Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
John Shahul Sep 2018
I beseeched and reached out to my crush
She looked away and wondered with a blush
Every time I looked at her in the eyes
With anticipation our heart sighs
She flashed her eyebrows with a smile
As my hands and feet are free to flail
It happened every time for a while
I did the same after a while
To chime in with the beautiful woman of my dream.
I perfected the time
To ask her out for a date,

I wrote:  I would like to get in touch with you
My Crush:  What is that you need to touch base about?

Me:
Where we lovers shall the world forget?
No where and in no place where men cannot pursue
Where we lovers tryst in no regret.
Side by side we walk as our feelings can subdue,
Set aside our differences with no further due,
Soon we realize as we embrace
Tense in silence
Falling in love with each other, with no trace
Of disappointments our heart can surrender.
Love sustains in secret endeavor
And unfolds itself like an opening flower.
Love abounds in mysterious ways
And speaks to one who loves truly as always
Where no one know us falling in love in the lovers tryst.

Where we lovers shall the world forget?
Truthful to the heart unto the grave
Where we lovers tryst so brave
Had we dwelt
Restraining times tiding flow
On the Glaciers far below,
Unto make it to the mist of mountains?
Hidden behind the curtains
Of avalanche and snow,
From the deep sea to the blue summit,
With deep feelings of love and joy consummate,
As love sparkles through each other’s eyes nice and bold
Make up our mind with one secret kiss soft and sweet.
We look forward to the entire new world to behold
Where no one know us in the lovers tryst.

Where we lovers shall the world forget?
As our love has come along
Where we love and stay in love together lifelong
To love all day long
To love all our fair youth together can belong.
Like fragrance to the flower
Mixed with breeze and prevails everywhere
Where we live to our dreams and desires
Where no one know us together in the lovers tryst.

Where we lovers shall the world forget?
Where no one know us where we see each other
Making diamond dew drops into a mirror
Where we mirror each other
Where our visages seen together
Where our images seen so closer
As one image with no dimensions
Other than our own true reflections
Of making out our true love and kisses,
Laughing out louder
In true sense of humor,
With a tell tale of true love blisses
On each one of our fulfilling wishes
Our luscious smile blushes
Where no one know us see each other in the lovers tryst.

Where we lovers shall the world forget?
Moaning in our craving torments
Making our days into nights
And nights into unforgettable moments
Love is in the air
Whispers into the ears
Shunning the noises of delights
Far from the crowd where can we run off of no fears?
Crossing the seven seas and the infinite ocean
Where rivers ran deep down
Into arms of bay into vast eternity of silence
Where love cannot dissipate into rest at a glance
Where no one hear us moaning in the lovers tryst.

Where we lovers shall the world forget?
With the memory of our silent moments
Like a sail boat about a quarter mile out
With such opulent power my thoughts in her dwelt,
In the transparent dream travelled,
Lived aloof and rounded the skied gleams
Watching the galaxy revolving round,
In time’s eternity where lover dreams
And manifests true love all around.
Like a crescent moon beams
All over with the endless ocean;
Slouched to my touch, she topples down
Into my arms
As breathless as in her dreams.
As motionless as we are
We stare each other
One over the other as the wave rolls,
Rolls in and rolls out to the shore
And moves through the swells
Where no one know us in the lovers tryst
Where we lovers shall the world forget.
Melanie Flowers Nov 2011
PleaseListen,

TWELFTH OF AUGUST ...
Slipped into my hideout she did
They get to wear shoes because they work
But no one said they weren't of odd tendency
A swan, a vulture, a fox, or a dog
I do not know what she was
But she was on her way out

She came into my room, wasn't odd
But then she said that the all seeing were dead
'I've switched the cameras off Kier
Now do as lovers do dear friend
And this here lover will bring you a pen'

Really didn't want to
If nothing else, crayons are okay
Have no need for lovers or friends
But she insisted, offered again
'Do as lovers do dear friend
And this here lover will bring you a pen'

So I held her hand

But no
She was not satisfied
So she insisted, tried again
'Do as lovers do dear friend
And this here lover will bring you a book
A blank book, a notebook
For the thoughts in your head'

I really didn't want to
I have no need for lovers
I have no need for friends
But wouldn't that be lovely?
A notebook and pen?

So I wrapped my arms around her waist

But, Oh.
She was not sated
And demanded more again
'Do as lovers do dear friend
And this here lover will bring you a key
A key to the door that keeps you in dreams'

I really didn't have to
I don't want lovers and friends
My freedom has been taken from me
But then again...
Wouldn't a key bring that back?

So I kissed her lips

My what surprise
It only deepened her thirst
Then and there
She begged of me more
'Do as lovers do dear friend
And this here lover will bring you a pet
Some pretty little shears
To drag across your pretty, pallid skin'

Really shouldn't
But lovers and friends,
They're far between these days
Didn't really want to
But scissors...really?
How did you know my dear?
That I've been dying
To drop my hide into someone elses hands

So I did as lovers do...

Lovers touch did nothing to fill me
Lovers kiss brought very little joy
But maybe. Maybe lovers gifts
Will help me out of this hole

That's all I have to say
NowTake me away, KIERAN J. CROW
Kieran's account of being bribed with gifts by a nurse who wanted something from him in return.
Hasan Aspahani Jul 2017
A pair of lovers is a pair of tongues that say the word alternately, the same word, which moves from mouth to mouth.

A pair of lovers is a pair of eyes that never tired of looking at each other, lyrics to each other, closing each other, in the light and dark.

A pair of lovers are two travelers searching each other, and steadfast wait until finally found each other.

A pair of lovers is a pair of names that ask each other for a place in memory, so as not lost in the loss.

A pair of lovers are a pair of farmers who rush to the fields do not wait for the rain to die, because love is a fertile morning.

A pair of lovers is a pair of eyes in the night, there is a beautiful dangling light, and there is hope that gee, rampant.

A pair of lovers are two lines on a gurindam, longing for revenge, mutual opening and closing, harassing, muffling.

A pair of lovers is a pair of longing hands, stalling to the empty, as if to rub a love on the forehead full of sweat.

A pair of lovers are a pair of hearts at a glance, bristling, as you imagine the longing will be very torture.

A pair of lovers is a pair of interconnected books, the first book, continues into the second book, and vice versa.

A pair of lovers is a pair of books that amaze each other on the cover, because it knows very well what is written on them.

A pair of lovers are two books, writing and reading each other, without ever interchanging the pages.
Jayne E May 2019
Lovers lovers, loves of mine 
taken and given
secrets shared some forbidden
lovely lovers in lovers night

Lovers lovers, loves of mine 
given and taken
hands locked tight in grasp
and beds a shaken

Lover lovers, loves of mine 
given and bidden
looked for in places serect & hidden
nights black embrace
has us ******* in lace

Lovers lovers, loves of mine 
kept well hidden
dark involute arcane mysterious
hushed by lip, cup, sip abstruse

Lovers lovers, loves of mine 
surrendered and loved
sweet tenderest tenderness
deep devoutist feels gifts from above

Lovers lovers, loves of mine 
yielded and sealed
hearts meet in exultation,
sweet delight
jouissance savoured by we,
night after night.

J.C. tiger-baby 12/03/2010
I come from two places
They are both quite cold
I am from two niches
One ancient; one old

In both my homes I am a beast
Two different breeds and I must feast
I wear this coat - it keeps me warm
You may ask me if I change my form
I have these teeth - they're made for a carnivore
I am their leader; I am their arbiter

I was birthed with two different eyes
One is keen - the other wise
Do not trust how things appear
I have walked this earth for many years
From conception I couldn't help it; they cursed me
It seems like I will forever be thirsty

Remember, I can hear you
Remember, I don't fear you
Remember that I didn't ask for this
Be careful, I may endear you

I have picked my pack but I travel alone
I sleep all day in this hole that is home

To show for what I care
My teeth will soon be bare
With my pupils almost drawn
My "humanity" will be gone

We are not the lovers of dogs
We are not the lovers of coyotes
We are the lovers of wolves

We are not the lovers of humans
We are not the lovers of warmth
We are lovers of the cold

Behold - my heart of stone
So onyx; so bold
Why do you think I have half a heartbeat?
Part of me is dead while the other is breathing
So while the moon is waxing and waning
My body takes to its slaying
And atheists - they will be praying
Is this game too sick that I'm playing?

We are not the lovers of dogs
We are not the lovers of coyotes
We are the lovers of wolves

We are not the lovers of humans
We are not the lovers of warmth
We are lovers of the **cold
nick armbrister Feb 2018
the lovers of time

oh my dear lady
i do love you
i don't want this to be a cliche
nor a drab love song
i want this to be for you you you
not anybody else

so sing me a song baby
a song of love
about how we met
and what we have
and who we are dear

we are the lovers
the lovers of time
the lovers of time
the lovers of time
how lucky we are
we have this time now
a thing that is ours

but i ask my dear
why didn't we meet before?
think of our extra time baby
on top of what we have

we are the lovers
the lovers of time
the lovers of time
the lovers of time
how lucky we are
we have this time now
a thing that is ours
for fiction book
The Dedpoet Nov 2016
Lovers become quiet
When their bodies are raging,
The most perfect silence
When entwined and becoming one.
They search eachothers soul
Because each is lost without the other,
They fight and abandon
That they might reunite passionately.
Their spirits are free
And lurk the earth finding others
But not themselves,
Led by the estrangements of the heart.

They are like crazy peoples,
Lovers are,
Because they fight battles alone
Against the world
And submitting to the moments
Of lustrous passions
And in pain because life
Does not recognize such enigmas.
Lovers can only love,
Led by strings of violinists
Who take them where they have
Never been,
Going and going back again
Into the ****** of music
That plays quick beats and sad tunes.
Lovers are perpetually hopeful
Always wanting and taking the
Next step in a ladder to nowhere.

Lovers make mistakes
And do not learn from them,
Or sadly love the pain so much
They go back for more.

Alone in their own darkness,
Lovers find eachothers
Like tiny embers of burning
Souls filling the vastness of the void,
They cling to one another like
A child to a mother
And then rebel like a youthful
Suffocation.

Lovers are not stable,
They believe in God
And dance with the devil.

Lovers are alone,
Because they need seclusion
So that when they are free from
Themselves they can find something
Else to love,
They are in inexhaustible oil
To the lamp in a dark ravine,
They count drops of rain
And save their tears like memories.

They are empty and full,
Philosophical fools that love
Even those who reject them
And chase the uncapturable bird,
Flexible hearts of desirous fires.

Lover are the truth of humanity,
Crazy beautiful things
And they go loving
And hurting the beautiful life.
Third Eye Candy Aug 2013
lovers are burning.] balsamic ****** gallops from shame
into the overwild wetness of labial volcanoes, caramelized in musk. by love's labor.
laid bare, their bodies origami inhibition...[ lovers are burning. ]
and surrender is victorious !
Eros is speechless. maidens howl into cumulus goose-down, chewing carnal haikus
with swayed backs.... hips wide and wanton. masculine wands plow oyster beds, unmade.
they joust pearls... and [ lovers are burning ]
.... a damp conflagration; tongue stoked and windswept, conspires.
monotony is slain !
puritan harps are plucked and thrummed ! lewd harmonies anoint the perfect pitch
and a chorus moans. the ghost of sylvia plath, straddles Apollo; and he earns his wreath
surging besotted. [ lovers are burning ] and laurels forgotten.
lotharios charge the seldom road; the starfish door to Saturn's parlor.
pumping unbridled, that glistening, cloven moon. her riding crop insists !
his urgency must do.
satyrs sup salaciously and summon staves to dip in brine. they grin and grind
their sutras, stripping karma gears with silk scarves. ankles to a post, well spread...
cushions crush. flowers press... stamen fed.
nymphs clutch their serpent stones
to drain what nectar slips the slit. they ***** and throat.
they peck and pinch their quivers; knock their arrows to the purpose, half spent.
[ lovers are burning ]
eyes ablaze. nostrils fetch randy fumes of consent. mouths seek.
a pouty swamp with Spanish moss.... finds a matador
and a bull, a china shop.
lovers are burning the rough sketch of a lost god
and their angels are voyeurs
with unclean thoughts

for gospels.
Cole Dec 2019
Land and sea
They lovers be.
The waves rush up
To meet the shore
They lovers be.

Land and sea
They lovers be
The land jumps up.
And then under
Kisses by the sea.

Land and sea
They lovers be.
Once upon a
Not so long ago,
They lovers be.

Land and sea
They lovers be.
When man was scared
And feared the ocean,
They lovers be.

Land and sea
They lovers be.
Man could not swim,
Or control
The wild, wild sea.

Land and sea
They lovers be.
The land was burdened
By the man,
Who ruined sea.

Land and sea
They were lovers be.
When man left lone,
They were pure.
They lovers once.

-3nwlry
I visited the shore,
And I was sadly shocked
To see all that waste.
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Modern Charon
by Michael R. Burch

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea. I wrote this poem in 2001 after the 911 terrorist attacks.



Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

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

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



Bikini
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



This poem has over 800,000 Google results for the eleventh line. That's a lot of cutting and pasting!

First They Came for the Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemoller

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

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

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

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

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

It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by an outstanding organization like Amnesty International. A stated goal for the "Words That Burn" anthology is to teach students about human rights through poetry.



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.



Safe Harbor
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

The sea at night seems
an alembic of dreams—
the moans of the gulls,
the foghorns’ bawlings.

A century late
to be melancholy,
I watch the last shrimp boat as it steams
to safe harbor again.

In the twilight she gleams
with a festive light,
done with her trawlings,
ready to sleep . . .

Deep, deep, in delight
glide the creatures of night,
elusive and bright
as the poet’s dreams.

Published by The Lyric, Grassroots Poetry, Romantics Quarterly, Angle, Poetry Life & Times



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

Moonbeams on water—
the reflected light
of a halcyon star
now drowning in night ...
So your memories are.

Footprints on beaches
now flooding with water;
the small, broken ribcage
of some primitive slaughter ...
So near, yet so far.

Originally published by The Poetry Porch/Sonnet Scroll



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Desire glides in on calico wings,
a breath of a moth
seeking a companionable light,

where it hovers, unsure,
sullen, shy or demure,
in the margins of night,

a soft blur.

With a frantic dry rattle
of alien wings,
it rises and thrums one long breathless staccato

and flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

And yet it returns
to the flame, its delight,
as long as it burns.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty ...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



Water and Gold
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Published by The Lyric, Black Medina, The Eclectic Muse, Kritya (India), Shabestaneh (Iran), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Captivating Poetry (Anthology), Strange Road, Freshet, Shot Glass Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Famous Poets and Poems, Sonnetto Poesia, Poetry Life & Times



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.



Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch

Brilliant leaves abandon battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees,
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak November sky ...

Now, as I watch the leaves' high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say—
goodbye.

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," that dates to around age 14 or 15.



Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love of my life,
light of my morning―
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.

Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.



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



bachelorhoodwinked
by Michael R. Burch

u
are
charming
& disarming,
but mostly alarming
since all my resolve
dissolved!

u
are
chic
as a sheikh's
harem girl in the sheets
but my castle’s no longer my own
and my kingdom's been overthrown!



chrysalis
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

and yet You must love Your Self



Self Reflection
by Michael R. Burch

(for anyone struggling with self-image)

She has a comely form
and a smile that brightens her dorm ...
but she's grossly unthin
when seen from within;
soon a griefstricken campus will mourn.

Yet she'd never once criticize
a friend for the size of her thighs.
Do unto others—
sisters and brothers?
Yes, but also ourselves, likewise.



War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

Trump’s war is on children and their mothers.
"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." ― Gandhi

War is obsolete;
even the strange machinery of dread
weeps for the child in the street
who cannot lift her head
to reprimand the Man
who failed to countermand
her soft defeat.

But war is obsolete;
even the cold robotic drone
that flies far overhead
has sense enough to moan
and shudder at her plight
(only men bereft of Light
with hearts indurate stone
embrace war’s Siberian night.)

For war is obsolete;
man’s tribal “gods,” long dead,
have fled his awakening sight
while the true Sun, overhead,
has pity on her plight.
O sweet, precipitate Light!―
embrace her, reject the night
that leaves gentle fledglings dead.

For each brute ancestor lies
with his totems and his “gods”
in the slavehold of premature night
that awaited him in his tomb;
while Love, the ancestral womb,
still longs to give birth to the Light.
So which child shall we ****** tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?

Originally published by The Flea. While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump said that, as commander-in-chief of the American military, he would order American soldiers to track down and ****** women and children as "retribution" for acts of terrorism. When aghast journalists asked Trump if he could possibly have meant what he said, he verified more than once that he did. Keywords/Tags: war, terrorism, retribution, violence, ******, children, Gandhi, Trump, drones



In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free―
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.
This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.
I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.
We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina



Shock
by Michael R. Burch

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom―
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain ...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.

I may have been reading too many gothic ghost stories when I wrote this one! I think it shows a good touch with meter for a young poet, since I wrote it in my early teens.



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
a trillion oscillations, yet not lose
a second's beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth's; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.
If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what's been left to chance?
Should poets be more lax―their circumstance
as humble as it is?―or readers wince
to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
the moans of drones drown out the Chanticleer?

Originally published by The Eclectic Muse, then in The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003



Completing the Pattern
by Michael R. Burch

Walk with me now, among the transfixed dead
who kept life’s compact and who thus endure
harsh sentence here—among pink-petaled beds
and manicured green lawns. The sky’s azure,
pale blue once like their eyes, will gleam blood-red
at last when sunset staggers to the door
of each white mausoleum, to inquire—
What use, O things of erstwhile loveliness?



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
felt more than seen.
I was eighteen,
my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant . . .
without words, but with a deeper communion,
as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
liquidly our lips met
—feverish, wet—
forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
in the immediacy of our fumbling union . . .
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

Published by Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Webring



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

for Harvey Stanbrough

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 when Harvey Stanbrough was the editor



White in the Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

White in the shadows
I see your face,
unbidden. Go, tell
Love it is commonplace;

tell Regret it is not so rare.

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.
Lost in darkness, I fear
the past is our resting place.

Published by Carnelian, The Chained Muse, Poetry Life & Times, A-Poem-A-Day and in a YouTube video by Aurora G. with the titles “Ghost,” “White Goddess” and “White in the Shadows”



The Octopi Jars
by Michael R. Burch

Long-vacant eyes
now lodged in clear glass,
a-swim with pale arms
as delicate as angels'...

you are beyond all hope
of salvage now...
and yet I would pause,
no fear!,
to once touch
your arcane beaks...

I, more alien than you
to this imprismed world,
notice, most of all,
the scratches on the inside surfaces
of your hermetic cells ...

and I remember documentaries
of albino Houdinis
slipping like wraiths
over the walls of shipboard aquariums,
slipping down decks'
brine-lubricated planks,
spilling jubilantly into the dark sea,
parachuting through clouds of pallid ammonia...

and I know now in life you were unlike me:
your imprisonment was never voluntary.



The Children of Gaza

Nine of my poems have been set to music by the composer Eduard de Boer and have been performed in Europe by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab. My poems that became “The Children of Gaza” were written from the perspective of Palestinian children and their mothers. On this page the poems come first, followed by the song lyrics, which have been adapted in places to fit the music …



Epitaph for a Child of Gaza
by Michael R. Burch

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



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of 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 ...



For a Child of Gaza, 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?



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of Gaza and their mothers

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.



Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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.



Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza and their children

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!



Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tenderness―as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now―
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness―time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?―insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask―

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?



who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!”
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same―
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”



My nightmare ...

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.
―The Child Poets of Gaza (written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza)



I, too, have a dream ...

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
―The Child Poets of Gaza (written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza)



Suffer the Little Children
by Nakba

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?
―Nakba is an alias of Michael R. Burch



Here We Shall Remain
by Tawfiq Zayyad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like twenty impossibilities
in Lydda, Ramla and Galilee ...
here we shall remain.

Like brick walls braced against your chests;
lodged in your throats
like shards of glass
or prickly cactus thorns;
clouding your eyes
like sandstorms.

Here we shall remain,
like brick walls obstructing your chests,
washing dishes in your boisterous bars,
serving drinks to our overlords,
scouring your kitchens' filthy floors
in order to ****** morsels for our children
from between your poisonous fangs.

Here we shall remain,
like brick walls deflating your chests
as we face our deprivation clad in rags,
singing our defiant songs,
chanting our rebellious poems,
then swarming out into your unjust streets
to fill dungeons with our dignity.

Like twenty impossibilities
in Lydda, Ramla and Galilee,
here we shall remain,
guarding the shade of the fig and olive trees,
fermenting rebellion in our children
like yeast in dough.

Here we wring the rocks to relieve our thirst;
here we stave off starvation with dust;
but here we remain and shall not depart;
here we spill our expensive blood
and do not hoard it.

For here we have both a past and a future;
here we remain, the Unconquerable;
so strike fast, penetrate deep,
O, my roots!



Labor Pains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight the wind wafts pollen through ruined fields and homes.
The earth shivers with love, with the agony of giving birth,
while the Invader spreads stories of submission and surrender.

O, Arab Aurora!

Tell the Usurper: childbirth’s a force beyond his ken
because a mother’s wracked body reveals a rent that inaugurates life,
a crack through which light dawns in an instant
as the blood’s rose blooms in the wound.



Hamza
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hamza was one of my hometown’s ordinary men
who did manual labor for bread.

When I saw him recently,
the land still wore its mourning dress in the solemn windless silence
and I felt defeated.

But Hamza-the-unextraordinary said:
“Sister, our land’s throbbing heart never ceases to pound,
and it perseveres, enduring the unendurable, keeping the secrets of mounds and wombs.
This land sprouting cactus spikes and palms also births freedom-fighters.
Thus our land, my sister, is our mother!”

Days passed and Hamza was nowhere to be seen,
but I felt the land’s belly heaving in pain.
At sixty-five Hamza’s a heavy burden on her back.

“Burn down his house!”
some commandant screamed,
“and slap his son in a prison cell!”

As our town’s military ruler later explained
this was necessary for law and order,
that is, an act of love, for peace!

Armed soldiers surrounded Hamza’s house;
the coiled serpent completed its circle.

The bang at his door came with an ultimatum:
“Evacuate, **** it!'
So generous with their time, they said:
“You can have an hour, yes!”

Hamza threw open a window.
Face-to-face with the blazing sun, he yelled defiantly:
“Here in this house I and my children will live and die, for Palestine!”
Hamza's voice echoed over the hemorrhaging silence.

An hour later, with impeccable timing, Hanza’s house came crashing down
as its rooms were blown sky-high and its bricks and mortar burst,
till everything settled, burying a lifetime’s memories of labor, tears, and happier times.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down one of our town’s streets ...
Hamza-the-unextraordinary man who remained as he always was:
unshakable in his determination.



Enough for Me
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Enough for me to lie in the earth,
to be buried in her,
to sink meltingly into her fecund soil, to vanish ...
only to spring forth like a flower
brightening the play of my countrymen's children.

Enough for me to remain
in my native soil's embrace,
to be as close as a handful of dirt,
a sprig of grass,
a wildflower.



Palestine
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
April's blushing advances,
the aroma of bread warming at dawn,
a woman haranguing men,
the poetry of Aeschylus,
love's trembling beginnings,
a boulder covered with moss,
mothers who dance to the flute's sighs,
and the invaders' fear of memories.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
September's rustling end,
a woman leaving forty behind, still full of grace, still blossoming,
an hour of sunlight in prison,
clouds taking the shapes of unusual creatures,
the people's applause for those who mock their assassins,
and the tyrant's fear of songs.

This land gives us
all that makes life worthwhile:
Lady Earth, mother of all beginnings and endings!
In the past she was called Palestine
and tomorrow she will still be called Palestine.
My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life!



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 the tips of your fingers
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,
shielded by shade from a glaring sun?
Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary, and silent?
Darkness increases; we must remain vigilant
and this distant light is our only consolation—
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has been flickering,
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 1950 in Gaza City. He is considered one of the 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.



Excerpt from “Speech of the Red Indian”
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let's give the earth sufficient time to recite
the whole truth ...
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

In tombs you build
the dead lie sleeping.
Over bridges you *****
file the newly slain.

There are spirits who light up the night like fireflies.
There are spirits who come at dawn to sip tea with you,
as peaceful as the day your guns mowed them down.

O, you who are guests in our land,
please leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to sit and ponder
the conditions for peace
in your treaty with the dead.



Existence
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In my solitary life, I was a lost question;
in the encompassing darkness,
my answer lay concealed.

You were a bright new star
revealed by fate,
radiating light from the fathomless darkness.

The other stars rotated around you
—once, twice —
until I perceived
your unique radiance.

Then the bleak blackness broke
and in the twin tremors
of our entwined hands
I had found my missing answer.

Oh you! Oh you intimate, yet distant!
Don't you remember the coalescence
Of our spirits in the flames?
Of my universe with yours?
Of the two poets?
Despite our great distance,
Existence unites us.



Nothing Remains
by Fadwa Tuqan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, we’re together,
but tomorrow you'll be hidden from me again,
thanks to life’s cruelty.

The seas will separate us ...
Oh!—Oh!—If I could only see you!
But I'll never know ...
where your steps led you,
which routes you took,
or to what unknown destinations
your feet were compelled.

You will depart and the thief of hearts,
the denier of beauty,
will rob us of all that's dear to us,
will steal our happiness,
leaving our hands empty.

Tomorrow at dawn you'll vanish like a phantom,
dissipating into a delicate mist
dissolving quickly in the summer sun.

Your scent—your scent!—contains the essence of life,
filling my heart
as the earth absorbs the lifegiving rain.

I will miss you like the fragrance of trees
when you leave tomorrow,
and nothing remains.

Just as everything beautiful and all that's dear to us
is lost—lost!—when nothing remains.



Identity Card
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Record!
I am an Arab!
And my identity card is number fifty thousand.
I have eight children;
the ninth arrives this autumn.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
Employed at the quarry,
I have eight children.
I provide them with bread,
clothes and books
from the bare rocks.
I do not supplicate charity at your gates,
nor do I demean myself at your chambers' doors.
Will you be furious?

Record!
I am an Arab!
I have a name without a title.
I am patient in a country
where people are easily enraged.
My roots
were established long before the onset of time,
before the unfolding of the flora and fauna,
before the pines and the olive trees,
before the first grass grew.
My father descended from plowmen,
not from the privileged classes.
My grandfather was a lowly farmer
neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Still, they taught me the pride of the sun
before teaching me how to read;
now my house is a watchman's hut
made of branches and cane.
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name, but no title!

Record!
I am an Arab!
You have stolen my ancestors' orchards
and the land I cultivated
along with my children.
You left us nothing
but these bare rocks.
Now will the State claim them
as it has been declared?

Therefore!
Record on the first page:
I do not hate people
nor do I encroach,
but if I become hungry
I will feast on the usurper's flesh!
Beware!
Beware my hunger
and my anger!

NOTE: Darwish was married twice, but had no children. In the poem above, he is apparently speaking for his people, not for himself personally.



Passport
by Mahmoud Darwish
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

They left me unrecognizable in the shadows
that bled all colors from this passport.
To them, my wounds were novelties—
curious photos for tourists to collect.
They failed to recognize me. No, don't leave
the palm of my hand bereft of sun
when all the trees recognize me
and every song of the rain honors me.
Don't set a wan moon over me!

All the birds that flocked to my welcoming wave
as far as the distant airport gates,
all the wheatfields,
all the prisons,
all the albescent tombstones,
all the barbwired boundaries,
all the fluttering handkerchiefs,
all the eyes—
they all accompanied me.
But they were stricken from my passport
shredding my identity!

How was I stripped of my name and identity
on soil I tended with my own hands?
Today, Job's lamentations
re-filled the heavens:
Don't make an example of me, not again!
Prophets! Gentlemen!—
Don't require the trees to name themselves!
Don't ask the valleys who mothered them!
My forehead glistens with lancing light.
From my hand the riverwater springs.
My identity can be found in my people's hearts,
so invalidate this passport!



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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



Piercing the Shell

for the mothers and children of Gaza

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



gimME that ol’ time religion!
by michael r. burch

fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-dee,
jesus loves and understands ME!
safe in his grace, I’LL **** them to hell—
the strumpet, the harlot, the wild jezebel,
the alky, the druggie, all queers short and tall!
let them drink ashes and wormwood and gall,
’cause fiddle-dee-DUMB, fiddle-dee-WEEEEEEEEEee ...
jesus loves and understands
ME!



