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The moon is grim and sly, and keeps
Pale secrets from her twin.  
She hides the darkest of her blushes
Behind a slivered grin.

Her greater, fertile, sister earth,
Greater in girth, not age,
Knows a pallid, pock-marked cheek
But not a shaded rage.  

A barren spinster, gray from birth,
Can scarcely bear to see
From callous sister such a show
Of broad fecundity.
Maha 7d
like the tides
I push and pull,
scream and shout,
my strength washes ashore,
shining in the sun,
glistening amongst the rocks
grab it,
quickly now
before the tide comes back in to wash this beach clean
hurry now
before the current carries it away
never knowing where it might wash up again.
about me
What tempted me to join the queue?
It must be some great treat.  
Only delight could keep these souls
Shuffling on blistered feet.  

I turned a corner hours ago,
Quite perpendicular,
But as I count the corners off
I’ve tallied five so far.  

The walls are clean, but they’re not bright,
Scrubbed to sobriety.
I passed a blotch I’d seen before,
But it might lie to me.  

This line may loop into a square,
And no one’s first or last,
And all who’ve shuffled patiently
Are doomed to lose the past.

Did I ascend to this closed floor
By staircase or by lift?  
Outside must lie some wider world,
Denied a precious gift.    

The walls are bare of openings,
But we need only one.  
Quiet can’t be the sole reward
For everything we’ve done.
The sheets and blankets are too big
For such a little bed.  
They drape their fringes on the floor,
And dribble dreams with red.

The brain can’t sluice the nightmares out
Though a grate stopped with cloth.  
Thick curtains collect spiderwebs
And flutterings of moths.
The ocean waves are murmuring,
And some who walk the shore
May pause to hear some wisdom there,
And linger more and more.  

The seas are older than the old,
And jealous of regret.
Their murmurs wash out memory,
And make a soul forget.
Prose Poems and Experimental Poems
by Michael R. Burch

These are prose poems (is that an oxymoron?)  and experimental poems that begin with the first non-rhyming poem I wrote as a teenager...



Something
―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba
by Michael R. Burch

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 swept into a corner, where it lies... in dust and cobwebs and silence.

This was my first poem that didn't rhyme, written in my late teens. The poem came to me 'from blue nothing' (to borrow a phrase from my friend the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier) . Years later, I dedicated the poem to the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba.


briefling
by Michael R. Burch

manishatched, hopsintotheMix, cavorts, hassex (quick! , spawnanewBrood!) ; then, likeamayfly, he's suddenly gone: plantfood.



It's Hard Not To Be Optimistic: An Updated Sonnet to Science
by Michael R. Burch

"DNA has cured deadly diseases and allowed labs to create animals with fantastic new features." ― U.S. News & World Report

It's hard not to be optimistic when things are so wondrously futuristic: when DNA, our new Louie Pasteur, can effect an autonomous, miraculous cure, while labs churn out fluorescent monkeys who, with infinite typewriters, might soon outdo USN&WR's flunkeys. Yes, it's hard not to be optimistic when the world is so delightfully pluralistic: when Schrödinger's cat is both dead and alive, and Hawking says time can run backwards. We thrive, befuddled drones, on someone else's regurgitated nectar, while our cheers drown out poet-alarmists who might Hector the Achilles heel of pure science (common sense)  and reporters who tap out supersillyous nonsense. [Dear U.S. News & World Report Editors: I am a fan of both real science and science fiction, and I like to think I can tell the difference, at least between the two extremes. I feel confident that Schrödinger didn't think the cat in his famous experiment was both dead and alive. Rather, he was pointing out that we can't know until we open the box, scratchings and smell aside. While traveling backwards in time is great for science fiction, it seems extremely doubtful as a practical application. And as for DNA curing deadly diseases... well, it must have created them, so perhaps don't give it too much credit! While I'm usually a fan of your magazine, as a writer I must take to task the Frankensteinian logic of the excerpt I cited, and I challenge you to publish my "letter" as proof that poets do have a function in the third millennium, even if it is only to suggest that paid writers should not create such outlandish, freakish horrors of the English language.―Somewhat irked, but still a fan, Michael R. Burch]



bachelorhoodwinked
by Michael R. Burch

u are charming & disarming, but mostly! ! ! ALARMING! ! ! since all my resolve dissolved! u are chic as a sheikh's harem girl in the sheets, but now my bed's not my own and my kingdom's been overthrown!



