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The State of the Art
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Must poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?

Keywords/Tags: poetry, art, rhyme, reason, meter, rhythm, form, sonnets, fire, passion, Latin, stale, outdated, past, tense, readers, readership, write, writing, poems, poets, bards, readers, words, creation, motion



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

How can I write and not be true
to the rhythm that wells within?
How can the ocean not be blue,
not buck with the clapboard slap of tide,
the clockwork shock of wave on rock,
the motion creation stirs within?

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



The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

To at last be indestructible, a poem
must first glow, almost flammable, upon
a thing inert, as gray, as dull as stone,

then bend this way and that, and slowly cool
at arms-length, something irreducible
drawn out with caution, toughened in a pool

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it―water instantly a mist.
It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness ...

And then the driven hammer falls and falls.
The horses ***** their ears in nearby stalls.
A soldier on his cot leans back and smiles.

A sound of ancient import, with the ring
of honest labor, sings of fashioning.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

"What will you conceive in me?"
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

"Naked, I bore your child
when the wolf wind howled,
when the cold moon scowled . . .

naked, and gladly."
"What will become of me?"
I asked her, as she

absently stroked my hand.
Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered, "I Am."

Originally published by Unlikely Stories
Aug 5 · 155
R.I.P.
R.I.P.
by Michael R. Burch

When I am lain to rest
and my soul is no longer intact,
but dissolving, like a sunset
diminishing to the west ...

and when at last
before His throne my past
is put to test
and the demons and the Beast

await to feast
on any morsel downward cast,
while the vapors of impermanence
cling, smelling of damask ...

then let me go, and do not weep
if I am left to sleep,
to sleep and never dream, or dream, perhaps,
only a little longer and more deep.

Published by Romantics Quarterly and The Chained Muse. This is an early poem from my “Romantic Period” that was probably written in my late teens. Keywords/Tags: death, eternity, eternal rest, sunset, west, demons, beast, judgment, sleep, dream, nightfall, night, throne, vapor, vapors, impermanence
Aug 3 · 209
Resurrecting Passion
Resurrecting Passion
by Michael R. Burch

Last night, while dawn was far away
and rain streaked gray, tumescent skies,
as thunder boomed and lightning railed,
I conjured words, where passion failed ...

But, oh, that you were mine tonight,
sprawled in this bed, held in these arms,
your ******* pale baubles in my hands,
our bodies bent to old demands ...

Such passions we might resurrect,
if only time and distance waned
and brought us back together; now
I pray that this might be, somehow.

But time has left us twisted, torn,
and we are more apart than miles.
How have you come to be so far—
as distant as an unseen star?

So that, while dawn is far away,
my thoughts might not return to you,
I feed your portrait to the flames,
but as they feast, I burn for you.

Published in Songs of Innocence and The Chained Muse. Keywords/Tags: resurrecting, passion, desire, lust, ***, night, dawn, rain, thunder, lightning, bodies, *******, arms, portrait, flames
Aug 3 · 155
Remembrance
Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch

a coronavirus poem

Remembrance like a river rises;
the rain of recollection falls;
frail memories, like vines, entangled,
cling to Time's collapsing walls.

The past is like a distant mist,
the future like a far-off haze,
the present half-distinct an hour
before it blurs with unseen days.

Published by Romantics Quarterly. Keywords/Tags: coronavirus, remembrance, memory, memories, recollection, time, rain, river, mist, haze, blurs, past, present, future
The Song of Amergin: Modern English Translations

The Song of Amergin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am the sea breeze
I am the ocean wave
I am the surf's thunder
I am the stag of the seven tines
I am the cliff hawk
I am the sunlit dewdrop
I am the fairest flower
I am the rampaging boar
I am the swift-swimming salmon
I am the placid lake
I am the excellence of art
I am the vale echoing voices
I am the battle-hardened spearhead
I am the God who gave you fire
Who knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen
Who understands the cycles of the moon
Who knows where the sunset settles ...



The Song of Amergin
an original poem by Michael R. Burch

He was our first bard
and we feel in his dim-remembered words
the moment when Time blurs . . .

and he and the Sons of Mil
heave oars as the breakers mill
till at last Ierne―green, brooding―nears,

while Some implore seas cold, fell, dark
to climb and swamp their flimsy bark
. . . and Time here also spumes, careers . . .

while the Ban Shee shriek in awed dismay
to see him still the sea, this day,
then seek the dolmen and the gloam.



The Song of Amergin II
a more imaginative translation by Michael R. Burch

after Robert Bridges

I am the stag of the seven tines;
I am the bull of the seven battles;
I am the boar of the seven bristles;

I am the wide flood cresting plains;
I am the wind sweeping deep waters;
I am the salmon swimming in the shallow pool;

I am the dewdrop lit by the sun;
I am the fairest of flowers;
I am the crystalline fountain;

I am the hawk shrieking after its prey;
I am the demon ablaze in the campfire ashes;
I am the battle-waging spearhead;

I am the vale echoing voices;
I am the sea's roar;
I am the rising sea wave;

I am the meaning of poetry;
I am the God who inspires your prayers;
I am the hope of heaven;

Who else knows the ages of the moon?
Who else knows where the sunset settles?
Who else knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?

Translator's Notes:

The "Song of Amergin" and its origins remain mysteries for the ages. The ancient poem, perhaps the oldest extant poem to originate from the British Isles, or perhaps not, was written by an unknown poet at an unknown time at an unknown location. The unlikely date 1268 BC was furnished by Robert Graves, who translated the "Song of Amergin" in his influential book The White Goddess (1948). Graves remarked that "English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin." The poem has been described as an invocation and a mystical chant.

I did not attempt to fully translate the ending of the poem. I have read several other translations and it seems none of them agree. I went with my "gut" impression of the poem, which is that the "I am" lines refer to God and his "all in all" nature, a belief which is common to the mystics of many religions. I stopped with the last line that I felt I understood and will leave the remainder of the poem to others. The poem reminds me of the Biblical god Yahweh/Jehovah revealing himself to Moses as "I am that I am" and to Job as a mystery beyond human comprehension. If that's what the author intended, I tip my hat to him, because despite all the intervening centuries and the evolution of the language, the message still comes through quite well. If I'm wrong, I have no idea what the poem is about, but I still like it.

Who wrote the poem? That's a very good question and the answers seem speculative to me. Amergin has been said to be a Milesian, or one of the sons of Mil who allegedly invaded and conquered Ireland sometime in the island's deep, dark past. The Milesians were (at least theoretically) Spanish Gaels. According to the Wikipedia page:

Amergin Glúingel ("white knees"), also spelled Amhairghin Glúngheal or Glúnmar ("big knee"), was a bard, druid and judge for the Milesians in the Irish Mythological Cycle. He was appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland by his two brothers the kings of Ireland. A number of poems attributed to Amergin are part of the Milesian mythology. One of the seven sons of Míl Espáine, he took part in the Milesian conquest of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann, in revenge for their great-uncle Íth, who had been treacherously killed by the three kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine. They landed at the estuary of Inber Scéne, named after Amergin's wife Scéne, who had died at sea. The three queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann, (Banba, Ériu and Fódla), gave, in turn, permission for Amergin and his people to settle in Ireland. Each of the sisters required Amergin to name the island after each of them, which he did: Ériu is the origin of the modern name Éire, while Banba and Fódla are used as poetic names for Ireland, much as Albion is for Great Britain. The Milesians had to win the island by engaging in battle with the three kings, their druids and warriors. Amergin acted as an impartial judge for the parties, setting the rules of engagement. The Milesians agreed to leave the island and retreat a short distance back into the ocean beyond the ninth wave, a magical boundary. Upon a signal, they moved toward the beach, but the druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann raised a magical storm to keep them from reaching land. However, Amergin sang an invocation calling upon the spirit of Ireland that has come to be known as The Song of Amergin, and he was able to part the storm and bring the ship safely to land. There were heavy losses on all sides, with more than one major battle, but the Milesians carried the day. The three kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann were each killed in single combat by three of the surviving sons of Míl, Eber Finn, Érimón and Amergin.

It has been suggested that the poem may have been "adapted" by Christian copyists of the poem, perhaps monks. An analogy might be the ancient Celtic myths that were "christianized" into tales of King Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad and the Holy Grail.

Keywords/Tags: Amergin, song, translation, Ireland, Irish, Celtic, Gaelic, Gaels, Milesian, Druid, Banshee
Jul 26 · 53
Princess Diana Poems
PRINCESS DIANA POEMS

Fairest Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Fairest Diana, princess of dreams,
born to be loved and yet distant and lone,
why did you linger―so solemn, so lovely―
an orchid ablaze in a crevice of stone?

Was not your heart meant for tenderest passions?
Surely your lips―for wild kisses, not vows!
Why then did you languish, though lustrous, becoming
a pearl of enchantment cast before sows?

Fairest Diana, as fragile as lilac,
as willful as rainfall, as true as the rose;
how did a stanza of silver-bright verse
come to be bound in a book of dull prose?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Journal and Night Roses



Will There Be Starlight
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?



She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in a pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still,
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
we had nothing left...
yet we smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.



The Peripheries of Love
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above us―the sagging pavilions of clouds.
Below us―rough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a ******
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved...
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near―

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.



The Aery Faery Princess
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff―
the down of a thistle, butterflies’ wings,
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings,
moonbeams on garlands, stands of bright hair...
I think she’s just you when you’re floating on air.



I Pray Tonight
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
by day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.



Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar 1460-1525
loose 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 death is 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: Princess, Princess Diana, England, England's Rose, English, Royal, Royals, British Royal Family
Princess, Princess Diana, England, England's Rose, English, Royal, Royals, British Royal Family
Jul 25 · 85
Peace Prayer
Peace Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

for Jim Dunlap

Be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.

Be one with the buffalo cropping the grass to a safer height.

Seek the composure of the great depths, barely moved by exterior storms.

Lift your face to the dawning light; feel how it warms.

And be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.

Published by Hibiscus (India), Ethos Literary Journal and Mad Hatter. Keywords/Tags: peace, prayer, hope, spiritual, benediction, meditation, ohm, calm, calmness, silent, silence, still, stillness, quiet, serene, serenity, composed, composure, warmth, tranquility
Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus

Keywords/Tags: Einstein, Adolph, ******, Berlin, Jew, Jews, Arab, Arabs, Palestinian, Palestinians, Vietnam, Vietnamese, American, Americans, Yankees, Domino, Theory, Dominoes, Jesus, Christ, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Slave, Slaves, Slavery, Israel, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
Jul 21 · 139
Reflections
Reflections
by Michael R. Burch

I am her mirror.
I say she is kind,
lovely, breathtaking.
She screams that I’m blind.

I show her her beauty,
her brilliance and compassion.
She refuses to believe me,
for that’s the latest fashion.

She storms and she rages;
she dissolves into tears
while envious Angels
are, by God, her only Peers.

Keywords/Tags: reflection, mirror, image, anorexia, bulimia, cutting, reflections, self-image, self-worth, self-criticism, self-shaming, mrbref
Jul 18 · 68
Family Poems
Family Poems: Poems about Mothers, Fathers, Children, Sons, Daughters, Grandparents, Grandmothers and Grandfathers



Mother's Smile
by Michael R. Burch

There never was a fonder smile
than mother's smile, no softer touch
than mother's touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than "much."

So more than "much, " much more than "all."
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother's there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father's back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother's tender smile
will leap and follow after you!

Originally published by TALESetc



Success
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

We need our children to keep us humble
between toast and marmalade;

there is no time for a ticker-tape parade
before bed, no award, no bright statuette

to be delivered for mending skinned knees,
no wild bursts of approval for shoveling snow.

A kiss is the only approval they show;
to leave us—the first great success they achieve.



The Desk
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

There is a child I used to know
who sat, perhaps, at this same desk
where you sit now, and made a mess
of things sometimes.I wonder how
he learned at all...

He saw T-Rexes down the hall
and dreamed of trains and cars and wrecks.
He dribbled phantom basketballs,
shot spitwads at his schoolmates' necks.

He played with pasty Elmer's glue
(and sometimes got the glue on you!).
He earned the nickname "teacher's PEST."

His mother had to come to school
because he broke the golden rule.
He dreaded each and every test.

But something happened in the fall—
he grew up big and straight and tall,
and now his desk is far too small;
so you can have it.

One thing, though—

one swirling autumn, one bright snow,
one gooey tube of Elmer's glue...
and you'll outgrow this old desk, too.

Originally published by TALESetc



A True Story
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Jeremy hit the ball today,
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away
a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!)

Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across our neighbor's yard.
So very hard across her yard
the bat that boomed a mighty "THWACK! "
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.

Originally published by TALESetc



Picturebook Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira

We had a special visitor.
Our world became suddenly brighter.
She was such a charmer!
Such a delighter!

With her sparkly diamond slippers
and the way her whole being glows,
Keira's a picturebook princess
from the points of her crown to the tips of her toes!



The Aery Faery Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira

There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff—
the down of a thistle, butterflies' wings,
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings,
moonbeams on garlands, strands of bright hair...
I think she's just you when you're floating on air!



Tallen the Mighty Thrower
by Michael R. Burch

Tallen the Mighty Thrower
is a hero to turtles, geese, ducks...
they splash and they cheer
when he tosses bread near
because, you know, eating grass *****!



Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Cherubic laugh; sly, impish grin;
Angelic face; wild chimp within.

It does not matter; sleep awhile
As soft mirth tickles forth a smile.

Gray moths will hum a lullaby
Of feathery wings, then you and I

Will wake together, by and by.

Life's not long; those days are best
Spent snuggled to a loving breast.

The earth will wait; a sun-filled sky
Will bronze lean muscle, by and by.

Soon you will sing, and I will sigh,
But sleep here, now, for you and I

Know nothing but this lullaby.



Sappho's Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Hushed yet melodic, the hills and the valleys
sleep unaware of the nightingale's call,
while the pale calla lilies lie
listening,
glistening...
this is their night, the first night of fall.