To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
translation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?

A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss

from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:

the lost gold of vanished stars.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: I believe that in the second stanza the blood on Elis's forehead may be a reference to the apprehensive ****** sweat of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. If my interpretation is correct, Elis hears the blackbird's cries, anticipates the danger represented by a harbinger of death, but elects to continue rather than turn back. From what I have been able to gather, the color blue had a special significance for Georg Trakl: it symbolized longing and perhaps a longing for death. The colors blue, purple and black may represent a progression toward death in the poem.



Habeas Corpus
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

I have the results of your DNA analysis.
If you want to have children, this may induce paralysis.
I wish I had good news, but how can I lie?
Any offspring you have are guaranteed to die.
It wouldn’t be fair—I’m sure you’ll agree—
to sentence kids to death, so I’ll waive my fee.



Bittersight
by Michael R. Burch

for Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri, an ancient antinatalist poet

To be plagued with sight
in the Land of the Blind,
—to know birth is death
and that Death is kind—
is to be flogged like Eve
(stripped, sentenced and fined)
because evil is “good”
as some “god” has defined.



In His Kingdom of Corpses
by Michael R. Burch

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many enraged discourses,
high, high from some mountain peak
where He’s lectured man on compassion
while the sparrows around Him fell,
and babes, for His meager ration
of rain, died and went to hell,
unbaptized, for that’s His fashion.

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to vent
in many obscure discourses
on the need for man to repent,
to admit that he’s a sinner;
give up ***, and riches, and fame;
be disciplined at his dinner
though always he dies the same,
whether fatter or thinner.

In his kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many absurd discourses
of man’s Ego, precipitous Peak!,
while demanding praise and worship,
and the bending of every knee.
And though He sounds like the Devil,
all religious men now agree
He loves them indubitably.



Uyghur Poetry Translations

With my translations I am trying to build awareness of the plight of Uyghur poets and their people, who are being sent in large numbers to Chinese "reeducation" concentration camps.

Perhat Tursun (1969-????) is one of the foremost living Uyghur language poets, if he is still alive. Unfortunately, Tursun was "disappeared" into a Chinese "reeducation" concentration camp where extreme psychological torture is the norm. According to a disturbing report he was later "hospitalized." Apparently no one knows his present whereabouts or condition, if he has one. According to John Bolton, when Donald Trump learned of these "reeducation" concentration camps, he told Chinese President Xi Jinping it was "exactly the right thing to do." Trump’s excuse? "Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal."

Elegy
by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"Your soul is the entire world."
―Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Asylum seekers, will you recognize me among the mountain passes' frozen corpses?
Can you identify me here among our Exodus's exiled brothers?
We begged for shelter but they lashed us bare; consider our naked corpses.
When they compel us to accept their massacres, do you know that I am with you?

Three centuries later they resurrect, not recognizing each other,
Their former greatness forgotten.
I happily ingested poison, like a fine wine.
When they search the streets and cannot locate our corpses, do you know that I am with you?

In that tower constructed of skulls you will find my dome as well:
They removed my head to more accurately test their swords' temper.
When before their swords our relationship flees like a flighty lover,
Do you know that I am with you?

When men in fur hats are used for target practice in the marketplace
Where a dying man's face expresses his agony as a bullet cleaves his brain
While the executioner's eyes fail to comprehend why his victim vanishes, ...
Seeing my form reflected in that bullet-pierced brain's erratic thoughts,
Do you know that I am with you?

In those days when drinking wine was considered worse than drinking blood,
did you taste the flour ground out in that blood-turned churning mill?
Now, when you sip the wine Ali-Shir Nava'i imagined to be my blood
In that mystical tavern's dark abyssal chambers,
Do you know that I am with you?

TRANSLATOR NOTES: This is my interpretation (not necessarily correct) of the poem's frozen corpses left 300 years in the past. For the Uyghur people the Mongol period ended around 1760 when the Qing dynasty invaded their homeland, then called Dzungaria. Around a million people were slaughtered during the Qing takeover, and the Dzungaria territory was renamed Xinjiang. I imagine many Uyghurs fleeing the slaughters would have attempted to navigate treacherous mountain passes. Many of them may have died from starvation and/or exposure, while others may have been caught and murdered by their pursuers. If anyone has a better explanation, they are welcome to email me at mikerburch@gmail.com (there is an "r" between my first and last names).



The Fog and the Shadows
adapted from a novel by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“I began to realize the fog was similar to the shadows.”

I began to realize that, just as the exact shape of darkness is a shadow,
even so the exact shape of fog is disappearance
and the exact shape of a human being is also disappearance.
At this moment it seemed my body was vanishing into the human form’s final state.

After I arrived here,
it was as if the danger of getting lost
and the desire to lose myself
were merging strangely inside me.

While everything in that distant, gargantuan city where I spent my five college years felt strange to me; and even though the skyscrapers, highways, ditches and canals were built according to a single standard and shape, so that it wasn’t easy to differentiate them, still I never had the feeling of being lost. Everyone there felt like one person and they were all folded into each other. It was as if their faces, voices and figures had been gathered together like a shaman’s jumbled-up hair.

Even the men and women seemed identical.
You could only tell them apart by stripping off their clothes and examining them.
The men’s faces were beardless like women’s and their skin was very delicate and unadorned.
I was always surprised that they could tell each other apart.
Later I realized it wasn’t just me: many others were also confused.

For instance, when we went to watch the campus’s only TV in a corridor of a building where the seniors stayed when they came to improve their knowledge. Those elderly Uyghurs always argued about whether someone who had done something unusual in an earlier episode was the same person they were seeing now. They would argue from the beginning of the show to the end. Other people, who couldn’t stand such endless nonsense, would leave the TV to us and stalk off.

Then, when the classes began, we couldn’t tell the teachers apart.
Gradually we became able to tell the men from the women
and eventually we able to recognize individuals.
But other people remained identical for us.

The most surprising thing for me was that the natives couldn’t differentiate us either.
For instance, two police came looking for someone who had broken windows during a fight at a restaurant and had then run away.
They ordered us line up, then asked the restaurant owner to identify the culprit.
He couldn’t tell us apart even though he inspected us very carefully.
He said we all looked so much alike that it was impossible to tell us apart.
Sighing heavily, he left.



The Encounter
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I asked her, why aren’t you afraid? She said her God.
I asked her, anything else? She said her People.
I asked her, anything more? She said her Soul.
I asked her if she was content? She said, I am Not.



The Distance
by Tahir Hamut
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We can’t exclude the cicadas’ serenades.
Behind the convex glass of the distant hospital building
the nurses watch our outlandish party
with their absurdly distorted faces.

Drinking watered-down liquor,
half-****, descanting through the open window,
we speak sneeringly of life, love, girls.
The cicadas’ serenades keep breaking in,
wrecking critical parts of our dissertations.

The others dream up excuses to ditch me
and I’m left here alone.

The cosmopolitan pyramid
of drained bottles
makes me feel
like I’m in a Turkish bath.

I lock the door:
Time to get back to work!

I feel like doing cartwheels.
I feel like self-annihilation.



Refuge of a Refugee
by Ablet Abdurishit Berqi aka Tarim
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lack a passport,
so I can’t leave legally.
All that’s left is for me to smuggle myself to safety,
but I’m afraid I’ll be beaten black and blue at the border
and I can’t afford the trafficker.

I’m a smuggler of love,
though love has no national identity.
Poetry is my refuge,
where a refugee is most free.

The following excerpts, translated by Anne Henochowicz, come from an essay written by Tang Danhong about her final meeting with Dr. Ablet Abdurishit Berqi, aka Tarim. Tarim is a reference to the Tarim Basin and its Uyghur inhabitants...

I’m convinced that the poet Tarim Ablet Berqi the associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute, has been sent to a “concentration camp for educational transformation.” This scholar of Uyghur literature who conducted postdoctoral research at Israel’s top university, what kind of “educational transformation” is he being put through?

Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, has said it’s “like the instruction at school, the order of the military, and the security of prison. We have to break their blood relations, their networks, and their roots.”

On a scorching summer day, Tarim came to Tel Aviv from Haifa. In a few days he would go back to Urumqi. I invited him to come say goodbye and once again prepared Sichuan cold noodles for him. He had already unfriended me on Facebook. He said he couldn’t eat, he was busy, and had to hurry back to Haifa. He didn’t even stay for twenty minutes. I can’t even remember, did he sit down? Did he have a glass of water? Yet this farewell shook me to my bones.

He said, “Maybe when I get off the plane, before I enter the airport, they’ll take me to a separate room and beat me up, and I’ll disappear.”

Looking at my shocked face, he then said, “And maybe nothing will happen …”

His expression was sincere. To be honest, the Tarim I saw rarely smiled. Still, layer upon layer blocked my powers of comprehension: he’s a poet, a writer, and a scholar. He’s an associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute. He can get a passport and come to Israel for advanced studies. When he goes back he’ll have an offer from Sichuan University to be a professor of literature … I asked, “Beat you up at the airport? Disappear? On what grounds?”

“That’s how Xinjiang is,” he said without any surprise in his voice. “When a Uyghur comes back from being abroad, that can happen.”…



This poem helps us understand the nomadic lifestyle of many Uyghurs, the hardships they endure, and the character it builds...

Iz (“Traces”)
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We were children when we set out on this journey;
Now our grandchildren ride horses.

We were just a few when we set out on this arduous journey;
Now we're a large caravan leaving traces in the desert.

We leave our traces scattered in desert dunes' valleys
Where many of our heroes lie buried in sandy graves.

But don't say they were abandoned: amid the cedars
their resting places are decorated by springtime flowers!

We left the tracks, the station... the crowds recede in the distance;
The wind blows, the sand swirls, but here our indelible trace remains.

The caravan continues, we and our horses become thin,
But our great-grand-children will one day rediscover those traces.



My Feelings
by Dolqun Yasin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The light sinking through the ice and snow,
The hollyhock blossoms reddening the hills like blood,
The proud peaks revealing their ******* to the stars,
The morning-glories embroidering the earth’s greenery,
Are not light,
Not hollyhocks,
Not peaks,
Not morning-glories;
They are my feelings.

The tears washing the mothers’ wizened faces,
The flower-like smiles suddenly brightening the girls’ visages,
The hair turning white before age thirty,
The night which longs for light despite the sun’s laughter,
Are not tears,
Not smiles,
Not hair,
Not night;
They are my nomadic feelings.

Now turning all my sorrow to passion,
Bequeathing to my people all my griefs and joys,
Scattering my excitement like flowers festooning fields,
I harvest all these, then tenderly glean my poem.

Therefore the world is this poem of mine,
And my poem is the world itself.



To My Brother the Warrior
by Téyipjan Éliyow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I accompanied you,
the commissioners called me a child.
If only I had been a bit taller
I might have proved myself in battle!

The commission could not have known
my commitment, despite my youth.
If only they had overlooked my age and enlisted me,
I'd have given that enemy rabble hell!

Now, brother, I’m an adult.
Doubtless, I’ll join the service soon.
Soon enough, I’ll be by your side,
battling the enemy: I’ll never surrender!

Keywords/Tags: Uyghur, translation, Uighur, Xinjiang, elegy, Kafka, China, Chinese, reeducation, prison, concentration camp, desert, nomad, nomadic, race, racism, discrimination, Islam, Islamic, Muslim, mrbuyghur



Free Fall to Liftoff
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleam
in his still-keen eye,
                                 and I understand his desire
to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...



The One True Poem
by Michael R. Burch

Love was not meaningless ...
nor your embrace, nor your kiss.

And though every god proved a phantom,
still you were divine to your last dying atom ...

So that when you are gone
and, yea, not a word remains of this poem,

even so,
We were One.



The Poem of Poems
by Michael R. Burch

This is my Poem of Poems, for you.
Every word ineluctably true:
I love you.



Peace Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

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.



Sometimes the Dead
by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes we catch them out of the corners of our eyes—
the pale dead.
After they have fled
the gourds of their bodies, like escaping fragrances they rise.

Once they have become a cloud’s mist, sometimes like the rain
they descend;
they appear, sometimes silver like laughter,
to gladden the hearts of men.

Sometimes like a pale gray fog, they drift
unencumbered, yet lumbrously,
as if over the sea
there was the lightest vapor even Atlas could not lift.

Sometimes they haunt our dreams like forgotten melodies
only half-remembered.
Though they lie dismembered
in black catacombs, sepulchers and dismal graves; although they have committed felonies,

yet they are us. Someday soon we will meet them in the graveyard dust
blood-engorged, but never sated
since Cain slew Abel.
But until we become them, let us steadfastly forget them, even as we know our children must ...