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

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh went to the ovens. Please don't bother to cry. You could have saved her, but you were all *******: complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp. Scratch that. You were born after World War II. You had something more important to do: while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a religious tract against homosexual marriage and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)  Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I'm quite sure that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure. After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians? Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians. Scratch that. You're one of the Devil's minions.



Prose Poem: The Trouble with Poets
by Michael R. Burch

This morning the neighborhood girls were helping their mothers with chores, but one odd little girl was out picking roses by herself, looking very small and lonely.

Suddenly the odd one refused to pick roses anymore because she decided it might "hurt" them. Now she just sits beside the bushes, rocking gently back and forth, weeping and consoling them!

Now she's lost all interest in nature, which she finds "appalling." She dresses in black "like Rilke" and says she prefers the "roses of the imagination"! She mumbles constantly about being "pricked in conscience" and being "pricked to death." What on earth can she mean? Does she plan to have *** until she dies?

For chrissake, now she's locked herself in her room and refuses to come out until she has "conjured" the "perfect rose of the imagination"! We haven't seen her for days. Her only communications are texts punctuated liberally with dashes. They appear to be badly-rhymed poems. She signs them "starving artist" in lower-case. What on earth can she mean? Is she anorexic, or bulimic, or is this just a phase she'll outgrow?



escape!
by michael r. burch

to live among the daffodil folk... slip down the rainslickened drainpipe... suddenly pop out the GARGANTUAN SPOUT... minuscule as alice, shout yippee-yi-yee! in wee exultant glee to be leaving behind the LARGE THREE-DENALI GARAGE.

escape! !

u are too beautiful, too innocent, too inherently lovely to merely reflect the sun's splendor... too full of irresistible candor to remain silent, too delicately fawnlike for a world so violent... come, my beautiful bambi and i will protect you... but of course u have already been lured away by the dew-laden roses...



Children's Prose Poem: The Three Sisters and the Mysteries of the Magical Pond
by Michael R. Burch

Every child has a secret name, which only their guardian angel knows. Fortunately, I am able to talk to angels, so I know the secret names of the Three Sisters who are the heroines of the story I am about to tell...

The secret names of the Three Sisters are Etheria, Sunflower and Bright Eyes. Etheria, because the eldest sister's hair shines like an ethereal blonde halo. Sunflower, because the middle sister loves to plait bright flowers into her hair. Bright Eyes, because the youngest sister has flashing dark eyes that are sometimes full of mischief! This is the story of how the Three Sisters solved the Three Mysteries of the Magical Pond...

The first mystery of the Magical Pond was the mystery of the Great Heron. Why did the Great Heron seem so distant and aloof, never letting human beings or even other animals come close to it? This great mystery was solved by Etheria, who noticed that the Great Heron was so large it couldn't fly away from danger quickly. So the Heron was not being aloof at all... it was simply being cautious and protecting itself by keeping its distance from faster creatures. Things are not always as they appear!

The second mystery was the mystery of the River Monster. What was the dreaded River Monster, and did it pose a danger to the three sisters and their loved ones? This great mystery was solved by Sunflower, who found the River Monster's footprints in the mud after a spring rain. Sunflower bravely followed the footprints to a bank of the pond, looked down, and to her surprise found a giant snapping turtle gazing back at her! Thus the mystery was solved, and the River Monster was not dangerous to little girls or their family and friends, because it was far too slow to catch them. But it could be dangerous if anyone was foolish enough to try to pet it. Sometimes it is best to leave nature's larger creatures alone, and not tempt fate, even when things are not always as they appear!

The third mystery was the most perplexing of all. How was it possible that tiny little starlings kept chasing away much larger crows, hawks and eagles? What a conundrum! (A conundrum is a perplexing problem that is very difficult to solve, such as the riddle: "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs during the day, then on three legs at night? " Can you solve it? ... The answer is a human being, who crawls on four legs as a baby, then walks on two legs most of its life, but needs a walking cane in old age. This is the famous Riddle of the Sphinx.)  Yes, what a conundrum! But fortunately Bright Eyes was able to solve the Riddle of the Starlings, because she noticed that the tiny birds were much more agile in the air, while the much larger hawks and eagles couldn't change direction as easily. So, while it seemed the starlings were risking their lives to defend their nests, in reality they had the advantage! Once again, things are not always as they appear!

