Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
THE RUIN in a Modern English Translation

"The Ruin" is one of the great poems of English antiquity. This modern English translation of one of the very best Old English/Anglo-Saxon poems is followed by footnotes, a summary and analysis, a discussion of the theme, and the translator's comments.


THE RUIN
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

well-hewn was this wall-stone, till Wyrdes wrecked it
and the Colossus sagged inward ...

broad battlements broken;
the Builders' work battered;

the high ramparts toppled;
tall towers collapsed;

the great roof-beams shattered;
gates groaning, agape ...

mortar mottled and marred by scarring ****-frosts ...
the Giants’ dauntless strongholds decaying with age ...

shattered, the shieldwalls,
the turrets in tatters ...

where now are those mighty Masons, those Wielders and Wrights,
those Samson-like Stonesmiths?

the grasp of the earth, the firm grip of the ground
holds fast those fearless Fathers
men might have forgotten
except that this slow-rotting siege-wall still stands
after countless generations!

for always this edifice, grey-lichened, blood-stained,
stands facing fierce storms with their wild-whipping winds
because those master Builders bound its wall-base together
so cunningly with iron!

it outlasted mighty kings and their claims!

how high rose those regal rooftops!
how kingly their castle-keeps!
how homely their homesteads!
how boisterous their bath-houses and their merry mead-halls!
how heavenward flew their high-flung pinnacles!
how tremendous the tumult of those famous War-Wagers ...
till mighty Fate overturned it all, and with it, them.

then the wide walls fell;
then the bulwarks were broken;
then the dark days of disease descended ...

as death swept the battlements of brave Brawlers;
as their palaces became waste places;
as ruin rained down on their grand Acropolis;
as their great cities and castles collapsed
while those who might have rebuilt them lay gelded in the ground:
those marvelous Men, those mighty master Builders!

therefore these once-decorous courts court decay;
therefore these once-lofty gates gape open;
therefore these roofs' curved arches lie stripped of their shingles;
therefore these streets have sunk into ruin and corroded rubble ...

when in times past light-hearted Titans flushed with wine
strode strutting in gleaming armor, adorned with splendid ladies’ favors,
through this brilliant city of the audacious famous Builders
to compete for bright treasure: gold, silver, amber, gemstones.

here the cobblestoned courts clattered;
here the streams gushed forth their abundant waters;
here the baths steamed, hot at their fiery hearts;
here this wondrous wall embraced it all, with its broad *****.

... that was spacious ...



Footnotes and Translator's Comments
by Michael R. Burch

Summary

"The Ruin" is an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem. It appears in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to around 960-990 AD. However, the poem may be older than the manuscript, since many ancient poems were passed down ****** for generations before being written down. The poem is an elegy or lament for the works of "mighty men" of the past that have fallen into disrepair and ruins. Ironically, the poem itself was found in a state of ruin. There are holes in the vellum upon which it was written. It appears that a brand or poker was laid to rest on the venerable book. It is believed the Exeter Book was also used as a cutting board and beer mat. Indeed, we are lucky to have as much of the poem as we do.

Author

The author is an unknown Anglo-Saxon scop (poet).

Genre

"The Ruin" may be classified as an elegy, eulogy, dirge and/or lament, depending on how one interprets it.

Theme

The poem's theme is one common to Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature: that man and his works cannot escape the hands of wyrde (fate), time and death. Thus men can only face the inevitable with courage, resolve, fortitude and resignation. Having visited Bath myself, I can easily understand how the scop who wrote the poem felt, and why, if I am interpreting the poem correctly.

Plot

The plot of "The Ruin" seems rather simple and straightforward: Things fall apart. The author of the poem blames Fate for the destruction he sees. The builders are described as "giants."

Techniques

"The Ruin" is an alliterative poem; it uses alliteration rather than meter and rhyme to "create a flow" of words. This was typical of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

History

When the Romans pulled their legions out of Britain around 400 BC, primarily because they faced increasing threats at home, they left behind a number of immense stone works, including Hadrian's Wall, various roads and bridges, and cities like Bath. Bath, known to the Romans as Aquae Sulis, is the only English city fed by hot springs, so it seems likely that the city in question is Bath. Another theory is that the poem refers to Hadrian's Wall and the baths mentioned were heated artificially. The Saxons, who replaced the Romans as rulers of most of Britain, used stone only for churches and their churches were small. So it seems safe to say that the ruins in question were created by Roman builders.

