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Jade Apr 2021
written across my anatomy,
a brilliant Poetica:

lips part/
line breaks

the dimple in my jaw

an

a
c
r
o
s
t
i
c

clavicles
mere sisters of verse

fingerprints are but
whirlpools
of apostrophe and quotation

the trellis of my ribs
composed of
stanza

behind

my papyrus heart
dwells

every beat
a turning page--

and this is my story
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Arabella B Oct 2020
A place where it doesn't matter who I am
What words I put on the paper
How I feel or what I mean
Whether it be hidden or clear
I don't have to rhyme
Follow a strict set of rules
A place where I can get all my feelings out
It is like a yellow flower in the middle of a field of cotton plants
Unique in its own way
The only one of its kind
I don't have to worry about anything being right
because no matter what I write it right to me

It is a freeing art
An art where my tears can form words
and the sorrow and grief I am feeling can paint a picture to the reader
It can produce warmth like a fire on a winter's day
The delicate lace that shrouds my heart
when I am feeling most down
lets me to freely write how I am feeling without
the thought of another
It is one art that no matter what
Practice can never make perfect
It is something that is different to everyone
No matter how much one can try
There is no box to conform to

Stumbling upon this art years ago
I look back and smile
Thanking past me
for walking into that meeting
Seeing the faces around that table and taking a timid step forward
That little, timid, shy step is what unlocked this great art
In my life and for that I am thankful
For my Introduction to Literature class we were asked to write our Ars Poetica and this is how I view Poetry.
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
The Making of a Poet
by Michael R. Burch

While I don’t consider “Poetry” to be my best poem—I wrote the first version in my teens—it’s a poem that holds special meaning for me. I call it my ars poetica. Here’s how it came about ...

When I was eleven years old, my father, a staff sergeant in the US Air Force, was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. We were forced to live off-base for two years, in a tiny German village where there were no other American children to play with, and no English radio or TV stations. To avoid complete boredom, I began going to the base library, checking out eight books at a time (the limit), reading them in a few days, then continually repeating the process. I quickly exhausted the library’s children’s fare and began devouring its adult novels along with a plethora of books about history, science and nature.

In the fifth grade, I tested at the reading level of a college sophomore and was put in a reading group of one. I was an incredibly fast reader: I flew through books like crazy. I was reading Austen, Dickens, Hardy, et al, while my classmates were reading … whatever one normally reads in grade school. My grades shot through the roof and from that day forward I was always the top scholar in my age group, wherever I went.

But being bright and well-read does not invariably lead to happiness. I was tall, scrawny, introverted and socially awkward. I had trouble making friends. I began to dabble in poetry around age thirteen, but then we were finally granted base housing and for two years I was able to focus on things like marbles, quarters, comic books, baseball, basketball and football. And, from an incomprehensible distance, girls.

When I was fifteen my father retired from the Air Force and we moved back to his hometown of Nashville. While my parents were looking for a house, we lived with my grandfather and his third wife. They didn’t have air-conditioning and didn’t seem to believe in hot food—even the peas and beans were served cold!—so I was sweaty, hungry, lonely, friendless and miserable. It was at this point that I began to write poetry seriously. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because my options were so limited and the world seemed so impossibly grim and unfair.

Writing poetry helped me cope with my loneliness and depression. I had feelings of deep alienation and inadequacy, but suddenly I had found something I could do better than anyone around me. (Perhaps because no one else was doing it at all?)

However, I was a perfectionist and poetry can be very tough on perfectionists. I remember becoming incredibly frustrated and angry with myself. Why wasn’t I writing poetry like Shelley and Keats at age fifteen? I destroyed all my poems in a fit of pique. Fortunately, I was able to reproduce most of the better poems from memory, but two in particular were lost forever and still haunt me.

In the tenth grade, at age sixteen, I had a major breakthrough. My English teacher gave us a poetry assignment. We were instructed to create a poetry booklet with five chapters of our choosing. I still have my booklet, a treasured memento, banged out on a Corona typewriter with cursive script, which gave it a sort of elegance, a cachet. My chosen chapters were: Rock Songs, English Poems, Animal Poems, Biblical Poems, and ta-da, My Poems! Audaciously, alongside the poems of Shakespeare, Burns and Tennyson, I would self-publish my fledgling work!