Now, these are just three adventures of the Three Sisters, and there are many others. In fact, they will have a whole lifetime of adventures, and perhaps we can share in them from time to time. But if their mother reads them this story at bedtime, by the end of the story their eyes may be getting very sleepy, and they may soon have dreams of Giant Herons, and Giant Turtles, and Tiny Starlings chasing away Crows, Hawks and Eagles! Sweet dreams, Etheria, Sunflower and Bright Eyes!



Fake News, Probably
by Michael R. Burch

The elusive Orange-Tufted Fitz-Gibbon is the rarest of creatures―rarer by far than Sasquatch and the Abominable Snowman (although they are very similar in temperament and destructive capabilities) . While the common gibbon is not all that uncommon, the orange-tufted genus has been found less frequently in the fossil record than hobbits and unicorns. The Fitz-Gibbon sub-genus is all the more remarkable because it apparently believes itself to be human, and royalty, no less! Now there are rumors―admittedly hard to believe―that an Orange-Tufted Fitz-Gibbon resides in the White House and has been spotted playing with the nuclear codes while chattering incessantly about attacking China, Mexico, Iran and North Korea. We find it very hard to credit such reports. Surely American voters would not elect an oddly-colored ape with self-destructive tendencies president!



Writing Verse for Free, Versus Programs for a Fee
by Michael R. Burch

How is writing a program like writing a poem? You start with an idea, something fresh. Almost a wish. Something effervescent, like foam flailing itself against the rocks of a lost tropical coast...

After the idea, of course, there are complications and trepidations, as with the poem or even the foam. Who will see it, appreciate it, understand it? What will it do? Is it worth the effort, all the mad dashing and crashing about, the vortex―all that? And to what effect?

Next comes the real labor, the travail, the scouring hail of things that simply don't fit or make sense. Of course, with programming you have the density of users to fix, which is never a problem with poetry, since the users have already had their fix (this we know because they are still reading and think everything makes sense) ; but this is the only difference.

Anyway, what's left is the debugging, or, if you're a poet, the hugging yourself and crying, hoping someone will hear you, so that you can shame them into reading your poem, which they will refuse, but which your mother will do if you phone, perhaps with only the tiniest little mother-of-the-poet, harried, self-righteous moan.

The biggest difference between writing a program and writing a poem is simply this: if your program works, or seems to work, or almost works, or doesn't work at all, you're set and hugely overpaid. Made-in-the-shade-have-a-pink-lemonade-and-ticker-tape-parade OVERPAID.

If your poem is about your lover and ***** up quite nicely, perhaps you'll get laid. Perhaps. Regardless, you'll probably see someone repossessing your furniture and TV to bring them posthaste to someone like me. The moral is this: write programs first, then whatever passes for poetry. DO YOUR SHARE; HELP END POVERTY TODAY!



Prose Poem: Litany
by Michael R. Burch

Will you take me with all my blemishes? I will take you with all your blemishes, and show you mine. We'll **** wine out of cardboard boxes till our teeth and lips shine red like greedily gorging foxes'. We'll swill our fill, then have *** for hours till our neglected guts at last rebel. At two in the morning, we'll eat cold Krystals out of greasy cardboard boxes, and we will be in love. And that's it? That's it! And can I go out with my friends and drink until dawn? You can go out with your friends and drink until dawn, come home lipstick-collared, pass out by the pool, or stay at the bar till the new moon sets, because we will be in love, and in love there is no room for remorse or regret. There is no right, no wrong, and no mistrust, only limb-numbing ***, hot-pistoning lust. And that's all? That's all. That's great! But wait... Wait? Why? What's wrong? I want to have your children. Children? Well, perhaps just one. And what will happen when we have children? The most incredible things will happen―you'll change, stop acting so strangely, start paying more attention to me, start paying your bills on time, grow up and get rid of your horrible friends, and never come home at a-quarter-to-three drunk from a night of swilling, smelling like a lovesick skunk, stop acting so lewdly, start working incessantly so that we can afford a new house which I will decorate lavishly and then grow tired of in a year or two or three, start growing a paunch so that no other woman would ever have you, stop acting so boorishly, start growing a beard because you're too tired to shave, or too afraid, thinking you might slit your worthless wrinkled throat...