Interpretation

My personal interpretation of the poem is that the poet is simultaneously impressed by the magnificence of the works he is viewing, and discouraged that even the works of the mighty men of the past have fallen to ruin.

Analysis of Characters and References

There are no characters, per se, only an anonymous speaker describing the ruins and the men he imagines to have built things that have survived so long despite battles and the elements.

Related Poems

Other Anglo-Saxon/Old English poems: The Ruin, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Deor's Lament, Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song, The Seafarer, Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings

Keywords/Tags: Anglo-Saxon, Old English, England, translation, elegy, lament, lamentation, Bath, Roman, giant, giants, medieval, builders, ruin, ruins, wall, walls, fate, mrbtr
These are prophetic poems and apocalyptic poems … poems about possible dark futures for mankind and the planet we depend on for life and sustenance. Are we condemning our children and grandchildren to live underground like moles, if they live at all?



The Vision of the Overseer’s Right Hand
by Michael R. Burch

“Dust to dust ...”

I stumbled, aghast,
into a valley of dust and bone
where all men become,
at last, the same color . . .

There a skeletal figure
groped through blonde sand
for a rigid right hand
lost long, long ago . . .

A hand now more white
than he had wielded before.
But he paused there, unsure,
for he could not tell

without the whip’s frenetic hiss
which savage white hand was his.

Originally published by Poetry Porch



Man Retreats into Savagery
by Michael R. Burch

What I ache to say is beyond saying―
no words for the horror
of not loving enough,
like a mummy half-wrapped in its moldering casements
holding a lily aloft.

No, there are no words for the horror
as an arctic wind howls through the teetering floes
and the cold freezes down to my clawed hairy toes ...

What use to me, now, if the stars appear?

As I moan
the moon finds me,
fangs goring the deer.



Milestones Toward Oblivion
by Michael R. Burch

A milestone here leans heavily
against a gaunt, golemic tree.
These words are chiseled thereupon:
"One mile and then Oblivion."

Swift larks that once swooped down to feed
on groping slugs, such insects breed
within their radiant flesh and bones ...
they did not heed the milestones.

Another marker lies ahead,
the only tombstone to the dead
whose eyeless sockets read thereon:
"Alas, behold Oblivion."

Once here the sun shone fierce and fair;
now night eternal shrouds the air
while winter, never-ending, moans
and drifts among the milestones.

This road is neither long nor wide . . .
men gleam in death on either side.
Not long ago, they pondered on
milestones toward Oblivion.



Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the trees stand stark-naked in the sun.

Now it is always summer
and the bees buzz in cesspools,
adapted to a new life.

There are no flowers,
but the weeds, being hardier,
have survived.

The small town has become
a city of millions;
there is no longer a sea,
only a huge sewer,
but the children don't mind.

They still study
rocks and stars,
but biology is a forgotten science ...
after all, what is life?

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the children murmur through vein-streaked gills
whispered wonders of long-ago.



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

Sunbathe,
ozone baby,
till your parched skin cracks
in the white-hot flash
of radiation.

Incantation
from your pale parched lips
shall not avail;
you made this hell.
Now burn.

This was one of my early poems, written around age 19. I dedicated the poem to Trump after he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change accords.



Evil, the Rat
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

Evil lives in a hole like a rat
and sleeps in its feces,
fearing the cat.

At night it furtively creeps
through the house
while the cat sleeps.

It eats old excrement and gnaws
on steaming dung
and it will pause

between odd bites to sniff through the ****,
twitching and trembling,
for a scent of the cat ...

Evil, the rat.



No One
by Michael R. Burch

No One hears the bells tonight;
they tell him something isn’t right.
But No One is not one to rush;
he smiles on a bed soft, green and lush
as far away a startled thrush
flees from horned owls in sinking flight.