Son, tonight, a woman awaits you;
she is more vibrant, more lovely than spring.
She'll meet you in moonlight,
soft and warm,
all alone...
then you'll know why the nightingale sings.

Just yesterday the stars were afire;
then how desire flashed through my veins!
But now I am older;
night has come,
I’m alone...
for you I will sing as the nightingale sings.

NOTE: The calla lily symbolizes beauty, purity, innocence, faithfulness and true devotion. According to Greek mythology, when the Milky Way was formed by the goddess Hera’s breast milk, the drops that fell to earth became calla lilies.



Limericks

There once was a leopardess, Dot,
who indignantly answered: "I'll not!
The gents are impressed
with the way that I'm dressed.
I wouldn't change even one spot."
—Michael R. Burch

There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can't sing,
but now, here's the thing—
just think of the tunes you can carry! "
—Michael R. Burch



Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?

Originally published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK)



Keep Up
by Michael R. Burch

Keep Up!
Daddy, I'm walking as fast as I can;
I'll move much faster when I'm a man...

Time unwinds
as the heart reels,
as cares and loss and grief plummet,
as faith unfailing ascends the summit
and heartache wheels
like a leaf in the wind.

Like a rickety cart wheel
time revolves through the yellow dust,
its creakiness revoking trust,
its years emblazoned in cold hard steel.

Keep Up!
Son, I'm walking as fast as I can;
take it easy on an old man.



Poems for Older Children

Reflex
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Some intuition of her despair
for her lost brood,
as though a lost fragment of song
torn from her flat breast,
touched me there...

I felt, unable to hear
through the bright glass,
the being within her melt
as her unseemly tirade
left a feather or two
adrift on the wind-ruffled air.

Where she will go,
how we all err,
why we all fear
for the lives of our children,
I cannot pretend to know.

But, O!,
how the unappeased glare
of omnivorous sun
over crimson-flecked snow
makes me wish you were here.



Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the ***** Toad)
by Michael R. Burch

He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes)ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously), and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad's...
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats...
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted,
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.



Limericks

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride? "
"Nevermore! " bright-eyed Raven replied.
—Michael R. Burch



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.



Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

I remember how my grandfather used to pick poke salat...
though first, usually, he'd stretch back in the front porch swing,
dangling his long thin legs, watching the sweat bees drone,
talking about poke salat—
how easy it was to find if you knew where to look for it...
standing in dew-damp clumps by the side of a road, shockingly green,
straddling fence posts, overflowing small ditches,
crowding out the less-hardy nettles.

"Nobody knows that it's there, lad, or that it's fit tuh eat
with some bacon drippin's or lard."

"Don't eat the berries. You see—the berry's no good.
And you'd hav'ta wash the leaves a good long time."

"I'd boil it twice, less'n I wus in a hurry.
Lawd, it's tough to eat, chile, if you boil it jest wonst."

He seldom was hurried; I can see him still...
silently mowing his yard at eighty-eight,
stooped, but with a tall man's angular gray grace.

Sometimes he'd pause to watch me running across the yard,
trampling his beans,
dislodging the shoots of his tomato plants.

He never grew flowers; I never laughed at his jokes about The Depression.

Years later I found the proper name—"pokeweed"—while perusing a dictionary.
Surprised, I asked why anyone would eat a ****.
I still can hear his laconic reply...

"Well, chile, s'm'times them times wus hard."



Of Civilization and Disenchantment
by Michael R. Burch

for Anais Vionet

Suddenly uncomfortable
to stay at my grandfather's house—
actually his third new wife's,
in her daughter's bedroom
—one interminable summer
with nothing to do,
all the meals served cold,
even beans and peas...

Lacking the words to describe
ah!, those pearl-luminous estuaries—
strange omens, incoherent nights.

Seeing the flares of the river barges
illuminating Memphis,
city of bluffs and dying splendors.

Drifting toward Alexandria,
Pharos, Rhakotis, Djoser's fertile delta,
lands at the beginning of a new time and "civilization."

Leaving behind sixty miles of unbroken cemetery,
Alexander's corpse floating seaward,
bobbing, milkwhite, in a jar of honey.

Memphis shall be waste and desolate,
without an inhabitant.
Or so the people dreamed, in chains.



Neglect
by Michael R. Burch

What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?

What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action?
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?

Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?

I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing...
mournful, and distant.

How pitiful our "effort, "
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.



Passages on Fatherhood
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

He is my treasure,
and by his happiness I measure
my own worth.

Four years old,
with diamonds and gold
bejeweled in his soul.

His cherubic beauty
is felicity
to simplicity and passion—

for a baseball thrown
or an ice-cream cone
or eggshell-blue skies.

It's hard to be "wise"
when the years
career through our lives

and bees in their hives
test faith
and belief

while Time, the great thief,
with each falling leaf
foreshadows grief.

The wisdom of the ages
and prophets and mages
and doddering sages

is useless
unless
it encompasses this:

his kiss.



Boundless
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Every day we whittle away at the essential solidity of him,
and every day a new sharp feature emerges:
a feature we'll spend creative years: planing, smoothing, refining,

trying to find some new Archaic Torso of Apollo, or Thinker...

And if each new day a little of the boisterous air of youth is deflated
in him, if the hours of small pleasures spent chasing daffodils
in the outfield as the singles become doubles, become triples,
become unconscionable errors, become victories lost,

become lives wasted beyond all possible hope of repair...

if what he was becomes increasingly vague—like a white balloon careening
into clouds; like a child striding away aggressively toward manhood,
hitching an impressive rucksack over sagging, sloping shoulders,
shifting its vaudevillian burden back and forth,

then pausing to look back at us with an almost comical longing...

if what he wants is only to be held a little longer against a forgiving *****;
to chase after daffodils in the outfield regardless of scores;
to sail away like a balloon
on a firm string, always sure to return when the line tautens,

till he looks down upon us from some removed height we cannot quite see,

bursting into tears over us:
what, then, of our aspirations for him, if he cannot breathe,
cannot rise enough to contemplate the earth with his own vision,
unencumbered, but never untethered, forsaken...

cannot grow brightly, steadily, into himself—flying beyond us?



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



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



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



Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch

We'd like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard,
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps,
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy "boo-boo!, " only two.

We'd like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile,
that baseball's just as fun with just one arm,
that God is always Just, that girls will smile,
not frown down at his thousand livid scars,
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.

We do not want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks,
that lips aren't easily fashioned, that his smile's
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears,
when tears are out of fashion. O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life's Mysteries...

Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, "It's me I see. Just me."

He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures.
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms



Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who was born
on September 11, 2001 and died at the age of nine,
shot to death...

Child of 9-11, beloved,
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown,
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm — I hope you hear it.

Much love I bring — I lay it down
here by your form, which is not you,
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.

Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the vicious things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.

And so I make this pledge and vow:
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.

Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short... bereaved,
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here...

I give my all: my pen, this tear,
this lily and this eiderdown,
and all soft things my heart can bear;
I bear them to your final bier,
and leave them with my promise, here.

Originally published by The Flea



For a Sandy Hook Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow...
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

―for the mothers and children of the Holocaust and Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon's table
with anguished eyes
like your mother's eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother's hand
for a last bewildered kiss...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother's lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears...



This is, I believe, the second poem I wrote. Or at least it's the second one that I can remember. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.

Playmates
by Michael R. Burch

WHEN you were my playmate and I was yours,
we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and the sorrows and cares of our indentured days
were uncomprehended... far, far away...
for the temptations and trials we had yet to face
were lost in the shadows of an unventured maze.

Then simple pleasures were easy to find
and if they cost us a little, we didn't mind;
for even a penny in a pocket back then
was one penny too many, a penny to spend.

Then feelings were feelings and love was just love,
not a strange, complex mystery to be understood;
while "sin" and "damnation" meant little to us,
since forbidden batter was our only lust!

Then we never worried about what we had,
and we were both sure-what was good, what was bad.
And we sometimes quarreled, but we didn't hate;
we seldom gave thought to injustice, or fate.

Then we never thought about the next day,
for tomorrow seemed hidden—adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past,
and wondered, at times, why things didn't last.

Still, we never worried about getting by,
and we didn't know that we were to die...
when we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and I was your playmate, and we were boys.



Children
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
suspended in time like a swelling drop of dew about to fall,
impendent, pregnant with possibility...

when we might have made...
anything,
anything we dreamed,
almost anything at all,
coalescing dreams into reality.

Oh, the love we might have fashioned
out of a fine mist and the nightly sparkle of the cosmos
and the rhythms of evening!

But we were young,
and what might have been is now a dark abyss of loss
and what is left is not worth saving.

But, oh, you were lovely,
child of the wild moonlight, attendant tides and doting stars,
and for a day,

what little we partook
of all that lay before us seemed so much,
and passion but a force
with which to play.



Kindergarten
by Michael R. Burch

Will we be children as puzzled tomorrow—
our lessons still not learned?
Will we surrender over to sorrow?
How many times must our fingers be burned?

Will we be children sat in the corner
over and over again?
How long will we linger, playing Jack Horner?
Or will we learn, and when?

Will we be children wearing the dunce cap,
giggling and playing the fool,
re-learning our lessons forever and ever,
never learning the golden rule?



Life Sentence or Fall Well
by Michael R. Burch

... I swim, my Daddy's princess, newly crowned,
toward a gurgly Maelstrom... if I drown
will Mommy stick the Toilet Plunger down

to **** me up?... She sits upon Her Throne,
Imperious (denying we were one),
and gazes down and whispers "precious son"...

... the Plunger worked; i'm two, and, if not blessed,
still Mommy got the Worst Stuff off Her Chest;
a Vacuum Pump, They say, will do the rest...

... i'm three; yay! whee! oh good! it's time to play!
(oh no, I think there's Others on the way;
i'd better pray)...

... i'm four; at night I hear the Banging Door;
She screams; sometimes there's Puddles on the Floor;
She wants to **** us, or, She wants some More...

... it's great to be alive if you are five (unless you're me) :
my Mommy says: "you're WRONG! don't disagree!
don't make this HURT ME! "...

... i'm six; They say i'm tall, yet Time grows Short;
we have a thriving Family; Abort! ;
a tadpole's ripping Mommy's Room apart...

... i'm seven; i'm in heaven; it feels strange;
I saw my life go gurgling down the Drain;
another Noah built a Mighty Ark;
God smiled, appeased, a Rainbow split the Dark;

... I saw Bright Colors also, when She slammed
my head against the Tub, and then I swam
toward the magic tunnel... last, I heard...

is that She feels Weird.



Resurrecting Passion
by Michael R. Burch

Last night, while dawn was far away
and rain streaked gray, tumescent skies,
as thunder boomed and lightning railed,
I conjured words, where passion failed ...

But, oh, that you were mine tonight,
sprawled in this bed, held in these arms,
your ******* pale baubles in my hands,
our bodies bent to old demands ...

Such passions we might resurrect,
if only time and distance waned
and brought us back together; now
I pray that this might be, somehow.

But time has left us twisted, torn,
and we are more apart than miles.
How have you come to be so far—
as distant as an unseen star?

So that, while dawn is far away,
my thoughts might not return to you,
I feed your portrait to the flames,
but as they feast, I burn for you.

Published in Songs of Innocence and The Chained Muse.



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

How can I write and not be true
to the rhythm that wells within?
How can the ocean not be blue,
not buck with the clapboard slap of tide,
the clockwork shock of wave on rock,
the motion creation stirs within?

Originally published by The Lyric



Published as the collection "Family Poems"

Keywords/Tags: Family, Mothers, Fathers, Children, Sons, Daughters, Grandparents, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, mrbch
Jul 15 · 119
honeydew
honeybee
by michael r. burch

love was a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and (sometimes) to sting

###

honeydew
by michael r. burch

i sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle!

###

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too.

Keywords/Tags: love, bee, honeybee, honey, rhyme, haiku, nature, treble, song, sing, singer, sting, stinger, barb, poison
Ascendant Transcendent
Ascendance Transcendence
by Michael R. Burch

Breaching the summit
I reach
the horizon’s last rays.

This is a poem about unexpectedly glimpsing the raw beauty of the universe, which comes like an unexpected blessing.



Sudden Shower
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You're too perfect for words―
a problem for a poet.



yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #1
by michael r. burch

plagued by the Plague
i plague the goldfish
with my verse



yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #2
by michael r. burch

sunflowers
hang their heads
embarrassed by their coronas

I wrote this poem after having a sunflower arrangement delivered to my mother, who is in an assisted living center and can't have visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.



homework: yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #3
by michael r. burch

dim bulb overhead,
my silent companion:
still imitating the noonday sun?



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Splintering

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
―Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



New World Order
by Michael R. Burch

The days of the dandelions dawn...
soon man will be gone:
lawn fertilizer.



Translations

I entered the world empty-handed
and leave it barefoot.
My coming and going?
Two uncomplicated events
that became entangled.
―Kozan Ichikyo (1283-1360), translation by Michael R. Burch

“Isn’t it time,”
the young bride asks,
“to light the lantern?”
―Ochi Etsujin (1656-1739), translation by Michael R. Burch

Brittle cicada shell,
little did I know
you were my life!
―Shuho (?-1767), translation by Michael R. Burch

Bury me beneath a wine barrel
in a bibber’s cellar:
with a little luck the keg will leak.
―Moriya Senan (?-1838), translation by Michael R. Burch

Learn to accept the inevitable:
the fall willow
knows when to abandon its leaves.
―Tanehiko (1782-1842), translation by Michael R. Burch

Darkness speaks―
a bat in flight
flits through a thicket.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I’m tired,
so please be so kind as to swat the flies
softly.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: haiku, Japanese, translation, transcendent, Oriental, imagery, metaphor, nature, coronavirus, plague, life, death, nature, ascension day, beauty, eyes, perfection, universe
Jul 1 · 209
Animal Poems
Dot Spotted
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a leopardess, Dot,
who indignantly answered: "I’ll not!
The gents are impressed
with the way that I’m dressed.
I wouldn’t change even one spot."

###

Stage Craft-y
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can’t sing,
but now, here’s the thing—
just think of the tunes you can carry!"