Sweet Nothings
by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, will you whisper me a sweet enchantment? We'll take my motorcycle, blaze a trail of metallic exhaust and scorched-black sulphuric fumes to a ****** diner where I'll slip my fingers under your yellow sun dress, inside the elastic waist band of your thin white cotton *******, till your pinkling lips moisten obligingly and the corpulent pink hot dog with tangy brown mustard and sweet pickle relish comes. Tonight, can we talk about something other than ***, perhaps things we both love? What I love is to go to the beach, where the hot oil smells like baking coconuts, and lie in the sun's humidor thinking of you, while the sand worms its way inside your **** little pink bikini, your compressed ******* squishy with warm sweet milk like coconuts, the hair between your legs sleek as a wet mink's... Tonight, can we make love instead of just talking *****? Sorry, honey, I'm just not in the mood.



Sometimes the Dead
by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes we catch them out of the corners of our eyes―the pale dead. After they have fled the gourds of their bodies, like escaping fragrances they rise. Once they have become a cloud's mist, sometimes like the rain they descend; ... they appear, sometimes silver, like laughter, to gladden the hearts of men. Sometimes like a pale gray fog, they drift unencumbered, yet lumbrously, as if over the sea there was the lightest vapor even Atlas could not lift. Sometimes they haunt our dreams like forgotten melodies only half-remembered. Though they lie dismembered in black catacombs, sepulchers and dismal graves; although they have committed felonies, yet they are us. Someday soon we will meet them in the graveyard dust, blood-engorged, but never sated since Cain slew Abel. But until we become them, let us steadfastly forget them, even as we know our children must...



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Desire glides in on calico wings, a breath of a moth seeking a companionable light... where it hovers, unsure, sullen, shy or demure, in the margins of night, a soft blur. With a frantic dry rattle of alien wings, it rises and thrums one long breathless staccato... and flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight. And yet it returns to the flame, its delight, as long as it burns.



Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch

"Burn Ovid"―Austin Clarke

Sunday School, Faith Free Will Baptist,1973: I sat imaging watery folds of pale silk encircling her waist. Explicit *** was the day's "hot" topic (how breathlessly I imagined hers)  as she taught us the perils of lust fraught with inhibition. I found her unaccountably beautiful, as she rolled implausible nouns off the edge of her tongue: adultery, fornication, *******, ******. Acts made suddenly plausible by the faint blush of her unrouged cheeks, by her pale lips accented only by a slight quiver, a trepidation. What did those lustrous folds foretell of our uncommon desire? Why did she cross and uncross her legs lovely and long in their taupe sheaths? Why did her ******* rise pointedly, as if indicating a direction?

"Come unto me,
(unto me) , "
together, we sang,

cheek to breast,
lips on lips,
devout, afire,

my hands
up her skirt,
her pants at her knees:

all night long,
all night long,
in the heavenly choir.



*** 101
by Michael R. Burch

That day the late spring heat steamed through the windows of a Crayola-yellow schoolbus crawling its way up the backwards slopes of Nowheresville, North Carolina... Where we sat exhausted from the day's skulldrudgery and the unexpected waves of muggy, summer-like humidity... Giggly first graders sat two abreast behind senior high students sprouting their first sparse beards, their implausible bosoms, their stranger affections... The most unlikely coupling―Lambert,18, the only college prospect on the varsity basketball team, the proverbial talldarkhandsome swashbuckling cocksman, grinning... Beside him, Wanda,13, bespectacled, in her primproper attire and pigtails, staring up at him, fawneyed, disbelieving... And as the bus filled with the improbable musk of her, as she twitched impaled on his finger like a dead frog jarred to life by electrodes, I knew... that love is a forlorn enterprise, that I would never understand it.



Veiled
by Michael R. Burch

She has belief without comprehension, and in her crutchwork shack she is much like us... Tamping the bread into edible forms, regarding her children at play with something akin to relief... Ignoring the towers ablaze in the distance because they are not revelations but things of glass, easily shattered... Aand if you were to ask her, she might say―sometimes God visits his wrath upon an impious nation for its leaders' sins... And we might agree: seeing her mutilations.



Lucifer, to the Enola Gay
by Michael R. Burch

Go then, and give them my meaning, so that their teeming streets become my city. Bring back a pretty flower―a chrysanthemum, perhaps, to bloom, if but an hour, within a certain room of mine where the sun does not rise or fall, and the moon, although it is content to shine, helps nothing at all. There, if I hear the wistful call of their voices regretting choices made, or perhaps not made in time, I can look back upon it and recall―in all its pale forms sublime, still, Death will never be holy again.