What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer
~~~underwater~~~
watching the shoreline blur
sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles ...
Both worlds grow obscure.

Published by ByLine, Mandrake Poetry Review, Poetically Speaking, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Little Brown Poetry, Little Brown Poetry, Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Neovictorian/Cochlea, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems, and Bewildering Stories



Finally to Burn
(the Fall and Resurrection of Icarus)
by Michael R. Burch

Athena takes me
sometimes by the hand

and we go levitating
through strange Dreamlands

where Apollo sleeps
in his dark forgetting

and Passion seems
like a wise bloodletting

and all I remember
,upon awaking,

is: to Love sometimes
is like forsaking

one’s Being―to glide
heroically beyond thought,

forsaking the here
for the There and the Not.



O, finally to Burn,
gravity beyond escaping!

To plummet is Bliss
when the blisters breaking

rain down red scabs
on the earth’s mudpuddle ...

Feathers and wax
and the watchers huddle ...

Flocculent sheep,
O, and innocent lambs!,

I will rock me to sleep
on the waves’ iambs.



To sleep's sweet relief
from Love’s exhausting Dream,

for the Night has Wings
gentler than moonbeams―

they will flit me to Life
like a huge-eyed Phoenix

fluttering off
to quarry the Sphinx.



Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Quixotic, I seek Love
amid the tarnished

rusted-out steel
when to live is varnish.

To Dream―that’s the thing!
Aye, that Genie I’ll rub,

soak by the candle,
aflame in the tub.



Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Somewhither, somewhither
aglitter and strange,

we must moult off all knowledge
or perish caged.



I am reconciled to Life
somewhere beyond thought―

I’ll Live the Elsewhere,
I’ll Dream of the Naught.

Methinks it no journey;
to tarry’s a waste,

so fatten the oxen;
make a nice baste.

I’m coming, Fool Tom,
we have Somewhere to Go,

though we injure noone,
ourselves wildaglow.

Published by The Lyric and The Ekphrastic Review



Chit Chat: In the Poetry Chat Room
by Michael R. Burch

WHY SHULD I LERN TO SPELL?
HELL,
NO ONE REEDS WHAT I SAY
ANYWAY!!! :(

Sing for the cool night,
whispers of constellations.
Sing for the supple grass,
the tall grass, gently whispering.
Sing of infinities, multitudes,
of all that lies beyond us now,
whispers begetting whispers.
And i am glad to also whisper . . .

I WUS HURT IN LUV I’M DYIN’
FER TH’ TEARS I BEEN A-CRYIN’!!!

i abide beyond serenities
and realms of grace,
above love’s misdirected earth,
i lift my face.
i am beyond finding now . . .

I WAS IN, LOVE, AND HE ******* ME!!!
THE ****!!! TOTALLY!!!

i loved her once, before, when i
was mortal too, and sometimes i
would listen and distinctly hear
her laughter from the juniper,
but did not go . . .

I JUST DON’T GET POETRY, SOMETIMES.
IT’S OKAY, I GUESS.
I REALLY DON’T READ THAT MUCH AT ALL,
I MUST CONFESS!!! ;-)

Travail, inherent to all flesh,
i do not know, nor how to feel.
Although i sing them nighttimes still:
the bitter woes, that do not heal . . .

POETRY IS BORING.
SEE, IT *****!!!, I’M SNORING!!! ZZZZZZZ!!!

The words like breath, i find them here,
among the fragrant juniper,
and conifers amid the snow,
old loves imagined long ago . . .

WHY DON’T YOU LIKE MY PERFICKT WORDS
YOU USELESS UN-AMERIC’N TURDS?!!!

What use is love, to me, or Thou?
O Words, my awe, to fly so smooth
above the anguished hearts of men
to heights unknown, Thy bare remove . . .



Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.



Ultimate Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

he now faces the Ultimate Sunset,
his body like the leaves that fray as they dry,
shedding their vital fluids (who knows why?)
till they’ve become even lighter than the covering sky,
ready to fly ...



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleaming
in his still-keen eye,
and I understand his desire
to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons . . .
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears . . .
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
―a man as large as I left―
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim―

"My father!"
"My son!"

NOTE: “Sanctuary at Dawn” was written either in high school or during my first two years of college.



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfathers George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Paul Ray Burch Sr.

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

and remind me that,
once, upon a star,
you taught me

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

and seemed to speak of times before
when you clasped my small glad hand
in your wise paw

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .



Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

With gentleness and fine and tender will,
attend upon them still;
thou art the grass.

Nor let men’s feet here muddy as they pass
thy subtle undulations, nor depress
for long the comforts of thy lovingness,

nor let the fuse
of time wink out amid the violets.
They have their use―

to wave, to grow, to gleam, to lighten their paths,
to shine sweet, transient glories at their feet.
Thou art the grass;

make them complete.



The Composition of Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who write late at night

We breathe and so we write; the night
hums softly its accompaniment.
Pale phosphors burn; the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants’
strange golden weight, each plosive’s shape—
curved like the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds’ shadows mass beneath bright glass
like singing voles curled in a maze
of blank white space. We touch a face—
long-frozen words trapped in a glaze

that insulates our hearts. Nowhere
can love be found. Just shrieking air.

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Rhyme, Candelabrum, Iambs & Trochees (Poem of the Week), Triplopia, Romantics Quarterly, Hidden Treasures (Selected Poem), ImageNation (United Kingdom), Yellow Bat Review, Poetry Life & Times, Vallance Review, Poetica Victorian



First Steps
by Michael R. Burch

for Caitlin Shea Murphy

To her a year is like infinity,
each day—an adventure never-ending.
She has no concept of time,
but already has begun the climb—
from childhood to womanhood recklessly ascending.

I would caution her, "No! Wait!
There will be time enough another day ...
time to learn the Truth
and to slowly shed your youth,
but for now, sweet child, go carefully on your way! ..."

But her time is not a time for cautious words,
nor a time for measured, careful understanding.
She is just certain
that, by grabbing the curtain,
in a moment she will finally be standing!

Little does she know that her first few steps
will hurtle her on her way
through childhood to adolescence,
and then, finally, pubescence . . .
while, just as swiftly, I’ll be going gray!



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!"



Vacuum
by Michael R. Burch

Over hushed quadrants
forever landlocked in snow,
time’s senseless winds blow ...

leaving odd relics of lives half-revealed,
if still mostly concealed ...
such are the things we are unable to know

that once intrigued us so.

Come then, let us quickly repent
of whatever truths we’d once determined to learn:
for whatever is left, we are unable to discern.

There’s nothing left of us; it’s time to go.



Spring
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

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

What is their brazen goal?

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



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

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

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

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

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



Confession of a Stolen Kiss
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you,
That at a window (you know how)
I stole a kiss of great sweetness,
Which was done out of avidness—
But it is done, not undone, now.

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you.

But I shall restore it, doubtless,
Again, if it may be that I know how;
And thus to God I make a vow,
And always I ask forgiveness.

My ghostly father, I confess,
First to God and then to you.

Translator note: By "ghostly father" I take Charles d'Orleans to be confessing to a priest. If so, it's ironic that the kiss was "stolen" at a window and the confession is being made at the window of a confession booth. But it also seems possible that Charles could be confessing to his human father, murdered in his youth and now a ghost. There is wicked humor in the poem, as Charles is apparently vowing to keep asking for forgiveness because he intends to keep stealing kisses at every opportunity!



Charles d'Orleans translations of Rondels/Roundels/Rondeaux

Note: While there is some confusion about the names and definitions of poetic forms such as the rondel, roundel, rondelle and rondeau, these are all rhyming poems with refrains.

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

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

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

So would I beg you, if I only may,
To see such sights as I before have seen,
Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene?

I'll be obsessed until my dying day
By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms' twin chains!



The season has cast its coat aside
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The season has cast its coat aside
of wind and cold and rain,
to dress in embroidered light again:
bright sunlight, fit for a bride!

There isn't a bird or beast astride
that fails to sing this sweet refrain:
"The season has cast its coat aside! "

Now rivers, fountains, springs and tides
dressed in their summer best
with silver beads impressed
in a fine display now glide:
the season has cast its coat aside!



The year lays down his mantle cold
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The year lays down his mantle cold
of wind, chill rain and bitter air,
and now goes clad in clothes of gold
of smiling suns and seasons fair,
while birds and beasts of wood and fold
now with each cry and song declare:
"The year lays down his mantle cold! "
All brooks, springs, rivers, seaward rolled,
now pleasant summer livery wear
with silver beads embroidered where
the world puts off its raiment old.
The year lays down his mantle cold.



Winter has cast his cloak away
by Charles d'Orleans (c.1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Winter has cast his cloak away
of wind and cold and chilling rain
to dress in embroidered light again:
the light of day—bright, festive, gay!
Each bird and beast, without delay,
in its own tongue, sings this refrain:
"Winter has cast his cloak away! "
Brooks, fountains, rivers, streams at play,
wear, with their summer livery,
bright beads of silver jewelry.
All the Earth has a new and fresh display:
Winter has cast his cloak away!

Note: This rondeau was set to music by Debussy in his "Trois chansons de France."



Caedmon'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!



Les Bijoux (The Jewels)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My lover **** and knowing my heart's whims
Wore nothing more than a few bright-flashing gems;
Her art was saving men despite their sins—
She ruled like harem girls crowned with diadems!

She danced for me with a gay but mocking air,
My world of stone and metal sparking bright;
I discovered in her the rapture of everything fair—
Nay, an excess of joy where the spirit and flesh unite!

Naked she lay and offered herself to me,
Parting her legs and smiling receptively,
As gentle and yet profound as the rising sea—
Till her surging tide encountered my cliff, abruptly.

A tigress tamed, her eyes met mine, intent ...
Intent on lust, content to purr and please!
Her breath, both languid and lascivious, lent
An odd charm to her metamorphoses.

Her limbs, her *****, her abdomen, her thighs,
Oiled alabaster, sinuous as a swan,
Writhed pale before my calm clairvoyant eyes;
Like clustered grapes her ******* and belly shone.

Skilled in more spells than evil imps can muster,
To break the peace which had possessed my heart,
She flashed her crystal rocks’ hypnotic luster
Till my quietude was shattered, blown apart.

Her waist awrithe, her ******* enormously
Out-******, and yet ... and yet, somehow, still coy ...
As if stout haunches of Antiope
Had been grafted to a boy ...

The room grew dark, the lamp had flickered out.
Mute firelight, alone, lit each glowing stud;
Each time the fire sighed, as if in doubt,
It steeped her pale, rouged flesh in pools of blood.



Duellem (The Duel)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Two combatants charged! Their fearsome swords
brightened the air with fiery sparks and blood.
Their clashing blades clinked odd serenades,
reminding us: youth's inspired by overloud love.

But now their blades lie broken, like our hearts!
Still, our savage teeth and talon-like fingernails
can do more damage than the deadliest sword
when lovers lash about with such natural flails.

In a deep ravine haunted by lynxes and panthers,
our heroes roll around in a cozy embrace,
leaving their blood to redden the colorless branches.
This abyss is pure hell; our friends occupy the place.

Come, let us roll here too, cruel Amazon;
let our hatred’s ardor never be over and done!



Le Balcon (The Balcony)
by Charles Baudelaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Paramour of memory, ultimate mistress,
source of all pleasure, my only desire;
how can I forget your ecstatic caresses,
the warmth of your ******* by the roaring fire,
paramour of memory, ultimate mistress?

Each night illumined by the burning coals
we lay together where the rose-fragrance clings―
how soft your *******, how tender your soul!
Ah, and we said imperishable things,
each night illumined by the burning coals.

How beautiful the sunsets these sultry days,
deep space so profound, beyond life’s brief floods ...
then, when I kissed you, my queen, in a daze,
I thought I breathed the bouquet of your blood
as beautiful as sunsets these sultry days.

Night thickens around us like a wall;
in the deepening darkness our irises meet.
I drink your breath, ah! poisonous yet sweet!,
as with fraternal hands I massage your feet
while night thickens around us like a wall.

I have mastered the sweet but difficult art
of happiness here, with my head in your lap,
finding pure joy in your body, your heart;
because you’re the queen of my present and past
I have mastered love’s sweet but difficult art.

O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!
Can these be reborn from a gulf we can’t sound
as suns reappear, as if heaven misses
their light when they sink into seas dark, profound?
O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!



Il pleure dans mon coeur (“It rains in my heart”)
by Paul Verlaine
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It rains in my heart
As it rains on the town;
Heavy languor and dark
Drenches my heart.

Oh, the sweet-sounding rain
Cleansing pavements and roofs!
For my listless heart's pain
The pure song of the rain!

Still it rains without reason
In my overcast heart.
Can it be there's no treason?
That this grief's without reason?

As my heart floods with pain,
Lacking hatred, or love,
I've no way to explain
Such bewildering pain!



Spleen
by Paul Verlaine
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The roses were so very red;
The ivy, impossibly black.
Dear, with a mere a turn of your head,
My despair’s flooded back!

The sky was too gentle, too blue;
The sea, far too windswept and green.
Yet I always imagined―or knew―
I’d again feel your spleen.

Now I'm tired of the glossy waxed holly,
Of the shimmering boxwood too,
Of the meadowland’s endless folly,
When all things, alas, lead to you!



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they vanish, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze ...
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.



Dispensing Keys
by Hafiz aka Hafez
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.



Infectious!
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I became infected with happiness tonight
as I wandered idly, singing in the starlight.
Now I'm wonderfully contagious ...
so kiss me!



The Tally
by Hafiz aka Hafez
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lovers
don't reveal
all
their Secrets;
under the covers
they
may
count each other's Moles
(that reside
and hide
in the shy regions
by forbidden holes),
then keep the final tally
strictly
from Aunt Sally!

This is admittedly a VERY loose translation of the original Hafiz poem!



Mirror
by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My era's obscuring mirror
shattered
because it magnified the small
and made the great seem insignificant.
Dictators and monsters filled its contours.
Now when I breathe
its jagged shards pierce my heart
and instead of sweat
I exude glass.



The Lonely Earth
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pale celestial bodies
never bid her “Good morning!”
nor do the creative stars
kiss her.
Earth, where so many tender persuasions and roses lie interred,
might expire for the lack of a glance, or an odor.
She’s a lonely dusty orb,
so very lonely!, as she observes the moon's patchwork attire
knowing the sun's an imposter
who sears with rays he has stolen for himself
and who looks down on the moon and earth like lodgers.



Kurds are Birds
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Per the latest scientific classification, Kurds
now belong to a species of bird!
This is why,
traveling across the torn, fraying pages of history,
they are nomads recognized by their caravans.
Yes, Kurds are birds! And,
even worse, when
there’s nowhere left to nest, no refuge from their pain,
they turn to the illusion of traveling again
between the warm and arctic sectors of their homeland.
So I don’t think it strange Kurds can fly but not land.
They wander from region to region
never realizing their dreams
of settling,
of forming a colony, of nesting.
No, they never settle down long enough
to visit Rumi and inquire about his health,
or to bow down deeply in the gust-
stirred dust,
like Nali.



Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!



After the Deluge
by Michael R. Burch

She was kinder than light
to an up-reaching flower
and sweeter than rain
to the bees in their bower
where anemones blush
at the affections they shower,
and love’s shocking power.

She shocked me to life,
but soon left me to wither.
I was listless without her,
nor could I be with her.
I fell under the spell
of her absence’s power.
in that calamitous hour.

Like blithe showers that fled
repealing spring’s sweetness;
like suns’ warming rays sped
away, with such fleetness ...
she has taken my heart—
alas, our completeness!
I now wilt in pale beams
of her occult remembrance.



grave request
by michael r. burch

come to ur doom
in Tombstone;

the stars stark and chill
over Boot Hill

care nothing for ur desire;

still,

imagine they wish u no ill,
that u burn with the same antique fire;

for there’s nothing to life but the thrill
of living until u expire;

so come, spend ur last hardearned bill
on Tombstone.



Defenses
by Michael R. Burch

Beyond the silhouettes of trees
stark, naked and defenseless
there stand long rows of sentinels:
these pert white picket fences.

Now whom they guard and how they guard,
the good Lord only knows;
but savages would have to laugh
observing the tidy rows.



Pool's Prince Charming
by Michael R. Burch

(this is my tribute poem, written on the behalf of his fellow pool sharks, for the legendary Saint Louie Louie Roberts)

Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool,
making all the ladies drool ...
Take the “nuts”? I'd be a fool!
Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool.

Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis,
owner of (ahem) a similar pelvis ...
Compared to you, the books will shelve us.
Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis.

Louie, Louie, fearless gambler,
ladies' man and constant rambler,
but such a sweet, loquacious ambler!
Louie, Louie, fearless gambler.

Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic,
pool's charming hero, but tragic, Byronic,
winning the Open drinking gin and tonic?
Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic.



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!



pretty pickle
by Michael R. Burch

u’d blaspheme if u could
because ur God’s no good,
but of course u cant:
ur just a lowly ant
(or so u were told by a Hierophant).



and then i was made whole
by Michael R. Burch

... and then i was made whole,
but not a thing entire,
glued to a perch
in a gilded church,
strung through with a silver wire ...

singing a little of this and of that,
warbling higher and higher:
a thing wholly dead
till I lifted my head
and spat at the Lord and his choir.



Album
by Michael R. Burch

I caress them—trapped in brittle cellophane—
and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flight—an old prop plane,
their blissful arc through alien blue skies ...

And I touch them here through leaves which—tattered, frayed—
are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects’ wings—pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never changed, remaining two ...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on feral claws
as It scratched Its way into their hearts, depends
on sorrows such as theirs, and works Its jaws ...

and slavers for Its meat—those young, unwise,
who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.



Because You Came to Me
by Michael R. Burch

Because you came to me with sweet compassion
and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,
I do not love you after any fashion,
but wildly, in despair.

Because you came to me in my black torment
and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun
upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn’s foment
they melt, I am undone.

Because I am undone, you have remade me
as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow
the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me
and bower me, somehow.



Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem around age 18, wasn't happy with it, put it aside, then revised it six years later.



Besieged
by Michael R. Burch

Life—the disintegration of the flesh
before the fitful elevation of the soul
upon improbable wings?

Life—is this all we know,
the travail one bright season brings? ...

Now the fruit hangs,
impendent, pregnant with death,
as the hurricane builds and flings
its white columns and banners of snow

and the rout begins.



****** 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.



Loose Knit
by Michael R. Burch

She blesses the needle,
fetches fine red stitches,
criss-crossing, embroidering dreams
in the delicate fabric.

And if her hand jerks and twitches in puppet-like fits,
she tells herself
reality is not as threadbare as it seems ...
that a little more darning may gather loose seams.

She weaves an unraveling tapestry
of fatigue and remorse and pain; ...
only the nervously pecking needle
****** her to motion, again and again.



I Have Labored Sore
anonymous medieval lyric (circa the fifteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have labored sore / and suffered death,
so now I rest / and catch my breath.
But I shall come / and call right soon
heaven and earth / and hell to doom.
Then all shall know / both devil and man
just who I was / and what I am.

NOTE: This poem has a pronounced caesura (pause) in the middle of each line: a hallmark of Old English poetry. While this poem is closer to Middle English, it preserves the older tradition. I have represented the caesura with a slash.



A Lyke-Wake Dirge
anonymous medieval lyric (circa the sixteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Lie-Awake Dirge is "the night watch kept over a corpse."

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

When from this earthly life you pass
every night and all,
to confront your past you must come at last,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If you ever donated socks and shoes,
every night and all,
sit right down and put pull yours on,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk barefoot through the flames of hell,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If ever you shared your food and drink,
every night and all,
the fire will never make you shrink,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk starving through the black abyss,
and Christ receive thy soul.

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.



This World's Joy
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 14th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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



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

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



Adam Lay Ybounden
(anonymous Medieval English lyric, circa early 15th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Adam lay bound, bound in a bond;
Four thousand winters, he thought, were not too long.
And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerics now find written in their book.
But had the apple not been taken, or had it never been,
We'd never have had our Lady, heaven's queen and matron.
So blesséd be the time the apple was taken thus;
Therefore we sing, "God is gracious! "

The poem has also been rendered as "Adam lay i-bounden" and "Adam lay i-bowndyn."



Excerpt from "Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? "
anonymous Middle English poem, circa 1275
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where are the men who came before us,
who led hounds and hawks to the hunt,
who commanded fields and woods?
Where are the elegant ladies in their boudoirs
who braided gold through their hair
and had such fair complexions?

Once eating and drinking made their hearts glad;
they enjoyed their games;
men bowed before them;
they bore themselves loftily...
But then, in an eye's twinkling,
their hearts were forlorn.

Where are their laughter and their songs,
the trains of their dresses,
the arrogance of their entrances and exits,
their hawks and their hounds?
All their joy is departed;
their "well" has come to "oh, well"
and to many dark days...



Westron Wynde
(anonymous Middle English lyric, found in a partbook circa 1530 AD, but perhaps written much earlier)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Western wind, when will you blow,
bringing the drizzling rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
and I in my bed again!

NOTE: The original poem has "the smalle rayne down can rayne" which suggests a drizzle or mist, either of which would suggest a dismal day.



Pity Mary
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now the sun passes under the wood:
I rue, Mary, thy face: fair, good.
Now the sun passes under the tree:
I rue, Mary, thy son and thee.

In the poem above, note how "wood" and "tree" invoke the cross while "sun" and "son" seem to invoke each other. Sun-day is also Son-day, to Christians. The anonymous poet who wrote the poem above may have been been punning the words "sun" and "son." The poem is also known as "Now Goeth Sun Under Wood" and "Now Go'th Sun Under Wood."



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

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

Sounds like an early animal rights activist! The use of "and" is intriguing... is the poet saying that his walks in the wood drive him mad because he is also a "beast of bone and blood, " facing a similar fate?



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

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



If I am Syrian, what of it?
Stranger, we all dwell in one world, not its portals.
The same original Chaos gave birth to all mortals.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love, how can I call on you:
does Desire dwell with the dead?
Cupid, that bold boy, never bowed his head
to wail.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, I swear,
your quiver holds only empty air:
for all your winged arrows, set free,
are now lodged in me.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, if you incinerate my soul, touché!
For she too has wings and can fly away!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cupid, the cuddly baby
safe in his mother's lap,
chucking the dice one day,
gambled my heart away.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lie defeated. Set your foot on my neck. Checkmate.
I recognize you by your weight;
yes, and by the gods, you’re a load to bear.
I am also well aware
of your fiery darts.
But if you seek to ignite human hearts,
******* with your tinders;
mine’s already in cinders.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron everything’s revealed.
When he’s gone all’s concealed.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron everything’s defined;
When he’s gone I’m blind.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I see Theron my eyes bug out;
When he’s gone even sight is in doubt.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mother-Earth, to all men dear,
Aesigenes was never a burden to you,
so please rest lightly on him here.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Meleager dedicates this lamp to you, dear Cypris, as a plaything,
since it has been initiated into the mysteries of your nocturnal ceremonies.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know you lied, because these ringlets
still dripping scented essences
betray your wantonness.
These also betray you—
your eyes sagging with the lack of sleep,
stray tendrils of your unchaste hair escaping its garlands,
your limbs uncoordinated by the wine.
Away, trollop, they summon you—
the reveling lyre and the clattering castanets rattled by lewd fingers!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moon and Stars,
lighting the way for lovers,
and Night,
and you, my mournful Mandolin, my ***** companion ...
when will we see her, the little wanton one, lying awake and moaning to her lamp?
Or does she embrace some other companion?
Then let me hang conciliatory garlands on her door,
wilted by my tears,
and let me inscribe thereupon these words:
"For you, Cypris,
the one to whom you revealed the mysteries of your revels,
Meleager,
offers these spoiled tokens of his love."
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Silence!
They must have carried her off!
Who could be so barbaric,
to act with such violence,
to wage war against Love himself?
Quick, prepare the torches!
But wait!
A footfall, Heliodora's!
Get back in my *****, heart!
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tears, the last gifts of my love,
I send drenching down to you, Heliodora.
Here on your puddling tomb I pour them out—
soul-wrenching tears
in memory of affliction and affection.
Piteously, so piteously Meleager mourns you,
you still so precious, so dear to him in death,
paying vain tributes to Acheron.
Alas! Alas! Where is my beautiful one,
my heart's desire?
Death has taken her from me, has robbed me of her,
and the lustrous blossom lies trampled in dust.
But Earth-Mother, nurturer of us all ...
Mother, I beseech you, hold her gently to your *****,
the one we all bewail.
—Meleager, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll "recite" them, if I do.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: The irascible Martial is suggesting that if he shares his poems, they will be plagiarized.

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love the fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his stuffing.
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: Martial concluded his epigram with a variation of the f-word; please substitute it if you prefer it.

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain―you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages―you alone!
Discrimination and wit―you alone!
You have it all―who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife―she is never alone!
―Martial, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love’s daughter.
She fell a mere six days short of outliving her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell’s three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Alien Nation
by Michael R. Burch

for a Christian poet who believes in “hell”

On a lonely outpost on Mars
the astronaut practices “speech”
as alien to primates below
as mute stars winking high, out of reach.

And his words fall as bright and as chill
as ice crystals on Kilimanjaro —
far colder than Jesus’s words
over the “fortunate” sparrow.

And I understand how gentle Emily
must have felt, when all comfort had flown,
gazing into those inhuman eyes,
feeling zero at the bone.

Oh, how can I grok his arctic thought?
For if he is human, I am not.



Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch

“Burn Ovid”—Austin Clarke

Sunday School,
Faith Free Will Baptist, 1973:
I sat imaging watery folds
of pale silk encircling her waist.
Explicit *** was the day’s “hot” topic
(how breathlessly I imagined hers)
as she taught us the perils of lust
fraught with inhibition.

I found her unaccountably beautiful,
rolling implausible nouns off the edge of her tongue:
adultery, fornication, *******, ******.
Acts made suddenly plausible by the faint blush
of her unrouged cheeks,
by her pale lips
accented only by a slight quiver,
a trepidation.

What did those lustrous folds foretell
of our uncommon desire?
Why did she cross and uncross her legs
lovely and long in their taupe sheaths?
Why did her ******* rise pointedly,
as if indicating a direction?

“Come unto me,
(unto me),”
together, we sang,

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

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

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

This poem is set at Faith Christian Academy, which I attended for a year during the ninth grade, in 1972-1973. While the poem definitely had its genesis there, I believe I revised it more than once and didn't finish it till 2001, nearly 28 years later, according to my notes on the poem. Another poem, "*** 101," was also written about my experiences at FCA that year.



*** 101
by Michael R. Burch

That day the late spring heat
steamed through the windows of a Crayola-yellow schoolbus
crawling its way up the backwards slopes
of Nowheresville, North Carolina ...

Where we sat exhausted
from the day’s skulldrudgery
and the unexpected waves of muggy,
summer-like humidity ...

Giggly first graders sat two abreast
behind senior high students
sprouting their first sparse beards,
their implausible bosoms, their stranger affections ...

The most unlikely coupling—

Lambert, 18, the only college prospect
on the varsity basketball team,
the proverbial talldarkhandsome
swashbuckling cocksman, grinning ...

Beside him, Wanda, 13,
bespectacled, in her primproper attire
and pigtails, staring up at him,
fawneyed, disbelieving ...

And as the bus filled with the improbable musk of her,
as she twitched impaled on his finger
like a dead frog jarred to life by electrodes,
I knew ...

that love is a forlorn enterprise,
that I would never understand it.

This companion poem to "Burn, Ovid" is also set at Faith Christian Academy, in 1972-1973.



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.



Huntress
Michael R. Burch

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.



Ibykos Fragment 286 (III)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;

the results are frightening—
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.

Originally published by The Chained Muse



Ince St. Child
by Michael R. Burch

When she was a child
in a dark forest of fear,
imagination cast its strange light
into secret places,
scattering traces
of illumination so bright,
years later, she could still find them there,
their light undefiled.

When she was young,
the shafted light of her dreams
shone on her uplifted face
as she prayed ...
though she strayed
into a night fallen like woven lace
shrouding the forest of screams,
her faith led her home.

Now she is old
and the light that was flame
is a slow-dying ember ...
what she felt then
she would explain;
she would if she could only remember
that forest of shame,
faith beaten like gold.

This was an unusual poem, and it took me some time to figure out who the old woman was. She was a victim of childhood ******, hence the title I eventually came up with.



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.



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty ...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



Kindred
by Michael R. Burch

Rise, pale disastrous moon!
What is love, but a heightened effect
of time, light and distance?

Did you burn once,
before you became
so remote, so detached,

so coldly, inhumanly lustrous,
before you were able to assume
the very pallor of love itself?

What is the dawn now, to you or to me?

We are as one,
out of favor with the sun.

We would exhume
the white corpse of love
for a last dance,

and yet we will not.
We will let her be,
let her abide,

for she is nothing now,
to you
or to me.



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.



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



Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch

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.



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



Righteous
by Michael R. Burch

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
that I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of bright stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

Published by Writer’s Gazette, Tucumcari Literary Review and The Chained Muse



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.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



The Shape of Mourning
by Michael R. Burch

The shape of mourning
is an oiled creel
shining with unuse,

the bolt of cold steel
on a locker
shielding memory,

the monthly penance
of flowers,
the annual wake,

the face in the photograph
no longer dissolving under scrutiny,
becoming a keepsake,

the useless mower
lying forgotten
in weeds,

rings and crosses and
all the paraphernalia
the soul no longer needs.



Tillage
by Michael R. Burch

What stirs within me
is no great welling
straining to flood forth,
but an emptiness
waiting to be filled.

I am not an orchard
ready to be harvested,
but a field
rough and barren
waiting to be tilled.



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.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



Hearthside
by Michael R. Burch

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep...” ― W. B. Yeats

For all that we professed of love, we knew
this night would come, that we would bend alone
to tend wan fires’ dimming bars―the moan
of wind cruel as the Trumpet, gelid dew
an eerie presence on encrusted logs
we hoard like jewels, embrittled so ourselves.

The books that line these close, familiar shelves
loom down like dreary chaperones. Wild dogs,
too old for mates, cringe furtive in the park,
as, toothless now, I frame this parchment kiss.

I do not know the words for easy bliss
and so my shriveled fingers clutch this stark,
long-unenamored pen and will it: Move.
I loved you more than words, so let words prove.

This sonnet is written from the perspective of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats in his loose translation or interpretation of the Pierre de Ronsard sonnet “When You Are Old.” The aging Yeats thinks of his Muse and the love of his life, the fiery Irish revolutionary Maude Gonne. As he seeks to warm himself by a fire conjured from ice-encrusted logs, he imagines her doing the same. Although Yeats had insisted that he wasn’t happy without Gonne, she said otherwise: “Oh yes, you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you!”



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.



Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.



Haunted
by Michael R. Burch

Now I am here
and thoughts of my past mistakes are my brethren.
I am withering
and the sweetness of your memory is like a tear.

Go, if you will,
for the ache in my heart is its hollowness
and the flaw in my soul is its shallowness;
there is nothing to fill.

Take what you can;
I have nothing left.
And when you are gone, I will be bereft,
the husk of a man.

Or stay here awhile.
My heart cannot bear the night, or these dreams.
Your face is a ghost, though paler, it seems
when you smile.

Published by Romantics Quarterly



Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown;
the Ferris wheel teeters ...
not up, yet not down.
Have I been too long at the fair?

This is one of my earliest poems, written around age 15 when we were living with my grandfather in his house on Chilton Street, within walking distance of the Nashville fairgrounds. I remember walking to the fairgrounds, stopping at a Dairy Queen along the way, and swimming at a public pool. But I believe the Ferris wheel only operated during the state fair. So my “educated guess” is that this poem was written during the 1973 state fair, or shortly thereafter. I remember watching people hanging suspended in mid-air, waiting for carnies to deposit them safely on terra firma again.



Her Preference
by Michael R. Burch

Not for her the pale incandescence of dreams,
the warm glow of imagination,
the hushed whispers of possibility,
or frail, blossoming hope.

No, she prefers the anguish and screams
of bitter condemnation,
the hissing of hostility,
damnation's rope.



hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar."



Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore
shall the haunts of the sea―
the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore―
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her ******* and hips
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never **** her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure ...
She sleeps forevermore.

She sleeps forevermore,
a ****** save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way!
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea ...

their skeletal love―impossibility!

This is one of my Poe-like creations, written around age 19. I think the poem has an interesting ending, since the male skeleton is missing an important "member."



Mehmet Akif Ersoy: Modern English Translations of Turkish Poems

Mehmet Âkif Ersoy (1873-1936) was a Turkish poet, author, writer, academic, member of parliament, and the composer of the Turkish National Anthem.



Snapshot
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Earth’s least trace of life cannot be erased;
even when you lie underground, it encompasses you.
So, those of you who anticipate the shadows,
how long will the darkness remember you?



Zulmü Alkislayamam
"I Can’t Applaud Tyranny"
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I can't condone cruelty; I will never applaud the oppressor;
Yet I can't renounce the past for the sake of deluded newcomers.
When someone curses my ancestors, I want to strangle them,
Even if you don’t.
But while I harbor my elders,
I refuse to praise their injustices.
Above all, I will never glorify evil, by calling injustice “justice.”
From the day of my birth, I've loved freedom;
The golden tulip never deceived me.
If I am nonviolent, does that make me a docile sheep?
The blade may slice, but my neck resists!
When I see someone else's wound, I suffer a great hardship;
To end it, I'll be whipped, I'll be beaten.
I can't say, “Never mind, just forget it!” I'll mind,
I'll crush, I'll be crushed, I'll uphold justice.
I'm the foe of the oppressor, the friend of the oppressed.
What the hell do you mean, with your backwardness?



Çanakkale Sehitlerine
"For the Çanakkale Martyrs"
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Was there ever anything like the Bosphorus war?―
The earth’s mightiest armies pressing Marmara,
Forcing entry between her mountain passes
To a triangle of land besieged by countless vessels.
Oh, what dishonorable assemblages!
Who are these Europeans, come as rapists?
Who, these braying hyenas, released from their reeking cages?
Why do the Old World, the New World, and all the nations of men
now storm her beaches? Is it Armageddon? Truly, the whole world rages!
Seven nations marching in unison!
Australia goose-stepping with Canada!
Different faces, languages, skin tones!
Everything so different, but the mindless bludgeons!
Some warriors Hindu, some African, some nameless, unknown!
This disgraceful invasion, baser than the Black Death!
Ah, the 20th century, so noble in its own estimation,
But all its favored ones nothing but a parade of worthless wretches!
For months now Turkish soldiers have been vomited up
Like stomachs’ retched contents regarded with shame.
If the masks had not been torn away, the faces would still be admired,
But the ***** called civilization is far from blameless.
Now the ****** demand the destruction of the doomed
And thus bring destruction down on their own heads.
Lightning severs horizons!
Earthquakes regurgitate the bodies of the dead!
Bombs’ thunderbolts explode brains,
rupture the ******* of brave soldiers.
Underground tunnels writhe like hell
Full of the bodies of burn victims.
The sky rains down death, the earth swallows the living.
A terrible blizzard heaves men violently into the air.
Heads, eyes, torsos, legs, arms, chins, fingers, hands, feet...
Body parts rain down everywhere.
Coward hands encased in armor callously scatter
Floods of thunderbolts, torrents of fire.
Men’s chests gape open,
Beneath the high, circling vulture-like packs of the air.
Cannonballs fly as frequently as bullets
Yet the heroic army laughs at the hail.
Who needs steel fortresses? Who fears the enemy?
How can the shield of faith not prevail?
What power can make religious men bow down to their oppressors
When their stronghold is established by God?
The mountains and the rocks are the bodies of martyrs!...
For the sake of a crescent, oh God, many suns set, undone!
Dear soldier, who fell for the sake of this land,
How great you are, your blood saves the Muslims!
Only the lions of Bedr rival your glory!
Who then can dig the grave wide enough to hold you. and your story?
If we try to consign you to history, you will not fit!
No book can contain the eras you shook!
Only eternities can encompass you!...
Oh martyr, son of the martyr, do not ask me about the grave:
The prophet awaits you now, his arms flung wide open, to save!