No One hears the cannon’s roar
and muses that its voice means war
comes knocking on men’s doors tonight.
He sleeps outside in awed delight
beneath the enigmatic stars
and shivers in their cooling light.

No One knows the world will end,
that he’ll be lonely, without friend
or foe to conquer. All will be
once more, celestial harmony.
He’ll miss men’s voices, now and then,
but worlds can be remade again.



Bikini
by Michael R. Burch

Undersea, by the shale and the coral forming,
by the shell’s pale rose and the pearl’s bright eye,
through the sea’s green bed of lank seaweed worming
like tangled hair where cold currents rise ...
something lurks where the riptides sigh,
something old, and odd, and wise.

Something old when the world was forming
now lifts its beak, its snail-blind eye,
and, with tentacles like Medusa's squirming,
it feels the cloud blot out the skies' ...
then shudders, settles with a sigh,
understanding man’s demise.



Lay Down Your Arms
by Michael R. Burch

Lay down your arms; come, sleep in the sand.
The battle is over and night is at hand.
Our voyage has ended; there's nowhere to go . . .
the earth is a cinder still faintly aglow.

Lay down your pamphlets; let's bicker no more.
Instead, let us sleep here on this ravaged shore.
The sea is still boiling; the air is wan, thin . . .
lay down your pamphlets; now no one will “win.”

Lay down your hymnals; abandon all song.
If God was to save us, He waited too long.
A new world emerges, but this world is through . . .
so lay down your hymnals, or write something new.



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters,
deep and dark and still . . .
all men have passed this way,
or will.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Charon 2001
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, have stood―paralyzed at the helm
watching onrushing, inevitable disaster.
I too have felt sweat (or ecstatic tears) plaster
damp hair to my eyes, as a slug’s dense film
becomes mucous-insulate. Always, thereafter
living in darkness, bright things overwhelm.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Beast 666
by Michael R. Burch

“... what rough beast ... slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”―W. B. Yeats

Brutality is a cross
wooden, blood-stained,
gas hissing, sibilant,
lungs gilled, deveined,
red flecks on a streaked glass pane,
jeers jubilant,
mocking.

Brutality is shocking―
tiny orifices torn
by cruel adult lust,
the fetus unborn
tossed in a dust-
bin. The scarred skull shorn,
nails bloodied, tortured,
an old wound sutured
over, never healed.

Brutality, all its faces revealed,
is legion:
Death March, Trail of Tears, Inquisition . . .
always the same.
The Beast of the godless and of man’s “religion”
slouching toward Jerusalem:
horned, crowned, gibbering, drooling, insane.



Shock and Awe
by Michael R. Burch

With megatons of “wonder,”
we make our godhead clear:
Death. Destruction. Fear.

The world’s heart ripped asunder,
its dying pulse we hear:
Death. Destruction. Fear.

Strange Trinity! We ponder
this God we hold so dear:
Death. Destruction. Fear.

The vulture and the condor
proclaim: The feast is near!―
Death. Destruction. Fear.

Soon He will plow us under;
the Anti-Christ is here:
Death. Destruction. Fear.

We love to hear Him thunder!
With Shock and Awe, appear!―
Death. Destruction. Fear.

For God can never blunder;
we know He holds US dear:
Death. Destruction. Fear.



First They Came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

Published in Amnesty International’s Words That Burn anthology, Borderless Journal (India), The Hindu (India), Matters India, New Age Bangladesh, Convivium Journal, PressReader (India) and Kracktivist (India)

This poem returns an astounding 819,000 Google results for the eleventh line. That’s a lot of cutting and pasting!

It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by such an outstanding organization as Amnesty International―one of the world's finest. Not only is the cause good―a stated goal is to teach students about human rights through poetry―but so far the poetry published seems quite good to me.



What Immense Silence
by Michael R. Burch

What immense silence
comforts those who kneel here
beneath these vaulted ceilings
cavernous and vast?

What luminescence stained
by patchwork panels of bright glass
illuminates drained faces
as the crouching gargoyles leer?

What brings them here―
pale, tearful congregations,
knowing all Hope is past,
faithfully, year upon year?

Or could they be right? Perhaps
Love is, implausibly, near
and I alone have not seen It . . .
But, if so, still, I must ask:

why is it God that they fear?