My teacher wrote “This poem is beautiful” beside one my earliest compositions, “Playmates.” Her comment was like rocket fuel to my stellar aspirations. Surely I was next Keats, the next Shelley! Surely immediate and incontrovertible success was now fait accompli, guaranteed!

Of course I had no idea what I was getting into. How many fifteen-year-old poets can compete with the immortal bards? I was in for some very tough sledding because I had good taste in poetry and could tell the difference between merely adequate verse and the real thing. I continued to find poetry vexing. Why the hell wouldn’t it cooperate and anoint me its next Shakespeare, pronto?

Then I had another breakthrough. I remember it vividly. I working at a McDonald’s at age seventeen, salting away money for college because my parents had informed me they didn’t have enough money to pay my tuition. Fortunately, I was able to earn a full academic scholarship, but I still needed to make money for clothes, dating (hah!), etc. I was sitting in the McDonald’s break room when I wrote a poem, “Reckoning” (later re-titled “Observance”), that sorta made me catch my breath. Did I really write that? For the first time, I felt like a “real poet.”

Observance
by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old, and rolling
casually in their old age;
on the horizon youthful mountains
bathe themselves in windblown fountains . . .

By dying leaves and falling raindrops,
I have traced time's starts and stops,
and I have known the years to pass
almost unnoticed, whispering through treetops . . .

For here the valleys fill with sunlight
to the brim, then empty again,
and it seems that only I notice
how the years flood out, and in . . .

Another poem, “Infinity,” written around age eighteen, again made me feel like a real poet.



Infinity
by Michael R. Burch

Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your soul sought its shell like a crab on a beach,
then scuttled inside to be safe, out of reach?

Might I lift you tonight from earth’s wreckage and damage
on these waves gently rising to pay the moon homage?
Or better, perhaps, let me say that I, too,
have dreamed of infinity . . . windswept and blue.

Now, two “real poems” in two years may not seem like a big deal to non-poets. But they were very big deals to me. I would go off to college feeling that I was, really, a real poet, with two real poems under my belt. I felt like someone, at last. I had, at least, potential.

But I was in for another rude shock. Being a good reader of poetry—good enough to know when my own poems were falling far short of the mark—I was absolutely floored when I learned that impostors were controlling Poetry’s fate! These impostors were claiming that meter and rhyme were passé, that honest human sentiment was something to be ridiculed and dismissed, that poetry should be nothing more than concrete imagery, etc.

At first I was devastated, but then I quickly became enraged. I knew the difference between good poetry and bad. I could feel it in my flesh, in my bones. Who were these impostors to say that bad poetry was good, and good was bad? How dare they? I was incensed! I loved Poetry. I saw her as my savior because she had rescued me from depression and feelings of inadequacy. So I made a poetic pledge to save my Savior from the impostors:



Poetry
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry, I found you where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you to torture and confound you,
I found you—shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh’s skies, had leapt with dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care; there savage brands had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars; your bones were broken with the force
with which they’d lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all. So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call from where dawn’s milling showers fall—
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth to temper for a lover’s touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand and led my steps from boy to man;
now I look back, remember when—you shone, and cannot understand
why here, tonight, you bear their brand.

I will take and cradle you in my arms, remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight—back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears for all those blissful years . . .
my love, whom I adore.

Originally published by The Lyric



These are other poems I have written since, that I particularly like, and hope you like them too ...

In this Ordinary Swoon
by Michael R. Burch

In this ordinary swoon
as I pass from life to death,
I feel no heat from the cold, pale moon;
I feel no sympathy for breath.

Who I am and why I came,
I do not know; nor does it matter.
The end of every man’s the same
and every god’s as mad as a hatter.

I do not fear the letting go;
I only fear the clinging on
to hope when there’s no hope, although
I lift my face to the blazing sun

and feel the greater intensity
of the wilder inferno within me.



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.



Love Unfolded Like a Flower
by Michael R. Burch

Love unfolded
like a flower;
Pale petals pinked and blushed to see the sky.
I came to know you
and to trust you
in moments lost to springtime slipping by.

Then love burst outward,
leaping skyward,
and untamed blossoms danced against the wind.
All I wanted
was to hold you;
though passion tempted once, we never sinned.

Now love's gay petals
fade and wither,
and winter beckons, whispering a lie.
We were friends,
but friendships end . . .
yes, friendships end and even roses die.