###

Clyde Lied!
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.

###

Generation Gap
by Michael R. Burch

A quahog clam,
age 405,
said, “Hey, it’s great
to be alive!”

I disagreed,
not feeling nifty,
babe though I am,
just pushing fifty.

Note: A quahog clam found off the coast of Ireland is the longest-lived animal on record, at an estimated age of 405 years.

###

Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

###

Where Does the Butterfly Go?
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

###

Haiku

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

###

Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the ***** Toad)
by Michael R. Burch

He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes) ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously), and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad’s . . .
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats . . .
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted,
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.

###

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.

###

Dog Daze: Poems for and about Man's Best Friend

Dog Daze
by Michael R. Burch

Sweet Oz is a soulful snuggler;
he really is one of the best.
Sometimes in bed
he snuggles my head,
though mostly he plops on my chest.

I think Oz was made to love
from the first ray of light to the dark,
but his great love for me
is exceeded (oh gee!)
by his Truly Great Passion: to Bark.

###

Epitaph for a Lambkin
by Michael R. Burch

for Melody, the prettiest, sweetest and fluffiest dog ever

Now that Melody has been laid to rest
Angels will know what it means to be blessed.

Amen

###

This Dog
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Each morning this dog,
who has become quite attached to me,
sits silently at my feet
until, gently caressing his head,
I acknowledge his company.

This simple recognition gives my companion such joy
he shudders with sheer delight.

Among all languageless creatures
he alone has seen through man entire—
has seen beyond what is good or bad in him
to such a depth he can lay down his life
for the sake of love alone.

Now it is he who shows me the way
through this unfathomable world throbbing with life.

When I see his deep devotion,
his offer of his whole being,
I fail to comprehend ...

How, through sheer instinct,
has he discovered whatever it is that he knows?

With his anxious piteous looks
he cannot communicate his understanding
and yet somehow has succeeded in conveying to me
out of the entire creation
the true loveworthiness of man.

###

My Dog Died
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My dog died;
so I buried him in the backyard garden
next to some rusted machine.

One day I'll rejoin him, over there,
but for now he's gone
with his shaggy mane, his crude manners and his cold, clammy nose,
while I, the atheist who never believed
in any heaven for human beings,
now believe in a paradise I'm unfit to enter.

Yes, I somehow now believe in a heavenly kennel
where my dog awaits my arrival
wagging his tail in furious friendship!

But I'll not indulge in sadness here:
why bewail a companion
who was never servile?

His friendship was more like that of a porcupine
preserving its prickly autonomy.

His was the friendship of a distant star
with no more intimacy than true friendship called for
and no false demonstrations:
he never clambered over me
coating my clothes with mange;
he never assaulted my knee
like dogs obsessed with ***.

But he used to gaze up at me,
giving me the attention my ego demanded,
while helping this vainglorious man
understand my concerns were none of his.

Aye, and with those bright eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd gaze up at me
contentedly;
it was a look he reserved for me alone
all his entire sweet, gentle life,
always merely there, never troubling me,
never demanding anything.

Aye, and often I envied his energetic tail
as we strode the shores of Isla Negra together,
in winter weather, wild birds swarming skyward
as my golden-maned friend leapt about,
supercharged by the sea's electric surges,
sniffing away wildly, his tail held *****,
his face suffused with the salt spray.

Joy! Joy! Joy!
As only dogs experience joy
in the shameless exuberance
of their guiltless spirits.

Thus there are no sad good-byes
for my dog who died;
we never once lied to each other.

He died, he's gone, I buried him;
that's all there is to it.

###

Excoriation of a Treat Slave
by Michael R. Burch

I am his Highness’s dog at Kew.
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
—Alexander Pope

We practice our fierce Yapping,
for when the treat slaves come
they’ll grant Us our desire.
(They really are that dumb!)

They’ll never catch Us napping —
our Ears pricked, keen and sharp.
When they step into Our parlor,
We’ll leap awake, and Bark.

But one is rather doltish;
he doesn’t understand
the meaning of Our savage,
imperial, wild Command.

The others are quite docile
and bow to Us on cue.
We think the dull one wrote a poem
about some Dog from Kew

who never grasped Our secret,
whose mind stayed think, and dark.
It’s a question of obedience
conveyed by a Lordly Bark.

But as for playing fetch,
well, that’s another matter.
We think the dullard’s also
as mad as any hatter

and doesn’t grasp his duty
to fling Us slobbery *****
which We’d return to him, mincingly,
here in Our royal halls.

###

Wickett
by Michael R. Burch

Wickett, sweet Ewok,
Wickett, old Soul,
Wicket, brave Warrior,
though no longer whole . . .

You gave us your All.
You gave us your Best.
You taught us to Love,
like all of the Blessed

Angels and Saints
of good human stock.
You barked the Great Bark.
You walked the True Walk.

Now Wickett, dear Child
and incorrigible Duffer,
we commend you to God
that you no longer suffer.

May you dash through the Stars
like the Wickett of old
and never feel hunger
and never know cold

and be reunited
with all our Good Tribe —
with Harmony and Paw-Paw
and Mary beside.

Go now with our Love
as the great Choir sings
that Wickett, our Wickett,
has at last earned his Wings!

###

The Resting Place
by Michael R. Burch

for Harmony

Sleep, then, child;
you were dearly loved.

Sleep, and remember
her well-loved face,

strong arms that would lift you,
soft hands that would move

with love’s infinite grace,
such tender caresses!



When autumn came early,
you could not stay.

Now, wherever you wander,
the wildflowers bloom

and love is eternal.
Her heart’s great room

is your resting place.



Await by the door
her remembered step,

her arms’ warm embraces,
that gathered you in.

Sleep, child, and remember.
Love need not regret

its moment of weakness,
for that is its strength,

And when you awaken,
she will be there,

smiling,
at the Rainbow Bridge.

###

Bed Head, or, the Ballad of
Beth and her Fur Babies
by Michael R. Burch

When Beth and her babies
prepare for “good night”
sweet rituals of kisses
and cuddles commence.

First Wickett, the eldest,
whose mane has grown light
with the wisdom of age
and advanced senescence
is tucked in, “just right.”

Then Mary, the mother,
is smothered with kisses
in a way that befits
such an angelic missus.

Then Melody, lambkin,
and sweet, soulful Oz
and cute, clever Xander
all clap their clipped paws
and follow sweet Beth
to their high nightly roost
where they’ll sleep on her head
(or, perhaps, her caboose).

###

Lady’s Favor: the Noble Ballad of Sir Dog and the Butterfly
by Michael R. Burch

Sir was such a gallant man!
When he saw his Lady cry
and beg him to send her a Butterfly,
what else could he do, but comply?

From heaven, he found a Monarch
regal and able to defy
north winds and a chilly sky;
now Sir has his wings and can fly!

When our gallant little dog Sir was unable to live any longer, my wife Beth asked him send her a sign, in the form of a butterfly, that Sir and her mother were reunited and together in heaven. It was cold weather, in the thirties. We rarely see Monarch butterflies in our area, even in the warmer months. But after Sir had been put to sleep, to spare him any further suffering, Beth found a Monarch butterfly in our back yard. It appeared to be lifeless, but she brought it inside, breathed on it, and it returned to life. The Monarch lived with us for another five days, with Beth feeding it fruit juice and Gatorade on a Scrubbie that it could crawl on like a flower. Beth is convinced that Sir sent her the message she had requested.

###

Solo’s Watch
by Michael R. Burch

Solo was a stray
who found a safe place to stay
with a warm and loving band,
safe at last from whatever cruel hand
made him flinch in his dreams.

Now he wanders the clear-running streams
that converge at the Rainbow’s End
and the Bridge where kind Angels attend
to all souls who are ready to ascend.

And always he looks for those
who hugged him and held him close,
who kissed him and called him dear
and gave him a home free of fear,
to welcome them to his home, here.

Keywords/Tags: animals, nature, dog, dogs, love, lovers, cat, cats, bird, birds, butterfly, rainbow bridge, soul, soulful, friends, best friend, mrbanim
Jun 26 · 110
Heroin or Heroine?
****** or Heroine?
by Michael R. Burch

(for mothers battling addiction)

serve the Addiction;
worship the Beast;
feed the foul Pythons
your flesh, their fair feast ...

or rise up, resist
the huge many-headed hydra;
for the sake of your Loved Ones
decapitate medusa.

Keywords/Tags: drugs, addiction, user, ******, needle, tracks, marks, pain, despair, recovery
Caedmon's Hymn: a Modern English Translation of the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Poem

"Cædmon's Hymn" was composed sometime between 658 and 680 AD and appears to be the oldest extant poem in the English language. Information follows the poem for anyone who’s interested.

Cædmon's Hymn (circa 658-680 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Humbly now we honour heaven-kingdom's Guardian,
the Measurer's might and his mind-plans,
the goals of the Glory-Father. First he, the Everlasting Lord,
established earth's fearful foundations.
Then he, the First Scop, hoisted heaven as a roof
for the sons of men: Holy Creator,
mankind's great Maker! Then he, the Ever-Living Lord,
afterwards made men middle-earth: Master Almighty!

Translator's Notes: "Cædmon's Hymn" is one of the oldest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. By way of illustration, in the first line I have capitalized the repeating sounds:

Humbly Now we HoNour HeaveN-kiNGDom's GuarDiaN

In defense of my interpretation that Caedmon may have regarded God as a fellow Poet-Creator, please let me point out that the original poem employs the words scop and haleg scepen. Anglo-Saxon poets were called scops. The term haleg scepen seems to mean something like "Holy Poet" or "Holy Creator/Maker" because poets were considered to be creators and makers. Also the verb tīadæ has been said to mean something like "creatively adorned." So I don't think it's that much of a stretch to suggest that a Christian poet may have seen his small act of creation as an imitation of the far greater acts of creation of his Heavenly Father.

As in the original poem, each line of my translation has a caesura: a brief pause denoted by extra white space (which may not show up in some browsers). In each line, there are repeated vowel/consonant sounds. This alliteration gives alliterative verse its name. The original poem is also accentual verse, in that each line has four strong stresses, and the less-stressed syllables are not counted as they are in most other forms of English meter (such as iambic pentameter). My translation is not completely faithful to the original rules. For instance, I have employed a considerable amount of internal alliteration (which gives me more flexibility in the words I can employ). And some of my lines contain more than four stresses, although I think there are still four dominant stresses per line. For instance, in the first line: HONour, HEAVen, KINGdom's GUARDian. In the second line: MEASurer’s, MIGHT, MIND-PLANS. And so on. I don't think the technique is all-important. The main questions are whether the meaning is clear, and whether the words please the ear. Only you, the reader, can decide that, and you don't need a high-falutin' critic to tell you what you like!

I believe the poem is "biblical" in its vision of creation. According to the Bible, the earth was set on an immovable foundation by the hand of God. (Little did the ancient writers know that the earth is actually a spinning globe whizzing through space at phenomenal speeds!) We see this foundation in line four. Next, in line five, we see the hand of God creating the heavens above, where according to the Bible he then set the sun, moon and stars in place. (The ancient writers again got things wrong, saying that the earth existed first, in darkness, and that the sun, moon and stars were created later; we now know that the earth's heavier elements were created in the hearts of stars, so the stars existed long before the earth. The writers of Genesis even said that plants grew before the sun was formed, but of course they had never heard of photosynthesis.) The poem's last line sounds a bit more Germanic or Norse to me, since Middle Earth is a concept we hear in tales of Odin and Thor (and later in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien). But that makes sense because when Saint Augustine of Canterbury became the first Christian missionary to evangelize native Britons, I believe it was the policy of the Roman Catholic Church to incorporate local beliefs into the practice of Christianity. For instance, because sun gods were worshiped in Rome, the Sabbath day became Sun-day, and the birth of Christ became December the 25th (the day the winter sun is "resurrected" and the days begin to lengthen, heralding spring). So in northern climes we should expect to see some "fusion" of Norse and Germanic myths with Christianity. For instance, there was never a mention of "hell" in the Hebrew Bible; the Hebrew language did not even have a word that meant "hell" at the time the books of the Old Testament were written. The closest Hebrew word, Sheol, clearly means "the grave" and everyone went there when they died, good and bad. The Greek word Hades also means the grave, and likewise everyone went there when they died. Hades had heavenly regions like the Elysian Fields and Blessed Isles and thus was obviously not hell! "Hell" is a Norse term. If this subject interests you―for instance if someone has said you are in danger of "hell" and need to be "saved" from it―you many want to read my simple, logical proof that There Is No Hell in the Bible.

Keywords/Tags: Caedmon, Hymn, Old English, Anglo-Saxon, translation, God, religion, religious, praise, worship, oldest poem, first poem
Sonnet: The Ruins of Balaclava
by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, barren Crimean land, these dreary shades
of castles―once your indisputable pride―
are now where ghostly owls and lizards hide
as blackguards arm themselves for nightly raids.
Carved into marble, regal boasts were made!
Brave words on burnished armor, gilt-applied!
Now shattered splendors long since cast aside
beside the dead here also brokenly laid.
The ancient Greeks set shimmering marble here.
The Romans drove wild Mongol hordes to flight.
The Mussulman prayed eastward, day and night.
Now owls and dark-winged vultures watch and leer
as strange black banners, flapping overhead,
mark where the past piles high its nameless dead.

Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest poet and as the national poet of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. He was also a dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator, professor and political activist. As a principal figure in Polish Romanticism, Mickiewicz has been compared to Byron and Goethe. Keywords/Tags: Mickiewicz, Poland, Polish, Balaclava, Crimea, war, warfare, castle, castles, knight, knights, armor, Greeks, Rome, Romans, Mongols, Mussulman, Muslims, death, destruction, ruin, ruins, romantic, romanticism, sonnet, depression, sorrow, grave, violence, mrbtr
Jun 13 · 106
escape!!!
escape!!!
by michael r. burch

for anaïs vionet

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.