Published in The Bible of Hell



Where We Dwell
by Michael R. Burch

Night within me.
Never morning.
Stars uncounted.
Shadows forming.
Wind arising
where we dwell
reaches Heaven,
reeks of Hell.

Published in The Bible of Hell



the Horror
by Michael R. Burch

the Horror lurks inside our closets
the Horror hides beneath our beds
the Horror hisses ancient curses
the Horror whispers in our heads

the Horror tells us Death is coming
the Horror tells us there’s no hope
the Horror tells us “life” is futile
the Horror beckons, “there’s the Rope!”



Deliver Us ...
by Michael R. Burch

The night is dark and scary―
under your bed, or upon it.

That blazing light might be a star ...
or maybe the Final Comet.

But two things are sure: your mother’s love
and your puppy’s kisses, doggonit!



Belfry
by Michael R. Burch

There are things we surrender
to the attic gloom:
they haunt us at night
with shrill, querulous voices.

There are choices we made
yet did not pursue,
behind windows we shuttered
then failed to remember.

There are canisters sealed
that we cannot reopen,
and others long broken
that nothing can heal.

There are things we conceal
that our anger dismembered,
gray leathery faces
the rafters reveal.



Liar
by Michael R. Burch

Chiller than a winter day,
quieter than the murmur of the sea in her dreams,
eyes softer than the diaphanous spray
of mist-shrouded streams,
you fill my dying thoughts.

In moments drugged with sleep
I have heard your earnest voice
leaving me no choice
save heed your hushed demands
and meet you in the sands
of an ageless arctic world.

There I kiss your lifeless lips
as we quiver in the shoals
of a sea that, endless, rolls
to meet the shattered shore.
Wild waves weep, "Nevermore,"
as you bend to stroke my hair.

That land is harsh and drear,
and that sea is bleak and wild;
only your lips are mild
as you kiss my weary eyes,
whispering lovely lies
of what awaits us there

in a land so stark and bare,
beyond all hope . . . and care.

This is one of my early poems, written as a high school sophomore or junior.



Polish
by Michael R. Burch

Your fingers end in talons―
the ones you trim to hide
the predator inside.

Ten thousand creatures sacrificed;
but really, what’s the loss?
Apply a splash of gloss.

You picked the perfect color
to mirror nature’s law:
red, like tooth and claw.



Is there any Light left?
by Michael R. Burch

Is there any light left?
Must we die bereft
of love and a reason for being?
Blind and unseeing,
rejecting and fleeing
our humanity, goat-hooved and cleft?

Is there any light left?
Must we die bereft
of love and a reason for living?
Blind, unforgiving,
unworthy of heaven
or this planet red, reeking and reft?

NOTE: While “hoofed” is the more common spelling, I preferred “hooved” for this poem. Perhaps because of the contrast created by “love” and “hooved.”



Modern Appetite
by Michael R. Burch

It grumbled low, insisting it would feast
on blood and flesh, etcetera, at least
three times a day. With soft lubricious grease

and pale salacious oils, it would ease
its way through life. Each day―an aperitif.
Each night―a frothy bromide, for relief.

It lived on TV fare, wore pinafores,
slurped sugar-coated gumballs, gobbled S’mores.
When gas ensued, it burped and farted. ’Course,

it thought aloud, my wife will leave me. Yours
is not so **** particular. Divorce
is certainly a settlement, toujours!

A Tums a day will keep the shrink away,
recalcify old bones, keep gas at bay.
If Simon says, etcetera, Mother, may

I have my hit of calcium today?



Imperfect Sonnet
by  Michael R. Burch

A word before the light is doused: the night
is something wriggling through an unclean mind,
as rats creep through a tenement. And loss
is written cheaply with the moon’s cracked gloss
like lipstick through the infinite, to show
love’s pale yet sordid imprint on us. Go.

We have not learned love yet, except to cleave.
I saw the moon rise once ... but to believe ...
was of another century ... and now ...
I have the urge to love, but not the strength.