Shadowselves
by Michael R. Burch

In our hearts, knowing
fewer days―and milder―beckon,
how now are we to measure
that wick by which we reckon
the time we have remaining?

We are shadows
spawned by a blue spurt of candlelight.
Darkly, we watch ourselves flicker.
Where shall we go when the flame burns less bright?
When chill night steals our vigor?

Why are we less than ourselves? We are shadows.
Where is the fire of our youth? We grow cold.
Why does our future loom dark? We are old.
And why do we shiver?

In our hearts, seeing
fewer days―and briefer―breaking,
now, even more, we treasure
this brittle leaf-like aching
that tells us we are living.



Dust (II)
by Michael R. Burch

We are dust
and to dust we must
return ...
but why, then,
life’s pointless sojourn?



Leave Taking (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Although the earth renews itself, and spring
is lovelier for all the rot of fall,
I think of yellow leaves that cling and hang
by fingertips to life, let go . . . and all
men see is one bright instance of departure,
the flame that, at least height, warms nothing. I,

have never liked to think the ants that march here
will deem them useless, grimly tramping by,
and so I gather leaves’ dry hopeless brilliance,
to feel their prickly edges, like my own,
to understand their incurled worn resilience―
youth’s tenderness long, callously, outgrown.

I even feel the pleasure of their sting,
the stab of life. I do not think―at all―
to be renewed, as earth is every spring.
I do not hope words cluster where they fall.
I only hope one leaf, wild-spiraling,
illuminates the void, till glad hearts sing.

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

Originally published by Silver Stork



Less Heroic Couplets: Funding Fundamentals
by Michael R. Burch

*"I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble." ― Mark Twain

Making sense from nonsense is quite sensible! Suppose
you’re running low on moolah, need some cash to paint your toes ...
Just invent a new religion; claim it saves lost souls from hell;
have the converts write you checks; take major debit cards as well;
take MasterCard and Visa and good-as-gold Amex;
hell, lend and charge them interest, whether payday loan or flex.
Thus out of perfect nonsense, glittery ores of this great mine,
you’ll earn an easy living and your toes will truly shine!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online



Marsh Song
by Michael R. Burch

Here there is only the great sad song of the reeds
and the silent herons, wraithlike in the mist,
and a few drab sunken stones, unblessed
by the sunlight these late sixteen thousand years,
and the beaded dews that drench strange ferns, like tears
collected against an overwhelming sadness.

Here the marsh exposes its dejectedness,
its gutted rotting belly, and its roots
rise out of the earth’s distended heaviness,
to claw hard at existence, till the scars
remind us that we all have wounds, and I
have learned again that living is despair
as the herons cleave the placid, dreamless air.

Originally published by The Lyric



Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Starlit recorder of summer nights,
what magic spell bewitches you?
They say that all lovers love first in the dark . . .
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true?

Starry-eyed seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared―
What sights have you seen?
What dreams have you dreamed?
What rhetoric have you heard?

Is love an oration,
or is it a word?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
alone, ever lonely . . .
yes, go down to die.

And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
Go down to the valley;
go down to Tomb Lake.

Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours―
mad souls without meaning,
frail souls without force.

Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
They lie in her shallows
and sleep in her bed.

I believe this poem and "Moon Lake" were companion poems, written around my senior year in high school, in 1976.



Mother of Cowards
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

So unlike the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Spread-eagled, showering gold, a strumpet stands:
A much-used trollop with a torch, whose flame
Has long since been extinguished. And her name?
"Mother of Cowards!" From her enervate hand
Soft ash descends. Her furtive eyes demand
Allegiance to her ****'s repulsive game.
"Keep, ancient lands, your wretched poor!" cries she
With scarlet lips. "Give me your hale, your whole,
Your huddled tycoons, yearning to be pleased!
The wretched refuse of your toilet hole?
Oh, never send one unwashed child to me!
I await Trump's pleasure by the gilded bowl!"



Frantisek “Franta” Bass was a Jewish boy murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Garden
by Franta Bass
translation by Michael R. Burch

A small garden,
so fragrant and full of roses!
The path the little boy takes
is guarded by thorns.

A small boy, a sweet boy,
growing like those budding blossoms!
But when the blossoms have bloomed,
the boy will be no more.