Keywords/Tags: Coronavirus, Pandemic, Teen, Society, Humor, Hope, Social Distancing, Isolation, Family, Home, House, Escape, Escapism, Freedom, Plague, Boredom
Yasna 28, Verse 6
by Zarathustra/Zoroaster
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lead us to pure thought and truth
by your sacred word and long-enduring assistance,
O, eternal Giver of the gifts of righteousness.

O, wise Lord, grant us spiritual strength and joy;
help us overcome our enemies’ enmity!

Translator’s Note: The Gathas consist of 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathustra (Zoroaster), whose compositions may date as far back as 1700 BC, although there is no scholarly consensus as to when he lived. These hymns form the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy called the Yasna. The language employed, Gathic or Old Avestan, is related to the proto-Indo-Iranian and proto-Iranian languages and to Vedic Sanskrit. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy deems Zoroaster to have been the first philosopher. Zoroaster has also been called the father of ethics, the first rationalist and the first monotheist. In the original texts, Ahura Mazda means “wise Lord” or “Lord of Wisdom” while Vohuman/Vohu Manah represents pure thought and righteousness and Asha represents truth. Angra Mainyu was the chief evil entity, a precursor of Satan. Keywords/Tags: Zarathustra, Zoroaster, Yasna, Gathas, Avestan, mrbtr, Spiritual, Prayer, God, Righteousness, Holiness, Purity, Grace, Protection
Jun 9 · 154
Warming Her Pearls
Warming Her Pearls
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Warming her pearls, her *******
gleam like constellations.
Her belly is a bit rotund ...
she might have stepped out of a Rubens.

Published by Erosha, The Eclectic Muse, Muse Apprentice Guild, Nisqually Delta Review, Erbacce, Poetry Life & Times and Brief Poems. Keywords/Tags: warming, pearls, bath, *******, constellations, belly, rotund, Rubens, mrbsex, body, art, painting, ******, erotica, ****, ******, naked, flesh
Lament for the Makaris ("Lament for the Makers/Poets")
by William Dunbar [c. 1460-1530]
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

i who enjoyed good health and gladness
am overwhelmed now by life’s terrible sickness
and enfeebled with infirmity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

our presence here is mere vainglory;
the false world is but transitory;
the flesh is frail; the Fiend runs free ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

the state of man is changeable:
now sound, now sick, now blithe, now dull,
now manic, now devoid of glee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

no state on earth stands here securely;
as the wild wind shakes the willow tree,
so wavers this world’s vanity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

Death leads the knights into the field
(unarmored under helm and shield)
sole Victor of each red mêlée ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

that strange, despotic Beast
tears from its mother’s breast
the babe, full of benignity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

He takes the champion of the hour,
the captain of the highest tower,
the beautiful damsel in full flower ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

He spares no lord for his elegance,
nor clerk for his intelligence;
His dreadful stroke no man can flee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

artist, magician, scientist,
orator, debater, theologist,
must all conclude, so too, as we:
“how the fear of Death dismays me!”

in medicine the most astute
sawbones and surgeons all fall mute;
they cannot save themselves, or flee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

i see the Makers among the unsaved;
the greatest of Poets all go to the grave;
He does not spare them their faculty ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

i have seen the Monster pitilessly devour
our noble Chaucer, poetry’s flower,
and Lydgate and Gower (great Trinity!) ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

since He has taken my brothers all,
i know He will not let me live past the fall;
His next victim will be—poor unfortunate me!—
how the fear of Death dismays me!

there is no remedy for Death;
we all must prepare to relinquish breath
so that after we die, we may be set free
from “the fear of Death dismays me!”

This is my modern English translation of "Lament for the Makaris," an elegy by the great early Scottish poet William Dunbar [c. 1460-1530]. Dunbar was a court poet in the household of King James IV of Scotland. The Makaris were "makers," or poets. The original poem is a form of danse macabre, or "dance of death," in which people of all social classes are summoned by Death. The poem has a refrain: every fourth line is the Latin phrase "timor mortis conturbat me" ("the fear of death dismays me" or "disturbs/confounds me"). The poem was probably composed around 1508 A.D., when Dunbar was advancing in age and perhaps facing the prospect of death himself (it is not clear exactly when he died). In his famous poem Dunbar mentions other poets who passed away, including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lydgate, and John Gower. Dunbar is generally considered to have been the greatest Scottish poet before Robert Burns, and he is noted for his comedies, satires, and sometimes ribald language. Keywords/Tags: Dunbar, translation, Scottish, dialect, Scotland, lament, makaris,  makers, poets, mrbtr, danse, macabre, refrain, Latin, timor, mortis, conturbat, dirge, lamentation, eulogy, epitaph, death, dismay, sorrow, fear, terror, writing, death, evil, sympathy, sorrow



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

Between the prophecies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.
Deor's Lament

(Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.

Footnotes and Translator's Comments
by Michael R. Burch

Summary

"Deor's Lament" appears in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to around 960-990 AD. The poem may be considerably older than the manuscript, since many ancient poems were passed down ****** for generations before they were finally written down. The poem is a lament in which someone named Deor, presumably the poet who composed the poem, compares the loss of his job and prospects to seemingly far greater tragedies of the past. Thus "Deor's Lament" may be an early example of overstatement and/or "special pleading."

Author

The author is unknown but may have been an Anglo-Saxon scop (poet) named Deor. However it is also possible that the poem was written by someone else. We have no knowledge of a poet named "Deor" outside the poem.

Genre

"Deor's Lament" is, as its name indicates, a lament. The poem has also been classified as an Anglo-Saxon elegy or dirge. If the poet's name "was" Deor, does that mean he is no longer alive and is speaking to us from beyond the grave? "Deor" has also been categorized as an ubi sunt ("where are they now?") poem.

Theme

The poem's theme is one common to Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature: that a man cannot escape his fate and thus can only meet it with courage, resolve and fortitude.

Plot

Doer's name means "dear" and the poet puns on his name in the final stanza: "I was dear to my lord. My name was Deor." The name Deor may also has connotations of "noble" and "excellent." The plot of Deor's poem is simple and straightforward: other heroic figures of the past overcame adversity; so Deor may also be able to overcome the injustice done to him when his lord gave his position to a rival. It is even possible that Deor intended the poem to be a spell, incantation, curse or charm of sorts.

Techniques

"Deor's Lament" is an alliterative poem: it uses alliteration rather than meter to "create a flow" of words. This was typical of Anglo-Saxon poetry. “Deor's Lament" is one of the first Old English poems to employ a refrain, which it does quite effectively. What does the refrain "Thaes ofereode, thisses swa maeg" mean? Perhaps something like: "That was overcome, and so this may be overcome also." However, the refrain is ambiguous: perhaps the speaker believes things will work out the same way; or perhaps he is merely suggesting that things might work out for the best; or perhaps he is being ironical, knowing that they won't.

Interpretation

My personal interpretation of the poem is that the poet is employing irony. All the previously-mentioned heroes and heroines are dead. I believe Deor is already dead, or knows that he is an old man soon to also be dead. "Passed away" maybe a euphemism for "dead as a doornail." But I don't "know" this, and you are free to disagree and find your own interpretation of the poem.

Analysis of Characters and References

Weland/Welund is better known today as Wayland the Smith. (Beowulf's armor was said to have been fashioned by Weland.) According to an ancient Norse poem, Völundarkviða, Weland and his two brothers came upon three swan-maidens on a lake's shore, fell in love with them, and lived with them happily for seven years, until the swan-maidens flew away. His brothers left, but Weland stayed and turned to smithing, fashioning beautiful golden rings for the day of his swan-wife's return. King Nithuthr, hearing of this, took Weland captive, hamstrung him to keep him prisoner, and kept him enslaved on an island, forging fine things. Weland took revenge by killing Nithuthr's two sons and getting his daughter Beadohild pregnant. Finally Weland fashioned wings and flew away, sounding a bit like Icarus of Greek myth.

Maethhild (Matilda) and Geat (or "the Geat") are known to us from Scandianavian ballads. Magnild (Maethhild) was distressed because she foresaw that she would drown in a river. Gauti (Geat) replied that he would build a bridge over the river, but she responded that no one can flee fate. Sure enough, she drowned. Gauti then called for his harp, and, like a Germanic Orpheus, played so well that her body rose out of the waters. In one version she returned alive; in a darker version she returned dead, after which Gauti buried her properly and made harpstrings from her hair.

The Theodoric who ruled the Maerings for thirty years may have to be puzzled out. A ninth-century rune notes that nine generations prior a Theodric, lord of the Maerings, landed in Geatland and was killed there. In the early sixth century there was a Frankish king called Theoderic. But the connections seem tenuous, at best. Perhaps the thirty year rule is a clue to consider the Ostrogoth Theodoric, born around 451. He ruled Italy for around thirty years, until 526. Toward the end of his reign Theodoric, then in his seventies, named his infant grandson heir. There were rumours that members of his court were conspiring against his chosen successor. Furthermore, the Catholic church was opposing the Arian Theodoric. As a result of these tensions, several leading senators were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, including Boethius. It was while he was imprisoned and awaiting execution that Boethius wrote his famous Consolation of Philosophy. Theodoric's final years were unfortunately marked by suspicion and distrust, so he may be the ruler referred to by Deor.

Eormenric was another king of the Ostrogoths who died in about 375; according to Ammianus Marcellinus, he killed himself out of fear of the invading Huns. According to other Old Norse Eddic poems (Guðrúnarhvöt and Hamðismál, Iormunrekkr), Eormenric had his wife Svannhildr trampled by horses because he suspected her of sleeping with his son. So he might qualify as a "grim king" with "wolfish ways."

Deor has left no trace of himself, other than this poem. Heorrenda appears as Horant in a thirteenth century German epic Kudrun. It was said that Horant sang so sweetly that birds fell silent at his song, and fish and animals in the wood fell motionless. That would indeed make him a formidable opponent for the scop Deor.

Keywords/Tags: Deor, Lament, Old English, Anglo-Saxon, translation, scop, mrbtr, Weland, Wayland, smith, exile, fetters, dungeon
Jun 6 · 211
Longing
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,
once 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?

Keywords/Tags: life, evolution, love, desire, longing, passion, lust, ***, sexuality, relationship, chemistry, biology, hormones, appendages, orifices
For All That I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved ...
and yet I hold her close within my thought:
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could ...
I’d reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush

my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.

Published by The Raintown Review, The Eclectic Muse, Kritya, Gostinaya (in a Russian translation by Yelena Dubrovin), Boston Poetry Magazine, Freshet, Jewish Letter (Russia), Poetry Life & Times, Sonnetto Poesia, Trinacria, The New Formalist, Pennsylvania Review. Keywords/Tags: Memory, remembrance, love, name, features, face, hair, eyes, lips, mrbmem, crush, impression, recognize, recognition, remember, remembered, forgot, forgotten, angel, wan, night, flood
Jun 4 · 211
Short Stuff (epigrams)
Negligibles
by Michael R. Burch

Show me your most intimate items of apparel;
begin with the hem of your quicksilver slip ...

###

Her Answer (Sappho, fragment 155)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!

###

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.

###

Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You’re too perfect for words―
a problem for a poet.

###

Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your ******* are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!

###

Excerpt from Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you like coral or topaz,
or the blazing hearth’s incandescent white flame;
I love you as obscure things are embraced in the dark ...
secretly, in shadows, unnamed & untamed.

###

Every Day You Play
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every day you play with Infinity’s rays.
Exquisite visitor, you arrive with the flowers and the water.
You are vastly more than this immaculate head I clasp tightly
like a cornucopia, every day, between my hands ...

###

I love you only because I love you
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love you only because I love you;
I am torn between loving and not loving you,
Between apathy and desire.
My heart vacillates between ice and fire.

###

Duet, Minor Key
by Michael R. Burch

Without the drama of cymbals
or the fanfare and snares of drums,
I present my case
stripped of its fine veneer:
Behold, thy instrument.

Play, for the night is long.

###

Inconstant Temptress
by Michael R. Burch

Love, beautiful but fatal
to many bewildered hearts,
commands us to be faithful,
then tempts us with sweets and tarts.

###

A Basement Poem
by Michael R. Burch

Love should be more than the sum of its parts―
of its potions and pills and subterranean arts.

###

Sudden Shower
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.

###

The Secret of Her Clothes
by Michael R. Burch

The secret of her clothes
is that they whisper a little mysteriously
of things unseen

in the language of nylon and cotton,
so that when she walks
to her amorous drawers

to rummage among the embroidered hearts
and rumors of pastel slips
for a white wisp of Victorian lace,

the delicate rustle of fabric on fabric,
the slightest whisper of telltale static,
electrifies me.

Published by Erosha, Velvet Avalanche (Anthology) and Poetry Life & Times

###

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too!

###

Warming Her Pearls
by Michael R. Burch

Warming her pearls,
her ******* gleam like constellations.
Her belly is a bit rotund ...
she might have stepped out of a Rubens.

###

Dark Cloud, Silver Lining
from “Love in the Time of the Coronavirus”
by Michael R. Burch

Despite my stormy demeanor,
my hands have never been cleaner!

###

Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what's good, or do you merely flaunt?

Published by ***** of Parnassus, the first poem in the April 2017 issue

###

Delicacy
by Michael R. Burch

for all good mothers

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate
the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring―
“Fly! Fly! Fly!”
Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.

###

The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.

Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, love, ***, intimacy, intimate, apparel, clothes, dress, mrbepi, clothing, dresses, body, *******, heart, hearts, desire, passion, longing, short, brief, poems, poetry, epitaph, eulogy, death, obituary, introspection
To a Daughter More Precious than Gems
by Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume (c. 700-750)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heaven's cold dew has fallen
and thus another season arrives.
Oh, my child living so far away,
do you pine for me as I do for you?

I have trusted my jewel to the gem-guard;
now there's nothing to do, my pillow,
but for the two of us to sleep together!

I cherished you, my darling,
as the Sea God his treasury's pearls.
But you are pledged to your husband
(such is the way of the world)
and torn from me like a blossom.

I left you for faraway Koshi;
since then your lovely eyebrows
curving like distant waves
ever linger in my eyes.