Despair, once stretched out to its utmost length,
lies couched in squalor, watching as the screen
reveals "love's" damaged images: its dreams ...
and ******* limply, screams and screams.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



Stump
by Michael R. Burch

This used to be a poplar, oak or elm . . .
we forget the names of trees, but still its helm,
green-plumed, like some Greek warrior’s, nobly fringed,
with blossoms almond-white, but verdant-tinged,
this massive helm . . . this massive, nodding head
here contemplated life, and now is dead . . .

Perhaps it saw its future, furrow-browed,
and flung its limbs about, dejectedly.
Perhaps it only dreamed as, cloud by cloud,
the sun plod through the sky. Heroically,
perhaps it stood against the mindless plots
of concrete that replaced each flowered bed.
Perhaps it heard thick loggers draw odd lots
and could not flee, and so could only dread . . .

The last of all its kind? They left its stump
with timeworn strange inscriptions no one reads
(because a language lost is just a bump
impeding someone’s progress at mall speeds).
We leveled all such “speed bumps” long ago
just as our quainter cousins leveled trees.
Shall we, too, be consumed by what we know?
Once gods were merely warriors; august trees
were merely twigs, and man the least divine . . .
mere fables now, dust, compost, turpentine.



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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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 . . .

and 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.



Intimations
by Michael R. Burch

Let mercy surround us
with a sweet persistence.

Let love propound to us
that life is infinitely more than existence.

Published by Katrina Anthology



Keywords/Tags: Apocalyptic Poems, Prophetic Poems, Future, Vision, Visionary, Omen, Omens, Sign, Signs, Climate Change, Global Warming, Environment, Extinction
Apocalyptic, Prophetic, Future, Omens, Climate Change, Global Warming, Environment, Extinction
THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER’S SKIN

***** Rustaveli (c. 1160-1250), often called simply Rustaveli, was a Georgian poet who is generally considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age. “The Knight in the Panther's Skin” or “The Man in the Panther’s Skin” is considered to be Georgia’s national epic poem and until the 20th century it was part of every Georgian bride’s dowry. It is believed that Rustaveli served Queen Tamar as a treasurer or finance minister and that he may have traveled widely and been involved in military campaigns. Little else is known about his life except through folk tradition and legend.

The Knight in the Panther's Skin
by ***** Rustaveli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

excerpts from the PROLOGUE

I sing of the lion whose image adorns the lances, shields and swords
of our Queen of Queens: Tamar, the ruby-throated and ebon-haired.
How dare I not sing Her Excellency’s manifold praises
when those who attend her must bring her the sweets she craves?

My tears flow profusely like blood as I extol our Queen Tamar,
whose praises I sing in these not ill-chosen words.
For ink I have employed jet-black lakes and for a pen, a flexible reed.
Whoever hears will have his heart pierced by the sharpest spears!

She bade me laud her in stately, sweet-sounding verses,
to praise her eyebrows, her hair, her lips and her teeth:
those rubies and crystals arrayed in bright, even ranks!
A leaden anvil can shatter even the strongest stone.

Kindle my mind and tongue! Fill me with skill and eloquence!
Aid my understanding for this composition!
Thus Tariel will be tenderly remembered,
one of three star-like heroes who always remained faithful.

Come, let us mourn Tariel with undrying tears
because we are men born under similar stars.
I, Rustaveli, whose heart has been pierced through by many sorrows,
have threaded this tale like a necklace of pearls.

Keywords/Tags: ***** Rustaveli, Georgia, Georgian, epic, knight, panther, skin, queen, Tamar, praise, praises, Tariel, Avtandil, Nestan-Darejan
POEMS ABOUT EROS AND CUPID

These are translations of ancient Greek poems about Eros. Eros was the Greek counterpart of the Roman god Cupid. While today we tend to think of Cupid as an angelic cherub shooting arrows and making people fall in love, the ancient Greek and Roman poets often portrayed Cupid/Eros as a troublemaker who was driving them mad with uncontrollable desires.


Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wilds winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.



Sappho, fragment 130
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros, the limb-shatterer,
rattles me,
an irresistible
constrictor.



Sappho, fragment 54
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros
descends from heaven,
discarding his imperial purple mantle.



