prayer-poem for protection, perhaps of his own daughter. Albert A. Bell supports this hypothesis with the following arguments: (1) Martial had Erotion cremated, a practice preferred by the upper classes, (2) “he buried her with the full rites befitting the child of a Roman citizen,” (3) he entrusted her [poetically] to his parents, and (4) he maintained her grave for years.


Catullus 1 (“cui dono lepidum novum libellum”)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To whom do I dedicate this novel book
polished drily with a pumice stone?
To you, Cornelius, for you would look
content, as if my scribblings took
the cake, when in truth you alone
unfolded Italian history in three scrolls,
as learned as Jupiter and acing the course.
Therefore, this little book is yours,
whatever it is, which, O patron Maiden,
I pray will last more than my lifetime!


Did Sappho write the world's first "make love, not war" poem, more than 2,500 years ago? This poem has been variously titled “The Anactoria Poem,” “Helen’s Eidolon” and “Some People Say.”

Some Say
Sappho, fragment 16 (Lobel-Page 16)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Warriors on rearing chargers,
columns of infantry,
fleets of warships:
some call these the dark earth's redeeming visions.
But I say—
the one I desire.

And this makes sense
because she who so vastly surpassed all other mortals in beauty
—Helen—
seduced by Aphrodite, led astray by desire,
lightly set sail for distant Troy,
abandoning her celebrated husband,
leaving behind her parents and child!

Her story reminds me of Anactoria,
who has also departed,
and whose lively dancing and lovely face
I would rather see than all the horsemen and war-chariots of the Lydians,
or all their infantry parading in flashing armor.
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
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?”

What is happening to Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank is a crime against humanity, financed by American taxpayer dollars. Keywords/Tags: Palestine, Palestinian, children, Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jesus, Christ, meek, mild, lamb, lambs, kids, Herod, Trump, Bibi, slouching, Beast, American, Christians, shame, blame
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