The Evolution of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love among the infinitesimal flotillas of amoebas is a dance of transient appendages, wild sails that gather in warm brine and then express one headstream as two small, divergent wakes. Minuscule voyage―love! Upon false feet, the pseudopods of uprightness, we creep toward self-immolation: two nee one. We cannot photosynthesize the sun, and so we love in darkness, till we come at last to understand: man's spineless heart is alien to any land. We part to single cells; we rise on buoyant tears, amoeba-light, to breathe new atmospheres... and still we sink. The night is full of stars we cannot grasp, though all the World is ours. Have we such cells within us, bent on love to ever-changingness, so that to part is not to be the same, or even one? Is love our evolution, or a scream against the thought of separateness―a cry of strangled recognition? Love, or die, or love and die a little. Hopeful death! Come scale these cliffs, lie changing, share this breath.



Longing
by Michael R. Burch

We stare out at the cold gray sea, overcome with such sudden and intense longing... our eyes meet, inviolate... and we are not of this earth, this strange, inert mass. Before we crept out of the shoals of the inchoate sea... before we grew the quaint appendages and orifices of love... before our jellylike nuclei, struggling to be hearts, leapt at the sight of that first bright, oracular sun, then watched it plummet, the birth and death of our illumination... before we wept... before we knew... before our unformed hearts grew numb, again, in the depths of the sea's indecipherable darkness... when we were only a swirling profusion of recombinant things wafting loose silt from the sea's soft floor, writhing and ******* in convulsive beds of mucousy foliage,

flowering,
flowering,
flowering...

what jolted us to life?



Memento Mori
by Michael R. Burch

I found among the elms
something like the sound of your voice,
something like the aftermath of love itself
after the lightning strikes,
when the startled wind shrieks...

a gored-out wound in wood,
love's pale memento mori―
that white scar
in that first heart,
forever unhealed...

and a burled, thick knot incised
with six initials pledged
against all possible futures,
and penknife-notched below,
six edged, chipped words
that once cut deep and said...

WILL U B MINE
4 EVER?

... which now, so disconsolately answer...

----------------N
-- EVER.



Nucleotidings
by Michael R. Burch

"We will walk taller! " said Gupta,
sorta abrupta,
hand-in-hand with his mom,
eyeing the A-bomb.

"Who needs a mahatma
in the aftermath of NAFTA?
Now, that was a disaster, "
cried glib Punjab.

"After Y2k,
time will spin out of control anyway, "
flamed Vijay.

"My family is relatively heavy,
too big even for a pig-barn Chevy;
we need more space, "
spat What's His Face.

"What does it matter,
dirge or mantra, "
sighed Serge.

"The world will wobble
in Hubble's lens
till the tempest ends, "
wailed Mercedes.

"The world is going to hell in a bucket.
So **** it and get outta my face!
We own this place!
Me and my friends got more guns than ISIS,
so what's the crisis? "
cried Bubba Billy Joe Bob Puckett.



They Take Their Shape
by Michael R. Burch

"We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning..."―George W. Bush

We will not forget...
the moments of silence and the days of mourning,
the bells that swung from leaden-shadowed vents
to copper bursts above "hush! "-chastened children
who saw the sun break free (abandonment
to run and laugh forsaken for the moment) ,
still flashing grins they could not quite repent...
Nor should they―anguish triumphs just an instant;

this every child accepts; the nymphet weaves;
transformed, the grotesque adult-thing emerges:
damp-winged, huge-eyed, to find the sun deceives...
But children know; they spin limpwinged in darkness
cocooned in hope―the shriveled chrysalis

that paralyzes time. Suspended, dreaming,
they do not fall, but grow toward what is,
then ***** about to find which transformation
might best endure the light or dark. "Survive"
becomes the whispered mantra of a pupa's
awakening... till What takes shape and flies
shrieks, parroting Our own shrill, restive cries.



chrysalis
by Michael R. Burch

these are the days of doom
u seldom leave ur room
u live in perpetual gloom

yet also the days of hope
how to cope?
u pray and u *****

toward self illumination...
becoming an angel
(pure love)

and yet You must love Your Self

If you know someone who is very caring and loving, but struggles with self worth, this may be a poem to consider.