Sappho, fragment 22
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That enticing girl's clinging dresses
leave me trembling, overcome by happiness,
as once, when I saw the Goddess in my prayers
eclipsing Cyprus.



Sappho, fragment 102
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mother, how can I weave,
so overwhelmed by love?



Sappho, fragment 10
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lust!
I crave!
Take me!


Around the same time Sappho was writing in ******, in nearby Greece, circa 564 B.C., we have another poem about the power of Eros:

Ibykos Fragment 286
translation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening―
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.



I hate Eros! Why does that gargantuan God dart my heart, rather than wild beasts? What can a God think to gain by inflaming a man? What trophies can he hope to win with my head?
―Alcaeus of Messene, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Have mercy, dear Phoebus, drawer of the bow, for were you not also wounded by love’s streaking arrows?
―Claudianus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Greek mythology, Cupid shoots Phoebus Apollo to make him fall in love with Daphne, then shoots Daphne with an arrow that prevents her from falling in love with her suitor.



Matchmaker Love, if you can’t set a couple equally aflame, why not ***** out your torch?
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



I have armed myself with wisdom against Love;
he cannot defeat me in single combat.
I, a mere mortal, have withstood a God!
But if he enlists the aid of Bacchus,
what odds do I have against the two of them?
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Love, if you aim your arrows at both of us impartially, you’re a God, but if you favor one over the other, you’re the Devil!
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Either put an end to lust, Eros, or else insist on reciprocity: abolish desire or heighten it.
―Lucilius or Polemo of Pontus, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Steady your bow, Cypris, and at your leisure select a likelier target ... for I am too full of arrows to take another wound.
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cypris was another name for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Here the poet may be suggesting, “Like mother, like son.”



Little Love, lay my heart waste;
empty your quiver into me;
leave not an arrow unshot!
Slay me with your cruel shafts,
but when you’d shoot someone else,
you’ll find yourself out of ammo!
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



You say I should flee from Love, but it’s hopeless!
How can a man on foot escape from a winged creature with unerring accuracy?
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Many centuries later, poets would still be complaining about the overpoweringness of ****** desire, and/or the unfairness of unrequited love, by which they often meant not getting laid!



Spring
by Charles d’Orleans
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Young lovers,
greeting the spring
fling themselves downhill,
making cobblestones ring
with their wild leaps and arcs,
like ecstatic sparks
drawn from coal.

What is their brazen goal?

They grab at whatever passes,
so we can only hazard guesses.
But they rear like prancing steeds
raked by brilliant spurs of need,
Young lovers.


Fast-forwarding again, we find the great Scottish poet William Dunbar, who was born around 1460:

Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar
translation by Michael R. Burch

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue that is held most dear,
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently,
yet everywhere, no odor but rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again,
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.

Keywords/Tags: Eros, Cupid, Phoebus Apollo, Cypris, Aphrodite, love, blind love, cute love, love god, love goddess, bow, arrow, arrows, desire, passion, lust, heart
MICHELANGELO: Modern English Translations

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is considered by many experts to be the greatest artist and sculptor of all time. These are modern English translations of his poems and epigrams by Michael R. Burch.



SONNET: RAVISHED
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ravished, by all our eyes find fine and fair,
yet starved for virtues pure hearts might confess,
my soul can find no Jacobean stair
that leads to heaven, save earth's loveliness.
The stars above emit such rapturous light
our longing hearts ascend on beams of Love
and seek, indeed, Love at its utmost height.
But where on earth does Love suffice to move
a gentle heart, or ever leave it wise,
save for beauty itself and the starlight in her eyes?



SONNET: TO LUIGI DEL RICCIO, AFTER THE DEATH OF CECCHINO BRACCI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A pena prima.

I had barely seen the beauty of his eyes
Which unto yours were life itself, and light,
When he closed them fast in death's eternal night
To reopen them on God, in Paradise.

In my tardiness, I wept, too late made wise,
Yet the fault not mine: for death's disgusting ploy
Had robbed me of that deep, unfathomable joy
Which in your loving memory never dies.

