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Villanelle: The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide...
was man born to sorrow that first day,
with the moon―a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied―
the tug at his heart's pink, bourgeoning clay?

The sea was not salt the first tide...
but grew bitter, bitter―man's torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing―forever astray,
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide...
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.
The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.

The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love's concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.
The sea was not salt the first tide...
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

"The Divide" is essentially a formal villanelle despite the non-formal line breaks.



Villanelle: 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.

"Ordinary Love" was the winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest. It was originally published by Romantics Quarterly and nominated by the journal for the Pushcart Prize. It is missing a tercet but seemed complete enough without it.―MRB



Villanelle: Because Her Heart Is Tender
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

She scrawled soft words in soap: "Never Forget,"
Dove-white on her car's window, and the wren,
because her heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her. As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: "Never Forget,"
and kept her heart's own counsel. No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers' glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on,
she stitches in wet linen: "NEVER FORGET,"
and listens to her heart's emphatic song.

The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when fledglings fell beyond, beyond, beyond...
its reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.

She writes in adamant: "NEVER FORGET"
because her heart is tender with regret.



Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-******.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-******,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-******,
we first proved we had lives of our own).



Villanelle Sequence: Clandestine But Gentle
by Michael R. Burch

Variations on the villanelle. A play in four acts. The heroine wears a trench coat and her every action drips nonchalance. The “hero” is pallid, nerdish and nervous. But more than anything, he is palpably desperate with longing. Props are optional, but a streetlamp, a glowing cigarette and lots of eerie shadows should suffice.

I.

Clandestine but gentle, wrapped in night,
she eavesdropped on morose codes of my heart.
She was the secret agent of delight.

The blue spurt of her match, our signal light,
announced her presence in the shadowed court:
clandestine but gentle, cloaked in night.

Her cigarette was waved, a casual sleight,
to bid me “Come!” or tell me to depart.
She was the secret agent of delight,

like Ingrid Bergman in a trench coat, white
as death, and yet more fair and pale (but short
with me, whenever I grew wan with fright!).

II.

Clandestine but gentle, veiled in night,
she was the secret agent of delight;
she coaxed the tumblers in some cryptic rite

to make me spill my spirit.
Lovely ****!
Clandestine but gentle, veiled in night

―she waited till my tongue, untied, sang bright
but damning strange confessions in the dark...

III.

She was the secret agent of delight;
so I became her paramour. Tonight
I await her in my exile, worlds apart...

IV.

For clandestine but gentle, wrapped in night,
she is the secret agent of delight.



Villanelle: Hang Together, or Separately
by Michael R. Burch

“The first shall be last, and the last first.”

Be careful whom you don’t befriend
When hyenas mark their prey:
The odds will get even in the end.

Some “deplorables” may yet ascend
And since all dogs must have their day,
Be careful whom you don’t befriend.

When pallid elitists condescend
What does the Good Book say?
The odds will get even in the end.

Since the LORD advised us to attend
To each other along the way,
Be careful whom you don’t befriend.

But He was deserted. Friends, comprehend!
Though revilers mock and flay,
The odds will get even in the end.

Now infidels have loot to spend:
As ****** as Judas’s that day.
Be careful whom you don’t befriend:
The odds will get even in the end.

NOTE: This poem portrays a certain worldview. The poet does not share it and suspects from reading the gospels that the “real” Jesus would have sided with the infidel refugees, not Trump and his ilk.



Villanelle: The Sad Refrain
by Michael R. Burch

O, let us not repeat the sad refrain
that Christ is cruel because some innocent dies.
No, pain is good, for character comes from pain!

There’d be no growth without the hammering rain
that tests each petal’s worth. Omnipotent skies
peal, “Let us not repeat the sad refrain,

but separate burnt chaff from bountiful grain.
According to God’s plan, the weakling dies
and pain is good, for character comes from pain!

A God who’s perfect cannot bear the blame
of flawed creations, just because one dies!
So let us not repeat the sad refrain

or think to shame or stain His awesome name!
Let lightning strike the devious source of lies
that pain is bad, for character comes from pain!
Oh, let us not repeat the sad refrain!



Rondels, Roundels and Rondeaux are poetic forms with refrains that are related to the Villanelle.



Rondel: Merciles Beaute ("Merciless Beauty")
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation Michael R. Burch

Your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.

Unless your words heal me hastily,
my heart's wound will remain green;
for your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain.

By all truth, I tell you faithfully
that you are of life and death my queen;
for at my death this truth shall be seen:
your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.



Rondel: Rejection
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.

I'm guiltless, yet my sentence has been cast.
I tell you truly, needless now to feign,―
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain.

Alas, that Nature in your face compassed
Such beauty, that no man may hope attain
To mercy, though he perish from the pain;
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.



Rondel: Escape
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.

He may question me and counter this and that;
I care not: I will answer just as I mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean.

Love strikes me from his roster, short and flat,
And he is struck from my books, just as clean,
Forevermore; there is no other mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.