W. S. Rendra translations

Willibrordus Surendra Broto Rendra (1935-2009), better known as W. S. Rendra or simply Rendra, was an Indonesian dramatist and poet. He said, “I learned meditation and the disciplines of the traditional Javanese poet from my mother, who was a palace dancer. The idea of the Javanese poet is to be a guardian of the spirit of the nation.” The press gave him the nickname Burung Merak (“The Peacock”) for his flamboyant poetry readings and stage performances.

SONNET
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering.

Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers―complex & undefined.

And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.
But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.

How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon―such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.

THE WORLD'S FIRST FACE
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations―
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.

Keywords/Tags: Rendra, Indonesian, Javanese, translation, love, fate, god, gods, goddess, groom, bride, world, time, life, sun, hill, hills, moon, moonlight, stars, life, animals?, international, travel, voyage, wedding, relationship, mrbtran



Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

Alone again as evening falls,
I join gaunt shadows and we crawl
up and down my room's dark walls.

Up and down and up and down,
against starlight―strange, mirthless clowns―
we merge, emerge, submerge . . . then drown.

We drown in shadows starker still,
shadows of the somber hills,
shadows of sad selves we spill,

tumbling, to the ground below.
There, caked in grimy, clinging snow,
we flutter feebly, moaning low

for days dreamed once an age ago
when we weren't shadows, but were men . . .
when we were men, or almost so.



Recursion
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



THE RUIN
an Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

broad battlements broken;
the Builders' work battered;

the high ramparts toppled;
tall towers collapsed;

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

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

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

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

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

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

it outlasted mighty kings and their claims!

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

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

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

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

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

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

... that was spacious ...



Victor Hugo "Love Stronger Than Time"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael Burch

Since I first set my lips to your full cup,
Since my pallid face first nested in your hands,
Since I sensed your soul and every bloom lit up—
Till those rare perfumes were lost to deepening sands;

Since I was once allowed those pleasures deep—
To hear your heart speak mysteries, divine;
Since I have seen you smile, have watched you weep,
Your lips pressed to my lips, your eyes on mine;

Since I have sensed above my thoughts the gleam
Of a ray, a single ray, of your bright star
(If sometimes veiled), and felt light falling stream,
Like one rose petal plucked from high, afar;

I now can say to time's swift-changing hours:
Pass, pass upon your way, for you grow old;
Flee to the dark abyss with your drear flowers,
but one unmarred within my heart I hold.

Your flapping wings may jar but cannot spill
The cup fulfilled of love, from which I drink;
My heart has fires your frosts can never chill,
My soul more love to fly than you can sink.



We Came Together
by Michael R. Burch

We came together – people of two lands
so unalike, at first, we hardly knew
how to be friends. We went to war, and drew
lines in the sand. And yet the sky was blue
for everyone, and big enough to share.

We came together, and our friendships grew.
We had to learn to share the selfsame air,
to find the path to harmony,
to find some common ground and let peace bloom.

We came together and we gave hope room
to blossom in our hearts. We learned to be
together in our common destiny.

We come together – people of many lands
so unalike, at first, and now we know
how to be friends.




Lines for My Ascension
by Michael R. Burch

I.
If I should die,
there will come a Doom,
and the sky will darken
to the deepest Gloom.

But if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

II.
If I should die,
let no mortal say,
“Here was a man,
with feet of clay,

or a timid sparrow
God’s hand let fall.”
But watch the sky darken
to an eerie pall

and know that my Spirit,
unvanquished, broods,
and cares naught for graves,
prayers, coffins, or roods.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

III.
If I should die,
let no man adore
his incompetent Maker:
Zeus, Jehovah, or Thor.

Think of Me as One
who never died―
the unvanquished Immortal
with the unriven side.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.

IV.
And if I should “die,”
though the clouds grow dark
as fierce lightnings rend
this bleak asteroid, stark ...

If you look above,
you will see a bright Sign―
the sun with the moon
in its arms, Divine.

So divine, if you can,
my bright meaning, and know―
my Spirit is mine.
I will go where I go.

And if my body
should not be found,
never think of me
in the cold ground.



The Quickening
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

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



ITALIAN POETRY TRANSLATIONS

These are my modern English translations of the Roman, Latin and Italian poets Anonymous, Marcus Aurelius, Catullus, ***** Cavalcanti, Cicero, Dante Alighieri, Veronica Franco, ***** Guinizelli, Hadrian, Primo Levi, Martial, Michelangelo, Seneca, Seneca the Younger and Leonardo da Vinci. I also have translations of Latin poems by the English poets Aldhelm, Thomas Campion and Saint Godric of Finchale.

Wall, I'm astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
—Ancient Roman graffiti, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great Infernos.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation Michael R. Burch



MARTIAL

I must admit I'm partial
to Martial.
—Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll 'recite' them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his *******.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain—you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages—you alone!
Discrimination, taste and wit—you alone!
You have it all—who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife—
she is never alone!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love's daughter,
who died six days short of completing her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell's three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, with much emotion,
I commend my little lost darling, my much-kissed Erotion,
who died six days short of completing her sixth bitter winter.
Protect her, I pray, from hell's hound and its dark shades a-flitter;
and please don't let fiends leave her maiden heart dismayed!
But lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade
with her cherished friends, excitedly lisping my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was such a slight burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



CATULLUS

Catullus LXXXV: 'Odi et Amo'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
I hate. I love.
You ask, 'Why not refrain?'
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.

2.
I hate. I love.
Why? Heavens above!
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.

3.
I hate. I love.
How can that be, turtledove?
I wish I could explain.
I can't, but feel the pain.



Catullus CVI: 'That Boy'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

See that young boy, by the auctioneer?
He's so pretty he sells himself, I fear!



Catullus LI: 'That Man'
This is Catullus's translation of a poem by Sappho of ******
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I'd call that man the equal of the gods,
or,
could it be forgiven
in heaven,
their superior,
because to him space is given
to bask in your divine presence,
to gaze upon you, smile, and listen
to your ambrosial laughter
which leaves men senseless
here and hereafter.

Meanwhile, in my misery,
I'm left speechless.

Lesbia, there's nothing left of me
but a voiceless tongue grown thick in my mouth
and a thin flame running south...

My limbs tingle, my ears ring, my eyes water
till they swim in darkness.

Call it leisure, Catullus, or call it idleness,
whatever it is that incapacitates you.
By any other name it's the nemesis
fallen kings, empires and cities rue.



Catullus 1 ('cui dono lepidum novum libellum')        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To whom do I dedicate this novel book
polished drily with a pumice stone?
To you, Cornelius, for you would look
content, as if my scribblings took
the cake, when in truth you alone
unfolded Italian history in three scrolls,
as learned as Jupiter in your labors.
Therefore, this little book is yours,
whatever it is, which, O patron Maiden,
I pray will last more than my lifetime!



Catullus XLIX: 'A Toast to Cicero'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cicero, please confess:
You're drunk on your success!
All men of good taste attest
That you're the very best—
At making speeches, first class!
While I'm the dregs of the glass.



Catullus CI: 'His Brother's Burial'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these last offerings, these small tributes
blessed by our fathers' traditions, these small gifts for the dead.
Please accept, by custom, these tokens drenched with a brother's tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, 'Hail and Farewell.'

2.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these small tributes, these last gifts,
offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers,
these final votives. Please accept, by custom,
these tokens drenched with a brother's tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, 'Hail and Farewell.'

[Here 'offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers' is from another translation by an unknown translator.]

[What do the gods know, with their superior airs,
wiser than a mother's tears
for her lost child?
If they had hearts, surely they would be beguiled,
repeal the sentence of death!
Since they have none,
or only hearts of stone,
believers, save your breath.
—Michael R. Burch, after Catullus]



Catullus LXV aka Carmina 65
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hortalus, I’m exhausted by relentless grief,
and have thus abandoned the learned virgins;
nor can my mind, so consumed by malaise,
partake of the Muses' mete fruit;
for lately the Lethaean flood laves my brother's
death-pale foot with its dark waves,
where, beyond mortal sight, ghostly Ilium
disgorges souls beneath the Rhoetean shore.

Never again will I hear you speak,
O my brother, more loved than life,
never see you again, unless I behold you hereafter.
But surely I'll always love you,
always sing griefstricken dirges for your demise,
such as Procne sings under the dense branches’ shadows,
lamenting the lot of slain Itys.

Yet even amidst such unfathomable sorrows, O Hortalus,
I nevertheless send you these, my recastings of Callimachus,
lest you conclude your entrusted words slipped my mind,
winging off on wayward winds, as a suitor’s forgotten apple
hidden in the folds of her dress escapes a ******'s chaste lap;
for when she starts at her mother's arrival, it pops out,
then downward it rolls, headlong to the ground,
as a guilty blush flushes her downcast face.




Catullus IIA: 'Lesbia's Sparrow'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sparrow, my sweetheart's pet,
with whom she plays cradled to her breast,
or in her lap,
giving you her fingertip to peck,
provoking you to nip its nib...
Whenever she's flushed with pleasure
my gorgeous darling plays such dear little games:
to relieve her longings, I suspect,
until her ardour abates.
Oh, if only I could play with you as gaily,
and alleviate my own longings!



Catullus V: 'Let us live, Lesbia, let us love'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let us live, Lesbia, let us love,
and let the judgments of ancient moralists
count less than a farthing to us!

Suns may set then rise again,
but when our brief light sets,
we will sleep through perpetual night.

Give me a thousand kisses, a hundred more,
another thousand, then a second hundred,
yet another thousand, then a third hundred...

Then, once we've tallied the many thousands,
let's jumble the ledger, so that even we
(and certainly no malicious, evil-eyed enemy)        
will ever know there were so many kisses!



Catullus VII: 'How Many Kisses'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask, Lesbia, how many kisses
are enough, or more than enough, to satisfy me?

As many as the Libyan sands
swirling in incense-bearing Cyrene
between the torrid oracle of Jove
and the sacred tomb of Battiades.

Or as many as the stars observing amorous men
making love furtively on a moonless night.

As many of your kisses are enough,
and more than enough, for mad Catullus,
as long as there are too many to be counted by inquisitors
and by malicious-tongued bewitchers.



Catullus VIII: 'Advice to Himself'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Snap out of it Catullus, stop this foolishness!
It's time to cut losses!
What is dead is gone, accept it.
Once brilliant suns shone on you both,
when you trotted about wherever she led,
and loved her as never another before.
That was a time of such happiness,
when your desire intersected her will.
But now she doesn't want you any more.
Be resolute, weak as you are, stop chasing mirages!
What you need is not love, but a clean break.
Goodbye girl, now Catullus stands firm.
Never again Lesbia! Catullus is clear:
He won't miss you. Won't crave you. Catullus is cold.
Now it's you who will grieve, when nobody calls.
It's you who will weep that you're ruined.
Who'll submit to you now? Admire your beauty?
Whom will you love? Whose girl will you be?
Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, you must break with the past, hold fast.



Catullus LX: 'Lioness'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did an African mountain lioness
or a howling Scylla beget you from the nether region of her *****,
my harsh goddess? Are you so pitiless you would hold in contempt
this supplicant voicing his inconsolable despair?
Are you really that cruel-hearted?

Catullus LXX: 'Marriage Vows'
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My sweetheart says she'd marry no one else but me,
not even Jupiter, if he were to ask her!
But what a girl says to her eager lover
ought to be written on the wind or in running water.



CICERO

The famous Roman orator Cicero employed 'tail rhyme' in this pun:

O Fortunatam natam me consule Romam.
O fortunate natal Rome, to be hatched by me!
—Cicero, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



MICHELANGELO

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is considered by many experts to be the greatest artist and sculptor of all time. He was also a great poet.

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

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



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

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



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

A pena prima.

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

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

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

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



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

Al cor di zolfo.

A heart aflame; alas, the flesh not so;
Bones brittle wood; the soul without a guide
To curb the will's inferno; the crude pride
Of restless passions' pulsing surge and flow;

A witless mind that - halt, lame, weak - must go
Blind through entrapments scattered far and wide; ...
Why wonder then, when one small spark applied
To such an assemblage, renders it aglow?

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



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

Sì come nella penna.

Just as with pen and ink,
there is a high, a low, and an in-between style;
and, as marble yields its images pure and vile
to excite the fancies artificers might think;
even so, my lord, lodged deep within your heart
are mingled pride and mild humility;
but I draw only what I truly see
when I trust my eyes and otherwise stand apart.
Whoever sows the seeds of tears and sighs
(bright dews that fall from heaven, crystal-clear)        
in various pools collects antiquities
and so must reap old griefs through misty eyes;
while the one who dwells on beauty, so painful here,
finds ephemeral hopes and certain miseries.



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

A che più debb' io.

Am I to confess my heart's desire
with copious tears and windy words of grief,
when a merciless heaven offers no relief
to souls consumed by fire?

Why should my aching heart aspire
to life, when all must die? Beyond belief
would be a death delectable and brief,
since in my compound woes all joys expire!

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



LEONARDO DA VINCI

Once we have flown, we will forever walk the earth with our eyes turned heavenward, for there we were and will always long to return.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The great achievers rarely relaxed and let things happen to them. They set out and kick-started whatever happened.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

The greatest deceptions spring from men's own opinions.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

There are three classes of people: Those who see by themselves. Those who see only when they are shown. Those who refuse to see.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes! —Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is easier to oppose evil from the beginning than at the end.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Small minds continue to shrink, but those whose hearts are firm and whose consciences endorse their conduct, will persevere until death.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowledge is not enough; we must apply ourselves. Wanting and being willing are insufficient; we must act.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Time is sufficient for anyone who uses it wisely.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where the spirit does not aid and abet the hand there is no art.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Necessity is the mistress of mother nature's inventions.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nature has no effect without cause, no invention without necessity.—Leonardo da Vinci, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did Leonardo da Vinci anticipate Darwin with his comments about Nature and necessity being the mistress of her inventions? Yes, and his studies of comparative anatomy, including the intestines, led da Vinci to say explicitly that 'apes, monkeys and the like' are not merely related to humans but are 'almost of the same species.' He was, indeed, a man ahead of his time, by at least 350 years.



Excerpts from 'Paragone of Poetry and Painting' and Other Writings
by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1500
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sculpture requires light, received from above,
while a painting contains its own light and shade.

Painting is the more beautiful, the more imaginative, the more copious,
while sculpture is merely the more durable.

Painting encompasses infinite possibilities
which sculpture cannot command.
But you, O Painter, unless you can make your figures move,
are like an orator who can't bring his words to life!

While as soon as the Poet abandons nature, he ceases to resemble the Painter;
for if the Poet abandons the natural figure for flowery and flattering speech,
he becomes an orator and is thus neither Poet nor Painter.

Painting is poetry seen but not heard,
while poetry is painting heard but not seen.

And if the Poet calls painting dumb poetry,
the Painter may call poetry blind painting.

Yet poor is the pupil who fails to surpass his master!
Shun those studies in which the work dies with the worker.

Because I find no subject especially useful or pleasing
and because those who preceded me appropriated every useful theme,
I will be like the beggar who comes late to the fair,
who must content himself with other buyers' rejects.

Thus, I will load my humble cart full of despised and rejected merchandise,
the refuse of so many other buyers,
and I will go about distributing it, not in the great cities,
but in the poorer towns,
selling at discounts whatever the wares I offer may be worth.

And what can I do when a woman plucks my heart?
Alas, how she plays me, and yet I must persist!



The Point
by Leonardo da Vinci
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here forms, colors, the character of the entire universe, contract to a point,
and that point is miraculous, marvelous …
O marvelous, O miraculous, O stupendous Necessity!
By your elegant laws you compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause,
by the shortest path possible.
Such are your miracles!



VERONICA FRANCO

Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was a Venetian courtesan who wrote literary-quality poetry and prose.

A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)      
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
if only you give me the one that lifts
me laughing...
And though it costs you nothing,
still it is of immense value to me.
Your reward will be
not just to fly
but to soar, so high
that your joys vastly exceed your desires.
And my beauty, to which your heart aspires
and which you never tire of praising,
I will employ for the raising
of your spirits. Then, lying sweetly at your side,
I will shower you with all the delights of a bride,
which I have more expertly learned.
Then you who so fervently burned
will at last rest, fully content,
fallen even more deeply in love, spent
at my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
becoming completely free
with the man who loves and enjoys me.

Here is a second version of the same poem...

I Resolved to Make a Virtue of My Desire (II)      
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My rewards will match your gifts
If you give me the one that lifts
Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.
Your reward will be—not just to fly,
But to soar—so incredibly high
That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires
And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit's raising) .
Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,
Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,
Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent
At my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.



Capitolo 24
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(written by Franco to a man who had insulted a woman)        

Please try to see with sensible eyes
how grotesque it is for you
to insult and abuse women!
Our unfortunate *** is always subject
to such unjust treatment, because we
are dominated, denied true freedom!
And certainly we are not at fault
because, while not as robust as men,
we have equal hearts, minds and intellects.
Nor does virtue originate in power,
but in the vigor of the heart, mind and soul:
the sources of understanding;
and I am certain that in these regards
women lack nothing,
but, rather, have demonstrated
superiority to men.
If you think us 'inferior' to yourself,
perhaps it's because, being wise,
we outdo you in modesty.
And if you want to know the truth,
the wisest person is the most patient;
she squares herself with reason and with virtue;
while the madman thunders insolence.
The stone the wise man withdraws from the well
was flung there by a fool...



When I bed a man
who—I sense—truly loves and enjoys me,
I become so sweet and so delicious
that the pleasure I bring him surpasses all delight,
till the tight
knot of love,
however slight
it may have seemed before,
is raveled to the core.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



We danced a youthful jig through that fair city—
Venice, our paradise, so pompous and pretty.
We lived for love, for primal lust and beauty;
to please ourselves became our only duty.
Floating there in a fog between heaven and earth,
We grew drunk on excesses and wild mirth.
We thought ourselves immortal poets then,
Our glory endorsed by God's illustrious pen.
But paradise, we learned, is fraught with error,
and sooner or later love succumbs to terror.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



I wish it were not a sin to have liked it so.
Women have not yet realized the cowardice that resides,
for if they should decide to do so,
they would be able to fight you until death;
and to prove that I speak the truth,
amongst so many women,
I will be the first to act,
setting an example for them to follow.
—Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



ANONYMOUS

The poem below is based on my teenage misinterpretation of a Latin prayer...

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

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch, who was always a little girl at heart

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

Amen

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager. I later decided to incorporate it into a poem, which I started in high school and revised as an adult. From what I now understand, 'ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam' means 'to the God who gives joy to my youth, ' but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Latin Vulgate Bible (circa 385 AD) . I can't remember exactly when I read the novel or wrote the poem, but I believe it was around my junior year of high school, age 17 or thereabouts. This was my first translation. I revised the poem slightly in 2001 after realizing I had 'misremembered' one of the words in the Latin prayer.



The Latin hymn 'Dies Irae' employs end rhyme:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
***** David *** Sybilla

The day of wrath, that day
which will leave the world ash-gray,
was foretold by David and the Sybil fey.
—attributed to Thomas of Celano, St. Gregory the Great, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Bonaventure; loose translation by Michael R. Burch



HADRIAN

Hadrian's Elegy
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My delicate soul,
now aimlessly fluttering... drifting... unwhole,
former consort of my failing corpse...
Where are we going—from bad to worse?
From jail to a hearse?
Where do we wander now—fraught, pale and frail?
To hell?
To some place devoid of jests, mirth, happiness?
Is the joke on us?



THOMAS CAMPION

NOVELTIES
by Thomas Campion
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as p-mps praise their wh-res for exotic positions.



PRIMO LEVI

These are my translations of poems by the Italian Jewish Holocaust survivor Primo Levi.

Shema
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who live secure
in your comfortable houses,
who return each evening to find
warm food,
welcoming faces...
consider whether this is a man:
who toils in the mud,
who knows no peace,
who fights for crusts of bread,
who dies at another man's whim,
at his 'yes' or his 'no.'
Consider whether this is a woman:
bereft of hair,
of a recognizable name
because she lacks the strength to remember,
her eyes as void
and her womb as frigid
as a frog's in winter.
Consider that such horrors have been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them in your hearts
when you lounge in your house,
when you walk outside,
when you go to bed,
when you rise.
Repeat them to your children,
or may your house crumble
and disease render you helpless
so that even your offspring avert their faces from you.



Buna
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wasted feet, cursed earth,
the interminable gray morning
as Buna smokes corpses through industrious chimneys.
A day like every other day awaits us.
The terrible whistle shrilly announces dawn:
'You, O pale multitudes with your sad, lifeless faces,
welcome the monotonous horror of the mud...
another day of suffering has begun.'
Weary companion, I see you by heart.
I empathize with your dead eyes, my disconsolate friend.
In your breast you carry cold, hunger, nothingness.
Life has broken what's left of the courage within you.
Colorless one, you once were a strong man,
A courageous woman once walked at your side.
But now you, my empty companion, are bereft of a name,
my forsaken friend who can no longer weep,
so poor you can no longer grieve,
so tired you no longer can shiver with fear.
O, spent once-strong man,
if we were to meet again
in some other world, sweet beneath the sun,
with what kind faces would we recognize each other?

Note: Buna was the largest Auschwitz sub-camp.



ALDHELM

'The Leiden Riddle' is an Old English translation of Aldhelm's Latin riddle 'Lorica' or 'Corselet.'

The Leiden Riddle
anonymous Old English riddle poem, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dank earth birthed me from her icy womb.
I know I was not fashioned from woolen fleeces;
nor was I skillfully spun from skeins;
I have neither warp nor weft;
no thread thrums through me in the thrashing loom;
nor do whirring shuttles rattle me;
nor does the weaver's rod assail me;
nor did silkworms spin me like skillfull fates
into curious golden embroidery.
And yet heroes still call me an excellent coat.
Nor do I fear the dread arrows' flights,
however eagerly they leap from their quivers.

Solution: a coat of mail.



SAINT GODRIC OF FINCHALE

The song below is said in the 'Life of Saint Godric' to have come to Godric when he had a vision of his sister Burhcwen, like him a solitary at Finchale, being received into heaven. She was singing a song of thanksgiving, in Latin, and Godric renders her song in English bracketed by a Kyrie eleison.

Led By Christ and Mary
by Saint Godric of Finchale (1065-1170)        
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By Christ and Saint Mary I was so graciously led
that the earth never felt my bare foot's tread!



DANTE

Translations of Dante Epigrams and Quotes by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Beatrice I beheld the outer boundaries of blessedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She made my veins and even the pulses within them tremble.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her sweetness left me intoxicated.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love commands me by determining my desires.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Follow your own path and let the bystanders gossip.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The devil is not as dark as depicted.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is no greater sorrow than to recall how we delighted in our own wretchedness.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As he, who with heaving lungs escaped the suffocating sea, turns to regard its perilous waters.—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you nosedive in the mildest breeze? —Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you quail at the least breath of wind? —Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midway through my life's journey
I awoke to find myself lost in a trackless wood,
for I had strayed far from the straight path.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



INSCRIPTION ON THE GATE OF HELL

Before me nothing existed, to fear.
Eternal I am, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Excerpts from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri

Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
Here is a Deity, stronger than myself, who comes to dominate me.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.
Your blessedness has now been manifested unto you.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps.
Alas, how often I will be restricted now!
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fili mi, tempus est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra.
My son, it is time to cease counterfeiting.
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic.
Love said: 'I am as the center of a harmonious circle; everything is equally near me. No so with you.'
—Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Translations of Dante Cantos by Michael R. Burch

Paradiso, Canto III: 1-33, The Revelation of Love and Truth
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That sun, which had inflamed my breast with love,
Had now revealed to me—as visions move—
The gentle and confounding face of Truth.
Thus I, by her sweet grace and love reproved,
Corrected, and to true confession moved,
Raised my bowed head and found myself behooved
To speak, as true admonishment required,
And thus to bless the One I so desired,
When I was awed to silence! This transpired:
As the outlines of men's faces may amass
In mirrors of transparent, polished glass,
Or in shallow waters through which light beams pass
(Even so our eyes may easily be fooled
By pearls, or our own images, thus pooled) :
I saw a host of faces, pale and lewd,
All poised to speak; but when I glanced around
There suddenly was no one to be found.
A pool, with no Narcissus to astound?
But then I turned my eyes to my sweet Guide.
With holy eyes aglow and smiling wide,
She said, 'They are not here because they lied.'



Excerpt from 'Paradiso'
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O ****** Mother, daughter of your Son,
Humble, and yet held high, above creation,
You are the apex of all Wisdom known!
You are the Pinnacle of human nature,
Your nobility instilled by its Creator
who was not shamed to be born with your features.
Love was engendered in your perfect womb
Where warmth and holy peace were given room
For heaven's Perfect Rose, once sown, to bloom.
Now unto us you are a Torch held high:
Our noonday Sun—the Light of Charity,
Our Wellspring of all Hope, a living Sea.
Madonna, so pure, high and all-availing,
The man who desires Grace of you, though failing,
Despite his grounded state, is given wing!
Your mercy does not fail us, Ever-Blessed!
Indeed, the one who asks may find his wish
Unneeded: you predicted his request!
You are our Mercy; you are our Compassion;
you are Magnificence; in you creation
becomes the sum of Goodness and Salvation.



Translations of Dante Sonnets by Michael R. Burch

Sonnet: 'A Vision of Love' or 'Love's Faithful Ones' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To every gentle heart true Love may move,
And unto whom my words must now be brought
For wise interpretation's tender thought—
I greet you in our Lord's name, which is Love.
Through night's last watch, as winking stars, above,
Kept their high vigil over men, distraught,
Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught
As mortals may not casually speak of.
Love seemed a being of pure Joy and held
My heart, pulsating. On his other arm,
My lady, wrapped in thinnest gossamers, slept.
He, having roused her from her sleep, then made
My heart her feast—devoured, with alarm.
Love then departed; as he left, he wept.



Sonnet: 'Love's Thoroughfare' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

'O voi che par la via'

All those who travel Love's worn tracks,
Pause here awhile, and ask
Has there ever been a grief like mine?
Pause here, from that mad race,
And with patience hear my case:
Is it not a piteous marvel and a sign?
Love, not because I played a part,
But only due to his great heart,
Afforded me a provenance so sweet
That often others, as I went,
Asked what such unfair gladness meant:
They whispered things behind me in the street.
But now that easy gait is gone
Along with all Love proffered me;
And so in time I've come to be
So poor I dread to think thereon.
And thus I have become as one
Who hides his shame of his poverty,
Pretending richness outwardly,
While deep within I moan.



Sonnet: 'Cry for Pity' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts lie shattered in my memory:
When through the past I see your lovely face.
When you are near me, thus, Love fills all Space,
And often whispers, 'Is death better? Fly! '
My face reflects my heart's contentious tide,
Which, ebbing, seeks some shallow resting place;
Till, in the blushing shame of such disgrace,
The very earth seems to be shrieking, 'Die! '
'Twould be a grievous sin, if one should not
Relay some comfort to my harried mind,
If only with some simple pitying thought
For this great anguish which fierce scorn has wrought
Through the faltering sight of eyes grown nearly blind,
Which search for death now, as a blessed thing.



Sonnet: 'Ladies of Modest Countenance' from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who wear a modest countenance
With eyelids weighted by such heaviness,
How is it, that among you every face
Is haunted by the same pale troubled glance?
Have you seen in my lady's face, perchance,
the grief that Love provokes despite her grace?
Confirm this thing is so, then in her place,
Complete your grave and sorrowful advance.
And if indeed you match her heartfelt sighs
And mourn, as she does, for her heart's relief,
Then tell Love how it fares with her, to him.
Love knows how you have wept, seen in your eyes,
And is so grieved by gazing on your grief,
His courage falters and his sight grows dim.



Translations of Poems by Other Italian Poets

Sonnet IV: ‘S'io prego questa donna che Pietate'
by ***** Cavalcante
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If I should ask this lady, in her grace,
not to make her heart my enemy,
she'd call me foolish, venturing: 'No man
was ever possessed of such strange vanity! '
Why such harsh judgements, written on a face
where once I'd thought to find humility,
true gentleness, calm wisdom, courtesy?
My soul despairs, unwilling to embrace
the sighs and griefs that flood my drowning heart,
the rains of tears that well my watering eyes,
the miseries to which my soul's condemned...
For through my mind there flows, as rivers part,
the image of a lady, full of thought,
through heartlessness became a thoughtless friend.



***** Guinizelli, also known as ***** di Guinizzello di Magnano, was born in Bologna. He became an esteemed Italian love poet and is considered to be the father of the 'dolce stil nuovo' or 'sweet new style.' Dante called him 'il saggio' or 'the sage.'

Sonetto
by ***** Guinizelli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In truth I sing her honor and her praise:
My lady, with whom flowers can't compare!
Like Diana, she unveils her beauty's rays,
Then makes the dawn unfold here, bright and fair!
She's like the wind and like the leaves they swell:
All hues, all colors, flushed and pale, beside...
Argent and gold and rare stones' brilliant spell;
Even Love, itself, in her, seems glorified.
She moves in ways so tender and so sweet,
Pride fails and falls and flounders at her feet.
The impure heart cannot withstand such light!
Ungentle men must wither, at her sight.
And still this greater virtue I aver:
No man thinks ill once he's been touched by her.



This is a poem of mine that has been translated into Italian by Comasia Aquaro.

Her Grace Flows Freely
by Michael R. Burch

July 7,2007

Her love is always chaste, and pure.
This I vow. This I aver.
If she shows me her grace, I will honor her.
This I vow. This I aver.
Her grace flows freely, like her hair.
This I vow. This I aver.
For her generousness, I would worship her.
This I vow. This I aver.
I will not **** her for what I bear
This I vow. This I aver.
like a most precious incense-desire for her,
This I vow. This I aver.
nor call her '*****' where I seek to repair.
This I vow. This I aver.
I will not wink, nor smirk, nor stare
This I vow. This I aver.
like a foolish child at the foot of a stair
This I vow. This I aver.
where I long to go, should another be there.
This I vow. This I aver.
I'll rejoice in her freedom, and always dare
This I vow. This I aver.
the chance that she'll flee me-my starling rare.
This I vow. This I aver.
And then, if she stays, without stays, I swear
This I vow. This I aver.
that I will joy in her grace beyond compare.
This I vow. This I aver.

Her Grace Flows Freely
by Michael R. Burch
Italian translation by Comasia Aquaro

La sua grazia vola libera

7 luglio 2007

Il suo amore è sempre casto, e puro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Se mi mostra la sua grazia, le farò onore.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
La sua grazia vola libera, come i suoi capelli.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Per la sua generosità, la venererò.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Non la maledirò per ciò che soffro
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
come il più prezioso desiderio d'incenso per lei,
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
non chiamarla 'sgualdrina' laddove io cerco di aggiustare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Io non strizzerò l'occhio, non riderò soddisfatto, non fisserò lo sguardo
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Come un bambino sciocco ai piedi di una scala
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Laddove io desidero andare, ci sarebbe forse un altro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Mi rallegrerò nella sua libertà, e sempre sfiderò
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
la sorte che lei mi sfuggirà—il mio raro storno
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
E dopo, se lei resta, senza stare, io lo garantisco
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Gioirò nella sua grazia al di là del confrontare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.*



A risqué Latin epigram:

C-nt, while you weep and seep neediness all night,
-ss has claimed what would bring you delight.
—Musa Lapidaria, #100A, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



References to Dante in other Translations by Michael R. Burch

THE MUSE
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart — youth, liberty, glory —
now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.
Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes — calm, implacable, pitiless.
'Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell? '
She answers, 'Yes.'



I have also translated this tribute poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

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

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...



Dante-Related Poems and Dante Criticism by Michael R. Burch

Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan's gnawing.
Saint Brendan's curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.
'I'm on parole from Hell today!'
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
'You've fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!'

Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever you can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!

In Dante's 'Inferno' Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot's head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.



Dante's was a defensive reflex
against religion's hex.
—Michael R. Burch



Dante, you Dunce!
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is hell, Dante, you Dunce!
Which you should have perceived—since you lived here once.
God is no Beatrice, gentle and clever.
Judas and Satan were wise to dissever
from false 'messiahs' who cannot save.
Why flit like a bat through Plato's cave
believing such shadowy illusions are real?
There is no 'hell' but to live and feel!



How Dante Forgot Christ
by Michael R. Burch

Dante ****** the brightest and the fairest
for having loved—pale Helen, wild Achilles—
agreed with his Accuser in the spell
of hellish visions and eternal torments.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love,
the fulcrum of his body's, heart's and mind's
sole triumph, and their altogether conquest.
She led him to those heights where Love, enshrined,
blazed like a star beyond religion's hells.
Once freed from Yahweh, in the arms of Love,
like Blake and Milton, Dante forgot Christ.
The Christian gospel is strangely lacking in Milton's and Dante's epics. Milton gave the 'atonement' one embarrassed enjambed line. Dante ****** the Earth's star-crossed lovers to his grotesque hell, while doing exactly what they did: pursing at all costs his vision of love, Beatrice. Blake made more sense to me, since he called the biblical god Nobodaddy and denied any need to be 'saved' by third parties.



Dante's Antes
by Michael R. Burch

There's something glorious about man,
who lives because he can,
who dies because he must,
and in between's a bust.
No god can reign him in:
he's quite intent on sin
and likes it rather, really.
He likes *** touchy-feely.
He likes to eat too much.
He has the Midas touch
and paves hell's ways with gold.
The things he's bought and sold!
He's sold his soul to Mammon
and also plays backgammon
and poker, with such antes
as still befuddle Dantes.
I wonder—can hell hold him?
His chances seem quite dim
because he's rather puny
and also loopy-******.
And yet like Evel Knievel
he dances with the Devil
and seems so **** courageous,
good-natured and outrageous
some God might show him mercy
and call religion heresy.



RE: Paradiso, Canto III
by Michael R. Burch

for the most 'Christian' of poets

What did Dante do,
to earn Beatrice's grace
(grace cannot be earned!)        
but cast disgrace
on the whole human race,
on his peers and his betters,
as a man who wears cheap rayon suits
might disparage men who wear sweaters?
How conventionally 'Christian' — Poet! — to ****
your fellow man
for being merely human,
then, like a contented clam,
to grandly claim
near-infinite 'grace'
as if your salvation was God's only aim!
What a scam!
And what of the lovely Piccarda,
whom you placed in the lowest sphere of heaven
for neglecting her vows —
She was forced!
Were you chaste?



Intimations V
by Michael R. Burch

We had not meditated upon sound
so much as drowned
in the inhuman ocean
when we imagined it broken
open
like a conch shell
whorled like the spiraling hell
of Dante's 'Inferno.'
Trapped between Nature
and God,
what is man
but an inquisitive,
acquisitive
sod?
And what is Nature
but odd,