My heart is as unsteady as a rocking boat;
besieged by such longing I weaken with age
and come close to breaking.

If I could have prophesied such longing,
I would have stayed with you,
gazing on you constantly
as into a shining mirror.

I gaze out over the fields of Tadaka
seeing the cranes that cry there incessantly:
such is my longing for you.

Oh my child,
who loved me so helplessly
like bird hovering over shallow river rapids!

Dear child, my daughter, who stood
sadly pensive by the gate,
even though I was leaving for a friendly estate,
I think of you day and night
and my body has become thin,
my sleeves tear-stained with weeping.

If I must long for you so wretchedly,
how can I remain these many months
here at this dismal old farm?

Because you ache for me so intently,
your sad thoughts all confused
like the disheveled tangles of your morning hair,
I see you, dear child, in my dreams.

Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume (c. 700-750) was an important ancient Japanese poet. She had 79 poems in Manyoshu ("Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves"), the first major anthology of classical Japanese poetry, mostly waka. The compiler of the anthology was Otomo no Yakamochi (c. 718-785). Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume was his aunt, tutor and poetic mentor. In the first stanza, Lady Otomo has left her children in Nara, possibly to visit her brother. In the second stanza, it is believed that the jewel is Lady Otomo's daughter and that she has been trusted to the care of her husband. As for the closing stanza, according to the notes of the Manyoshu, it was popularly believed that a person would appear in the dreams of the one for whom he/she yearned. Keywords/Tags: Otomo, Sakanoue, Iratsume, Japanese, translation, mother, daughter, precious, gems, gem, jewels, jewel, pearls, pearl, Koshi, Tadaka
Jun 1 · 112
Survivors, a 9/11 poem
Survivors
by Michael R. Burch

(for the victims and survivors of 9/11 and their families)

In truth, we do not feel the horror
of the survivors,
but what passes for horror:

a shiver of “empathy.”

We too are “survivors,”
if to survive is to snap back
from the sight of death

like a turtle retracting its neck.

Published by The HyperTexts, Gostinaya (Russia), Ulita (Russia), Promosaik(Germany), The Night Genre Project and Muddy Chevy; also turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong. Keywords: survivors, victims, families, 911, 9/11, terrorist, attack, terrorism, empathy, sympathy, truth, horror, death, survive, survival
An Excelente Balade of Charitie (“An Excellent Ballad of Charity”)
by Thomas Chatterton, age 17
modernization/translation by Michael R. Burch

As wroten bie the goode Prieste
Thomas Rowley 1464

In Virgynë the swelt'ring sun grew keen,
Then hot upon the meadows cast his ray;
The apple ruddied from its pallid green
And the fat pear did bend its leafy spray;
The pied goldfinches sang the livelong day;
'Twas now the pride, the manhood of the year,
And the ground was mantled in fine green cashmere.

The sun was gleaming in the bright mid-day,
Dead-still the air, and likewise the heavens blue,
When from the sea arose, in drear array,
A heap of clouds of sullen sable hue,
Which full and fast unto the woodlands drew,
Hiding at once the sun's fair festive face,
As the black tempest swelled and gathered up apace.

Beneath a holly tree, by a pathway's side,
Which did unto Saint Godwin's convent lead,
A hapless pilgrim moaning did abide.
Poor in his sight, ungentle in his ****,
Long brimful of the miseries of need,
Where from the hailstones could the beggar fly?
He had no shelter there, nor any convent nigh.

Look in his gloomy face; his sprite there scan;
How woebegone, how withered, dried-up, dead!
Haste to thy parsonage, accursèd man!
Haste to thy crypt, thy only restful bed.
Cold, as the clay which will grow on thy head,
Is Charity and Love among high elves;
Knights and Barons live for pleasure and themselves.

The gathered storm is ripe; the huge drops fall;
The sunburnt meadows smoke and drink the rain;
The coming aghastness makes the cattle pale;
And the full flocks are driving o'er the plain;
Dashed from the clouds, the waters float again;
The heavens gape; the yellow lightning flies;
And the hot fiery steam in the wide flamepot dies.

Hark! now the thunder's rattling, clamoring sound
Heaves slowly on, and then enswollen clangs,
Shakes the high spire, and lost, dispended, drown'd,
Still on the coward ear of terror hangs;
The winds are up; the lofty elm-tree swings;
Again the lightning―then the thunder pours,
And the full clouds are burst at once in stormy showers.

Spurring his palfrey o'er the watery plain,
The Abbot of Saint Godwin's convent came;
His chapournette was drenchèd with the rain,
And his pinched girdle met with enormous shame;
He cursing backwards gave his hymns the same;
The storm increasing, and he drew aside
With the poor alms-craver, near the holly tree to bide.

His cape was all of Lincoln-cloth so fine,
With a gold button fasten'd near his chin;
His ermine robe was edged with golden twine,
And his high-heeled shoes a Baron's might have been;
Full well it proved he considered cost no sin;
The trammels of the palfrey pleased his sight
For the horse-milliner loved rosy ribbons bright.

"An alms, Sir Priest!" the drooping pilgrim said,
"Oh, let me wait within your convent door,
Till the sun shineth high above our head,
And the loud tempest of the air is o'er;
Helpless and old am I, alas!, and poor;
No house, no friend, no money in my purse;
All that I call my own is this―my silver cross.

"Varlet," replied the Abbott, "cease your din;
This is no season alms and prayers to give;
My porter never lets a beggar in;
None touch my ring who in dishonor live."
And now the sun with the blackened clouds did strive,
And shed upon the ground his glaring ray;
The Abbot spurred his steed, and swiftly rode away.

Once more the sky grew black; the thunder rolled;
Fast running o'er the plain a priest was seen;
Not full of pride, not buttoned up in gold;
His cape and jape were gray, and also clean;
A Limitour he was, his order serene;
And from the pathway side he turned to see
Where the poor almer lay beneath the holly tree.

"An alms, Sir Priest!" the drooping pilgrim said,
"For sweet Saint Mary and your order's sake."
The Limitour then loosen'd his purse's thread,
And from it did a groat of silver take;
The needy pilgrim did for happiness shake.
"Here, take this silver, it may ease thy care;
"We are God's stewards all, naught of our own we bear."

"But ah! unhappy pilgrim, learn of me,
Scarce any give a rentroll to their Lord.
Here, take my cloak, as thou are bare, I see;
'Tis thine; the Saints will give me my reward."
He left the pilgrim, went his way abroad.
****** and happy Saints, in glory showered,
Let the mighty bend, or the good man be empowered!

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: It is possible that some words used by Chatterton were his own coinages; some of them apparently cannot be found in medieval literature. In a few places I have used similar-sounding words that seem to not overly disturb the meaning of the poem. Keywords/Tags: Chatterton, Romantic, Rowley, fraud, forger, forgery, ballad, charity, alms, almer, varlet, beggar, pilgrim, storm, thunderstorm, tempest, holly, Abbot, Saint, Godwin, priest, Limitour
Song from Ælla: Under the Willow Tree, or, Minstrel's Song
by Thomas Chatterton, age 17 or younger
Modernization/Translation by Michael R. Burch

MYNSTRELLES SONGE ("MINSTREL'S SONG")

O! sing unto my roundelay,
O! drop the briny tear with me,
Dance no more at holy-day,
Like a running river be:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed
All under the willow-tree.

Black his crown as the winter night,
White his flesh as the summer snow
Red his face as the morning light,
Cold he lies in the grave below:
My love is dead,  
Gone to his death-bed
All under the willow-tree.
      
Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note,
Quick in dance as thought can be,                      
Deft his tabor, cudgel stout;
O! he lies by the willow-tree!
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed
All under the willow-tree.

Hark! the raven ***** his wing
In the briar'd dell below;
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing
To the nightmares, as they go:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed
All under the willow-tree.

See! the white moon shines on high;
Whiter is my true-love's shroud:
Whiter than the morning sky,
Whiter than the evening cloud:
My love is dead,  
Gone to his death-bed          
All under the willow-tree.

Here upon my true-love's grave      
Shall the barren flowers be laid;
Not one holy saint to save
All the coldness of a maid:
My love is dead,  
Gone to his death-bed          
All under the willow-tree.

With my hands I'll frame the briars
Round his holy corpse to grow:
Elf and fairy, light your fires,
Here my body, stilled, shall go:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed          
All under the willow-tree.

Come, with acorn-cup and thorn,
Drain my heart's red blood away;
Life and all its good I scorn,
Dance by night, or feast by day:
My love is dead,  
Gone to his death-bed          
All under the willow-tree.
          
Water witches, crowned with plaits,
Bear me to your lethal tide.
I die; I come; my true love waits.
Thus the damsel spoke, and died.

The song above is, in my opinion, competitive with Shakespeare's songs in his plays, and may be the best of Thomas Chatterton's Rowley poems. It seems rather obvious that this song was written in modern English, then "backdated." One wonders whether Chatterton wrote it in response to Shakespeare's "Under the Greenwood Tree." The greenwood tree or evergreen is a symbol of immortality. The "weeping willow" is a symbol of sorrow, and the greatest human sorrow is that of mortality and the separations caused by death. If Chatterton wrote his song as a refutation of Shakespeare's, I think he did a **** good job. But it's a splendid song in its own right.

William Blake is often considered to be the first English Romantic. Blake is the elder of the so-called “big six” of Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. I would add the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, making it a big seven. However, I believe Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats actually nominated an earlier poet as the first of their tribe: Thomas Chatterton. Unfortunately, Chatterton committed suicide in his teens, after being accused of literary fraud. What he did as a boy was astounding.

On this page, I prove that Thomas Chatterton could not possibly be guilty of the crime he was accused of:
(http://www.thehypertexts.com/Thomas%20Chatterton%20Modern%20English%20Translations%20Moderniza­tions%20Burch.htm)

Keywords/Tags: Chatterton, Romantic, Rowley, fraud, forger, forgery, roundelay, minstrel, song, Aella, willow
May 29 · 201
Longing
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,
once 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?

Keywords/Tags: life, evolution, love, desire, longing, passion, lust, ***, appendages, orifices
Laughter from Another Room
by Michael R. Burch

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel;
as I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

Only you and I are real.
Only you and I exist.
Only burns that blister heal.
Only dreams denied persist.

Only dreams denied persist.
Only hope that lingers dies.
Only love that lessens lives.
Only lovers ever cry.

Only lovers ever cry.
Only sinners ever pray.
Only saints are crucified.
The crucified are always saints.

The crucified are always saints.
The maddest men control the world.
The dumb man knows what he would say;
the poet never finds the words.

The poet never finds the words.
The minstrel never hits the notes.
The minister would love to curse.
The warrior longs to spare his foe.

The warrior longs to spare his foe.
The scholar never learns the truth.
The actors never see the show.
The hangman longs to feel the noose.

The hangman longs to feel the noose.
The artist longs to feel the flame.
The proudest men are not aloof;
the guiltiest are not to blame.

The guiltiest are not to blame.
The merriest are prone to brood.
If we go outside, it rains.
If we stay inside, it floods.

If we stay inside, it floods.
If we dare to love, we fear.
Blind men never see the sun;
other men observe through tears.

Other men observe through tears
the passage of these days of doom;
now I listen and I hear
laughter from another room.

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel.
As I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

Keywords/Tags: laughter, mockery, ridicule, another, room, anguish, brood, real, reality, dreams, persist, lovers, sinners, saints, madmen, poets, artists, minstrels, ministers, warriors, scholars, actors, proud, guilty, merry, blind, tears
This Distant Light
by Walid Khazindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.

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

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

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

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

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

Walid Khazindar was born in Gaza City. He is considered to be one of the very best Palestinian poets; his poetry has been said to be "characterized by metaphoric originality and a novel thematic approach unprecedented in Arabic poetry." He was awarded the first Palestine Prize for Poetry in 1997. Keywords/Tags: Arabic, translation, Arab, Palestine, Palestinian, Gaza, distant, light, flame, fire, autumn, winter, trees, birds, sparrows, fingertips, smile, sing, shade, sun, fire, darkness, hand, hands, snow
I Know The Truth
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!
There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes―generals, poets, lovers?

The wind is calming now; the earth is bathed in dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll sleep together, under the earth,
we who never gave each other a moment's rest above it.

###

I Know The Truth (Alternate Ending)
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!
There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes―generals, poets, lovers?

The wind caresses the grasses; the earth gleams, damp with dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll lie together under the earth,
we who were never united above it.

###

Poems about Moscow
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

5
Above the city Saint Peter once remanded to hell
now rolls the delirious thunder of the bells.

As the thundering high tide eventually reverses,
so, too, the woman who once bore your curses.

To you, O Great Peter, and you, O Great Tsar, I kneel!
And yet the bells above me continually peal.

And while they keep ringing out of the pure blue sky,
Moscow's eminence is something I can't deny...

though sixteen hundred churches, nearby and afar,
all gaily laugh at the hubris of the Tsars.


8
Moscow, what a vast
uncouth hostel of a home!
In Russia all are homeless
so all to you must come.

A knife stuck in each boot-top,
each back with its shameful brand,
we heard you from far away.
You called us: here we stand.

Because you branded us criminals
for every known kind of ill,
we seek the all-compassionate Saint,
the haloed one who heals.

And there behind that narrow door
where the uncouth rabble pour,
we seek the red-gold radiant heart
of Iver, who loved the poor.

Now, as "Halleluiah" floods
bright fields that blaze to the west,
O sacred Russian soil,
I kneel here to kiss your breast!

###

Insomnia
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2
In my enormous city it is night
as from my house I step beyond the light;
some people think I'm daughter, mistress, wife...
but I am like the blackest thought of night.

July's wind sweeps a way for me to stray
toward soft music faintly blowing, somewhere.
The wind may blow until bright dawn, new day,
but will my heart in its rib-cage really care?

Black poplars brushing windows filled with light...
strange leaves in hand... faint music from distant towers...
retracing my steps, there's nobody lagging behind...
This shadow called me? There's nobody here to find.