Therefore, Luigi, since the task is mine
To make our unique friend smile on in stone
Forever, brightening what dark earth would dim,
And because the beloved causes love to shine,

And since the artist cannot work alone,
I must carve you, to tell the world of him!


SONNET: BEAUTY AND THE ARTIST
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Al cor di zolfo.

A heart aflame; alas, the flesh not so;
Bones brittle wood; the soul without a guide
To curb the will’s inferno; the crude pride
Of restless passions’ pulsing surge and flow;
A witless mind that ? halt, lame, weak ? must go
Blind through entrapments scattered far and wide; ...
Why wonder then, when one small spark applied
To such an assemblage renders it aglow?

Add beauteous Art, which, Heaven-Promethean,
Must exceed nature ? so divine a power
Belongs to the one who strives with every nerve.
Created for such Art, from childhood given
As prey for her wild Inferno to devour,
I blame the Mistress I was born to serve.



SONNET XVI: LOVE AND ART
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sì come nella penna.

Just as with pen and ink,
there is a high, a low, and an in-between style;
and, as marble yields its images pure and vile
to excite the fancies artificers might think;
even so, my lord, lodged deep within your heart
are mingled pride and mild humility;
but I draw only what I truly see
when I trust my eyes and otherwise stand apart.

Whoever sows the seeds of tears and sighs
(bright dews that fall from heaven, crystal-clear)
in various pools collects antiquities
and so must reap old griefs through misty eyes;
while the one who dwells on beauty, so painful here,
finds ephemeral hopes and certain miseries.



SONNET XXXI: LOVE'S LORDSHIP, TO TOMMASO DE' CAVALIERI
by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A che più debb' io.

Why should I confess my desire
with copious tears and windy words of grief,
when a merciless heaven offers no relief
to souls consumed by fire?
Why should my aching heart aspire
to death, when all must die? Beyond belief
would be a death both delectable and brief,
since in my compound woes all joys expire!

Therefore, because I cannot dodge the blow,
I rather seek whoever rules my breast,
to glide between her gladness and my woe.
If only chains and bonds can make me blessed,
no marvel if alone and bare I go
to face the foe: her captive slave oppressed.



Michelangelo Epigram Translations
loose translations/interpretations by Michael R. Burch

I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.
I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.
Each stone contains a statue; it is the sculptor’s task to release it.
The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.
Our greatness is only bounded by our horizons.
Be at peace, for God did not create us to abandon us.
God grant that I always desire more than my capabilities.
My soul’s staircase to heaven is earth’s loveliness.
I live and love by God’s peculiar light.
Trifles create perfection, yet perfection is no trifle.
Genius is infinitely patient, and infinitely painstaking.
I have never found salvation in nature; rather I love cities.
He who follows will never surpass.
Beauty is what lies beneath superfluities.
I criticize via creation, not by fault-finding.
If you knew how hard I worked, you wouldn’t call it “genius.”

Keywords/Tags: Michelangelo, Italian sonnet, sonnet, sonnets, epigram, epigrams, epitaph, translation, translations, English, love, affinity and love, love and art, beauty, art, artistic work, light
ALBERT EINSTEIN POEMS

These are "poems" I created from Albert Einstein quotes, changing a word here and there for the sake of meter and rhyme...



A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy?
—Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Relativity and the 'Physics' of Love
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour,
it seems like a minute.
Sit on a red-hot stove for a minute,
it seems like an hour.
That's relativity!

Oh, it should be possible
to explain the laws of physics
to a barmaid! ...
but how could she ever,
in a million years,
explain love to an Einstein?

All these primary impulses,
not easily described in words,
are the springboards
of man's actions—because
any man who can drive safely
while kissing a pretty girl
is simply not giving the kiss
the attention it deserves!



Solitude
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Solitude is painful
when one is young,
but delightful
when one is more mature.

I live in that solitude
which was painful in my youth,
but seems delicious now,
in the years of my maturity.

Now it gives me great pleasure, indeed,
to see the stubbornness
of an incorrigible nonconformist
so warmly acclaimed...
and yet it seems vastly strange
to be known so universally
and yet be so lonely.



Morality
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Still, as far as I'm concerned,
I prefer silent vice
to ostentatious virtue:
I don't know,
I don't care,
and it doesn't make any difference!