or God
but a Clod,
and both of them horribly flawed?



Endgame
by Michael R. Burch

The honey has lost all its sweetness,
the hive—its completeness.
Now ambient dust, the drones lie dead.
The workers weep, their King long fled
(who always had been ****, invisible,
his 'kingdom' atomic, divisible,
and pathetically risible) .
The queen has flown,
long Dis-enthroned,
who would have gladly given all she owned
for a promised white stone.
O, Love has fled, has fled, has fled...
Religion is dead, is dead, is dead.

The drones are those who drone on about the love of God in a world full of suffering and death: dead prophets, dead pontiffs, dead preachers. Spewers of dead words and false promises. The queen is disenthroned, as in Dis-enthroned. In Dante's Inferno, the lower regions of hell are enclosed within the walls of Dis, a city surrounded by the Stygian marshes. The river Styx symbolizes death and the journey from life to the afterlife. But in Norse mythology, Dis was a goddess, the sun, and the consort of Heimdal, himself a god of light. DIS is also the stock ticker designation for Disney, creator of the Magic Kingdom. The 'promised white stone' appears in Revelation, which turns Jesus and the Angels into serial killers.



The Final Revelation of a Departed God's Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

Here I am, talking to myself again...
******* at God and bored with humanity.
These insectile mortals keep testing my sanity!
Still, I remember when...
planting odd notions, dark inklings of vanity,
in their peapod heads might elicit an inanity
worth a chuckle or two.
Philosophers, poets... how they all made me laugh!
The things they dreamed up! Sly Odysseus's raft;
Plato's 'Republic'; Dante's strange crew;
Shakespeare's Othello, mad Hamlet, Macbeth;
Cervantes' Quixote; fat, funny Falstaff! ;
Blake's shimmering visions. Those days, though, are through...
for, puling and tedious, their 'poets' now seem
content to write, but not to dream,
and they fill the world with their pale derision
of things they completely fail to understand.
Now, since God has long fled, I am here, in command,
reading this crap. Earth is Hell. We're all ******.



Brief Encounters: Other Roman, Italian and Greek Epigrams

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.—Seneca the Younger, translation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

He who follows will never surpass.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, translation by Michael R. Burch

Time is sufficient for anyone who uses it wisely.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes! —Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

It is easier to oppose evil from the beginning than at the end.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fools call wisdom foolishness.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Not to speak one's mind is slavery.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself by other men's writings, attaining less painfully what they gained through great difficulty.—Socrates, 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

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as p-mps praise their wh-res for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, Latin epigram, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#POEMS #POETRY #LATIN #ROMAN #ITALIAN #TRANSLATION #MRB-POEMS #MRB-POETRY #MRBPOEMS #MRBPOETRY #MRBLATIN #MRBROMAN #MRBITALIAN #MRBTRANSLATION


Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

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



Published as the collection "Modern Charon"

Keywords/Tags: Charon, Styx, death, ferry, boat, ship, captain, steering, helm, wheel, rudder, shipwreck, disaster, night, darkness, 911, 9-11, mrbch
Xander King Jul 2015
My lover introduced me to a girl named Ana today.
She is an emancipated horror who I am scared to know.

My lover told me he introduced all his exes to Ana, Ana will help our relationship grow
I ask if he thinks I'm fat
All he says is to get to know ana and Things will be better.

I shake hands with Ana and her voice Is intoxicating but I refuse to become addicted
She promises to let me be, only see me when I truly need.
Little did I know her fingers were crossed.

My loved coaxes me to meet with Ana more often
Run with her before school and sit with her at lunch
I hope she joins me for dinner tonight.

My lover praises me and tells me I'm becoming beautiful
But I wonder
Is he praising me or Ana
She's the beautiful one
And I am still fat

My lover tells me Ana made the *** better
As I screamed his name over and over again
In attempts to forget mine
And he loves that I no longer want the lights on when we do the deed
Praying the dark will hide the layers of chub clinging beneath my skin

My lover expects Ana to be with us at all times
I get angry at her and push her away breaking all her rules
And feeling guilty
I hope she'll take me back I learned my lesson
I crawl back to Ana

My lover introduces me to Mia
Says she'll be there for me when Ana fails me
Mia has scars on her knuckles and thin hair
But she promises what Ana denied me
And I gladly wrap my arms around her

My lover tells me ana and Mia are the only friends I'll ever need
I have to agree
My others have left me
My true friends tell me
It was because I was skinnier than them
But now I'm the fattest friend again

My lover is proud of Ana Mia and I
Tells me they've made me perfect
I can finally stop meeting them
I agree
And later that night the three of us rendezvous in the bathroom
To test the scale
And my gag reflex

My lover is angry at me
I've betrayed him with my meetings
He tells me if I don't leave them he'll leave me
Is tired of waking up to find me with my head passed out on the toilet seat

My lover is no longer mine
Left me for a curvy girl
Well that's fine with me
My only true loves are Ana and Mia
And I know they'll never leave me.

My new lovers make me pretty
And tell me I'll soon be perfect like them
I feel beautiful every time I lose the weight
But they make me feel useless when I don't follow their commands

My lovers tell me not to talk to a boy
Explain I'm not thin enough yet
Tell me to **** in my stomach when he looks at me
But I sense no judgement in his eyes
I tell them this is what they've prepared me for
And they scream that I'm not ready and he'll take them away from me
I'm scared to lose them
But I still meet him when I've managed to keep them at bay with leaf

My lovers are suffocating me
Shoving their fingers down my throat and slamming my wrist to the table when I pick up a fork
I'm scared they'll never let me be
Their eyes are hallow
And I can't find their compassion

My lovers are no longer beautiful
I see them as they are
Emancipated lifeless things
Praying for me to join them
They hold out their skeletal hands
Begging me to take them
Their lips are blue and voice raspy
And I want nothing more to run away but I'm stuck in place

I've left my lovers
They're still screaming
Clinging to my back with surprising weight
Hair falling out onto me
Whispering sweet nothings
Then screaming when I don't so as they say

My lover
Is a boy who sees me without fear
Does not scare away when he sees the girls clinging to me
Or the way my ribs jut out when I don't eat for a day
And I trust him every time he tells me
I'm beautiful
Even though the girls are whispering in ashen voices
***** I make you beautiful
Please come back and I'll make you drop dead gorgeous.
But I don't want to be gorgeous if it means being six feet under.

My old lovers are shrinking
Voices drying up every time I sip cream filled coffee
Arms weakening every time I lift the bite of cake to my lips.
They are dying with every meal I eat
Their voices getting quieter the longer I go without listening.
I only hope one day they do die
So that way I don't.

One lover introduced me to a horrendous disease. I'm not going to call them Ana and Mia anymore Because naming them is just a sad way of trying to control them
As if by personifying them We make them less dangerous Like a game or child's story. But this is a disease that killed thousands and almost killed me. One in five girls with an eating disorder die. I was one of the lucky few Don't be the one. Get help.If I can defeat this You can obliterate it. It won't be easy But it'll be more than worth it. Throw away the scale Burn the tape measurer You are more than a number You are beautiful. Don't let anyone tell you different. not a lover Or society Or yourself. Love yourself And others will follow suit. And in case you need to hear it I love you. Beat this I'll be here, Never be afraid to ask for strength. I don't have much But I'll give you all of it. If only to see you wake up in your bed instead of on the floor of the bathroom Stuck to the tile by sweat. To weak to sit up To tired to breath no matter who you are or what you've done No matter your lowest or highest weight Or how many ribs I can see No matter if I even know your name I love you. And if you ever need it I'll be here Just a message away And I promise I will give you all the strength I have just to help you get through a meal. Even if what you need is someone to sit and hold your hand and encourage you to take every bite or someone to tell you that you are beautiful when you can't bring yourself to fully believe it.
So please help yourself and Don't listen to others say "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" because so many things do.
Fresh donuts with coffee on days you don't want to face the light of morning
Pizza with friends while playing ****** video games and watching even ******* rom coms
Thanksgiving turkey
Christmas ham
Hot cocoa with a lover who sees stars in your eyes
But most of all
Life.
Life tastes better than any number.
suicide self harm sad eating disorder
Walk with me,
    Through the night.
Such blissful glimmering,
    Promise above.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

That deepening dark,
    Hiding us true.
Naked we were-
Invisible to all.
    All that is known.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

Light pooled from above,
    The creek reflecting sky.
Bathe us in innocence.
Arise as newborns.
Cry out: “Always Onward!”

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

“Always Onward!” indeed-
Through thicket and tree.
Speak not of the path,
    Traveled before.
Speak not of the path,
    That lay ahead-
Only travel.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

We must not stay-
There is field to traverse,
    Mountains to conquer.
Be light on your feet,
    Radiant star.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

Shadows sure to haunt-
    Born from timber,
    From moon.
Fear not nature’s ruse-
We are roaring animals!
    “Always Onward!”

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
            With promised shine.

Moss at foot and leafs of past,
    Share with us-
Your everything.
    Energy of all things-
Gone and to come.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
         Lovers fated,
             With promised shine.

Cliff top high, oh release us.
    Let us know the world,
        As does the wind-
Touching everything.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
           With promised shine.

Above it all we soar,
    Eagles we are-
Royalty of the sky.
What Gaze from below-
What gaze at majesty.
Dawn would show our feathers,
    But in the night-
We are but gusting wings.

My hand in yours,
    Yours in mine.
        Lovers fated,
           With promised shine.

Alas! The horizon!
Water and sky meet,
    But the journey yet to end.
Procreated by thunderous roars-
We animals HOWL!
    “Always Onward!”
        “Always Onward!”
            “Always Onward!”
David W Clare Dec 2014
"With a Wink of Her Eye"  by DAVID JOHN CLARE

Tell your lovers not to look at the wink of her eye
Tell all of your lovers not to watch her
Tell your lovers not to fall for the wink of her eye
�cause then she gottcha
B.g.
Oh ** oh oo whoa oo with just a wink of her eye
Oh ** oh oo whoa oo she�ll steal your lover away
Oh ** oh oo whoa oo with just a look in her eye
Oh ** oh oo whoa oo she gonna take him away

V 1
She came  in  to town on a midnight train,  anonymous caller she, a mysterious  dame
Out of the shadows she walks, to magically appear
I�m tellin� ya fresh my sisters, got some awful things to fear here
She can slave your man in a minute with talk so lyrical
Unique feminine freak, a ****** miracle
First she opiates his mind then double he�ll see
Loose all sense of time, deep in trouble he will be
She knows what she�s doing, her instincts are cold
Men they surrender, just do what there told
She�ll put his mind in motion, charge the fool fare
I�m tellin� you fresh my sisters, ya got to beware

Beyond the likes of a cool call girl, a sucker for her date
She�ll leave his soul and body in a crazy hazy state
A jealous woman could now complete this scene
To set the up course for the likes of lady libertine

Chorus
Tell your lovers not to look at the wink of her eye
Tell all of your lovers not to watch her
Tell your lovers not to fall for the wink of her eye
�cause then she gottcha

Bridge
If you get near her, you hear the voice of a
Siren
Don�t you look at her, don�t you touch, you�ll start cryin�
And if you dare embrace her fool, you think you found a rare jewel
But she can tear your heart out, and do it with your own tool !

V 2
Her life�s a paper-back book with clever words on her lips
She�s got a face could launch a thousand ships
Showing her how the sorry ladies man
Never care who she took, just catch as catch can
You can tell by her moves and that slit up under her dress
She�s a one trick pony ahead by her breast
She�s got a photographical smile, Greta Garbo movie hair
She can tear any man down with that cat like deadly stare
Don�t look into her eyes, she�ll control you blind,
You�ll want to wine and dine her, but your mind she�ll sixty-nine
A cursed sight she�ll allure, now don�t you concede
�cause if you touch her now boy, you surely will bleed
Ladies save your man from this terrible *** corruption
Future fate of your doom, is driven by her
Compulsion
Gently kiss his eyes away from her animal lure sensation

There�s no way of banning this **** man-killer creation !

Chorus
Tell all of your lovers not to look at the wink of her eye
Tell your lovers not to watch her
Tell your lovers not to fall for the wink of her eye
�cause then she gottcha

Bridge
If you get near her, you hear the voice of a
Siren
Don�t you look at her, don�t you touch you�ll start crying
And if you dare embrace her fool, you think you�ve found a rare jewel
But she can tear your heart out, and do it with your own tool !  


D. CLARE   copyright In perpetuity ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
JET-SET  21ST  CENTURY  PRODUCTIONS
Clairvoyant Music TM BMI
The moon has become a dancer
at this festival of love.
This dance of light,

This sacred blessing,
This divine love,
beckons us
to a world beyond
only lovers can see
with their eyes of fiery passion.

They are the chosen ones
who have surrendered.
Once they were particles of light
now they are the radiant sun.

They have left behind
the world of deceitful games.
They are the privileged lovers
who create a new world
with their eyes of fiery passion.
Laney Mejias Nov 2012
where have all the lovers gone?
down  the drain with the blood?
through the window with the light?
or were they ever even here to begin with...
was it just fantasy playing out our untold desires
of eternal happiness and hopeful tomorrows
dancing through our hearts and minds
like nymphs through the forests
and water through the leaves
rain through the petals..
leaving flashes of light
on the darkened hearts of the world.
oh, lovers, we need you now more than ever,
to unburden the souls of these frightened men
too scared to open their eyes
and become the spirits they long to be.
lift us from this pit we dug ourselves into
and kiss our heads with cherry lips.
show us how to thrive again.
be the lovers we once knew.
hopeful lovers, thankful lovers, loving lovers
let us be you.
Sean Feb 2014
The lovers swim in a moonlit sea
The beautiful night sky reflected in their very eyes

The lovers fell apart as broken doors
One not wanting the other as much as they did before

The lovers stood in a storm to swords
Words and knives whisper as they fly by
They hold onto each other tight
To them, that was the only thing that felt right.

The lovers were lost in each other's arms.
Right to the day they died they were singing their sweet lullaby.

Tears was gems, diamonds on the floor reflective of fears they've lost.
The world was their oyster and they were the pearls, peas-in-a -pod, they exalt their God.

Lucky they be, to find another when their in need. Their love will never fade even when it reaches heaven's gate.

Lovers love and lovers die to become someone else when the sun no longer shines, and when the sweet moon finally fails and falls apart as it fades from sight. Will these lovers figure out what is truly right?
Beautiful,
Lovers together , Lovers forever
Are
Smiling,Breathing ,Tickling,
Healing,Cuddling,Dancing,
Laughing,Hugging,Sleeping,
P­laying ,Eating & Fighting
As One
They Stay Beautiful
Lovers together , Lovers forever
Corona Harris Apr 2016
My lovers had no soul
They're ghost only I see
But can't remember names
My lovers had no pasion
They're soaked sheets at night
But distance the next day
My lovers have no heart
They're regret for calling them lovers
But knowledge of never loving them
My lovers are having no peace
They're a wilful hoax for future romance
But stuck with melancholy after ***
My lovers deserve better
They're queens without a throne
But I'm unworthy of feeding them grapes
I'm the worse type of lover
By this, sad Hero, with love unacquainted,
Viewing Leander’s face, fell down and fainted.
He kissed her and breathed life into her lips,
Wherewith as one displeased away she trips.
Yet, as she went, full often looked behind,
And many poor excuses did she find
To linger by the way, and once she stayed,
And would have turned again, but was afraid,
In offering parley, to be counted light.
So on she goes and in her idle flight
Her painted fan of curled plumes let fall,
Thinking to train Leander therewithal.
He, being a novice, knew not what she meant
But stayed, and after her a letter sent,
Which joyful Hero answered in such sort,
As he had hope to scale the beauteous fort
Wherein the liberal Graces locked their wealth,
And therefore to her tower he got by stealth.
Wide open stood the door, he need not climb,
And she herself before the pointed time
Had spread the board, with roses strowed the room,
And oft looked out, and mused he did not come.
At last he came.

O who can tell the greeting
These greedy lovers had at their first meeting.
He asked, she gave, and nothing was denied.
Both to each other quickly were affied.
Look how their hands, so were their hearts united,
And what he did she willingly requited.
(Sweet are the kisses, the embracements sweet,
When like desires and affections meet,
For from the earth to heaven is Cupid raised,
Where fancy is in equal balance peised.)
Yet she this rashness suddenly repented
And turned aside, and to herself lamented
As if her name and honour had been wronged
By being possessed of him for whom she longed.
Ay, and she wished, albeit not from her heart
That he would leave her turret and depart.
The mirthful god of amorous pleasure smiled
To see how he this captive nymph beguiled.
For hitherto he did but fan the fire,
And kept it down that it might mount the higher.
Now waxed she jealous lest his love abated,
Fearing her own thoughts made her to be hated.
Therefore unto him hastily she goes
And, like light Salmacis, her body throws
Upon his ***** where with yielding eyes
She offers up herself a sacrifice
To slake his anger if he were displeased.
O, what god would not therewith be appeased?
Like Aesop’s **** this jewel he enjoyed
And as a brother with his sister toyed
Supposing nothing else was to be done,
Now he her favour and good will had won.
But know you not that creatures wanting sense
By nature have a mutual appetence,
And, wanting organs to advance a step,
Moved by love’s force unto each other lep?
Much more in subjects having intellect
Some hidden influence breeds like effect.
Albeit Leander rude in love and raw,
Long dallying with Hero, nothing saw
That might delight him more, yet he suspected
Some amorous rites or other were neglected.
Therefore unto his body hers he clung.
She, fearing on the rushes to be flung,
Strived with redoubled strength; the more she strived
The more a gentle pleasing heat revived,
Which taught him all that elder lovers know.
And now the same gan so to scorch and glow
As in plain terms (yet cunningly) he craved it.
Love always makes those eloquent that have it.
She, with a kind of granting, put him by it
And ever, as he thought himself most nigh it,
Like to the tree of Tantalus, she fled
And, seeming lavish, saved her maidenhead.
Ne’er king more sought to keep his diadem,
Than Hero this inestimable gem.
Above our life we love a steadfast friend,
Yet when a token of great worth we send,
We often kiss it, often look thereon,
And stay the messenger that would be gone.
No marvel then, though Hero would not yield
So soon to part from that she dearly held.
Jewels being lost are found again, this never;
’Tis lost but once, and once lost, lost forever.

Now had the morn espied her lover’s steeds,
Whereat she starts, puts on her purple weeds,
And red for anger that he stayed so long
All headlong throws herself the clouds among.
And now Leander, fearing to be missed,
Embraced her suddenly, took leave, and kissed.
Long was he taking leave, and loath to go,
And kissed again as lovers use to do.
Sad Hero wrung him by the hand and wept
Saying, “Let your vows and promises be kept.”
Then standing at the door she turned about
As loath to see Leander going out.
And now the sun that through th’ horizon peeps,
As pitying these lovers, downward creeps,
So that in silence of the cloudy night,
Though it was morning, did he take his flight.
But what the secret trusty night concealed
Leander’s amorous habit soon revealed.
With Cupid’s myrtle was his bonnet crowned,
About his arms the purple riband wound
Wherewith she wreathed her largely spreading hair.
Nor could the youth abstain, but he must wear
The sacred ring wherewith she was endowed
When first religious chastity she vowed.
Which made his love through Sestos to be known,
And thence unto Abydos sooner blown
Than he could sail; for incorporeal fame
Whose weight consists in nothing but her name,
Is swifter than the wind, whose tardy plumes
Are reeking water and dull earthly fumes.
Home when he came, he seemed not to be there,
But, like exiled air ****** from his sphere,
Set in a foreign place; and straight from thence,
Alcides like, by mighty violence
He would have chased away the swelling main
That him from her unjustly did detain.
Like as the sun in a diameter
Fires and inflames objects removed far,
And heateth kindly, shining laterally,
So beauty sweetly quickens when ’tis nigh,
But being separated and removed,
Burns where it cherished, murders where it loved.
Therefore even as an index to a book,
So to his mind was young Leander’s look.
O, none but gods have power their love to hide,
Affection by the countenance is descried.
The light of hidden fire itself discovers,
And love that is concealed betrays poor lovers,
His secret flame apparently was seen.
Leander’s father knew where he had been
And for the same mildly rebuked his son,
Thinking to quench the sparkles new begun.
But love resisted once grows passionate,
And nothing more than counsel lovers hate.
For as a hot proud horse highly disdains
To have his head controlled, but breaks the reins,
Spits forth the ringled bit, and with his hooves
Checks the submissive ground; so he that loves,
The more he is restrained, the worse he fares.
What is it now, but mad Leander dares?
“O Hero, Hero!” thus he cried full oft;
And then he got him to a rock aloft,
Where having spied her tower, long stared he on’t,
And prayed the narrow toiling Hellespont
To part in twain, that he might come and go;
But still the rising billows answered, “No.”
With that he stripped him to the ivory skin
And, crying “Love, I come,” leaped lively in.
Whereat the sapphire visaged god grew proud,
And made his capering Triton sound aloud,
Imagining that Ganymede, displeased,
Had left the heavens; therefore on him he seized.
Leander strived; the waves about him wound,
And pulled him to the bottom, where the ground
Was strewed with pearl, and in low coral groves
Sweet singing mermaids sported with their loves
On heaps of heavy gold, and took great pleasure
To spurn in careless sort the shipwrack treasure.
For here the stately azure palace stood
Where kingly Neptune and his train abode.
The ***** god embraced him, called him “Love,”
And swore he never should return to Jove.
But when he knew it was not Ganymede,
For under water he was almost dead,
He heaved him up and, looking on his face,
Beat down the bold waves with his triple mace,
Which mounted up, intending to have kissed him,
And fell in drops like tears because they missed him.
Leander, being up, began to swim
And, looking back, saw Neptune follow him,
Whereat aghast, the poor soul ‘gan to cry
“O, let me visit Hero ere I die!”
The god put Helle’s bracelet on his arm,
And swore the sea should never do him harm.
He clapped his plump cheeks, with his tresses played
And, smiling wantonly, his love bewrayed.
He watched his arms and, as they opened wide
At every stroke, betwixt them would he slide
And steal a kiss, and then run out and dance,
And, as he turned, cast many a lustful glance,
And threw him gaudy toys to please his eye,
And dive into the water, and there pry
Upon his breast, his thighs, and every limb,
And up again, and close beside him swim,
And talk of love.

Leander made reply,
“You are deceived; I am no woman, I.”
Thereat smiled Neptune, and then told a tale,
How that a shepherd, sitting in a vale,
Played with a boy so fair and kind,
As for his love both earth and heaven pined;
That of the cooling river durst not drink,
Lest water nymphs should pull him from the brink.
And when he sported in the fragrant lawns,
Goat footed satyrs and upstaring fauns
Would steal him thence. Ere half this tale was done,
“Ay me,” Leander cried, “th’ enamoured sun
That now should shine on Thetis’ glassy bower,
Descends upon my radiant Hero’s tower.
O, that these tardy arms of mine were wings!”
And, as he spake, upon the waves he springs.
Neptune was angry that he gave no ear,
And in his heart revenging malice bare.
He flung at him his mace but, as it went,
He called it in, for love made him repent.
The mace, returning back, his own hand hit
As meaning to be venged for darting it.
When this fresh bleeding wound Leander viewed,
His colour went and came, as if he rued
The grief which Neptune felt. In gentle *******
Relenting thoughts, remorse, and pity rests.
And who have hard hearts and obdurate minds,
But vicious, harebrained, and illiterate hinds?
The god, seeing him with pity to be moved,
Thereon concluded that he was beloved.
(Love is too full of faith, too credulous,
With folly and false hope deluding us.)
Wherefore, Leander’s fancy to surprise,
To the rich Ocean for gifts he flies.
’tis wisdom to give much; a gift prevails
When deep persuading oratory fails.

By this Leander, being near the land,
Cast down his weary feet and felt the sand.
Breathless albeit he were he rested not
Till to the solitary tower he got,
And knocked and called. At which celestial noise
The longing heart of Hero much more joys
Than nymphs and shepherds when the timbrel rings,
Or crooked dolphin when the sailor sings.
She stayed not for her robes but straight arose
And, drunk with gladness, to the door she goes,
Where seeing a naked man, she screeched for fear
(Such sights as this to tender maids are rare)
And ran into the dark herself to hide.
(Rich jewels in the dark are soonest spied).
Unto her was he led, or rather drawn
By those white limbs which sparkled through the lawn.
The nearer that he came, the more she fled,
And, seeking refuge, slipped into her bed.
Whereon Leander sitting thus began,
Through numbing cold, all feeble, faint, and wan.
“If not for love, yet, love, for pity sake,
Me in thy bed and maiden ***** take.
At least vouchsafe these arms some little room,
Who, hoping to embrace thee, cheerly swum.
This head was beat with many a churlish billow,
And therefore let it rest upon thy pillow.”
Herewith affrighted, Hero shrunk away,
And in her lukewarm place Leander lay,
Whose lively heat, like fire from heaven fet,
Would animate gross clay and higher set
The drooping thoughts of base declining souls
Than dreary Mars carousing nectar bowls.
His hands he cast upon her like a snare.
She, overcome with shame and sallow fear,
Like chaste Diana when Actaeon spied her,
Being suddenly betrayed, dived down to hide her.
And, as her silver body downward went,
With both her hands she made the bed a tent,
And in her own mind thought herself secure,
O’ercast with dim and darksome coverture.
And now she lets him whisper in her ear,
Flatter, entreat, promise, protest and swear;
Yet ever, as he greedily assayed
To touch those dainties, she the harpy played,
And every limb did, as a soldier stout,
Defend the fort, and keep the foeman out.
For though the rising ivory mount he scaled,
Which is with azure circling lines empaled,
Much like a globe (a globe may I term this,
By which love sails to regions full of bliss)
Yet there with Sisyphus he toiled in vain,
Till gentle parley did the truce obtain.
Wherein Leander on her quivering breast
Breathless spoke something, and sighed out the rest;
Which so prevailed, as he with small ado
Enclosed her in his arms and kissed her too.
And every kiss to her was as a charm,
And to Leander as a fresh alarm,
So that the truce was broke and she, alas,
(Poor silly maiden) at his mercy was.
Love is not full of pity (as men say)
But deaf and cruel where he means to prey.
Even as a bird, which in our hands we wring,
Forth plungeth and oft flutters with her wing,
She trembling strove.

This strife of hers (like that
Which made the world) another world begat
Of unknown joy. Treason was in her thought,
And cunningly to yield herself she sought.
Seeming not won, yet won she was at length.
In such wars women use but half their strength.
Leander now, like Theban Hercules,
Entered the orchard of th’ Hesperides;
Whose fruit none rightly can describe but he
That pulls or shakes it from the golden tree.
And now she wished this night were never done,
And sighed to think upon th’ approaching sun;
For much it grieved her that the bright daylight
Should know the pleasure of this blessed night,
And them, like Mars and Erycine, display
Both in each other’s arms chained as they lay.
Again, she knew not how to frame her look,
Or speak to him, who in a moment took
That which so long so charily she kept,
And fain by stealth away she would have crept,
And to some corner secretly have gone,
Leaving Leander in the bed alone.
But as her naked feet were whipping out,
He on the sudden clinged her so about,
That, mermaid-like, unto the floor she slid.
One half appeared, the other half was hid.
Thus near the bed she blushing stood upright,
And from her countenance behold ye might
A kind of twilight break, which through the hair,
As from an orient cloud, glimpsed here and there,
And round about the chamber this false morn
Brought forth the day before the day was born.
So Hero’s ruddy cheek Hero betrayed,
And her all naked to his sight displayed,
Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure took
Than Dis, on heaps of gold fixing his look.
By this, Apollo’s golden harp began
To sound forth music to the ocean,
Which watchful Hesperus no sooner heard
But he the bright day-bearing car prepared
And ran before, as harbinger of light,
And with his flaring beams mocked ugly night,
Till she, o’ercome with anguish, shame, and rage,
Danged down to hell her loathsome carriage.
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion ...

This is one of my early poems, written around age 16 and published in my high school literary journal, The Lantern. Keywords/Tags: early poems, Juvenilia, illusion, illusory, dream, mirage, morning, fantasy, awakening, waking up, oblivion



The following poems are other early poems and juvenilia by Michael R. Burch ...



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today.
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away ...

I wrote this early poem around age 14 and it appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern. It also appeared in my college literary journal, Homespun. It has since been published by The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Fullosia Press and Better Than Starbucks, and translated into Romanian and published by Petru Dimofte. I find it interesting that I was able to write a "rhyme rich" poem at such a young age. In six lines the poem has 26 rhymes and near rhymes.



Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

There is a sequel, "Leave Taking II," at the bottom of this page. "Leave Taking" has been published by The Lyric, Borderless Journal (Singapore), Mindful of Poetry, Glass Facets of Poetry and Silver Stork Magazine.



Styx
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

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

"Styx" has been published by The Lyric, Poezii (in a Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte), The Raintown Review, Blue Unicorn, Brief Poems and Artvilla. Not too shabby for a teenage poem.



Excerpt from "Jessamyn's Song"
by Michael R. Burch

By the window ledge where the candle begs
the night for light to live,
the deepening darkness gives
the heart good cause to shudder.
For there are curly, tousled heads
that know one use for bed
and not any other.
"Goodnight father."
"Goodnight mother."
"Goodnight sister."
"Goodnight brother."
"Tomorrow new adventures
we surely shall discover!"

"Jessamyn's Song" was a long poem I wrote in my early teens about a relationship that began when a boy and girl were very young and lasted into "old age." At the time I wrote the poem, forty seemed to be beyond superannuated, so I believe I killed off the hero at that ripe old age.



Sarjann
by Michael R. Burch

What did I ever do
to make you hate me so?
I was only nine years old,
lonely and afraid,
a small stranger in a large land.
Why did you abuse me
and taunt me?
Even now, so many years later,
the question still haunts me:
what did I ever do?

Why did you despise me and reject me,
pushing and shoving me around
when there was no one to protect me?
Why did you draw a line
in the bone-dry autumn dust,
daring me to cross it?
Did you want to see me cry?
Well, if you did, you did.

... oh, leave me alone,
for the sky opens wide
in a land of no rain,
and who are you
to bring me such pain? ...

This is a "true poem" in the sense of being about the "real me." I had a bad experience with an older girl named Sarjann (or something like that), who used to taunt me and push me around at a bus stop in Roseville, California (the "large land" of "no rain" where I was a "small stranger" because I only lived there for a few months). I believe this poem was written around age 16, but could have been written earlier. There was more to the poem, but I decided to shorten it.



Myth
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

after Dylan Thomas

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf—
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain—
golden and humble in all its weary worth.

Published by There is Something in the Autumn (an anthology) and picked as the best poem in a Dylan Thomas poetry contest by the contest’s sponsor and judge, Vatsala Radhakeesoon.

The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

The nature of Nature
is bitter survival
from Winter’s bleak fury
till Spring’s brief revival.

The weak implore Fate;
bold men ravish, dishevel her ...
till both are cut down
by mere ticks of the Leveler.

Published by The Lyric, The Aurorean, Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and in a YouTube video by Asma Masooma

Regret
by Michael R. Burch, age 19-20

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret,
a pain
I chose to bear . . .

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again—
how rare.


Published by The Chained Muse

Observance
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

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

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

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

I wrote this early poem as a teenager, around age 17, in a McDonald's break room. It was the first poem that made me feel like a "real" poet. "Observance" was originally titled "Reckoning" and it was was one of my earliest poems to be published. "Observance/Reckoning" has been published by Nebo, Romantics Quarterly, The Chained Muse, Piedmont Literary Review, Tucumcari Literary Review, Borderless Journal (Singapore) and in the Borderless Journal anthology Monalisa No Longer Smiles and the anthology There Is Something in the Autumn.

Infinity
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

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

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

This is the second poem that made me feel like a "real" poet. "Infinity" has been published by Setu (India), Borderless Journal (Singapore), New Lyre, The Chained Muse, Penny Dreadful, Songs of Innocence, Artvilla and Lone Stars.

Smoke
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today...
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away...

I wrote this early poem around age 14 after seeing the ad for the movie "Summer of '42" starring a young Jacqueline Bisset.  "Smoke" appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern, and my college journal, Homespun.  It has since been published by The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Poezii (in a Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte), Potcake Chapbooks (UK), Love Poems and Poets, Better Than Starbucks and Fullosia Press.

In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
as the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our husks into some savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze:
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, The Chained Muse and New Lyre

Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

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

Uncanny seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared . . .
what sights have you seen,
what dreams have you dreamed,
  what rhetoric have you heard?

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

"Moon Lake" was published by Romantics Quarterly, then set to music by David Hamilton and performed by the Australian choir Choralation. This early poem dates to around age 14 and was part of a longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song."

Listen
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

Listen to me now and heed my voice;
I am a madman, alone, screaming in the wilderness,
but listen now.

Listen to me now, and if I say
that black is black, and white is white, and in between lies gray,
I have no choice.

Does a madman choose his words? They come to him,
the moon’s illuminations, intimations of the wind,
and he must speak.

But listen to me now, and if you hear
the tolling of the judgment bell, and if its tone is clear,
then do not tarry,

but listen, or cut off your ears, for I Am weary.

Published by Penny Dreadful, Formal Verse, The HyperTexts, the Anthologise Committee and Nonsuch High School for Girls (Surrey, England)

The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

There was a moment
without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
felt more than seen.
I was eighteen,
my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant...
without words, but with a deeper communion,
as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
liquidly our lips met
—feverish, wet—
forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
in the immediacy of our fumbling union...
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

Something
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which denial has swept into a corner... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Originally published in the anthology There is Something in the Autumn, then turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong and published by Poezii in a Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte, "Something" is the first poem I wrote that didn't rhyme.

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

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

This was my first translation, after I found the Latin prayer while sneak-reading one of my sister's historical romance novels.

The Toast
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay),
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and grey,
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,
for rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames’ exhausted, drifting ash
and petals falling from the rose ...
I raise my cup before I drink,
saluting ghosts of loves long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to joys set free, and those I fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme

Winter
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

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 and Contemporary Rhyme. "Winter" was inspired and influenced by William Blake's poem "The Sick Rose."

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 Refuted
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red ...
— Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

Seas that sparkle in the sun
without its light would have no beauty;
but the light within your eyes
is theirs alone; it owes no duty.
Whose winsome flame, not half so bright,
is meant for me, and brings delight.

Coral formed beneath the sea,
though scarlet-tendriled, cannot warm me;
while your lips, not half so red,
just touching mine, at once inflame me.
Whose scorching flames mild lips arouse
fathomless oceans fail to douse.

Bright roses’ brief affairs, declared
when winter comes, will wither quickly.
Your cheeks, though paler when compared
with them?—more lasting, never prickly.
Whose tender cheeks, so enchantingly warm,
far vaster treasures, harbor no thorns.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly. I composed this poem in my head as a college freshman, as I walked back to my dorm from an English class where I had read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130.” This was my first attempt at a sonnet, but I dispensed with the rules, as has always been my wont.

Am I
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-15

Am I inconsequential;
do I matter not at all?
Am I just a snowflake,
to sparkle, then to fall?

Am I only chaff?
Of what use am I?
Am I just a feeble flame,
to flicker, then to die?

Am I inadvertent?
For what reason am I here?
Am I just a ripple
in a pool that once was clear?

Am I insignificant?
Will time pass me by?
Am I just a flower,
to live one day, then die?

Am I unimportant?
Do I matter either way?
Or am I just an echo—
soon to fade away?

This is one of my very earliest poems; if I remember correctly, it was written the same day as “Time,” which appeared in my high school sophomore poetry assignment booklet. If not, it was a companion piece written around the same time. The refrain “Am I” is an inversion of the biblical “I Am” supposedly given to Moses as the name of God. I was around 14 or 15 when I wrote the two poems.

Time
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-15

Time,
where have you gone?
What turned out so short,
had seemed like so long.

Time,
where have you flown?
What seemed like mere days
were years come and gone.

Time,
see what you've done:
for now I am old,
when once I was young.

Time,
do you even know why
your days, minutes, seconds
preternaturally fly?

"Time" is a companion piece to "Am I." It appeared in my high school project notebook "Poems" along with "Playmates," so I was probably around 14 or 15 when I wrote it. This seems like a pretty well-crafted poem for a teenage poet just getting started. "Time" and "Am I" were written on the same day, or within a short period of time, if I remember correctly. They were among the earliest of what I call my "I Am" and "Am I" poems.

Righteous
by Michael R. Burch, age 16-18

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of bright stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

Published by Writer’s Gazette, Tucumcari Literary Review and The Chained Muse

R.I.P.
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

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 written in my late teens.

Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown,
the Ferris wheel teeters,
not up, yet not down...
Have I been too long at the fair?

This is one of my earliest poems, written around age 15.

Bound,
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of the streetlamp casts strange shadows to the ground,
I have lost what I once found
in your arms.

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of distant Venus fails to penetrate dark panes,
I have remade all my chains
and am bound.

Published as “Why Did I Go?” in the Lantern in 1976. I have made slight changes here and there, but the poem is essentially the same as what I wrote around age 14.

Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch, age 11-13

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.

I read the Bible from cover to cover at age eleven, ten chapters per day, at the suggestion of my devout Christian parents. I wrote this poem to express my conclusion about the bizarre behavior of the biblical god Yahweh/Jehovah . This was my first poem, as far as I can remember, although I considered it more of an observation at the time.

Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by Borderless Journal

Earthbound
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

Tashunka Witko, better known as Crazy Horse, had a vision of a red-tailed hawk at Sylvan Lake, South Dakota. In his vision he saw himself riding a spirit horse, flying through a storm, as the hawk flew above him, shrieking. When he awoke, a red-tailed hawk was perched near his horse.

Earthbound,
and yet I now fly
through these clouds that are aimlessly drifting ...
so high
that no sound
echoing by
below where the mountains are lifting
the sky
can be heard.

Like a bird,
but not meek,
like a hawk from a distance regarding its prey,
I will shriek,
not a word,
but a screech,