Jewish Forever
by Franta Bass
translation by Michael R. Burch

I am a Jew and always will be, forever!
Even if I should starve,
I will never submit!
But I will always fight for my people,
with my honor,
to their credit!

And I will never be ashamed of them;
this is my vow.
I am so very proud of my people now!
How dignified they are, in their grief!
And though I may die, oppressed,
still I will always return to life ...



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



Unlikely Mike
by Michael R. Burch

I married someone else’s fantasy;
she admired me despite my mutilations.

I loved her for her heart’s sake, and for mine.
I hid my face and changed its connotations.

And in the dark I danced—slight, Chaplinesque—
a metaphor myself. How could they know,

the undiscerning ones, that in the glow
of spotlights, sometimes love becomes burlesque?

Disfigured to my soul, I could not lose
or choose or name myself; I came to be

another of life’s odd dichotomies,
like Dickey’s Sheep Boy, Pan, or David Cruse:

as pale, as enigmatic. White, or black?
My color was a song, a changing track.



This is my translation of one of my favorite Dimash Kudaibergen songs, the French song "S.O.S." ...

S.O.S.
by Michel Berger
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why do I live, why do I die?
Why do I laugh, why do I cry?

Voicing the S.O.S.
of an earthling in distress ...

I have never felt at home on the ground.

I'd rather be a bird;
this skin feels weird.

I'd like to see the world turned upside down.

It ever was more beautiful
seen from up above,
seen from up above.

I've always confused life with cartoons,
wishing to transform.

I feel something that draws me,
that draws me,
that draws me
UP!

In the great lotto of the universe
I didn't draw the right numbers.
I feel unwell in my own skin,
I don't want to be a machine
eating, working, sleeping.

Why do I live, why do I die?
Why do I laugh, why do I cry?

I feel I'm catching waves from another world.
I've never had both feet on the ground.
This skin feels weird.
I'd like to see the world turned upside down.
I'd rather be a bird.

Sleep, child, sleep ...



"Late Autumn" aka "Autumn Strong"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
based on the version sung by Dimash Kudaibergen

Autumn ...

The feeling of late autumn ...

It feels like golden leaves falling
to those who are parting ...

A glass of wine
has stirred
so many emotions swirling in my mind ...

Such sad farewells ...

With the season's falling leaves,
so many sad farewells.

To see you so dispirited pains me more than I can say.

Holding your hands so tightly to my heart ...

... Remembering ...

I implore you to remember our unspoken vows ...

I dare bear this bitterness,
but not to see you broken-hearted!

All contentment vanishes like leaves in an autumn wind.

Meeting or parting, that's not up to me.
We can blame the wind for our destiny.

I do not fear my own despair
but your sorrow haunts me.

No one will know of our desolation.



My Forty-Ninth Year
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Less Heroic Couplets: Rejection Slips
by Michael R. Burch

pour Melissa Balmain

Whenever my writing gets rejected,
I always wonder how the rejecter got elected.
Are we exchanging at the same Bourse?
(Excepting present company, of course!)

I consider the term “rejection slip” to be a double entendre. When editors reject my poems, did I slip up, or did they? Is their slip showing, or is mine?



Spring Was Delayed
by Michael R. Burch

Winter came early:
the driving snows,
the delicate frosts
that crystallize

all we forget
or refuse to know,
all we regret
that makes us wise.

Spring was delayed:
the nubile rose,
the tentative sun,
the wind’s soft sighs,

all we omit
or refuse to show,
whatever we shield
behind guarded eyes.

Originally published by Borderless Journal



There’s a Stirring and Awakening in the World
by Michael R. Burch

There’s a stirring and awakening in the world,
and even so my spirit stirs within,
imagining some Power beckoning—
the Force which through the stamen gently whirrs,
unlocking tumblers deftly, even mine.

The grape grows wild-entangled on the vine,
and here, close by, the honeysuckle shines.
And of such life, at last there comes there comes the Wine.

And so it is with spirits’ fruitful yield—
the growth comes first, Green Vagrance, then the Bloom.

The world somehow must give the spirit room
to blossom, till its light shines—wild, revealed.

And then at last the earth receives its store
of blessings, as glad hearts cry—More! More! More!