The lights are like golden beads on invisible threads...
the taste of dark night in my mouth is a bitter leaf...
O, free me from shackles of being myself by day!
Friends, please understand: I'm only a dreamlike belief.

###

Poems for Akhmatova
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

4
You outshine everything, even the sun
at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are...

to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness...

###

This gypsy passion of parting!
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This gypsy passion of parting!
We meet, and are ready for flight!
I rest my dazed head in my hands,
and think, staring into the night...

that no one, perusing our letters,
will ever understand the real depth
of just how sacrilegious we were,
which is to say we had faith,

in ourselves.

###

The Appointment
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I will be late for the appointed meeting.
When I arrive, my hair will be gray,
because I abused spring.
And your expectations were much too high!

I shall feel the effects of the bitter mercury for years.
(Ophelia tasted, but didn't spit out, the rue.)
I will trudge across mountains and deserts,
trampling souls and hands without flinching,

living on, as the earth continues
with blood in every thicket and creek.
But always Ophelia's pallid face will peer out
from between the grasses bordering each stream.

She took a swig of passion, only to fill her mouth
with silt. Like a shaft of light on metal,
I set my sights on you, highly. Much too high
in the sky, where I have appointed my dust its burial.

###

Rails
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The railway bed's steel-blue parallel tracks
are ruled out, neatly as musical staves.

Over them, people are transported
like possessed Pushkin creatures
whose song has been silenced.
See them: arriving, departing?

And yet they still linger,
the note of their pain remaining...
always rising higher than love, as the poles freeze
to the embankment, like Lot's wife transformed to salt, forever.

Despair has arranged my fate
as someone arranges a wedding;
then, like a voiceless Sappho
I must weep like a pain-wracked seamstress

with the mute lament of a marsh heron!
Then the departing train
will hoot above the sleepers
as its wheels slice them to ribbons.

In my eye the colors blur
to a glowing but meaningless red.
All young women, at times,
are tempted by such a bed!

###

Every Poem is a Child of Love
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every poem is a child of love,
A destitute ******* chick
A fledgling blown down from the heights above―
Left of its nest? Not a stick.
Each heart has its gulf and its bridge.
Each heart has its blessings and griefs.
Who is the father? A liege?
Maybe a liege, or a thief.

Keywords/Tags: Marina Tsvetaeva, Russia, Russian, translation, Akhmatova, Moscow, Tsar, poet, poetess, poets, poetry, lovers, generals, truth, earth, stars, life, death, grave
May 25 · 73
Athenian Epitaphs
Athenian Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch

These are epitaphs placed on gravestones and monuments by the ancient Greeks in remembrance of their dead.

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls
in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

He lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
—Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

They observed our fearful fetters, marched to confront the surrounding darkness;
now we extol their excellence. Bravely, they died for us.
—Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men who drew valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
—Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she'd confess:
"I am now less than nothingness."
—Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends' tardiness,
mariner! Just man's foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

I am loyal to you, master, even in the grave:
just as you now are death's slave.
—Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Having never earned a penny
nor seen a bridal gown address the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Little I knew—a child of five—
of what it means to be alive
and all life's little thrills;
but little also—(I was glad not to know)—
of life's great ills.
—Michael R. Burch, after Lucian

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I'm buried.
—Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Pity this boy who was beautiful, but died.
Pity his monument, overlooking this hillside.
Pity the world that bore him, then foolishly survived.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Insatiable Death! I was only a child!
Why did you ****** me away, in my infancy,
from those who would love me?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Tell Nicagoras that Strymonias
at the setting of the Kids
lost his.
—Michael R. Burch, after Nicaenetus

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner's faithful Maltese...
but will he still bark again, on sight?
—Michael R. Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly...
so she shan't get at you again!
—Michael R. Burch, after Agathias

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Aeschylus, graybeard, son of Euphorion,
died far away in wheat-bearing Gela;
still, the groves of Marathon may murmur of his valor
and the black-haired Mede, with his mournful clarion.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Not Rocky Trachis,
nor the thirsty herbage of Dryophis,
nor this albescent stone
with its dark blue lettering shielding your white bones,
nor the wild Icarian sea dashing against the steep shingles
of Doliche and Dracanon,
nor the empty earth,
nor anything essential of me since birth,
nor anything now mingles
here with the perplexing absence of you,
with what death forces us to abandon...
—Michael R. Burch, after Euphorion

Though they were steadfast among spears, dark Fate destroyed them
as they defended their native land, rich in sheep;
now Ossa's dust seems all the more woeful, where they now sleep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Sail on, mariner,
for when we were perishing,
greater ships sailed on.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theodorides

We who left the thunderous surge of the Aegean
of old, now lie here on the mid-plain of Ecbatan:
farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
farewell, dear sea!
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

My friend found me here,
a shipwrecked corpse on the beach.
He heaped these strange boulders above me.
Oh, how he would wail
that he "loved" me,
with many bright tears for his own calamitous life!
Now he sleeps with my wife
and flits like a gull in a gale
—beyond reach—
while my broken bones bleach.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie—whether heaven, or hell?
Well friend, perhaps when the gulls repent—
they may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Cloud-capped Geraneia, cruel mountain!
If only you had looked no further than Ister and Scythian
Tanais, had not aided the surge of the Scironian
sea's wild-spurting fountain
filling the dark ravines of snowy Meluriad!
But now he is dead:
a chill corpse in a chillier ocean—moon led—
and only an empty tomb now speaks of the long, windy voyage ahead.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

His white bones lie shining on some inhospitable shore:
a son lost to his father, his tomb empty; the poor-
est beggars have happier mothers!
—Michael R. Burch, after Damegtus

The light of a single morning
exterminated the sacred offspring of Lysidice.
Nor do the angels sing.
Nor do we seek the gods' advice.
This is the grave of Nicander's lost children.
We weep at its bitter price.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Pluto, delighting in tears,
why did you bring our son, Ariston,
to the laughterless abyss of death?
Why—why? —did the gods grant him breath,
if only for seven years?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Although I had to leave the sweet sun,
only nineteen—Diogenes, hail! —
beneath the earth, let's have the more fun:
till human desire seems weak and pale.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Once sweetest of the workfellows,
shy teller of tall tales
—fleet Crethis! —who excelled
at every childhood game...
now you sleep among long shadows
where everyone's the same...
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Passing by, passing by my oft-bewailed pillar,
shudder, my new friend to hear my tragic story:
of how my pyre was lit by the same fiery torch
meant to lead the procession to my nuptials in glory!
O Hymenaeus, why did you did change
my bridal song to a dirge? Strange!
—Michael R. Burch, after Erinna

Suddenly this grave
holds our nightingale speechless;
now she lies here like a stone,
who once was so accomplished
while sunlight illumining dust
proves the gods all reachless,
as our prayers prove them also
unhearing or beseechless.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I, Homenea, the chattering bright sparrow,
lie here in the hollow of a great affliction,
leaving tears to Atimetus
and all scattered—that great affection.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
—Michael R. Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

A mother only as far as the birth pangs,
my life cut short at the height of life's play:
only eighteen years old, so brief was my day.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

We mourn Polyanthus, whose wife
placed him newly-wedded in an unmarked grave,
having received his luckless corpse
back from the green Aegean wave
that deposited his fleshless skeleton
gruesomely in the harbor of Torone.
—Michael R. Burch, after Phaedimus

Here Saon, son of Dicon, now rests in holy sleep:
say not that the good die, friend, lest gods and mortals weep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Keywords/Tags: translation, epitaph, epitaphs, eulogy, Ancient Greek, epigram, epigrams, death, mrbepi, grave, funeral, spirit, ghost, memorial, tribute, praise



PRINCESS DIANA POEMS

Fairest Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Fairest Diana, princess of dreams,
born to be loved and yet distant and lone,
why did you linger―so solemn, so lovely―
an orchid ablaze in a crevice of stone?

Was not your heart meant for tenderest passions?
Surely your lips―for wild kisses, not vows!
Why then did you languish, though lustrous, becoming
a pearl of enchantment cast before sows?

Fairest Diana, as fragile as lilac,
as willful as rainfall, as true as the rose;
how did a stanza of silver-bright verse
come to be bound in a book of dull prose?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Journal and Night Roses



Will There Be Starlight
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?



She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in a pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still,
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
we had nothing left...
yet we smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.



The Peripheries of Love
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above us―the sagging pavilions of clouds.
Below us―rough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a ******
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved...
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near―

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.



The Aery Faery Princess
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff―
the down of a thistle, butterflies’ wings,
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings,
moonbeams on garlands, stands of bright hair...
I think she’s just you when you’re floating on air.



I Pray Tonight
for Princess Diana
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
by day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.



Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar 1460-1525
loose 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 death is 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.
May 22 · 159
Roses and Lilacs
Winter
by Michael R. Burch

The rose of love's bright promise
lies torn by her own thorn;
her scent was sweet
but at her feet
the pallid aphids mourn.

The lilac of devotion
has felt the winter ****
and shed her dress;
companionless,
she shivers—****, forlorn.

Published by Songs of Innocence, The Aurorean, Contemporary Rhyme and The HyperTexts

###

Roses for a Lover, Idealized
by Michael R. Burch

When you have become to me
as roses bloom, in memory,
exquisite, each sharp thorn forgot,
will I recall—yours made me bleed?

When winter makes me think of you—
whorls petrified in frozen dew,
bright promises blithe spring forsook,
will I recall your words—barbed, cruel?

Published by The Lyric, La Luce Che Non Moure (Italy), The Chained Muse, Better Than Starbucks, Glass Facets of Poetry and Trinacria

###

The Donald Trumps the White House Roses
by Michael R. Burch

Roses are red,
Daffodils are yellow,
But not half as daffy
As that taffy-colored fellow.

###

Isolde’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

According to legend, Isolde and Tristram/Tristan were lovers who died, were buried close to each other, then reunited in the form of plants growing out of their graves. A rose emerged from Isolde's grave, a vine from Tristram's, then the two became one. Tristram was the Celtic Orpheus, a minstrel whose songs set women and even nature a-flutter.

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night’s deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.
To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring’s urgency, midsummer’s heat, fall’s lash,
wild winter’s ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life’s great task.
At last the petal of me learned: unfold
and you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.

Originally published by The Raintown Review and nominated for the Pushcart Prize; since published by Ancient Heart Magazine (Australia), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Boston Poetry Magazine, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Strange Road, On the Road with Judy, Complete Classics, FreeXpression (Australia), Better Than Starbucks, Fullosia Press, Glass Facets of Poetry, Sonnetto Poesia (Canada), The New Formalist and Trinacria

###

Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?

Published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK), Writ in Water, Jenion, Inspirational Stories, Famous Poets and Poems

###

She Gathered Lilacs
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

She gathered lilacs
and arrayed them in her hair;
tonight, she taught the wind to be free.

She kept her secrets
in a silver locket;
her companions were starlight and mystery.

She danced all night
to the beat of her heart;
with her tears she imbued the sea.

She hid her despair
in a crystal jar,
and never revealed it to me.

She kept her distance
as though it were armor;
gauntlet thorns guard her heart like the rose.

Love!—awaken, awaken
to see what you’ve taken
is still less than the due my heart owes!

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Shabestaneh (Iran), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, The Chained Muse, Inspirational Stories and Captivating Poetry (Anthology)

###

Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I still love her and extend this sacred fire
to keep her memory exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles!
They sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons." Sleeping, all.
Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less. Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

Keywords/Tags: rose, roses, thorn, thorns, lilac, lilacs, spring, summer, fall, winter, seasons
May 22 · 283
Haiku and Tanka
The Original Sin: Rhyming Haiku!

Haiku
should never rhyme:
it’s a crime!
―Michael R. Burch

The herons stand,
sentry-like, at attention ...
rigid observers of some unknown command.
―Michael R. Burch

Late
fall;
all
the golden leaves turn black underfoot:
soot
―Michael R. Burch

Dry leaf flung awry:
bright butterfly,
goodbye!
―Michael R. Burch

A snake in the grass
lies, hissing
"Trespass!"
―Michael R. Burch

Honeysuckle
blesses my knuckle
with affectionate dew
―Michael R. Burch

My nose nuzzles
honeysuckle’s
sweet nothings
―Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.
―Michael R. Burch

The moon in decline
like my lover’s heart
lies far beyond mine
―Michael R. Burch

My mother’s eyes
acknowledging my imperfection:
dejection
―Michael R. Burch

The sun sets
the moon fails to rise
we avoid each other’s eyes
―Michael R. Burch

brief leaf flung awry ~
bright butterfly, goodbye!
―Michael R. Burch

leaf flutters in flight ~
bright, O and endeavoring butterfly,
goodbye!
―Michael R. Burch

The girl with the pallid lips
lipsticks
into something more comfortable
―Michael R. Burch

I am a traveler
going nowhere,
but my how the gawking bystanders stare!
―Michael R. Burch

Here's a poem that's composed of haiku-like stanzas:

Lift up your head
dandelion,
hear spring roar!

How will you tidy your hair
this near
summer?

Leave to each still night
your lightest affliction,
dandruff.

Soon you will free yourself:
one shake
of your white mane.

Now there are worlds
into which you appear
and disappear

seemingly at will
but invariably blown
wildly, then still.

Gasp at the bright chill
glower
of winter.

Icicles splinter;
sleep still an hour,
till, resurrected in power,

you lift up your head,
dandelion.
Hear spring roar!
― Michael R. Burch

Unrhymed Original Haiku and Tanka
by Michael R. Burch

These are original haiku and tanka written by Michael R. Burch, along with haiku-like and tanka-like poems inspired by the forms but not necessarily abiding by all the rules.

Dark-bosomed clouds
pregnant with heavy thunder ...
the water breaks
―Michael R. Burch

one pillow ...
our dreams
merge
―Michael R. Burch

Iffy Coronavirus Haiku

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #1
by Michael R. Burch

plagued by the Plague
i plague the goldfish
with my verse

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #2
by Michael R. Burch

sunflowers
hang their heads
embarrassed by their coronas

I wrote this poem after having a sunflower arrangement delivered to my mother, who is in an assisted living center and can’t have visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. I have been informed the poem breaks haiku rules about personification, etc.