and my terrible clamor will turn them to clay—
the sheep,
the earthbound.

Published by Boston Poetry Magazine, Native American Indian Pride and Native American Poems, Prayers and Stories

Huntress
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

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.

Published by The HyperTexts and Sonnetto Poesia (Canada)

Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-43

“Burn Ovid”—Austin Clarke

Sunday School,
Faith Free Will Baptist, 1973:
I sat imagining watery folds
of pale silk encircling her waist.
Explicit *** was the day’s “hot” topic
(how breathlessly I imagined hers)
as she taught us the perils of lust
fraught with inhibition.

I found her unaccountably beautiful,
rolling implausible nouns off the edge of her tongue:
adultery, fornication, *******, ******.
Acts made suddenly plausible by the faint blush
of her unrouged cheeks,
by her pale lips
accented only by a slight quiver,
a trepidation.

What did those lustrous folds foretell
of our uncommon desire?
Why did she cross and uncross her legs
lovely and long in their taupe sheaths?
Why did her ******* rise pointedly,
as if indicating a direction?

“Come unto me,
     (unto me),”
          together, we sang,

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

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

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

“*** 101” and “Burn, Ovid” were written about my experiences during ninth grade at Faith Christian Academy, circa age 14-15 in 1972-1973. However, these poems were not completed until 2001 and are in a more mature voice and style than most of my other early poems.

*** 101
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-43

That day the late spring heat
steamed through the windows of a Crayola-yellow schoolbus
crawling its way up the backwards slopes
of Nowheresville, North Carolina ...

Where we sat exhausted
from the day’s skulldrudgery
and the unexpected waves of muggy,
summer-like humidity ...

Giggly first graders sat two abreast
behind senior high students
sprouting their first sparse beards,
their implausible bosoms, their stranger affections ...

The most unlikely coupling—

Lambert, 18, the only college prospect
on the varsity basketball team,
the proverbial talldarkhandsome
swashbuckling cocksman, grinning ...

Beside him, Wanda, 13,
bespectacled, in her primproper attire
and pigtails, staring up at him,
fawneyed, disbelieving ...

And as the bus filled with the improbable musk of her,
as she twitched impaled on his finger
like a dead frog jarred to life by electrodes,
I knew ...

that love is a forlorn enterprise,
that I would never understand it.

“*** 101” and “Burn, Ovid” were written about my experiences during ninth grade at Faith Christian Academy, circa age 14-15 in 1972-1973. However, these poems were not completed until 2001 and are in a more mature voice and style than most of my other early poems.

Because You Came to Me
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

for Beth

Because you came to me with sweet compassion
and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,
I do not love you after any fashion,
but wildly, in despair.

Because you came to me in my black torment
and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun
upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn’s foment
they melt ... I am undone.

Because I am undone, you have remade me
as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow
the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me
and bower me, somehow.

I wrote the first version of this poem around age 18, then revised it 30 years later and dedicated the new version to my wife Beth.

Ambition
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Men speak of their “Ambition”
and I smile to hear them say
that within them burns such fire,
such a longing to be great ...

For I laugh at their “Ambition”
as their wistfulness amasses;
I seek Her tongue’s indulgence
and Her parted legs’ crevasses.

I was very ambitious about my poetry, even as a teenager! I wrote this one around age 18 or 19.

An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion...

This is one of my early poems, written around age 16 and published in my high school literary journal.

Describing You
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

How can I describe you?

The fragrance of morning rain
mingled with dew
reminds me of you;

the warmth of sunlight
stealing through a windowpane
brings you back to me again.

This is an early poem of mine, written around age 16.

Analogy
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Our embrace is like a forest
lying blanketed in snow;
you, the lily, are enchanted
by each shiver trembling through;
I, the snowfall, cling in earnest
as I press so close to you.
You dream that you now are sheltered;
I dream that I may break through.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 18 or 19.

Of You
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

There is little to write of in my life,
and little to write off, as so many do . . .
so I will write of you.

You are the sunshine after the rain,
the rainbow in between;
you are the joy that follows fierce pain;
you are the best that I've seen
in my life.

You are the peace that follows long strife;
you are tranquility.
You are an oasis in a dry land
               and
you are the one for me!

You are my love; you are my life; you are my all in all.
Your hand is the hand that holds me aloft . . .
without you I would fall.

I have tried to remember when I wrote this poem, but that memory remains elusive. It was definitely written by 1976 because the poem was published in the Lantern then. But many of those poems were written earlier and this one feels “younger” to me, so I will guess a composition date in 1974, around age 16.

49th Street Serenade
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

It's four o'clock in the mornin'
and we're alone, all alone in the city . . .
     your sneakers 're torn
     and your jeans 're so short
that your ankles show, but you're pretty.

I wish I had five dollars;
I'd pay your bus fare home,
     but how far canya go
     through the sleet 'n' the snow
for a fistful of change?
'Bout the end of Childe’s Lane.

Right now my old man is sleepin'
and he don't know the hell where I am.
     Why he still goes to bed
     when he's already dead,
I don't understand,
but I don't give a ****.

Bein' sixteen sure is borin'
though I guess for a girl it's all right . . .
     if you'd let your hair grow
     and get some nice clothes,
I think you'd look outta sight.

And I wish I had ten dollars;
I'd ask you if you would . . .
     but wishin's no good
     and you'd think I'm a hood,
so I guess I'll be sayin' good night.

This is one of my earliest poems; I actually started out writing songs when some long-haired friends of mine started a band around 1974. But I was too introverted and shy to show them to anyone. This one was too **** for my high school journal.

Having Touched You
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

What I have lost
is not less
than what I have gained.

And for each moment passed
like the sun to the west,
another remained

suspended in memory
like a flower
in crystal

so that eternity
is but an hour
and fall

is no longer a season
but a state
of mind.

I have no reason
to wait;
the wind

does not pause
for remembrance
or regret

because
there is only fate and chance.
And so then, forget . . .

Forget that we were very happy
for a day.
That day was my lifetime.

Before that day I was empty
and the sky was grey.
You were the sunshine,

the sunshine that gave me life.
I took root
and I grew.

Now the touch of death is like a terrible knife,
and yet I can bear it,
having touched you.

Odd, the things that inspire us! I wrote this poem after watching The Boy in the Bubble: a made-for-TV movie, circa 1976, starring John Travolta. So I would have been around 18 at the time.

Hymn to Apollo
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

something of sunshine attracted my i
as it lazed on the afternoon sky,
golden, splashed on the easel of god;
what, i thought,
could this airy stuff be,
to, phantomlike, flit
through tall trees
on fall days, such as these?

and the breeze
whispered a dirge
to the vanishing light;
enchoired with the evening, it sang;
its voice enchantedly rang
chanting "Night! "...

till all the bright light
retired,
expired.

This poem appeared in my high school literary journal, the Lantern.

as Time walked by
by michael r. burch, age 16

yesterday i dreamed of us again,
when
the air, like honey,
trickled through cushioning grasses,
softly flowing, pouring itself upon the masses
of dreaming flowers...
and the hours
were tentative, coy and shy
while the sky
swirled all its colors together,
giving pleasure to the appreciative eye
as Time walked by.

then your smile
could fill the darkest night
with brilliant light
or thrill the dullest day
with ecstasy
so long as Time led leisurely our way;
as It did,
It did.

but soon the summer hid
her sunny smile...
the honeyed breaths of wind
became cold,
biting to the bone
as Time sped on,
fled from us
to be gone
forevermore.

this morning i awakened to the thought
that you were near
with honey hair and happy smile
lying sweetly by my side,
but then i remembered—you were gone,
that you toppled long ago
like an orchid felled by snow
as the thing called "us" sank slowly down to die
and Time roared by.

This poem appeared in my high school journal and was probably written around age 16.

Playmates
by Michael R. Burch, age 13-14

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.

This is, I believe, my second "real" poem. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.

hey pete
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

Floating
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Memories flood the sand's unfolding scroll;
they pour in with the long, cursive tides of night.

Memories of revenant blue eyes and wild lips
moist and frantic against my own.

Memories of ghostly white limbs...
of soft sighs
heard once again in the surf's strangled moans.

We meet in the scarred, fissured caves of old dreams,
green waves of algae billowing about you,
becoming your hair.

Suspended there,
where pale sunset discolors the sea,
I see all that you are
and all that you have become to me.

Your love is a sea,
and I am its trawler—
harbored in dreams,
I ride out night's storms.

Unanchored, I drift through the hours before morning,
dreaming the solace of your warm *******,
pondering your riddles, savoring the feel
of the explosions of your hot, saline breath.

And I rise sometimes
from the tropical darkness
to gaze once again out over the sea...
You watch in the moonlight
that brushes the water;

bright waves throw back your reflection at me.

Mare Clausum
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

These are the narrows of my soul—
dark waters pierced by eerie, haunting screams.
And these uncharted islands bleakly home
wild nightmares and deep, strange, forbidding dreams.

Please don't think to find pearls' pale, unearthly glow
within its shoals, nor corals in its reefs.
For, though you seek to salvage Love, I know
that vessel lists, and night brings no relief.

Pause here, and look, and know that all is lost;
then turn, and go; let salt consume, and rust.
This sea is not for sailors, but the ******
who lingered long past morning, till they learned

why it is named:
Mare Clausum.

Mare Clausum is Latin for "Closed Sea." I believe this poem was written around age 19.

Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Nevermore! O, nevermore!  
shall the haunts of the sea
—the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore—
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her ******* and hips,
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never **** her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not claim her,
nor could she give them pleasure ...
She sleeps, forevermore!

She sleeps forevermore,
a ****** save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way ...
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea ...

their skeletal love—impossibility!

Published by Romantics Quarterly and Penny Dreadful

Shock
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom—
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.

The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

There was a moment
without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
felt more than seen.
I was eighteen,
my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant...
without words, but with a deeper communion,
as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
liquidly our lips met
—feverish, wet—
forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
in the immediacy of our fumbling union...
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze...
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

alien
by michael r. burch, age 19

there are mornings in england
when, riddled with light,
the Blueberries gleam at us—
plump, sweet and fragrant.

but i am so small ...
what do i know
of the ways of the Daffodils?
“beware of the Nettles!”

we go laughing and singing,
but somehow, i, ...
i know i am lost. i do not belong
to this Earth or its Songs.

and yet i am singing ...
the sun—so mild;
my cheeks are like roses;
my skin—so fair.

i spent a long time there
before i realized: They have no faces,
no bodies, no voices.
i was always alone.

and yet i keep singing:
the words will come
if only i hear.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 19, then revised it nearly a half-century later. One of my earliest memories is picking blueberries amid the brambles surrounding the tiny English hamlet, Mattersey, where I and my mother lived with her parents while my American father was stationed in Thule, Greenland, where dependents were not allowed. Was that because of the weather or the nukes? In any case, England is free of dangerous animals, but one must be wary of the copious thorns and nettles.

Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

for my grandfather George Edwin Hurt Sr.

When I was a child
    I never considered man’s impermanence,
for you were a mountain of adamant stone:
    a man steadfast, immense,
and your words rang.

And when you were gone,
    I still heard your voice, which never betrayed,
"Be strong and of a good courage,
    neither be afraid ..."
as the angels sang.

And, O!, I believed
    for your words were my truth, and I tried to be brave
though the years slipped away
    with so little to save
of that talk.

Now I'm a man—
    a man ... and yet Grandpa ... I'm still the same child
who sat at your feet
    and learned as you smiled.
Be that rock.

I don't remember when I wrote this poem, but I will guess around age 18 in 1976. The verse quoted is from an old, well-worn King James Bible my grandfather gave me after his only visit to the United States, as he prepared to return to England with my grandmother. I was around eight at the time and didn't know if I would ever see my grandparents again, so I was heartbroken – destitute, really.

Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

Though you possessed the moon and stars,
you are bound to fate and wed to chance.
Your lips deny they crave a kiss;
your feet deny they ache to dance.
Your heart imagines wild romance.

Though you cupped fire in your hands
and molded incandescent forms,
you are barren now, and—spent of flame—
the ashes that remain are borne
toward the sun upon a storm.

You, who demanded more, have less,
your heart within its cells of sighs
held fast by chains of misery,
confined till death for peddling lies—
imprisonment your sense denies.

You, who collected hearts like leaves
and pressed each once within your book,
forgot. None—winsome, bright or rare—
not one was worth a second look.
My heart, as others, you forsook.

But I, though I loved you from afar
through silent dawns, and gathered rue
from gardens where your footsteps left
cold paths among the asters, knew—
each moonless night the nettles grew

and strangled hope, where love dies too.

Published by Penny Dreadful, Carnelian, Romantics Quarterly, Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Life & Times

Gone
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Tonight, it is dark
and the stars do not shine.

A man who is gone
was a good friend of mine.

We were friends.

And the sky was the strangest shade of orange on gold
when I awoke to find him gone ...

This is one of my very earliest poems, one that was lost when I destroyed all the poems I had written in a fit of frustration and despair. The opening lines and "the strangest shade of orange on gold" are all of the original poem that I have been able to remember. I believe I wrote the original poem around age 14.

Ince St. Child
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

When she was a child
  in a dark forest of fear,
    imagination cast its strange light
      into secret places,
      scattering traces
    of illumination so bright,
  years later, they might suddenly reappear,
their light undefiled.

When she was young,
  the shafted light of her dreams
    shone on her uplifted face
      as she prayed;
      though she strayed
    into a night fallen like mildewed lace
  shrouding the forest of screams,
her faith led her home.

Now she is old
  and the light that was flame
    is a slow-dying ember . . .
      What she felt then
      she would explain;
    she would if she could only remember
  that forest of shame,
faith beaten like gold.

Published by Piedmont Literary Review, Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly and Poetry Life & Times.

This is an unusual poem that I wrote in my late teens, and it took me some time to figure out who the elderly woman was. She was a victim of childhood ******, hence the title I eventually chose.

The Beautiful People
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

They are the beautiful people,
and their shadows dance through the valleys of the moon
to the listless strains of an ancient tune.

Oh, no ... please don't touch them,
for their smiles might fade.
Don’t go ... don’t approach them
as they promenade,
for they waltz through a vacuum
and dream they're not made
of the dust and the dankness
to which men degrade.

They are the beautiful people,
and their spirits sighed in their mothers’ wombs
as the distant echoings of unearthly tunes.

Winds do not blow there
and storms do not rise,
and each hair has its place
and each gown has its price.
And they whirl through the darkness
untouched by our cares
as we watch them and long for
a "life" such as theirs.

Burn
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

for Trump

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

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

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

as Time walked by
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

yesterday i dreamed of u(s) again,
when
the air, like honey,
trickled through cushioning grasses,
softly flowing, pouring itself upon the masses
of dreaming flowers . . .

then the sly impish Hours
were tentative, coy and shy
while the sky
swirled all its colors together,
giving pleasure to the appreciative eye
as Time walked by.

sunbright, ur smile
could fill the darkest night
with brilliant light
or thrill the dullest day
with ecstasy
so long as Time did not impede our way;
until It did,
as It did.

for soon the summer hid
her sunny smile . . .
the honeyed breaths of wind
became cold,
biting to the bone
as Time sped on,
fled from u(s)
to be gone
Forevermore.

this morning i awakened to the thought
that u were near
with honey hair and happy smile
lying sweetly by my side,
but then i remembered—u were gone,
that u’d been toppled long ago
like an orchid felled by snow
as the bloom called “us” sank slowly down to die
and Time roared by.

This poem was written around age 16 and appeared in my high school journal the Lantern in 1976.

Dust (I)
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

God, keep them safe until
I join them, as I will.

God, guard their tender dust
until I meet them, as I must.

This is one of my earliest poems, written circa 1972 at age 14, around the same time as “Jessamyn’s Song” but probably a bit earlier. “Dust” was at one time the closing stanza of “All My Children.”

Dust (II)
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

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

I’m not sure when I wrote my second “Dust” poem but I will keep the poems together due to the shared title and theme.

Dust (III)
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Flame within flame,
  we burned and burned relentlessly
    till there was nothing left to be consumed.
    Only ash remained, the smoke plumed
  like a spirit leaving its corpse, and we
were left with only a name
ever common between us.
  We had thought to love “eternally,”
    but the wick sputtered, the candle swooned,
    the flame subsided, the smoke ballooned,
  and our communal thought was: flee, flee, flee
the choking dust.

This is one of my early poems in the “Dust” series, but unfortunately I have no recollection of writing it, nor any notes about its composition. I will guess that I wrote this one in my late teens.

Love Unfolded Like a Flower
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

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

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

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

This is a love poem I wrote in my late teens for a girl I had a serious crush on. The poem was originally titled "Christy."

Unfoldings
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

for Vicki

Time unfolds ...
Your lips were roses.
... petals open, shyly clustering ...
I had dreams
of other seasons.
... ten thousand colors quiver, blossoming.

Night and day ...
Dreams burned within me.
... flowers part themselves, and then they close ...
You were lovely;
I was lonely.
... a ****** yields herself, but no one knows.

Now time goes on ...
I have not seen you.
... within ringed whorls, secrets are exchanged ...
A fire rages;
no one sees it.
... a blossom spreads its flutes to catch the rain.

Seasons flow ...
A dream is dying.
... within parched clusters, life is taking form ...
You were honest;
I was angry.
... petals fling themselves before the storm.

Time is slowing ...
I am older.
... blossoms wither, closing one last time ...
I'd love to see you
and to touch you.
... a flower crumbles, crinkling, worn and dry.

Time contracts ...
I cannot touch you.
... a solitary flower cries for warmth ...
Life goes on as
dreams lose meaning.
... the seeds are scattered, lost within a storm.

I wrote this poem for a college girlfriend, circa age 18-19.

Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch, age 21

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.

The Tender Weight of Her Sighs
by Michael R. Burch, age 21

The tender weight of her sighs
lies heavily upon my heart;
apart from her, full of doubt,
without her presence to revolve around,
found wanting direction or course,
cursed with the thought of her grief,
believing true love is a myth,
with hope as elusive as tears,
hers and mine, unable to lie,
I sigh ...

I believe “The Tender Weight of Her Sighs” and “Each Color a Scar” are companion poems, probably written around the same time at age 21. This poem has an unusual rhyme scheme, with the last word of each line rhyming with the first word of the next line. The final line is a “closing couplet” in which both words rhyme with the last word of the preceding line. I believe I invented the ***** form, which I will dub the “End-First Curtal Sonnet.”

Impotent
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

Tonight my pen
is barren
of passion, spent of poetry.

I hear your name
upon the rain
and yet it cannot comfort me.

I feel the pain
of dreams that wane,
of poems that falter, losing force.

I write again
words without end,
but I cannot control their course . . .

Tonight my pen
is sullen
and wants no more of poetry.

I hear your voice
as if a choice,
but how can I respond, or flee?

I feel a flame
I cannot name
that sends me searching for a word,

but there is none
not over-done,
unless it's one I never heard.

I believe this poem was written in my late teens or early twenties.

Cameo
by Michael R. Burch, age 21

Breathe upon me the breath of life;
gaze upon me with sardonyx eyes.
Here, where times flies
in the absence of light,
all ecstasies are intimations of night.

Hold me tonight in the spell I have cast;
promise what cannot be given.
Show me the stairway to heaven.
Jacob's-ladder grows all around us;
Jacob's ladder was fashioned of onyx.

So breathe upon me the breath of life;
gaze upon me with sardonic eyes . . .
and, if in the morning I am not wise,
at least then I’ll know if this dream we call life
was worth the surmise.

My notes say that I copied and filed this poem in 1979, around age 21. Since I don’t have an earlier recollection of this poem, I will stick with that date. This one does feel a bit more mature than some of my teenage poems, so the date seems about right.

The Last Enchantment
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

Oh, Lancelot, my truest friend,
how time has thinned your ragged mane
and pinched your features; still you seem
though, much, much changed—somehow unchanged.

Your sword hand is, as ever, ready,
although the time for swords has passed.
Your eyes are fierce, and yet so steady
meeting mine ... you must not ask.

The time is not, nor ever shall be,
for Merlyn’s words were only words;
and now his last enchantment wanes,
and we must put aside our swords ...

Originally published by Trinacria

Lay Down Your Arms
by Michael R. Burch, age 21

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

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

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

I wrote “Lay Down Your Arms” around age 21 and it became my first published poem, possibly. Can an acceptance be a rejection? I never received a copy of the first journal that accepted one of my poems, The Romantist, so I don’t know if my first “published poem” was actually published! In any case, poems that I wrote from (circa) ages 11 to 16 were eventually published, so I now consider those my “earliest” publications.

/Y/

This is a poem about a discussion between a young poet and an older poet – the very poetic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wrote this poem as a teenager under the spell of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which for me is also a compelling poem. In the poem he is the upper-case Poet and I am the lower-case poet.

Poet to poet
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

I have a dream
...pebbles in a sparkling sand...
of wondrous things.

I see children
...variations of the same man...
playing together.

Black and yellow, red and white,
... stone and flesh, a host of colors...
together at last.

I see a time
...each small child another's cousin...
when freedom shall ring.

I hear a song
...sweeter than the sea sings...
of many voices.

I hear a jubilation
... respect and love are the gifts we must bring...
shaking the land.

I have a message,
...sea shells echo, the melody rings...
the message of God.

I have a dream
...all pebbles are merely smooth fragments of stone...
of many things.

I live in hope
...all children are merely small fragments of One...
that this dream shall come true.

I have a dream!
... but when you're gone, won't the dream have to end?...
Oh, no, not as long as you dream my dream too!

Here, hold out your hand, let's make it come true.
... i can feel it begin...
Lovers and dreamers are poets too.
...poets are lovers and dreamers too...

Published by Borderless Journal (Singapore) and Love Poems and Poets

Fairest Diana
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

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, 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

I believe this poem was written in the late 1970s or very early 1980s, around the time it became apparent that the lovely Diana Spencer was going to marry into the British royal family.

Flight
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Eagle, raven, blackbird, crow . . .
What you are I do not know.
Where you go I do not care.
I’m unconcerned whose meal you bear.
But as you mount the sun-splashed sky,
I only wish that I could fly.
I only wish that I could fly.

Robin, hawk or whippoorwill . . .
Should men care if you hunger still?
I do not wish to see your home.
I do not wonder where you roam.
But as you scale the sky's bright stairs,
I only wish that I were there.
I only wish that I were there.

Sparrow, lark or chickadee . . .
Your markings I disdain to see.
Where you fly concerns me not.
I scarcely give your flight a thought.
But as you wheel and arc and dive,
I, too, would feel so much alive.
I, too, would feel so much alive.

This poem was influenced by William Cullen Bryant’s “To a Waterfowl.”

Flying
by Michael R. Burch, age 16-17

i shall rise
and try the ****** wings of thought
ten thousand times
before i fly ...

and then i'll sleep
and waste ten thousand nights
before i dream;
but when at last ...

i soar the distant heights of undreamt skies
where never hawks nor eagles dared to go,
as i laugh among the meteors flashing by
somewhere beyond the bluest earth-bound seas ...

if i'm not told
i’m just a man,
then i shall know
just what I AM.

This is a poem written around age 16-17. According to my notes I may have revised the poem later, around 1978, but if so the changes were minor and the poem remains very close to the original.

Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons ...
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears ...
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
—a man as large as I left—
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim—

"My father!"
"My son!"

“Sanctuary at Dawn” appeared in my poetry contest manuscript, so it was written either in high school or during my first two years of college: 1976 is an educated guess. In my teens, thirty was a generic age for adulthood.

Shadows
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Alone again as evening falls,
I join gaunt shadows and we crawl
up and down my room's dark walls.

Up and down and up and down,
against starlight—strange, mirthless clowns—
we merge, emerge, submerge . . . then drown.

We drown in shadows starker still,
shadows of the somber hills,
shadows of sad selves we spill,

tumbling, to the ground below.
There, caked in grimy, clinging snow,
we flutter feebly, moaning low

for days dreamed once an age ago
when we weren't shadows, but were men . . .
when we were men, or almost so.

Published by Homespun and Mind in Motion

This poem was written either in high school or my first two years of college because it appeared in the 1979-1980 issue of my college literary journal, Homespun.

Sappho’s Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

for Jeremy

Hushed yet melodic, the hills and the valleys
sleep unaware of the nightingale's call
as 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.

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.  After my son Jeremy was born, I dedicated this poem to him.

Tell me what i am
by michael r. burch, age 15

Tell me what i am,
for i have often wondered why i live.
Do u know?—
please tell me so;
drive away this darkness from within.

For my heart is black with sin
and i have often wondered why i am.
And my thoughts are lacking light
though i have often sought what was right.

Now it is night;
please drive away the darkness from without,
for i doubt that i will see
the coming of the day
without ur help.

This is one of my early “I am/am I” poems. It was published in my high school journal, the Lantern. I believe I wrote the original version around age 15 or 16.

Say You Love Me
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Joy and anguish surge within my soul;
contesting there, they cannot be controlled;
now grinding yearnings grip me like a vise.
Stars are burning;
it's almost morning.

Dreams of dreams of dreams that I have dreamed
dance before me, forming formless scenes;
and now, at last, the feeling grows
as stars, declining,
bow to morning.

And you are music in my undreamt dreams,
rising from some far-off lyric spring;
oh, somewhere in the night I hear you sing.
Stars on fire
form a choir.

Now dawn's fierce brightness burns within your eyes;
you laugh at me as dancing starlets die.
You touch me so and still I don't know why . . .
But say you love me.
Say you love me.

This poem is dated 1983 in my notes, but it could have been written earlier and revised then. This one feels earlier to me, so I will guess it was written around age 18 during my late Romantic period. The original poem did not have “forming formless scenes” or “undreamt dreams.” I chose those revisions, not to be confusing, but in an attempt to capture the moment when, awakening from dreams, we briefly inhabit both worlds simultaneously. I came up with “starlets” because, as the sun eclipses ethereal starlight in our eyes, the reality of a lover in bed eclipses all vague, ethereal fantasies of dream lovers.

Stewark Island (Ambiguity)
by Michael R. Burch, age 17-18

“Take your child, your only child, whom you love...”

Seas are like tears—
they are never far away.
I have fled them now these eighteen years,
but I am nearer them today
than I ever have been.

Oh, I never could bear
the warm, salty water
or the cool comfort here
in the shade of an altar
sweeter than sin ...

Sweeter than sin,
yet cleansing, like love;
still its feel to doomed skin
either too little or too much
of whatever it is.

Seas and tears
are like life—
ridiculous,
ambiguous.

“Sea Dreams” is one of my longer and more ambitious early poems, along with the full version of “Jessamyn’s Song.” To the best of my recollection, I wrote “Sea Dreams” around age 18 in high school my senior year, then worked on in college. It appeared in my poetry contest notebook and thus was substantially complete by 1978.

Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen ...

By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days’
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.

Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.

I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset’s scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no vessel’s sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's "immortal" souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing . . .

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I’ll taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
then I’ll bow my head to pray . . .

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs I’d so often climb
when the wind was **** with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner’s dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright!

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow’s desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam . . .
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then . . . what then?
I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach . . .
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams . . .
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
   and dream
    and dream.

“Sea Dreams” is one of my longer and more ambitious early poems, along with the full version of “Jessamyn’s Song.” For years I thought I had written “Sea Dreams” around age 19 or 20. But then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about the poem in my freshman dorm, so the poem must have been started by age 18 or earlier. Dating my early poems has been a bit tricky, because I keep having little flashbacks that help me date them more accurately, but often I can only say, “I know this poem was written by about such-and-such a date, because ...”

*

“Son” is a companion poem to “Sea Dreams” that was written around the same time and discussed in the same freshman dorm conversation. Ron, the other student, asked me how on earth I came up with a poem about being a father who abandoned his son to live on an island! I think the meter is pretty good for the age at which it was written.

Son
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

An island is bathed in blues and greens
as a weary sun settles to rest,
and the memories singing
through the back of my mind
lull me to sleep as the tide flows in.

Here where the hours pass almost unnoticed,
my heart and my home will be till I die,
but where you are is where my thoughts go
when the tide is high.

[etc., see handwritten version, the father laments abandoning his son]

So there where the skylarks sing to the sun
as the rain sprinkles lightly around,
understand if you can
the mind of a man
whose conscience unconsciously drowned.

Thoughts of the Everglades in Ontario
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

We burned wildfire of September in a distant grass,
watching the many variations of light devour the blades.

All night long I tended the smoldering campfire
remembering those sweat-drenched nights we spent in the ’glades
listening as gators sang love songs to one another,
curious serenades,
their huge tails lashing the shallow swampland water.

That night, camped out distantly beyond the closest farm,
I did not hold you, as I so often have, to keep you warm,
but rather to feel the restless movements of our unborn daughter.

Now she’s three and the Everglades are in her eyes—
dark and swampy, all muddled green and gray,
and they seem to knowingly say,
“It’s time to be on our way.”

I wrote this poem as a college sophomore, age 20, in 1978.

When last my love left me
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

The sun was a smoldering ember
when last my love left me;
the sunset cast curious shadows
over green arcs of the sea;
she spoke sad words, departing,
and teardrops drenched the trees.

This poem was published by my college literary journal, Homespun, issue 1976-1977. I believe I wrote the original version in 1974, around age 16.

War
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

lysander lies in lauded greece
and sleeps and dreams, a stone for a pillow,
unseeing as sunset devours limp willows,
but War glares on.

and joab's sightless gaze is turned
beyond the jordan's ravaged shore;
his war-ax lies to be hurled no more,
but War hacks on.

and roland sleeps in poppied fields
with flowers flowing at his feet;
their fragrance lulls his soul to sleep,
but War raves on.

and patton sighs an unheard sigh
for sorties past and those to come;
he does not heed the battle drum,
but War rolls on.

for now new heroes grab up guns
and rush to fight their fathers' wars,
as warriors' children must, of course,
while War laughs on.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem around age 17. I was never fully happy with the poem, although I liked some of the lines and revised it 46 years later, on 4-27-2021.

Stryx: An Astronomer’s Report
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Yesterday
(or was is an eon ago?)
a sun spit out its last remnants of light
over a planet long barren of life,
and died.

It was not a solitary occasion,
by any stretch of the imagination,
this decoronation
of a planet conceived out of desolation.

For her to die as she was born
—amidst the glory of galactic upheaval—
is not strange,
but fitting.

Fitting in that,
shorn of all her preposterous spawn
that had littered her surface like horrendous hair,
she died her death bare
and alone.

Once she was home to all living,
but she died home to the dead
who bereaved her of life.

Unfit for life she died that night
as her seas shone fatal, dark and blue.

Unfit for life she met her end
as mountains fell and lava spewed.

Unfit she died, agleam with death
whose radiance she wore.

Unfit she died as raging waves
obliterated every shore.

Unfit! Unfit! Unfit! Unfit!
Contaminated with the rays
that smoldered in her radiant swamps
and seared her lifeless bays.

Unfit! Unfit! Unfit! Unfit!
a ****** world no more,
but a planet ***** and left to face
her death as she was born—
alone, so all alone.

Yesterday,
a planet green and lovely was no more.

Yesterday,
the whitecaps crashed against her shores
and then they were no more.

Yesterday,
a soft green light
no longer brushed the moon's dark heights . . .

There was no moon,
there was no earth;
there were only the ******* she had given birth
watching from their next ***** world.

I wrote this poem around age 18 and it was published in the 1976-1977 issue of my college literary journal, Homespun.

With my daughter, by a waterfall
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

By a fountain that slowly shed
its rainbows of water, I led
my youngest daughter.

And the rhythm of the waves
that casually lazed
made her sleepy as I rocked her.

By that fountain I finally felt
fulfillment of which I had dreamt
feeling May’s warm breezes pelt

petals upon me.
And I held her close in the crook of my arm
as she slept, breathing harmony.

By a river that brazenly rolled,
my daughter and I strolled
toward the setting sun,

and the cadence of the cold,
chattering waters that flowed
reminded us both of an ancient song,

so we sang it together as we walked along
—unsure of the words, but sure of our love—
as a waterfall sighed and the sun died above.

This poem was published by my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977. I believe I wrote it the year before, around age 18.

You didn't have time
by Michael R. Burch, age 17

You didn't have time to love me,
always hurrying here and hurrying there;
you didn't have time to love me,
and you didn't have time to care.

You were playing a reel like a fiddle half-strung:
too busy for love, "too old" to be young . . .
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

You didn't have time to take time
and you didn't have time to try.
Every time I asked you why, you said,
"Because, my love; that's why." And then
you didn't have time at all, my love.
You didn't have time at all.

You were wheeling and diving in search of a sun
that had blinded your eyes and left you undone.
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

This is a song-poem that I wrote during my early songwriter phase, around age 17.

So little time
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

There is so little time left to summer,
to run through the fields or to swim in the ponds . . .
to be young.
There is so little time left till autumn shall come.
There is so little time left for me to be free . . .
so little time, just so, so little time.

If I were handsome and brawny and brave,
a love I would make and the time I would save.
If I were happy — not hamstrung, but free —
surely there would be one for me . . .
Perhaps there'd be one.

There is so little left of the sunshine
although there’s much left of the rain . . .
there is so little left in my life not of strife and of pain.

I seem to remember writing this poem around age 14, in 1972. It was published in my high school journal, the Lantern, in 1976. The inversion in L8 makes me think this was a very early poem. That’s something I weaned myself of pretty quickly. Also, I was extremely depressed from age 14 to 15 because my family moved twice and I had trouble making friends because I was so shy and introverted.



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over ...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each casual lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their forced laughter’s the wine ...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion ...

and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again “soon” ...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon ...

and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune ...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.

And we know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the dark hand of Fate
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined ...

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it were something you loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, brimming with the soft light
of the stars winking sagely above ...

Then you whisper, "It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while."
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, "Yes, I would," to your small, troubled smile.

I vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with a lot of office parties). This was after my sophomore year in college, making me around 19 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time. I was still in “pool shark” mode, playing money games all night and into the wee hours of the morning.

Reflections on the Loss of Vision
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

The sparrow that cries from the shelter of an ancient oak tree and the squirrels
that dash in delight through the treetops as the first snow glistens and swirls,
remind me so much of my childhood and how the world seemed to me then,
    that it seems if I tried
    and just closed my eyes,
I could once again be nine or ten.

The rabbits that hide in the bushes where the snowflakes collect as they fall,
hunch there, I know, in the fast-piling snow, yet now I can't see them at all.
For time slowly weakened my vision; while the patterns seem almost as clear,
    some things that I saw
    when I was a boy,
are lost to me now in my “advancing” years.

The chipmunk who seeks out his burrow and the geese now preparing to leave
are there as they were, and yet they are not; and if it seems childish to grieve,
still, who would condemn a blind man for bemoaning the vision he lost?
    Well, in a small way,
    through the passage of days,
I have learned some of his loss.

As a keen-eyed young lad I endeavored to see things most adults could not—
the camouflaged nests of the hoot owls, the woodpecker’s favorite haunts.
But now I no longer can find them, nor understand how I once could,
    and it seems such a waste
    of those far-sighted days,
to end up near blind in this wood.

Every Man Has a Dream
by Michael R. Burch, age 24

lines composed at Elliston Square

Every man has a dream that he cannot quite touch ...
a dream of contentment, of soft, starlit rain,
of a breeze in the evening that, rising again,
reminds him of something that cannot have been,
and he calls this dream love.

And each man has a dream that he fears to let live,
for he knows: to succumb is to throw away all.
So he curses, denies it and locks it within
the cells of his heart and he calls it a sin,
this madness, this love.