Rondel: Your Smiling Mouth
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/moderniz  ation Michael R. Burch

Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains,
Your hands so smooth, each finger straight and plain,
Your little feet―please, what more can I say?

It is my fetish when you’re far away
To muse on these and thus to soothe my pain―
Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains.

So would I beg you, if I only may,
To see such sights as I before have seen,
Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene?
I’ll be obsessed until my dying day
By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains!



Oft in My Thought
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/moderniz  ation Michael R. Burch

So often in my busy mind I sought,
Around the advent of the fledgling year,
For something pretty that I really ought
To give my lady dear;
But that sweet thought's been wrested from me, clear,
Since death, alas, has sealed her under clay
And robbed the world of all that's precious here―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

For me to keep my manner and my thought
Acceptable, as suits my age's hour?
While proving that I never once forgot
Her worth? It tests my power!
I serve her now with masses and with prayer;
For it would be a shame for me to stray
Far from my faith, when my time's drawing near―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

Now earthly profits fail, since all is lost
And the cost of everything became so dear;
Therefore, O Lord, who rules the higher host,
Take my good deeds, as many as there are,
And crown her, Lord, above in your bright sphere,
As heaven's truest maid! And may I say:
Most good, most fair, most likely to bring cheer―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

When I praise her, or hear her praises raised,
I recall how recently she brought me pleasure;
Then my heart floods like an overflowing bay
And makes me wish to dress for my own bier―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.



If
by Michael R. Burch

If I regret
fire in the sunset
exploding on the horizon,
then let me regret loving you.

If I forget
even for a moment
that you are the only one,
then let me forget that the sky is blue.

If I should yearn
in a season of discontentment
for the vagabond light of a companionless moon,
let dawn remind me that you are my sun.

If I should burn―one moment less brightly,
one instant less true―
then with wild scorching kisses,
inflame me, inflame me, inflame me anew.



Recursion
by Michael R. Burch

In a dream I saw boys lying
under banners gaily flying
and I heard their mothers sighing
from some dark distant shore.

For I saw their sons essaying
into fields―gleeful, braying―
their bright armaments displaying;
such manly oaths they swore!

From their playfields, boys returning
full of honor’s white-hot burning
and desire’s restless yearning
sired new kids for the corps.

In a dream I saw boys dying
under banners gaily lying
and I heard their mothers crying
from some dark distant shore.



I AM!
by Michael R. Burch

I am not one of ten billion―I―
sunblackened Icarus, chary fly,
staring at God with a quizzical eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I.

I am not one life has left unsquashed―
scarred as Ulysses, goddess-debauched,
pale glowworm agleam with a tale of panache.

I am not one life has left unsquashed.

I am not one without spots of disease,
laugh lines and tan lines and thick-callused knees
from begging and praying and girls sighing "Please!"

I am not one without spots of disease.

I am not one of ten billion―I―
scion of Daedalus, blackwinged fly
staring at God with a sedulous eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I
AM!



This World's Joy
(anonymous Middle English lyric)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter awakens all my care
as leafless trees grow bare.
For now my sighs are fraught
whenever it enters my thought:
regarding this world's joy,
how everything comes to naught.



Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

... qui laetificat juventutem meam...
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
... requiescat in pace...
May she rest in peace.
... amen...
Amen.



How Long the Night
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts
with the mild pheasants' song...
but now I feel the northern wind's blast,
its severe weather strong.
Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!
And I, because of my momentous wrong
now grieve, mourn and fast.



Fowles in the Frith
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fowls in the forest,
the fishes in the flood
and I must go mad:
such sorrow I've had
for beasts of bone and blood!



I am of Ireland
anonymous Medieval Irish lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am of Ireland,
and of the holy realm of Ireland.
Gentlefolk, I pray thee:
for the sake of saintly charity,
come dance with me
in Ireland!



Whan the turuf is thy tour
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
When the turf is your tower
and the pit is your bower,
your pale white skin and throat
shall be sullen worms’ to note.
What help to you, then,
was all your worldly hope?

2.
When the turf is your tower
and the grave is your bower,
your pale white throat and skin
worm-eaten from within...
what hope of my help then?


Ech day me comëth tydinges thre
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th to 14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Each day I’m plagued by three doles,
These gargantuan weights on my soul:
First, that I must somehow exit this fen.
Second, that I cannot know when.
And yet it’s the third that torments me so,
Because I don't know where the hell I will go!



Ich have y-don al myn youth
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th to 14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have done it all my youth:
Often, often, and often!
I have loved long and yearned zealously...
And oh what grief it has brought me!



I Sing of a Maiden
anonymous Medieval English Lyric, circa early 15th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless.
The King of all Kings
For her son she chose.
He came also as still
To his mother's breast
As April dew
Falling on the grass.
He came also as still
To his mother's bower
As April dew
Falling on the flower.
He came also as still
To where his mother lay
As April dew
Falling on the spray.
Mother and maiden?
Never one, but she!
Well may such a lady
God's mother be!



Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear...

once starlight
languished
in your hair...

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret...
a pain
I chose to bear...

unleash
the torrent
of your hair...

and show me
once again―
how rare.



Enigma
by Michael R. Burch

O, terrible angel,
bright lover and avenger,
full of whimsical light
and vile anger;
wild stranger,
seeking the solace of night,
or the danger;
pale foreigner,
alien to man, or savior...

Who are you,
seeking consolation and passion
in the same breath,
screaming for pleasure, bereft
of all articles of faith,
finding life
harsher than death?

Grieving angel,
giving more than taking,
how lucky the man
who has found in your love,
this, our reclamation;

fallen wren,
you must strive to fly
though your heart is shaken;

weary pilgrim,
you must not give up
though your feet are aching;

lonely child,
lie here still in my arms;
you must soon be waking.



The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight...
This is what I remember

now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember:
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh...

our soft cries, like regret,

... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase...

now that I have forgotten her face.



The Quickening
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

I never meant to love you
when I held you in my arms
promising you sagely
wise, noncommittal charms.

And I never meant to need you
when I touched your tender lips
with kisses that intrigued my own:
such kisses I had never known,
nor a heartbeat in my fingertips!



Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch
after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Published as the collection "Villanelles"

Keywords/Tags: villanelle, refrain, repetition, chorus, rhyme, sea, tide, moon, heart, love, rondel, roundel, rondeau, poetic form, poetics, poetic expression, Chaucer, Orleans, love, art, beauty, mercy, merciless, words, heart, hearts, pity, pride, prison, mrbvill, mrbrondel
Amanda Sep 16
Alone on a chilly night in September
Lost emotions still vividly remember
Sands of time erase happier days
Wondering why so little good stays

When I don't hear from you I stress
Inner storm only tamed by your caress
The weather lately has taken a turn
For the cold my heart holds will always return

Where my footprints fade and yours begin
Moments eternity seems suspended in
With another call straight to voicemail goes
Saltwater teardrops I fight like foes

At war with my own weakness and doubt
Puzzles and riddles I can't figure out
Shadows overtake our souls with shame
Empty and vacant
Demons steal our names

When you disappear I am left neglected
To forgive you comes easier than expected
The tide pulls you out and washes back ashore
Each time I wonder what you even leave me for?
I hate when you dont answer because I dont know if you are with some other girl or dead or what.. sigh.
phlwest Sep 3
we kiss
like tides unsure of the shore
Sea stars, urchins and anemones
     ride the tidal waters at Rialto Beach
           swirling into shallow pools -
      clad in shades of blue, emerald and violet.

Gnarls of ancient driftwood line the beach
     up to the rainforest’s edge just beyond the rise.
           Pulsing waves dash and roar against the sea stacks
       where the Pacific adjoins the California shore.

Legions of seagulls circle above
       piercing the misted air with their cries
           and the tide, beckoned by the Sky Queen,
       begins to ebb and regain the open sea.

As the sun sinks into the western sky –
       the towers of Split Rock and Hole in the Wall
            are silhouetted against the horizon
       pasteled in gold, orange and burgundy hues.

Gray whales and dolphins breach the surface
       before plunging into the sacred depths
           where the ocean beats pulse on and on -
sounding resonant cadences
       through timeless hallows of infinity.
Tryniti Aug 9
Stricken, sudden realization
My sense of worth so breakable, so frayed
Your approval, my salvation
Washes over me like a wave.
It's unfair to me, to you
Dependence on your word
Breath held, between us two
As though it's the last we've ever heard.
In and out, up and down
Never quite quick enough
Falling, tripping, to the ground
I never did like it rough.
Water's edge, beautiful and deadly
Peeking at my toes
I always knew you were too friendly
Now it's got me, now it knows.
Knows the tide of my heart
Ebbs and flows
Never could keep up
With those highs and lows.
you have the same effect on me,
that the full moon has on the ragin' tides
KJF Jun 19
The collapsing tide lurks
with rogue waves
gathering energy,
swaying to the moon
until it returns to upend
the diligent castles
we’ve built of sand
Nothing is as firm as it appears.
Brckworld Jun 12
The sun gives me life
But I prefer the shadows
Or a moonlit night
Over glistening meadows
Maybe the moon pulls me like the tide
Maybe I just prefer to hide
I"m sure many writers could say the same
Just as the wind carries clouds across the heavens, so goes my thoughts with them.

I have never known poetry as beautiful as a sky painted with the colors of life.

My soul grows hungry, but I will not steal bread from the tables of those I have known in my heart, nor will I live in a way this life has taught me I should.

I will chase the clouds a thousand miles and love as pure and wild as the sea from which I came.

As my steps leave no mark amongst the surf, nor shall my passion bleed to this paper through the ink in which it has been transcribed.

My body will not waste six feet under rotting amongst the forgotten.

I will drift with the current away from land Man has lay barren and ***** with wanting hands.

My mind will ebb and flow with the tide. Eternily slumbered.
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