Homework (yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #3)
by Michael R. Burch

Dim bulb overhead,
my silent companion:
still imitating the noonday sun?

New World Order (last in a series and perhaps a species)
by Michael R. Burch

The days of the dandelions dawn ...
soon man will be gone:
fertilizer.

Variations on Fall

Farewells like
falling
leaves,
so many sad goodbyes.
―Michael R. Burch

Falling leaves
brittle hearts
whisper farewells
―Michael R. Burch

Autumn leaves
soft farewells
falling ...
falling ...
falling ...
―Michael R. Burch

Autumn leaves
Fall’s farewells
Whispered goodbyes
―Michael R. Burch

Variations on the Seasons
by Michael R. Burch

Mother earth
prepares her nurseries:
spring greening

The trees become
modest,
coy behind fans



Wobbly fawns
have become the fleetest athletes:
summer



Dry leaves
scuttle like *****:
autumn

*

The sky
shivers:
snowfall

each
translucent flake
lighter than eiderdown

the entire town entombed
but not in gloom,
bedazzled.

Variations on Night

Night,
ice and darkness
conspire against human warmth
―Michael R. Burch

Night and the Stars
conspire against me:
Immensity
―Michael R. Burch

in the ice-cold cathedral
prayer candles ablaze
flicker warmthlessly
―Michael R. Burch

Variations on the Arts
by Michael R. Burch

Paint peeling:
the novel's
novelty wears off ...

The autumn marigold's
former glory:
allegory.

Human arias?
The nightingale frowns, perplexed.
Tone deaf!

Where do cynics
finally retire?
Satire.

All the world’s
a stage
unless it’s a cage.

To write an epigram,
cram.
If you lack wit, scram.

Haiku
should never rhyme:
it’s a crime!

Video
dumped the **** tube
for YouTube.

Anyone
can rap:
just write rhythmic crap!

Variations on Lingerie
by Michael R. Burch

Were you just a delusion?
The black negligee you left
now merest illusion.

The clothesline
quivers,
ripe with unmentionables.

The clothesline quivers:
wind,
or ghosts?

Variations on Love and Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

Wise old owls
stare myopically at the moon,
hooting as the hart escapes.

Myopic moon-hooting owls
hoot as the hart escapes

The myopic owl,
moon-intent, scowls;
my rabbit heart thunders ...
Peace, wise fowl!

Tanka

All the wild energies
of electric youth
captured in the monochromes
of an ancient photobooth
like zigzagging lightning.
―Michael R. Burch

The plums were sweet,
icy and delicious.
To eat them all
was perhaps malicious.
But I vastly prefer your kisses!
―Michael R. Burch

A child waving ...
The train groans slowly away ...
Loneliness ...
Somewhere in the distance gusts
scatter the stray unharvested hay ...
―Michael R. Burch

How vaguely I knew you
however I held you close ...
your heart’s muffled thunder,
your breath the wind―
rising and dying.
―Michael R. Burch

Miscellanea

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

sheer green stockings
queer green beer
St. Patrick's Day!
―Michael R. Burch

cicadas chirping everywhere
singing to beat the band―
surround sound
―Michael R. Burch

Regal, upright,
clad in royal purple:
Zinnia
―Michael R. Burch

Love is a surreal sweetness
in a world where trampled grapes
become wine.
―Michael R. Burch

although meant for market
a pail full of strawberries
invites indulgence
―Michael R. Burch

late November;
skeptics scoff
but the geese no longer migrate
―Michael R. Burch

as the butterfly hunts nectar
the generous iris
continues to bloom
―Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Haiku, Tanka, coronavirus, nature, love, heart, family, mother, son, seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter, sun, moon, rhyme, rhymed
May 21 · 142
Sandy Hook Poems
Sandy Hook Call to Love
by Michael R. Burch

Our hearts are broken today
for our children's small bodies lie broken;
let us gather them up, as we may,
that the truth of our Love may be spoken;
then, when we have put them away
to nevermore dream, or be woken,
let us think of the living, and pray
for true Love, not some miserable token,
to command us, for strength to obey.

The first line in the poem above came from President Obama’s speech in which he wiped away tears as he discussed the Sandy Hook killings.

###

For a Sandy Hook Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails, when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

###

Sandy Hook Call to Action
by Michael R. Burch

We see their tiny coffins
and our hearts break,
so we ask the NRA―
"Did you make a mistake?"
And we vow to save the next child
for sweet love's sake,
but also to protect ourselves
from enduring such heartache.

###

I dedicate my poems to the victims ― may they rest in peace ― and I urge all Americans to act now, before the next massacre. If we don't, our loved ones will remain continually at risk:

Epitaph for a Sandy Hook Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

###

This poem is for mothers who lost children at Sandy Hook, and in other similar tragedies ...

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
Of one fallen star.

###

Shooting Gallery
by Michael R. Burch

If we live by the rule of the gun
what can a small child do,
but run?

###

Sixteen of the students who died at Sandy Hook were six years old; the other four students were seven. I wrote the poem below for another child gunned down by a madman. While we cannot legislate sanity, we can be sane enough to legislate away the "right" of serial killers to purchase assault weapons so easily. We can defend many small victims from such carnage, if "we the people" have the wisdom and the will to defend them.

Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who was born
on September 11, 2001 and died at the age of nine,
shot to death ...

Child of 9-11, beloved,
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown,
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm ― I hope you hear it.

Much love I bring ― I lay it down
here by your form, which is not you,
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.

Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the brutal things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.

And so I make this pledge and vow:
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.

Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short ... bereaved,
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here ...

I give my all: my pen, this tear,
this lily and this eiderdown,
and all soft things my heart can bear;
I bear them to your final bier,
and leave them with my promise, here.

###

US or Them?
by Michael R. Burch

The NRA wants money in the till,
thus Adam Lanza had a license to ****.
Our government’s the serial killer’s shill
and will be, unless WE express OUR will
and vote to save our children from Boot Hill.

###

This haiku below makes me think of the students and teachers of Sandy Hook, who were trapped in a war zone:

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
―original haiku by Watanabe Hakusen, translation by Michael R. Burch

###

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

It seems to me that the NRA has declared a war ― an open season ― on our children, by insisting that assault weapons must be available to every Tom, **** and ***** Harry. But what will we, the people, say and do?

###

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

###

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this―
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live six artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

###

Here are tribute poems for exceptional children who should be alive today:

Emilie Parker,
the horror grows starker
as we see your sweet image
and cringe at the carnage;
but dear, how you mesmerize
with those vivid blue eyes
and death cannot sever
our hearts from you, ever.

###

Dylan Hockley,
a blue-eyed "gorgeous boy,"
was super beyond
death's power to destroy.

###

Jack Pinto,
who idolized the New York Jets' Victor Cruz,
is now Cruz's hero
and neither can lose.

###

Grace Audrey McDonnell,
our "beautiful, sweet little girl,"
wherever you are now,
there's a far brighter world.

###

Avielle Richman
had a "spirit that drew people in"
(and an infinitely knowing
and cheeky grin!).

###

Noah Pozner,
"extremely bright"―
your mind and your smile
both exuded light.

###

Jessica Rekos,
a "creative, beautiful little girl"
who loved horses,
are you now riding Pegasus
down heaven's courses?

###

Benjamin Wheeler,
"an irrepressibly bright and spirited boy"
had brown, soulful eyes
and a spirit no killer can destroy.

###

Ana Marquez-Greene,
as sweet a child as we've seen,
you "beat us all to paradise."
Was it because you were so very nice?

###

Charlotte Bacon,
our love for you is unshaken;
as you "lit up all rooms" down here
you now illuminate heaven, dear.

###

Daniel Barden, his family's light,
once brightened this earth, and now brightens heaven―
not a bad trick for a boy who's just seven!

###

Olivia Engel,
angel,
your only possible crime (I've been told)
was "being a wiggly, smiley six-year-old!"

###

Allison Wyatt,
so shy, so sweet, so caring,
loved to garden with her mother.
Six pink candles, then an eternity of sharing.

###

Catherine Violet Hubbard
when you were here
the cupboard
of life
was never bare,
but full of light
and your electric hair!

###

Josephine Gay
had just turned seven;
now she will always be
"a lovely part of heaven."

###

Caroline Previdi,
"sweet, precious little angel,"
we fondly remember
your infectious smile.

###

Chase Kowalski, age seven
seems awfully early for heaven;
but since there was never a better child ...
perhaps the angels called, beguiled?

###

Jesse Lewis, so full of life,
you could fill a room with bright laughter;
I'm sure you're entertaining angels now
and brightening the Hereafter!

###

James Mattioli,
exceptional swimmer,
without your bright presence
the world seems much dimmer.

###

Madeleine Hsu,
what we know of you
is so limited, but we love you too.
May your loved ones keep your memory secure
and your memory give them the strength to endure.

###

Here is a memorial poem for the school's lovely, valiant principal who, according to accounts, ran to defend her young charges the minute she heard shots being fired, lunging at the shooter in an attempt to disarm him:

Dawn Hochsprung,
each child's courageous friend―
you defended them all till the unthinkable end;
so let your kindness and valor be sung.

###

Rachel Davino protected her charges
from the killer's barrages;
like her loyal friend,
she was loyal to the end.

###

Anne Marie Murphy,
fun-loving, hard worker;
you defended your charges―
no coward, no shirker.

###

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau,
who loved to teach, and who loved children so,
we're glad you achieved your dream
that final year, and how lovely you seem!

###

When Mary heard shots being fired, she could have run away to save her own life, but she joined principal Dawn Hochsprung by leaping to her feet and running to protect the students she loved so much.

Mary Sherlach, who courageously ran
without thought for her life to the aid of the children,
taught not just them, but also us,
love's surplus.

###

Everyone loved Miss Victoria Soto;
she was every student's friend.
And when a killer threatened her charges,
she defended them to the end.

Keywords/Tags: Sandy Hook, school, shooting, massacre, students, children, teachers, gun control
May 21 · 168
Old Pantaloons
Old Pantaloons, a Chiasmus
by Michael R. Burch

Old pantaloons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to feel
that which they long most to steal.

Old ***** loons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to steal
that which they long most to feel.

Keywords/Tags: chiasmus, pantaloons, *****, loons, *******, pun, wordplay, underwear, fetish, lingerie, pervert, perverts, *******
May 18 · 80
The Poet's Condition
The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

(for my mother, Christine Ena Burch)

The poet's condition
(bother tradition)
is whining contrition.
Supposedly sage,

his editor knows
his brain's in his toes
though he would suppose
to soon be the rage.

His readers are sure
his work's premature
or merely manure,
insipidly trite.

His mother alone
will answer the phone
(perhaps with a moan)
to hear him recite.

Keywords/Tags: poet, poets, poems, poetry, rhyme, editor, publisher, mother, readers, recite, recitation, reciting, performance, reading, phone, telephone
Picnic
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My friends laugh elsewhere on the beach
while I sit here, alone, counting the waves,
writing and rewriting your name in the sand ...

Confession
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your image overwhelmed my vision.
As the long nights passed, I became obsessed with your visage.
Then came the moment when I quietly placed my lips to your picture ...

Rain
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why shiver alone in the rain, maiden?
Embrace the one in whose warming love your body and mind would be drenched!
There are no rains higher than the rains of Love,
after which the bright rainbows of separation will glow with the mysteries of hues.

My Body's Moods
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I long for the day when you'll be obsessed with me,
when, forgetting the world, you'll miss me with a passion
and stop complaining about my reticence!
Then I may forget all other transactions and liabilities
to realize my world in your arms,
letting my body's moods guide me.
In that moment beyond boundaries and limitations
as we defy the conventions of veil and turban,
let's try our luck and steal a taste of the forbidden fruit!

Moon
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All of us passengers,
we share the same fate.
And yet I'm alone here on earth,
and she alone there in the sky!

Vanity
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

His world is so simple, so very different from mine.
So distinct—his dreams and desires.
He speaks rarely.
This morning he wrote: "I saw some lovely flowers and thought of you."
Ha! I know my aging face is no orchid ...
but how I wish I could believe whatever he says, however momentarily!

Keywords/Tags: Perveen Shakir, Urdu, translation, Pakistan, love, passion, picnic, beach, vision, confession, rain, rainbow, hues, forbidden fruit, body, ***, orchid
May 17 · 120
The Sky Was Turning Blue
The Sky Was Turning Blue
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday I saw you
as the snow flurries died,
spent winds becalmed.
When I saw your solemn face
alone in the crowd,
I felt my heart, so long embalmed,
begin to beat aloud.

Was it another winter,
another day like this?
Was it so long ago?
Where you the rose-cheeked girl
who slapped my face, then stole a kiss?
Was the sky this gray with snow,
my heart so all a-whirl?

How is it in one moment
it was twenty years ago,
lost worlds remade anew?
When your eyes met mine, I knew
you felt it too, as though
we heard the robin's song
and the sky was turning blue.

Keywords/Tags: love, reunion, reconnecting, rekindling, desire,  renewal, attraction, kiss, winter, embalmed, spring, hope, resurrection, happiness, joy
yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #1
by michael r. burch

plagued by the Plague
i plague the goldfish
with my verse

###

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #2
by michael r. burch

sunflowers
hang their heads
embarrassed by their coronas

I wrote this poem after having a sunflower arrangement delivered to my mother, who is in an assisted living center and can’t have visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

###

Homework
by Michael R. Burch

Dim bulb overhead,
my silent companion:
still imitating the noonday sun?

###

Not Saying the World Revolves Around You, But...
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.

###

Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You’re too perfect for words―
a problem for a poet.

###

Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

###

Splintering

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
―Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

###

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

###

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

###

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

###

New World Order
by Michael R. Burch

The days of the dandelions dawn ...
soon man will be gone:
lawn fertilizer.