But each man in his living falls prey to his dreams,
and he struggles, but so he ensures that he falls,
and he finds in the end that he cannot deny
the joy that he feels or the tears that he cries
in the darkness of night for this light he calls love.

Canticle: an Aubade
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Misty morning sunlight hails the dawning of new day;
dreams drift into drowsiness before they fade away.
Dew drops on the green grass echo splendors of the sun;
the silence lauds a songstress and the skillful song she's sung.
Among the weeping willows the mist clings to the leaves;
and, laughing in the early light among the lemon trees,

there goes a brace of bees!

Dancing in the depthless blue like small, bright bits of steel,
the butterflies flock to the west and wander through dawn's fields.
Above the thoughtless traffic of the world wending their way,
a flock of mallard geese in v's dash onward as they race.
And dozing in the daylight lies a new-born collie pup,
drinking in bright sunlight through small eyes still tightly shut.
And high above the meadows, blazing through the warming air,
a shaft of brilliant sunshine has started something there . . .

it looks like summer.

I distinctly remember writing this poem in Ms. Davenport’s class at Maplewood High School. I had read a canticle somewhere, liked the name and concept, and decided I needed to write one myself. I believe this was in 1974 at age 16, but I could be off by a year. This is another early poem that makes me think I had a good natural ear for meter and rhyme. It’s not a great poem, but the music seems pretty good for a beginner.

Childhood's End
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

How well I remember
those fiery Septembers:
dry leaves, dying embers of summers aflame,
lay trampled before me
and fluttered, imploring
the bright, dancing rain to descend once again.

Now often I’ve thought on
the meaning of autumn,
how the rainbows’ enchantments defeated dark clouds
while robins repeated
ancient songs sagely heeded
so wisely when winters before they’d flown south ...

And still, in remembrance,
I’ve conjured a semblance
of childhood and how the world seemed to me then;
but early this morning,
when, rising and yawning,
I found a gray hair ... it was all beyond my ken.

I believe I wrote this poem in my early twenties, probably around 1980. This is another early poem with an usual form.

Red Dawn
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

The sun, like a spotlight,
is spinning round the trees
a web of light.

And with her amber radiance
she is
driving off the night.

Oh, how like a fire
she is
burning off the black.

And in her flaming wake
she has left a track
of puffy smoke.

I believe this is one of my very earliest poems, written around age 14, due to the fact that the original poem had three somewhat archaic apostrophes: ’round, ’way and ’luminance. I weaned myself of such things pretty quickly. According to my notes, I revised the poem in 1975. It was published in my high school journal, the Lantern, the following year.

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

I.

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time, alone,
not untouched,
and I am as they were—
unsure,
and the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.

Ah, faithless lover—
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has leapt from the pinnacle of love,
and the result of every infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.

A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we seldom gauge Time's speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.

Ungentle maiden—
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.

A measureless rhythm rules the night—
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.

So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills
that groan as I do, yet somehow sleep
through the nightjar's cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any...
how can I, when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed in whorls of fretted lace,
and a tear upon your pillowcase?

VII.

If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled foreign lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today—
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude—
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone by himself, to think.

VIII.

And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.

Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.

X.

A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.

This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these hallowed halls.

I wrote this poem in my freshman dorm at age 18.

Pilgrim Mountain
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

I have come to Pilgrim Mountain
to eat icicles and to bathe in the snow.
Do not ask me why I have done this,
for I do not know . . .
but I had a vision of the end of time
and I feared for my soul.

On Pilgrim Mountain the rivers shriek
as they rush toward the valleys, and the rocks
creak and groan in their misery,
for they comprehend they’re prey to
night and day,
and ten thousand other fallacies.

Sunlight shatters the stone,
but midnight mends it again
with darkness and a cooling flow.
This is no place for men,
and I know this, but I know
that that which has been must somehow be again.

Now here on Pilgrim Mountain
I shall gouge my eyes with stone
and tear out all my hair,
and though I die alone,
I shall not care . . .

for the night will still roll on
above my weary bones
and these sun-split, shattered stones
of late become their home
here, on Pilgrim Mountain.

I believe this poem was originally written around 1974 at age 16 or thereabouts. According to my notes, it was modified in 1978, then again in 1983. However, the poem remains very close to the original. I seem to remember writing this poem in Mr. Purcell’s history trailer.

there is peace where i am going...
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

there is peace where i am going,
for i hasten to a land
that has never known the motion
of one windborne grain of sand;
that has never felt a tidal wave
nor seen a thunderstorm;
a land whose endless seasons
in their sameness are one.

there i will lay my burdens down
and feel their weight no more,
and sleep beneath the unstirred sands
of a soundless ocean's shore,
where Time lies motionless in pools
of lost experience
and those who sleep, sleep unaware
of the future, past and present

(and where Love itself lies dormant,
unmoved by a silver crescent) .

and when i lie asleep there,
with Death's footprints at my feet,
not a thing shall touch me,
save bland sand, lain like a sheet
to wrap me for my rest there
and to bind me, lest i dream,
mere clay again,
of strange domains
where cruel birth drew such harrowing screams.

yes, there is peace where i am going,
for i am bound to be
safe here, within the dull embrace
of this dim, unchanging sea...
before too long; i sense it now,
and wait, expectantly,
to feel the listless touch
of Immortality.

This is one of my early poems, written around age 15 after watching a documentary about Woodstock.

absinthe sea
by michael r. burch, circa age 18-19

i hold in my hand a goblet of absinthe

the bitter green liqueur
reflects the dying sunset over the sea

and the darkling liquid froths
up over the rim of my cup
to splash into the free,
churning waters of the sea

i do not drink

i do not drink the liqueur,
for I sail on an absinthe sea
that stretches out unendingly
into the gathering night

its waters are no less green
and no less bitter,
nor does the sun strike them with a kinder light

they both harbor night,
and neither shall shelter me

neither shall shelter me
from the anger of the wind
or the cruelty of the sun

for I sail in the goblet of some Great God
who gazes out over a greater sea,
and when my life is done,
perhaps it will be because
He lifted His goblet and sipped my sea.

I seem to remember writing this poem in college just because I liked the sound of the word “absinthe.” I had no idea, really, what it was or what it looked or tasted like, beyond something I had read in passing somewhere.

Ode to the Sun
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Follow still your silent course.
Follow your unyielding course.
On, swift sun.

Leave no trace of where you've been;
give no hint of what you've seen.
But, ever as you onward flee,
touch me, O sun,
touch me.

Now day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Go touch my love about her face
and warm her now for my embrace;
for though she sleeps so far away,
where she is not, I shall not stay.
Go tell her now I, too, shall come.
Go on, swift sun,
go on.

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review

I seem to remember writing this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18.

It's Halloween!
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

If evening falls
on graveyard walls
far softer than a sigh;
if shadows fly
moon-sickled skies,
while children toss their heads
uneasy in their beds,
beware the witch's eye!

If goblins loom
within the gloom
till playful pups grow terse;
if birds give up their verse
to comfort chicks they nurse,
while children dream weird dreams
of ugly, wiggly things,
beware the serpent's curse!

If spirits scream
in haunted dreams
while ancient sibyls rise
to plague nightmarish skies
one night without disguise,
as children toss about
uneasy, full of doubt,
beware the Devil's lies . . .

it's Halloween!

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20.

Laughter from Another Room
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

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.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem as a college freshman or sophomore, around age 18 or 19. It remains largely the same as the original poem.

The Insurrection of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

She was my Shilo, my Gethsemane;
she nestled my head to her immaculate breast
as she breathed into my insensate lips
the soft benedictions of her ecstatic sighs . . .

But those veiled allegations of her disconsolate tears!

Years I abided the agile assaults of her flesh . . .
She loved me the most when I was most sorely pressed;
she undressed with delight for her ministrations
when all I needed was a moment’s rest . . .

She anointed my lips with strange dews at her perilous breast;
the insurrection of sighs left me fallen, distressed, at her elegant heel.
I felt the hard iron, the cold steel, in her words and I knew:
the terrible arrow showed through my conscripted flesh.

The sun in retreat left her Victor, then all was Night.
Late ap-peals of surrender went sinking and dying—unheard.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem at age 22 in 1980, must have forgotten about it, then revised it on January 31, 1999. But I wasn’t happy with the first stanza and revised the poem again on September 22, 2023, a mere 43 years after I wrote the original version! The "ap-peals" wordplay was a 2023 revision. The only "ap" I had in high school was Pong.

Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen.
By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days'
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.
Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.
I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset's scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no man has sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's "immortal" souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing...

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
and I bow my head to pray...

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs that I used to climb
when the wind was **** with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner's dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright.

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow's desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam...
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then... what then?
I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach...
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams...
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
and dream
and dream.

As the Flame Flowers
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

As the flame flowers, a flower, aflame,
arches leaves skyward, aching for rain,
but all it encounters are anguish and pain
as the flame sputters sparks that ignite at its stem.

Yet how this frail flower aflame at the stem
reaches through night, through the staggering pain,
for a sliver of silver that sparkles like rain,
as it flutters in fear of the flowering flame.

Mesmerized by a wavering crescent-shaped gem
that glistens like water though drier than sand,
the flower extends itself, trembles, and then
dies as scorched leaves burst aflame in the wind.

Ashes
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

A fire is dying;
ashes remain . . .
ashes and anguish,
ashes and pain.

A fire is fading
though once it burned bright . . .
ashes once embers
are ashes tonight.

A midnight shade of blue
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

You thought you saw a shadow moving somewhere in the night—
a lost and lonely stranger searching for a little light—
so you told me to approach him, ask him if he'd like a room . . .
how sweet of you to think of someone wandering in the gloom,
but he was only
                             a midnight shade of blue.

I thought I saw an answer shining somewhere in the night—
a spark of truth irradiating wisdom sweet and bright—
but when I sought to seize it, to bring it home to you . . .
it fluttered through my fingers like a wispy curlicue,
for it was only
                         a midnight shade of blue.

We thought that we had found true love together in the night—
a love as fine and elegant as wine by candlelight—
but when we woke this morning, we knew it wasn't true . . .
the "love" we'd shared was less than love; I guess we owe it to
emotion,
                and a midnight shade of blue.

I seem to remember writing this one during my early songwriting phase. That would be around 1974, give or take. While I don’t claim it’s a great poem, I think I did show a pretty good touch with meter in my youth.

Gentry
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

The men shined their shoes
and the ladies chose their clothes;
the rifle stocks were varnished
till they were untarnished
by a speck of dust.

The men trimmed their beards;
the ladies rouged their lips;
the horses were groomed
until the time loomed
for them to ride.

The men mounted their horses,
the ladies did the same;
then in search of game they went,
a pleasant time they spent,
and killed the fox.

This poem was published in my college literary journal, Homespun, and was probably written around age 18 in high school.

Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch, age 17-18

Yesterday
the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.

I wrote this poem around age 17 or 18.

Damp Days
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

These are damp days,
and the earth is slick and vile
with the smell of month-old mud.

And yet it seldom rains;
a never-ending drizzle
drenches spring's bright buds
till they droop as though in death.

Now Time
drags out His endless hours
as though to bore to tears
His fretting, edgy servants
through the sheer length of His days
and slow passage of His years.

Damp days are His domain.

Irritation
grinds the ravaged nerves
and grips tight the gorging brain
which fills itself, through sense,
with vast morasses of clumped clay
while the temples throb in pain
at the thought of more damp days.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem sometime between 1974 and 1976, then revised it around 1978.

Easter, in Jerusalem
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

The streets are hushed from fervent song,
for strange lights fill the sky tonight.
A slow mist creeps
up and down the streets
and a star has vanished that once burned bright.
Oh Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
who tends your flocks tonight?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
a Shepherd calls
through the markets and the cattle stalls,
but a fiery sentinel has passed from sight.

Golgotha shudders uneasily,
then wearily settles to sleep again,
and I wonder how they dream
who beat him till he screamed,
"Father, forgive them!"
Ah Nazareth, Nazareth,
now sunken deep into dark sleep,
do you heed His plea
as demons flee,
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep . . ."

The temple trembles violently,
a veil lies ripped in two,
and a good man lies
on a mountainside
whose heart was shattered too.
Galilee, oh Galilee,
do your waters pulse and froth?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
the waters creep
to form a starlit cross.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem around age 15-16.

An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the "common crowd,"
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most artful (and best-dressed);
it seems he’d never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerics loved the "Hanging Judge" and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, "They'll crucify him!" The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
"It is obscene," he screamed, "to expose the naked heart!"
The recorder (bewildered Society), well aware of his notoriety,
greeted this statement with applause.

"This man is no poet. Just look—his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar! He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an impostor!
I ask that his sentence be . . . the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster!"

The jury left, in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair, "Might I not answer to my peers?"
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times

El Dorado
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.

Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.

Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.

The young men with outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a *** of gold
near El Dorado.

And the painted “actress” who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of “defeats”
and “triumphs” on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.

Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.

But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.

We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it "just once more."
For this is the big, big apple,
though it’s rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.

This is an early poem of mine. I believe I wrote the first version during my “Romantic phase” around age 16 or perhaps a bit later. It was definitely written in my teens because it appears in a poetry contest folder that I put together and submitted during my sophomore year in college.

Blue Cowboy
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

He slumps against the pommel,
a lonely, heartsick boy—
his horse his sole companion,
his gun his only toy
—and bitterly regretting
he ever came so far,
forsaking all home's comforts
to sleep beneath the stars,
he sighs.

He thinks about the lover
who awaits his kiss no more
till a tear anoints his lashes,
lit by the heartless stars.
He reaches to his aching breast,
withdraws a golden lock,
and kisses it in silence
as empty as his thoughts
while the wind sighs.

Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
between the earth and distant stars.
Do not fall; the fiends of hell
would leap to feast upon your heart.

Blue cowboy, sift the burnt-out sand
for a drop of water warm and brown.
Dream of streams like silver seams
even as you gulp it down.

Blue cowboy, sing defiant songs
to hide the weakness in your soul.
Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
and wish that you were going home
as the stars sigh.

I believe I wrote “Blue Cowboy” during my songwriting phase, around age 15-16.

Cowpoke
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

Sleep, old man ...
your day has long since passed.
The endless plains,
cool midnight rains
and changeless ragged cows
alone remain
of what once was.

You cannot know
just how the Change
will **** the windswept plains
that you so loved ...
and so sleep now,
O yes, sleep now ...
before you see just how
the Change will come.

Sleep, old man ...
your dreams are not our dreams.
The Rio Grande,
stark silver sand
and every obscure brand
of steed and cow
are sure to pass away
as you do now.

I believe this poem was written around the same time as “Blue Cowboy,” perhaps on the same day. That was probably around age 15-16.

Dance With Me
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Dance with me
to the fiddles’ plaintive harmonies.
Enchantingly,
each highstrung string,
each yearning key,
each a thread within the threnody,
bids us, "Waltz!"
then sets us free
to wander, dancing aimlessly.

Let us kiss
beneath the stars
as we slowly meet ...
we'll part
laughing gaily as we go
to measure love’s arpeggios.

Yes, dance with me,
enticingly;
press your lips to mine,
then flee.

The night is young,
the stars are wild;
embrace me now,
my sweet, beguiled,
and dance with me.

The curtains are drawn,
the stage is set
—patterned all in grey and jet—
where couples in like darkness met
—careless airy silhouettes—
to try love's timeless pirouettes.

They, too, spun across the lawn
to die in shadowy dark verdant.

But dance with me.

Sweet Merrilee,
don't cry, I see
the ironies of all the years
within the moonlight on your tears,
and every ****** has her fears ...

So laugh with me
unheedingly;
love's gaiety is not for those
who fail to heed the music's flow,
but it is ours.

Now fade away
like summer rain,
then pirouette ...
the dance of stars
that waltz among night's meteors
must be the dance we dance tonight.

Then come again—
like a sultry wind.

Your slender body as you sway
belies the ripeness of your age,
for a woman's body burns tonight
beneath your gown of ****** white—
a woman's ******* now rise and fall
in answer to an ancient call,
and a woman's hips—soft, yet full—
now gently at your garments pull.

So dance with me,
sweet Merrilee ...
the music bids us,
"Waltz!"

Don't flee;
let us kiss
beneath the stars.
Love's passing pains will leave no scars
as we whirl beneath false moons
and heed the fiddle’s plaintive tunes ...

Oh, Merrilee,
the curtains are drawn,
the stage is set,
we, too, are stars beyond night's depths.
So dance with me.

I distinctly remember writing this poem my freshman year in college, circa 1976-1977, after meeting George King, who taught the creative writing classes. I would have been 18-19 when I started the poem, but it didn’t always cooperate and I seem to remember working on it the following year as well.

Dance With Me (II)
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

While the music plays
remembrance strays
toward a grander time . . .

Let's dance.

Shadows rising, mute and grey,
obscure those fervent yesterdays
of youth and gay romance,
but time is slipping by, and now
those days just don't seem real, somehow . . .

Why don't we dance?

This music is a memory,
for it's of another time . . .
a slower, stranger time.

We danced—remember how we danced?—
uncaring, merry, wild and free.
Remember how you danced with me?

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast,
your ******* hard against my chest,
we danced
and danced
  and danced.

We cannot dance that way again,
for the years have borne away the flame
and left us only ashes,
but think of all those dances,

and dance with me.

I believe I wrote this poem around the same time as the original “Dance With Me,” this time from the perspective of the lovers many years later. So this poem would have been written sometime between 1976 and 1977, around age 18-19.

Impressions of Darkness in the Aspects of Light
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

The afternoon hours pass slowly,
moment blending into golden moment as Time flows tranquilly by,
and only the deepening shadows portend the Evening’s coming,
for within their mystic twilight she sleeps, a Goddess immune to light.

Meanwhile the dreaming maidens—half dark as the Darkness itself—
bask in the amber radiance, oblivious to all save Time,
for they sense the fragrance of dying flowers ...

Fascinating aromas of poppy and hemp once cured by the Sun arise with the Wind,
caressing the senses while numbing the spirit,
inducing vague dreams and a willingness to sleep ... perhaps forevermore.

For cruel Death awaits her hour and the lilies surely shall die.

All the while Death’s dread Sister lurks in the shadows murmuring songs of a ghostly Moon haunting purple skies.

Listen! I can hear the refrain far-off on the naked wind—
rising, then falling, strengthening, then dying...
calling me “home” once again.

And even now Darkness stalks earth’s unsuspecting flocks with feline nonchalance,
as the willows bow and their limbs scrape the earth seemingly in regret.

And even now the skylark’s luting song harbors an elusive melancholy...

And even now the spiraling hawk pauses momentarily to cast a sorrowful eye earthward,
then rises slowly, as if unwilling to dare the utmost heights...

And even now the Moon-drawn sea pauses from its rocking to lift a wave or two toward the engorging Darkness,
imploring, despairing, an innocent child in the hands of a savage Master.

“Oh Lord!” the anguished waves cry out, in the agony of despair,
“Give us a little time ... a little time!”
But their cries die out deep into the descending Nothingness.

Who knows that it lurks there, now, but the sorrowing sea and I?

Who else reckons the assuredness of its arrival or the insincerity of its departure?

Not the flashy cardinal—he cares not but to fly.

Never the solemn-eyed hoot owl, for he loves the Nighttime better than the day.

Only, perhaps, the dying sun understands the arcane reasons
for the coming on of Night and the changing of the seasons.

For at her back she must always hear the chariots of Night drawing closer and closer,
the hooves of coal-black stallions shattering the serenity of the heavens,
creating the fiery sparks we call stars.

But I am not alone in my unceasing vigil: the sun and the sea, my constant companions, console me, as does the enigmatic nightingale.

And they shall comfort me tonight when the curtains of the Night are drawn and clouds obscure the stars.

Together we shall count the hours until Dawn’s deliverance, when she comes to free us, bearing God’s bright banner, enlisting the glowering mountains and angry heavens.

A pledge for ignorance

In these changing times,
when truth and conjecture
are no longer distinguished
by the common man,
who accepts all things
as part of some ultimate plan,
believing, perhaps rightly so,
that any gods existing now
shall soon be overthrown,
I have closed my eyes and seen
the dissolution of my beliefs.

Once I thought myself secure
belonging to a race of logic and science,
infallible, perhaps capable
of conquering the universe . . .
but as I have seen the plight
of my people growing worse and worse,
today I attempt not to think at all,
nor do I scale the heights that I once did;
having experienced one harrowing fall,
I will not risk another
even to save a brother.

For thought is like the flight of birds
that rise to heights unknown to men,
till, grazing the orbits of fiery stars,
they fall to earth, their feathers singed.
So I will not venture those starry paths
by moons unseen and planets ringed,
but I will live my life below,
secure in blissful ignorance,
never approaching thought'****** aglow . . .
and though I may be wrong in this,
what I have not seen, I have not missed.

I Am Lonely
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

God, I am lonely;
I am weak and sore afraid.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when my heart is torn in two?

God, I am lonely
and I cannot find a mate.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when the best friend that I’ve made

remains myself?

This poem appeared in my high school journal the Lantern, so it was written no later than 1976. But I believe it was written around age 15-16.

I held a heart in my outstretched hand
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

I held a heart in my outstretched hand;
it was ****** and red and raw.
I ripped it and tore it;
I gnashed it and gnawed it;
I gored it with fingers like claws,
but it never missed a beat
of the heartfelt song it sang.

There my bruised heart wept in my open palm
and the gore dripped down my wrist;
I reviled it,
defiled it;
I gave it a twist
and wrung it dry of blood;
still it beat with a hearty thud,
and its movement was warm with love.

But I flung it into the ditch and walked
angrily, cruelly away . . .
There it lay in the dust
with a ****** crust
caking the crimson stain
that my claw-like fingers had made,
and its flesh was grey with death.

Oh, I cannot say why,
but I turned and I cried,
and I lifted it once again,
holding it to my cheek,
where it began to beat,
but to a tiny, tragic measure
devoid of trust or pleasure.

Then it kissed my fingers and sighed,
begging forgiveness even as it died.

Now that was many years ago,
and I am wiser, for I know
that a heart can last out any pain,
but cannot bear to be alone.

And my lifeless heart is wiser too,
having seen the way a careless man
can take his being into his hands
and crush it into a worthless ooze.

Gainsboro(ugh)
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

Times forgotten, times reviled
were all you gave a child, beguiled,
besides one ghostly memory
to haunt him down Life’s winding wild.
And though his character was formed
somewhere within your lightless shade,
not a fragment of the man
that he became today remains
anywhere within the gloom
cast by your dark insidious trees ...
for fleeting dreams and memories
are only dreams and memories.

Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

That eerie night I met you, the moon bathed all the land
in strange, enchanting patterns which stirred in my chilled mind
forgotten dreams of fiery youth and hopes of things to come
that I had seen destroyed or lost to cold, uncaring Time.

The goblet of wine I held gleamed with a wildly-flickering light
and the pool of fragrant liquid seemed a shade too close to blood;
there, in its mirror-like surface, I saw you passing by,
and suddenly, shockingly, I felt the pang of Love . . .

You wore a long white gown and when the moonlight caught your hair
you seemed a slender taper lit by a silver flame;
and . .. though we had never met before . . .
. . . somehow . . . I knew your name . . .

I sought to speak, but I could not,
for the demon wine had numbed my tongue . . .
Oh, I turned to follow you through the door,
looking about, but you were gone . . .

"Remembrance" was written in my late teens, circa 1977-1978, and appears in my 1978 poetry contest folder.

Morning
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

And everywhere the flowers
were turning to the sun,
just as the night before
I had turned to the one
for whom my heart yearned.

It was morning
and the sun shone in the sky
like smoldering embers in the eyes of my lover—
another night gone by.

And everywhere the terraces
were refreshed by bright assurances
of the early-fallen rain
which had doused the earth
and morning’s birth
with their sweet refrain.

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 14, then according to my notes revised it around age 17. In any case, it was published in my high school literary journal.

Jack
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

I remember playing in the mud
Septembers long ago
when you and I were young
with dreams of things to come
and hopes for feet of snow.

And at eight years old the days were long
—long enough to last—
and when it snowed
the smiles would show
behind each pane of glass.

At ten years old, the fights were few,
the future—far away,
and when the snow showed on the streets
there was always time to play . . .
almost always time to play.

And when you smiled your eyes were green,
but when you cried they seemed ice blue;
do you remember how we cried
as little boys will do—
trying hard not to, because we wanted to be "cool"?

At twelve years old, the world was warm
and hate had never crossed our minds,
and in twelve short years we had not learned
to hear the fearsome breath of Time
behind.

So, while the others all looked back,
you and I would look ahead.
It's such a shame that the world turned out
to be what everyone said
it would.

And junior high was like a dream—
the girls were mesmerized by you,
sighing, smiling bright and sweet,
as we passed them on the street
on our way to school.

And we did well; we never tried
to make straight "A's,"
but always did.
And just for kicks, when we saw cops,
we ran away and hid.

We seldom quarreled, never fought,
for in our way,
we loved each other;
and had the choice been ours to make,
you would have been my elder brother.

But as it was, it always is—
one's life is lost
before it's lived.
And when our mothers called our names,
we ran away and hid.

At fifteen we were back-court stars,
freshman starters on the team;
and every time we drove and scored
the cheerleaders would scream
our names.

You played tennis; I played golf;
you debated; I ran track;
and whenever grades came out,
you and I would lead the pack.
I guess that we just had the knack.

Whatever happened to us, Jack?

All My Children
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-15

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the blousy flowers
of this backyard cemet'ry,
upon my children as they sleep.

Oh, there is Hank in the daisies now,
with a mound of earth for a pillow;
his face as harsh as his monument,
but his voice as soft as the wind through the willows.

And there is Meg beside the spring
that sings her endless sleep.
Though it’s often said of stiller waters,
sometimes quicksilver streams run deep.

And there is Frankie, little Frankie,
tucked in safe at last,
a child who weakened and died too soon,
but whose heart was always steadfast.

And there is Mary by the bushes
where she hid so well,
her face as dark as their berries,
yet her eyes far darker still.

And Andy . . . there is Andy,
sleeping in the clover,
a child who never saw the sun
so soon his life was over.

And Em'ly, oh my Em'ly!,
the prettiest of all . . .
now she's put aside her dreams
of beaus kind, dark and tall
for dreams dreamed not at all.

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon this backyard garden,
on the graves of all my children . . .

God, keep them safe until
I join them, as I will.
God, guard their tender dust
until I meet them, as I must.

[But they never did depart;
They still live within my heart.]

This is one of my earliest poems, written around 1973 circa age 15, about the same time as “Jessamyn’s Song” although I think this one is a bit older, based on its language and style.

Parting
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

I was his friend, and he was mine; I knew him just a while.
We laughed and talked and sang a song; he went on with a smile.
He roams this land in search of life, intent on being “free.”
I stay at home and write my poems and work on my degree.
I hope to be a writer soon, and dream of wild acclaim.
He doesn't know what he will do; he only knows he loves the wind and rain.

I didn't say goodbye to him; I know he'll understand.
I'll never write a word to him; I don't know that I can.
I knew he couldn't stay, and so . . . I didn't even ask.
We both knew that he had to go; I tried to ease his task.
We both know life's a winding road with potholes every mile,
and if we hit a detour, well, it only brings vague sadness to our smiles.

One day he's bound to stop somewhere; perhaps he'll take a wife,
but for now he has to travel on to seek a more “natural” life.
He knows such a life's elusive, but still he has to try,
just as I must write my poems although none please my eye.
For poetry, like life itself, is something most men rue;
still, we meet disappointments with a smile, and smile until the time that they are through.

He left me as I left a friend so many years ago;
I promised I would call him, but I never did; you know,
it's not that I didn't love him; it's just that gone is gone.
It makes no sense to prolong the end; you cannot stop the sun.
And I hope to find a lover soon, and I hope she'll love me too;
but perhaps I'll find disappointment; I know that it’s a rare girl who is true.

I've been to many foreign lands, but now my feet are fast,
still, I hope to travel once again when my college days are past.
Our paths are very different, but we both do what we can,
and though we don't know what it means, we try to "act like men."
We were friends, and nothing more; what more is there to be?
We were friends for just a while . . . he went on to be free.

Oh, say that you are mine
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Your lips are sweeter than apricot brandy;
your breath invites with a pleasant warmth;
you sweep through the darkest corridors of my soul—
a waltzing maiden born of a dream;
you brush the frailest fibre of my hopes
and I sink to my knees—
a quivering beggar.

Your eyes are bluer than aquamarine
set ablaze by the sun;
your lips as inviting as cool streams
to a wanderer of desert lands;
I sleep in your hand,
safe in the warmth of your tender palm,
lost in the fragrance of your soft skin.

We make love as deep as purple pine forests,
your laughter richer and sweeter than honey
poured in a pitcher of peaches and cream,
your malice more elusive than the memory of a dream,
your cheeks tenderer than eiderdown
and cooler than snow-fed streams;
you touch my lips with the lightest of kisses
and my soul sings.

Liar
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEQUELS

Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

This early poem dates to around age 14 and was part of a longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song."

Leave Taking (II)
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Silver Stork

Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

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

Uncanny seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared . . .
what sights have you seen,
what dreams have you dreamed,
  what rhetoric have you heard?

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

Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
  alone, ever lonely . . .
   yes, go down to die.
And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
  Go down to the valley;
   go down to Tomb Lake.
Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours —
  mad souls without meaning,
   frail souls without force.
Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
  They lie in her shallows
   and sleep in her bed.

Playmates
by Michael R. Burch, age 13-14

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.

This is, I believe, my second "real" poem. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.

Playthings
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

a sequel to “Playmates”

There was a time, as though a long-forgotten dream remembered,
when you and I were playmates and the days were long;
then we were pirates stealing plaits of daisies
from trembling maidens fearing men so strong . . .

Our world was like an unplucked Rose unfolding,
and you and I were busy, then, as bees;
the nectar that we drank, it made us giddy;
each petal within reach seemed ours to seize . . .

But you were more the doer, I the dreamer,
so I wrote poems and dreamed a noble cause;
while you were linking logs, I met old Merlin
and took a dizzy ride to faery Oz . . .

But then you put aside all “silly” playthings;
with sunburned hands you built, from bricks and stone,
tall buildings, then a life, and then you married.
Now my fantasies, again, are all my own.

This is a companion poem to “Playmates,” the second poem I remember writing, around age 13 or 14. However, I believe “Playthings” was written several years later, in my late teens, around 1977. According to my notes, I revised the poem in 1991, then again in 2020.

Keywords/Tags: Early, Juvenalia, Young, Youth, Teen, Child, Childhood, Boy, Boyhood, Romantic

Bookmarks/Tags: early, early poems, juvenilia, child, childhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenager, young adult



These are poems I wrote later in life.

This is a poem I wrote after reading W. S. Merwin’s translations of Pablo Neruda’s love sonnets.

First and Last
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth, after Pablo Neruda

You are the last arcane rose
of my aching,
my longing,
or the first yellowed leaves—
vagrant spirals of gold
forming huddled bright sheaves;
you are passion forsaking
dark skies, as though sunsets no winds might enclose.
And still in my arms
you are gentle and fragrant—
demesne of my vigor,
spent rigor,
lost power,
fallen musculature of youth,
leaves clinging and hanging,
nameless joys of my youth to this last lingering hour.

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review and Poetry Life & Times



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.



To Know You as Mary
by Michael R. Burch

To know you as Mary,
when you spoke her name
and her world was never the same ...
beside the still tomb
where the spring roses bloom.

O, then I would laugh
and be glad that I came,
never minding the chill, the disconsolate rain ...
beside the still tomb
where the spring roses bloom.

I might not think this earth
the sharp focus of pain
if I heard you exclaim—
beside the still tomb
where the spring roses bloom

my most unexpected, unwarranted name!
But you never spoke. Explain?



Transplant
by Michael R. Burch

You float, unearthly angel, clad in flesh
as strange to us who briefly knew your flame
as laughter to disease. And yet you laugh.
Behind your smile, the sun forfeits its claim
to earth, and floats forever now the same―
light captured at its moment of least height.

You laugh here always, welcoming the night,
and, just a photograph, still you can claim
bright rapture: like an angel, not of flesh―
but something more, made less. Your humanness
this moment of release becomes a name
and something else―a radiance, a strange
brief presence near our hearts. How can we stand
and chain you here to this nocturnal land
of burgeoning gray shadows? Fly, begone.
I give you back your soul, forfeit all claim
to radiance, and welcome grief’s dark night
that crushes all the laughter from us. Light
in someone Else’s hand, and sing at ease
some song of brightsome mirth through dawn-lit trees
to welcome morning’s sun. O daughter! these
are eyes too weak for laughter; for love’s sight,
I welcome darkness, overcome with light.



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 ...



He Lived: Excerpts from “Gilgamesh”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I.
He who visited hell, his country’s foundation,
Was well-versed in mysteries’ unseemly dark places.
He deeply explored many underworld realms
Where he learned of the Deluge and why Death erases.

II.
He built the great ramparts of Uruk-the-Sheepfold
And of holy Eanna. Then weary, alone,
He recorded his thoughts in frail scratchings called “words”:
But words made immortal, once chiseled in stone.

III.
These walls he erected are ever-enduring:
Vast walls where the widows of dead warriors weep.
Stand by them. O, feel their immovable presence!
For no other walls are as strong as this keep’s.

IV.
Come, climb Uruk’s tower on a starless night—
Ascend its steep stairway to escape modern error.
Cross its ancient threshold. You are close to Ishtar,
The Goddess of Ecstasy and of Terror!

V.
Find the cedar box with its hinges of bronze;
Lift the lid of its secrets; remove its dark slate;
Read of the travails of our friend Gilgamesh—
Of his descent into hell and man’s terrible fate!

VI.
Surpassing all kings, heroic in stature,
Wild bull of the mountains, the Goddess his dam
—Bedding no other man; he was her sole rapture—
Who else can claim fame, as he thundered, “I am!”



Enkidu Enters the House of Dust
an original poem by Michael R. Burch

I entered the house of dust and grief.
Where the pale dead weep there is no relief,
for there night descends like a final leaf
to shiver forever, unstirred.

There is no hope left when the tree’s stripped bare,
for the leaf lies forever dormant there
and each man cloaks himself in strange darkness, where
all company’s unheard.

No light’s ever pierced that oppressive night
so men close their eyes on their neighbors’ plight
or stare into darkness, lacking sight ...
each a crippled, blind bat-bird.

Were these not once eagles, gallant men?
Who sits here—pale, wretched and cowering—then?
O, surely they shall, they must rise again,
gaining new wings? “Absurd!

For this is the House of Dust and Grief
where men made of clay, eat clay. Relief
to them’s to become a mere windless leaf,
lying forever unstirred.”

“Anu and Enlil, hear my plea!
Ereshkigal, they all must go free!
Beletseri, dread scribe of this Hell, hear me!”
But all my shrill cries, obscured

by vast eons of dust, at last fell mute
as I took my place in the ash and soot.



Reclamation
an original poem by Michael R. Burch

after Robert Graves, with a nod to Mary Shelley

I have come to the dark side of things
where the bat sings
its evasive radar
and Want is a crooked forefinger
attached to a gelatinous wing.

I have grown animate here, a stitched corpse
hooked to electrodes.
And night
moves upon me—progenitor of life
with its foul breath.

Blind eyes have their second sight
and still are deceived. Now my nature
is softly to moan
as Desire carries me
swooningly across her threshold.

Stone
is less infinite than her crone’s
gargantuan hooked nose, her driveling lips.
I eye her ecstatically—her dowager figure,
and there is something about her that my words transfigure

to a consuming emptiness.
We are at peace
with each other; this is our venture—
swaying, the strings tautening, as tightropes
tauten, as love tightens, constricts

to the first note.
Lyre of our hearts’ pits,
orchestration of nothing, adits
of emptiness! We have come to the last of our hopes,
sweet as congealed blood sweetens for flies.

Need is reborn; love dies.



Everlasting
by Michael R. Burch

Where the wind goes
when the storm dies,
there my spirit lives
though I close my eyes.

Do not weep for me;
I am never far.
Whisper my name
to the last star ...

then let me sleep,
think of me no more.

Still ...

By denying death
its terminal sting,
in my words I remain
everlasting.



She bathes in silver
~~~~ afloat ~~~~
on her reflections
—Michael R. Burch