Keywords/Tags: prose poem, experimental, free verse, freedom, expression, silence, void, modern, modern psalm, Holocaust
M-F
The last gave me Tuesday
while she had Wednesday
Now weekends are for me
Each day is a page in the catalog of who I think I’ll be
Do you want a good time girl
Or
Someone who will agree?
MODERN SONNETS

I prefer the original definition of the sonnet as a “little song” of indeterminate form and length. These modern sonnets vary from more-or-less traditional to free verse.


Maker, Fakir, Curer
by Michael R. Burch

A poem should be a wild, unearthly cry
against the thought of lying in the dark,
doomed―never having seen bright sparks leap high,
without a word for flame, none for the mark
an ember might emblaze on lesioned skin.

A poet is no crafty artisan―
the maker of some crock. He dreams of flame
he never touched, but―fakir’s courtesan―
must dance obedience, once called by name.
Thin wand, divine!, this world is too the same―

all watery ooze and flesh. Let fire cure
and quickly harden here what can endure.

Originally published by The Lyric

The ancient English scops were considered to be makers: for instance, in William Dunbar’s “Lament for the Makiris.” But in some modern literary circles poets are considered to be fakers, with lies being as good as the truth where art is concerned. Hence, this poem puns on “fakirs” and dancing snakes. But according to Shakespeare the object is to leave something lasting, that will stand test of time. Hence, the idea of poems being cured in order to endure. The “thin wand” is the poet’s pen, divining the elixir―the magical fountain of youth―that makes poems live forever. That is, of course, if he/she can pull it off, which is easier said than done.



Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

Massive, gray, these leaden waves
bear their unchanging burden―
the sameness of each day to day

while the wind seems to struggle to say
something half-submerged planks at the mouth of the bay
might nuzzle limp seaweed to understand.

Now collapsing dull waves drain away
from the unenticing land;
shrieking gulls shadow fish through salt spray―

whitish streaks on a fogged silver mirror.
Sizzling lightning impresses its brand.
Unseen fingers scribble something in the wet sand.

Originally published by Southwest Review



The City Is a Garment
by Michael R. Burch

A rhinestone skein, a jeweled brocade of light,―
the city is a garment stretched so thin
her festive colors bleed into the night,
and everywhere bright seams, unraveling,

cascade their brilliant contents out like coins
on motorways and esplanades; bead cars
come tumbling down long highways; at her groin
a railtrack like a zipper flashes sparks;

her hills are haired with brush like cashmere wool
and from their cleavage winking lights enlarge
and travel, slender fingers ... softly pull
themselves into the semblance of a barge.

When night becomes too chill, she softly dons
great overcoats of warmest-colored dawn.

Originally published by The Lyric



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

The meter I had sought to find, perplexed,
was ripped from books of "verse" that read like prose.
I found it in sheet music, in long rows
of hologramic CDs, in sad wrecks
of long-forgotten volumes undisturbed
half-centuries by archivists, unscanned.
I read their fading numbers, frowned, perturbed―
why should such tattered artistry be banned?

I heard the sleigh bells’ jingles, vampish ads,
the supermodels’ babble, Seuss’s books
extolled in major movies, blurbs for abs ...
A few poor thinnish journals crammed in nooks
are all I’ve found this late to sell to those
who’d classify free verse "expensive prose."

Originally published by The Chariton Review



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

I have not come for the harvest of roses―
the poets' mad visions,
their railing at rhyme ...
for I have discerned what their writing discloses:
weak words wanting meaning,
beat torsioning time.

Nor have I come for the reaping of gossamer―
images weak,
too forced not to fail;
gathered by poets who worship their luster,
they shimmer, impendent,
resplendently pale.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Love Has a Southern Flavor
by Michael R. Burch

Love has a Southern flavor: honeydew,
ripe cantaloupe, the honeysuckle’s spout
we tilt to basking faces to breathe out
the ordinary, and inhale perfume ...

Love’s Dixieland-rambunctious: tangled vines,
wild clematis, the gold-brocaded leaves
that will not keep their order in the trees,
unmentionables that peek from dancing lines ...

Love cannot be contained, like Southern nights:
the constellations’ dying mysteries,
the fireflies that hum to light, each tree’s
resplendent autumn cape, a genteel sight ...