Against Hubris
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Science without religion is lame,
religion without science is blind,
and whoever undertakes to establish himself
as the judge of Truth and Knowledge
is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.



War and Peace
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

But heroism on command,
senseless violence,
and all the loathsome nonsense
that goes by the name of patriotism:
how passionately I hate them!

Perfection of means
and confusion of ends
seem to characterize our age
and it has become appallingly obvious
that our technology
has exceeded our humanity,
that technological progress
is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal,
and that the attempt to combine wisdom and power
has only rarely been successful
and then only for a short while.

It is my conviction
that killing under the cloak of war
is nothing but an act of ******.
(I do not know what weapons
World War III will be fought with,
but World War IV will be fought
with sticks and stones.)

Oh, how I wish that somewhere
there existed an island
for those who are wise
and of goodwill! ...

In such a place even I
would be an ardent patriot,
for I am not only a pacifist,
but a militant pacifist.
I am willing to fight for peace,
for nothing will end war
unless the people themselves
refuse to go to war.

Our task must be to free ourselves
by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature and its beauty.
And peace cannot be kept by force;
it can only be achieved by understanding.



Mystery
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There are two ways to live your life:
one is as though nothing is a miracle,
the other is as though everything is a miracle.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious:
it is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.



Curiosity
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates
the mysteries of eternity,
of life,
of the marvelous structure of reality.

It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.

Never lose a holy curiosity.

People do not grow old no matter how long we live.
We never cease to stand like curious children
before the great Mystery into which we were born.



Character
by Albert Einstein, interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds
because anger dwells only in the ***** of fools
and weakness of attitude soon becomes weakness of character.

Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity (and I'm not sure about the former) ;
furthermore, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

The world is a dangerous place: not just because of the people who are evil,
but also because of the good people who don't do anything about it.

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt:
he has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.



These are poem about Albert Einstein or in which I mention him ...



Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

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



The Cosmological Constant
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein the frizzy-haired
claimed E equals MC squared.
Thus all mass decreases
as activity ceases?
Not my mass, my *** declared!



ASStronomical
by Michael R. Burch

Relativity, the theorists’ creed,
claims mass increases with speed.
My (m)*** grows when I sit it.
Mr. Einstein, get with it;
equate its deflation, I plead!



Relative to Whom?
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein’s theory, incredibly silly,
says a relative grows *****-nilly
at speeds close to light.
Well, his relatives might,
but mine grow their m(*****) more stilly!



Relative Theory I
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein’s "relative" theory
says masses increase, all too clearly,
at speeds close to light.
Well, his relatives’ might,
but mine grow their m(*****) more stilly!



Relative Theory II
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein’s peculiar theory
excludes all my relatives, clearly,
since my relatives’ *****
increase their prone masses
while approaching light speed—not nearly!



Relative Theory III
by Michael R. Burch

Relativity, we’re led to believe,
proves masses increase with great speed.
But it seems my huge family
must be an anomaly;
since their (m)***** increase, gone to seed!



A Child’s Christmas Prayer of Despair for a Hindu Saint

Santa Claus,
for Christmas, please,
don’t bring me toys, or games, or candy . . .
just . . . Santa, please,
I’m on my knees! . . .
please don’t let Jesus torture Gandhi!

Will Jesus Christ cause or allow Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi to be tortured in an "eternal hell" for guessing wrong about which earthly religion to believe? What about Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan, who put aside religious differences to practice compassion? Did Jesus, who saved all his sternest criticism for hypocrites, talk the talk but fail to walk the walk himself? Or did Christian theologians get something very, very wrong? And what would Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny say about such intolerance and infinite cruelty?  




The Top Ten Einstein Quotations: The Wit and Wisdom of Albert Einstein

You never truly understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother.

We all know that light travels faster than sound. That's why certain people appear bright until we hear them speak.

Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity (and I'm not sure about the former) .

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

An intellectual solves a problem. A genius avoids it.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love!

Keywords/Tags: Albert Einstein, poet, poems, poetry, relativity, physics, love, time, genius, stupidity, universe, light
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
Next page