Keywords/Tags: haiku, epigram, epigrams, coronavirus, epidemic, pandemic, plague, mother, child, family, social distancing, life, death, numbers, numbering
May 15 · 137
Epigrams
Epigrams by Michael R. Burch



Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

(Winner of the National Poetry Month Couplet Competition)



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

(Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Super Highway, Mindful of Poetry, Poets for Humanity, The New Formalist, Angle, Daily Kos, Katutura English, Setu, Genocide Awareness, The Hip Forms, Darfur Awareness Shabbat, Viewing Genocide in Sudan, FreeXpression, Better Than Starbucks, Art Villa, AZquotes, QuoteFancy, QuoteMaster, and WiseFamousQuotes; also translated into Czech, Indonesian, Romanian and Turkish)



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

(Originally published by Angelwing)



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish and Romanian)



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Arabic, Turkish and Macedonian)



*** Hex
by Michael R. Burch

Love's full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes) .

(Published by ***** of Parnassus and Lighten Up)



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

(Published by The Raintown Review and Blue Unicorn; also translated into Romanian and published by Petru Dimofte. This is one of my early poems, written as a teenager. I believe it was my first epigram.)



Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

(apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash)

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker) ,
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!
Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

"Be fruitful and multiply"—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, "WHEN! "



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal)



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

(Published by Brief Poems)



Saving Graces, for the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

Life's saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal and Poem Today)



Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today's genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
—Michael R. Burch



Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,
that likes its pikes' sharp rows of teeth
and doesn't mind its victims' grief
(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.



Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

Let's not pretend we "understand" other elves
as long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.



Piecemeal
by Michael R. Burch

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.
(A pale Piggy-Wiggy
will discount your demise as no biggie.)



Liquid Assets
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you, and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, credited pain...
My assets remaining are liquid again.



Brief
by Michael R. Burch

Epigram
means cram,
then scram!



To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram!
—Michael R. Burch



Fleet Tweet: Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

A tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet.

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Fleet Tweet II: Further Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

Remember, doggonit,
heroic verse crowns the Shakespearean sonnet!
So if you intend to write a couplet,
please do it on the doublet!

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Love is either wholly folly,
or fully holy.
—Michael R. Burch



Civility
is the ability
to disagree
agreeably.
—Michael R. Burch



Midnight Stairclimber
by Michael R. Burch

Procreation
is at first great sweaty recreation,
then—long, long after the *** dies—
the source of endless exercise.

(Published by Angelwing and Brief Poems)



Love has the value
of gold, if it's true;
if not, of rue.
—Michael R. Burch



Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick;
Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.
—Michael R. Burch



Nonsense Verse for a Nonsensical White House Resident
by Michael R. Burch

Roses are red,
Daffodils are yellow,
But not half as daffy
As that taffy-colored fellow!



There's no need to rant about Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The cruelty of "civilization" suffices:
our ordinary vices.
—Michael R. Burch



Sumer is icumen in
a modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(this update of an ancient classic is dedicated to everyone who suffers with hay fever and other allergies)

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing achu!
Groweth sed
And bloweth hed
And buyeth med?
Cuccu!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online (as Kim Cherub)

NOTE: I kept the medieval spellings of “sumer” (summer), “lhude” (loud), “sed” (seed) and “hed” (head). I then slipped in the modern slang term “med” for medication. The first line means something like “Summer’s a-comin’ in!” In the original poem the cuckoo bird was considered to be a harbinger of spring, but here “cuccu” simply means “crazy!”



Redefinitions

Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch

Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch

Baseball: lots of spittin' mixed with some hittin'.—Michael R. Burch

Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Michael R. Burch

Insuresurrection: The dead are always with us, and yet they are naught! —Michael R. Burch

Trickle down economics: an especially pungent *******.—Michael R. Burch



Translations

Little sparks ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.—Seneca the Younger, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile constructs cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage (who has to duck his head whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy, prison gang.
—Hafiz loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.—Leo Tolstoy translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
—Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself through others' writings, thus attaining more easily what they acquired through great difficulty.—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch



The Least of These...

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
—Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch



The Church Gets the Burch Rod

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned? —Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
—Michael R. Burch

I have my doubts about your God and his "love":
If one screams below, what the hell is "Above"?
—Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
—Michael R. Burch

The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch

Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the ****** of the people.—Karl Marx
Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch

An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch

God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
—Michael R. Burch

To fall an inch short of infinity is to fall infinitely short.—Michael R. Burch

Most Christians make God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch

Hell has been hellishly overdone.
Why blame such horrors on God's only Son
when Jehovah and his prophets never mentioned it once?
—Michael R. Burch

(Bible scholars agree: the word "hell" has been removed from the Old Testaments of the more accurate modern Bible translations. And the few New Testament verses that mention "hell" are obvious mistranslations.)



Clodhoppers
by Michael R. Burch

If you trust the Christian "god"
you're—like Adumb—a clod.




If every witty thing that's said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!
—Michael R. Burch



Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what's good, or do you merely flaunt?

(Published by ***** of Parnassus, the first poem in the April 2017 issue)



*******
by Michael R. Burch

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



Lines in Favor of Female Muses
by Michael R. Burch

I guess ***** of Parnassus are okay...
But those Lasses of Parnassus? My! Olé!

(Published by ***** of Parnassus)



Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

Love is a splendid ideal
(at least till it costs us a meal) .



Long Division
by Michael R. Burch as Kim Cherub

All things become one
Through death's long division
And perfect precision.



i o u
by mrb

i might have said it
but i didn't

u might have noticed
but u wouldn't

we might have been us
but we couldn't

u might respond
but probably shouldn't




Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

Love is an ache hearts willingly secure
then break the bank to cure.



Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason's treason!
cries the Heart.

Love's insane,
replies the Brain.

(Originally published by Light)



Death is the ultimate finality
of reality.
—Michael R. Burch



Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.



Grave Oversight
by Michael R. Burch

The dead are always with us,
and yet they are naught!



Feathered Fiends
by Michael R. Burch

Fascists of a feather
flock together.



Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

It's hard to be a man of taste
in such a waste:
hence the lambaste.



Housman was right...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life's not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It's just the bon voyage is hard
and the objections loud.



Descent
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this morning
and it has a certain gravity,
as if it knows its destination,
perhaps even its particular destiny.
I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,
although I, too, may be flung precipitously
and from a great height.



Reading between the lines
by Michael R. Burch

Who could have read so much, as we?
Having the time, but not the inclination,
TV has become our philosophy,
sheer boredom, our recreation.



Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart's baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You're too perfect for words—
a problem for a poet.



Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your ******* are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!



Thirty
by Michael R. Burch

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail;
patiently she waited for the winds to shift;
now, claws unsheathed, she lies seething to assail
her helpless prey.



Biblical Knowledge or "Knowing Coming and Going"
by Michael R. Burch

The wisest man the world has ever seen
had fourscore concubines and threescore queens?
This gives us pause, and so we venture hence—
he "knew" them, wisely, in the other sense.



Snap Shots
by Michael R. Burch

Our daughters must be celibate,
die virgins. We triangulate
their early paths to heaven (for
the martyrs they'll soon conjugate) .

We like to hook a little tail.
We hope there's decent *** in jail.
Don't fool with us; our bombs are smart!
(We'll send the plans, ASAP, e-mail.)

The soul is all that matters; why
hoard gold if it offends the eye?
A pension plan? Don't make us laugh!
We have your plan for sainthood. (Die.)



I sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle.
—Michael R. Burch



The Editor

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The Critic

The editor's work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

The Audience

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

The Anthologist

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.



Athenian Epitaphs

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

They observed our fearful fetters, braved the overwhelming darkness.

Now we extol their excellence: bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men of valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius

###

Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

Between the prophesies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.

###

Stay With Me Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

Stay with me tonight;
be gentle with me as the leaves are gentle
falling to the earth.

And whisper, O my love,
how that every bright thing, though scattered afar,
retains yet its worth.

Stay with me tonight;
be as a petal long-awaited blooming in my hand.
Lift your face to mine

and touch me with your lips
till I feel the warm benevolence of your breath’s
heady fragrance like wine.

That which we had
when pale and waning as the dying moon at dawn,
outshone the sun.

And so lead me back tonight
through bright waterfalls of light
to where we shine as one.

Originally published by The Lyric

###

Departed
by Michael R. Burch

Already, I miss you,
though your parting kiss is still warm on my lips.

Now the floor is not strewn with your stockings and slips
and the dishes are all stacked away.

You left me today ...
and each word left unspoken now whispers regrets.

###

Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation 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.

###

Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.

###

Infatuate, or Sweet Centerless Sixteen
by Michael R. Burch

Inconsolable as “love” had left your heart,
you woke this morning eager to pursue
warm lips again, or something “really cool”
on which to press your lips and leave their mark.

As breath upon a windowpane at dawn
soon glows, a spreading halo full of sun,
your thought of love blinks wildly ... on and on ...
then fizzles at the center, and is gone.

###

The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay),
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,
for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,
for waltzes ending in a hush
and rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames’ exhausted, graying ash,
and petals falling from the rose,
I raise my cup before I drink
in reverence to a love long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to passages, to time that fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme

###

Prose Epigrams

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.—Michael R. Burch

When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch

How can we predict the future, when tomorrow is as uncertain as Trump's next tweet? —Michael R. Burch

Poetry moves the heart as well as the reason.—Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the art of finding the right word at the right time.—Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, short, brief, concise, aphorism, adage, proverb, quote, mrbepi
May 12 · 52
Naughty Novelties
NOVELTIES
by Thomas Campion
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.

This is my translation of a Latin epigram by the English poet Thomas Campion. In Campion’s era some English poets continued to write poems in Latin and/or Greek. For instance, John Milton and Andrew Marvell wrote poems in Latin, while Shakespeare was criticized by Ben Jonson, if I remember things correctly, for having “little” Greek and Latin.

Not being “versed” in the senior languages was seen as a deficiency in literary circles back then. Shakespeare was called an “upstart crow” for daring to write “litter-chure” without a proper university degree. How could he properly quote the ancients if he couldn’t read them in their original languages? The Bard of Avon was doomed to failure and obscurity … or perhaps not, since the English language was finally in vogue in England (where for centuries English kings had been unable to read, write or even speak the mother tongue, preferring French, Latin and Greek).

My title is a bit of a pun, because novels were new to the world when they first arrived, and were thus considered by the literary elites to be “novelties” not on par with more serious verse plays. Some of the more popular early novels were “subversive” (pardon the pun) explorations of ****** naughtiness, through characters like Tom Jones, Moll Flanders, et al.

Campion probably didn’t have such campy (enough with the puns, already!) novels in mind when he wrote his epigram, since the more titillating (cease! desist!) ones had yet to arrive. But perhaps he would prove to be a “profit” (I’m udderly hopeless!).

Keywords/Tags: Campion, Latin, translation, epigram, novels, novelties, booksellers, publishers, authors, pimps, ******, prostitutes, prostitution, exotic, positions
May 12 · 281
Love's Evolution
Love's Evolution
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.

Keywords/Tags: love, evolution, ***, lust, cells, chemistry, electricity, darkness, night, stars, photosynthesis, shared breath, microscopic, amoebas, pseudopods, microbes
May 11 · 106
Stormfront
Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

###

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

###

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.
Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

###

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

All things become one
Through death’s long division
And perfect precision.

###

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

###

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we’ll discover what the heart is for.

###

Here and Hereafter
by Michael R. Burch

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

###

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

###

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

###

honeybee
by Michael R. Burch

love is a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and (sometimes) to sting

###

The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

With every wearying year
the weight of the winter grows
and while the schoolgirl outgrows
her clothes,
the widow disappears
in hers.

###

brrExit
by Michael R. Burch

what would u give
to simply not exist—
for a painless exit?
he asked himself, uncertain.
then from behind
the hospital room curtain
a patient screamed—
"my life!"

###

briefling
by Michael R. Burch

manishatched,hopsintotheMix,
cavorts,hassex(quick!,spawnanewBro­od!);
then,likeamayfly,he’ssuddenlygone:
plantfood

###

Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.

###

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life’s not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It’s just the "bon voyage" is hard
and the objections loud.

###

Athenian Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
—Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

Blame not the gale, or the inhospitable sea-gulf, or friends’ tardiness,
mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Passerby,
tell the Spartans we lie
here, dead at their word,
obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, epitaph, epitaphs, Greek, translation, Greece, life, life and death, grief, mother, mother and child, eulogy, dirge
May 11 · 156
Post-Mother's-Day Poems
Post-Mother's-Day Poems

We desperately need a Mother Recovers Day!
by Michael R. Burch

Mother’s Day!
Lovers’ Day!
Adulation Re-Smothers Day!
Hugs ’n kisses galore
till she’s tired and bone-sore.
Now, like a needle in the hay,
she needs to find a Recovers Day!

###

Mother’s Day Replay
by Michael R. Burch

Mother’s Day!
Lovers’ Day!
This Hug-and-Kiss Smothers Day
when a roll in the hay
conjures babies, olé!
(Please, children, ignore these verses, okay?)

Keywords/Tags: Mother's Day, mother, mothers, child, children, baby, babies, family, families, love, hugs, kisses, adulation
May 10 · 264
Your Gift
Your Gift
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Counsel, console.
This is your gift.
Calm, kiss and encourage.
Tenderly lift
each world-wounded heart
from its fatal dart.
Mend every rift.
Bid pain, “Depart!”
Save every sorrow
for your own untaught heart.
May 10 · 161
Childless
Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
Of one fallen star.

Keywords/Tags: mother, mothers, motherhood, child, childless, death, grief, weight, burden, Atlas, epigram, epitaph, elegy, eulogy, lament
Our English Rose
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch, on Mother's Day

The rose is—
the ornament of the earth,
the glory of nature,
the archetype of the flowers,
the blush of the meadows,
a lightning flash of beauty.

NOTE: This is my translation/interpretation of a Sappho epigram.
Love has a gentle grace
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth on Mother’s Day

Love has a gentle grace; you have not seen her
unless you’ve looked into your mother’s eyes
and seen her faith
—serene, composed and wise—
that you’re the center of her very being
(as once, indeed, she carried you inside.)

Love has no wilder beauty than the thought
that you’re the best of all she ever sought.

(And if, perhaps, you don’t believe my song,
can your mother be wrong?)
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