Love also is as wild, as sprawling-sweet,
as decadent as the wet leaves at our feet.

Originally published by The Lyric



Redolence
by Michael R. Burch

Now darkness ponds upon the violet hills;
cicadas sing; the tall elms gently sway;
and night bends near, a deepening shade of gray;
the bass concerto of a bullfrog fills
what silence there once was; globed searchlights play.

Green hanging ferns adorn dark window sills,
all drooping fronds, awaiting morning’s flares;
mosquitoes whine; the lissome moth again
flits like a veiled oud-dancer, and endures
the fumblings of night’s enervate gray rain.

And now the pact of night is made complete;
the air is fresh and cool, washed of the grime
of the city’s ashen breath; and, for a time,
the fragrance of her clings, obscure and sweet.

Published by The Eclectic Muse



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth's gravitron―
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn's cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful―
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we'd feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
a trillion oscillations, yet not lose
a second's beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth's; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.

If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what's been left to chance?
Should poets be more lax―their circumstance
as humble as it is?―or readers wince
to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
the moans of drones drown out the Chanticleer?

Originally published by The Eclectic Muse



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

These cloudless nights, the sky becomes a wheel
where suns revolve around an axle star ...
Look there, and choose. Decide which moon is yours.
Sink Lethe-ward, held only by a heel.
Advantage. Disadvantage. Who can tell?
To see is not to know, but you can feel
the tug sometimes―the gravity, the shell
as lustrous as damp pearl. You sink, you reel
toward some draining revelation. Air―
too thin to grasp, to breath. Such pressure. Gasp.
The stars invert, electric, everywhere.
And so we fall, down-tumbling through night’s fissure ...
two beings pale, intent to fall forever
around each other―fumbling at love’s tether ...
now separate, now distant, now together.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



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.



Huntress
by Michael R. Burch

after Baudelaire

Lynx-eyed, cat-like and cruel, you creep
across a crevice dropping deep
into a dark and doomed domain.
Your claws are sheathed. You smile, insane.
Rain falls upon your path, and pain
pours down. Your paws are pierced. You pause
and heed the oft-lamented laws
which bid you not begin again
till night returns. You wail like wind,
the sighing of a soul for sin,
and give up hunting for a heart.
Till sunset falls again, depart,
though hate and hunger urge you―"On!"
Heed, hearts, your hope―the break of dawn.

Originally published by Sonnetto Poesia



Water and Gold
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy's a wan illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

You came to me as riches to a miser
when all is gold, or so his heart believes,
until he dies much thinner and much wiser,
his gleaming bones hauled off by chortling thieves.

You gave your heart too soon, too dear, too vastly;
I could not take it in; it was too much.
I pledged to meet your price, but promised rashly.
I died of thirst, of your bright Midas touch.

I dreamed you gave me water of your lips,
then sealed my tomb with golden hieroglyphs.

Originally published by The Lyric



Fountainhead
by Michael R. Burch

I did not delight in love so much
as in a kiss like linnets' wings,
the flutterings of a pulse so soft
the heart remembers, as it sings:
to bathe there was its transport, brushed
by marble lips, or porcelain,―
one liquid kiss, one cool outburst
from pale rosettes. What did it mean ...

to float awhirl on minute tides
within the compass of your eyes,
to feel your alabaster bust
grow cold within? Ecstatic sighs
seem hisses now; your eyes, serene,
reflect the sun's pale tourmaline.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow ...

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes―
I can almost remember―goes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me
rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Pan
by Michael R. Burch

... Among the shadows of the groaning elms,
amid the darkening oaks, we fled ourselves ...

... Once there were paths that led to coracles
that clung to piers like loosening barnacles ...

... where we cannot return, because we lost
the pebbles and the playthings, and the moss ...

... hangs weeping gently downward, maidens’ hair
who never were enchanted, and the stairs ...

... that led up to the Fortress in the trees
will not support our weight, but on our knees ...

... we still might fit inside those splendid hours
of damsels in distress, of rustic towers ...

... of voices of the wolves’ tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams’ soft, windy vowels ...

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll

Keywords/Tags: modern, sonnet, sonnets, free, verse, song, traditional, romantic, romanticism, art, artisan
The benchmark of tyranny
is censorship:
once the use of force
rises above the mark,
then even the censor
must drown in the flood
of silence.
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