Originally published by Borderless Journal

Keywords/Tags: poem, poetry, winter, spring, snow, frost, rose, sun, eyes, sight, seeing, understanding, wisdom
rayma Sep 2019
Paint is never quite the shade we imagined.
The lines are never straight enough.
The page always looks a little too blank.

There are perfections in every imperfection,
Buried under crossed out lines and
crumpled pieces of paper.
Every eraser-stained, college ruled notebook
full of half-baked ideas and smudged words that
just don’t quite feel right.

The final product is in there somewhere,
like black-out poetry stitched together,
patched up,
and transformed into something beautiful.

   -   x marks the spot
written for my second prompt in Creative Writing - an ars poetica
13-17 May 2019
papers, a fire ripped
them in halves & thirds
poets, with a quiet complaisance
were scarcely producing a grin
they were glad about the fire's
wild presence
together around it
the last pieces of memory
were declaimed
in a rowdy choir

papers, burnt to ashes
covered dead poets society
no one was breathing
or noising
though in the air the life was alive,
herself shouting
"the poets laughed
with the hope that
their masterpieces will not be used
to make fun of people anymore"
We are the spiritual core of the society
Tramel Griffith Apr 2019
Every single night as the body dies,

poetry percolates the mind,

and I find myself,

taking one of those dark odysseys into the soul  

with questions that swim into the infinity  

on what is poetry, what does it behold:

Is it the rivers that lead the birds back to the nest?

           Is it the waters, eroding the stones,

           smoothing the pebbles that build a home?

           Is it the crackling cinders, floating from the flames  

           of a wildfire to die upon its first breath in the saltine air?

           Is it the evergreen grass and the bark of an old oak tree,

           thirsty for rain to wet the insatiable soil

           that grows branches that speak with possibility?  

           Is it the milk & honey that drips off the dewy lips  

          of the sun to feed its golden nectar into our moribund souls? –

          still starving for more.

          Is it the reason that I am seduced by the moon  

          that undresses me with its iridescent light,

         baptizing me with its glow?  

         Is the constellation of stars, separated by space

         but connected by longing,

         by arms reaching for arms?

Or,

        is it the journey,  

       the walk through the wavering mountains,

       the climb ants take up into the elephant hills,

       the ships drifting upon the cerulean seas,

       guided by the bursting horizon  

       and the winds of a calming breeze?
Pagan Paul Sep 2017
.
Far atop the highest clouds,
down below the deepest seas,
all the space thats in betwixt,
words will flow with skilful ease.

At every point upon the compass,
around about three-sixty degrees,
the tumbling omni-present sound
of words upon Poetica's breeze.

So fly high above the clouds,
and swim deep beneath the seas,
Poetica is freedom to express,
and Her words no law decrees.


from 'Selected Works'  
by Lord Pagan of Poetica


© Pagan Paul (23/09/17)
.
3rd of the poems stolen from Lord Pagan :)
.
Pagan Paul Sep 2017
.
Far away across the sea
an island cloaked in mystery.
Where nothing is as it appears
because it exists between the spheres.

Poetica speaks as she spins
flying high within the winds.
Words flow in rivers deep
climbing mountains to fall asleep.

Resting fair on velvet green
in secret valleys so serene.
Shady glades in woodlands snore,
comforted beyond misty shores.

It is there verse and rhyme are born,
upon Poetica's burgeoning dawn,
floating away and out of sight,
into Poetica's beautiful night.

from 'Selected Works'
by Lord Pagan of Poetica


© Pagan Paul (10/09/17)
.
Companion poem to Poetica (posted June 2017)
.
Creation is so hard, not even the ease of a whole
Life wasted could give enough pleasure to
Cover up the pain what has to be put into it.

Creation is not for the fine-fueled,
Ones, who play their world goal by goal,
Fight their void deal by deal.

Creation means to always leave enough room
To let them all be destroyed and breathe again.
Single-mindedly be done, and redone, and redone.
Pagan Paul Jun 2017
.
The Land of Poetica is viewed
as far as the eye can see,
reaching out to unknown shores
edging the oceans of infinity.

Each drop is a Lord or a Lady
contributing to the community,
sending out their words of Art
with no judgement nor impunity.

Though storms may hit at times
rocking the boat of security,
waves of the Lords and Ladies
save Poetica from obscurity.

from 'Selected Works'  
by Lord Pagan of Poetica


© Pagan Paul (22/06/17)
.
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