I liked the line “She bathes in silver” but didn’t have anything to follow it up with, so I eventually opted for a short haiku-like poem, which I rather fancy now.



“Whoso List to Hunt” is a famous early English sonnet written by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) in the mid-16th century.

Whoever Longs to Hunt
by Sir Thomas Wyatt
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Whoever longs to hunt, I know the deer;
but as for me, alas!, I may no more.
This vain pursuit has left me so bone-sore
I'm one of those who falters, at the rear.
Yet friend, how can I draw my anguished mind
away from the doe?
                               Thus, as she flees before
me, fainting I follow.
                                I must leave off, therefore,
since in a net I seek to hold the wind.

Whoever seeks her out,
                                     I relieve of any doubt,
that he, like me, must spend his time in vain.
For graven with diamonds, set in letters plain,
these words appear, her fair neck ringed about:
Touch me not, for Caesar's I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame.



This is my modern English translation of a French poem by Voltaire, one of my all-time favorite writers. The poem is followed by two translations of epigrams by Voltaire.

Les Vous et Les Tu (“You, then and now”)
by Voltaire
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Phyllis, whatever became of those days
We spent riding in your carriage,
Lacking both lackeys and trappings,
Accompanied only by your graceful charms
And content with a humble supper
Which you (of course) transformed into ambrosia ...
Days when you abandoned yourself in your folly
To the happily deceived lover
Who so earnestly pledged you his life?

Heaven had bequeathed you, then,
In lieu of prestige and riches,
The enchanting enticements of youth:
A tender heart, an adventurous mind,
An alabaster breast and exquisite eyes.
Well, with so many luring allurements,
Ah! what girl would have not been mischievous?
And so you were, graceful creature.
And thus (and may Love forgive me!)
You know I desired you all the more.

Ah, Madame! How your life,
So filled with honors today,
Differs from those lost enchantments!
This hulking guardian with the powdered hair
Who lies incessantly at your door,
Phyllis, is the very avatar of Time:
See how he dismisses the escorts
Of tender Love and Laughter;
Those orphans no longer dare show their faces
Beneath your magnificent paneled ceilings.
Alas! in happier days I saw them
Enter your home through a glassless window
To frolic in your hovel.

No, Madame, all these carpets
Spun at the Savonnerie
And so elegantly loomed by the Persians;
And all your golden jewelry;
And all this expensive porcelain
Germain engraved with his divine hand;
And all these cabinets in which Martin
Surpassed the art of China;
And all your white vases,
Such fragile Japanese wonders!;
And the twin chandeliers of diamonds
Dangling from your ears;
And your costly chokers and necklaces;
And all this spellbinding pomp;
Are not worth a single kiss
You blessed me with when you were young.



These are my modern English translations of two epigrams by Voltaire.

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love is a canvas created by nature
and completed by imagination.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: Voltaire, France, French, English translation, you, Phyllis, youth, young, crush, love, lost love, kiss, time



Reason Without Rhyme
by Michael R. Burch

I used to be averse
to free verse,
but now I admit
that YOUR rhyming is WORSE!

But alas, in the end,
it’s all the same:
all verse is unpaid
and a crying shame.



Sun Poem
by Michael R. Burch

I have suffused myself in poetry
as a lizard basks, soaking up sun,
scales nakedly glinting; its glorious light
he understands—when it comes, it comes.

A flood of light leaches down to his bones,
his feral eye blinks—bold, curious, bright.

Now night and soon winter lie brooding, damp, chilling;
here shadows foretell the great darkness ahead.
Yet he stretches in rapture, his hot blood thrilling,
simple yet fierce on his hard stone bed,

his tongue flicking rhythms,
the sun—throbbing, spilling.



Cameo
by Michael R. Burch

Breathe upon me the breath of life;
gaze upon me with sardonyx eyes.
Here, where times flies
in the absence of light,
all ecstasies are intimations of night.

Hold me tonight in the spell I have cast;
promise what cannot be given.
Show me the stairway to heaven.
Jacob's-ladder grows all around us;
Jacob's ladder was fashioned of onyx.

So breathe upon me the breath of life;
gaze upon me with sardonic eyes . . .
and, if in the morning I am not wise,
at least then I’ll know if this dream we call life
was worth the surmise.



The Drawer of Mermaids
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Alina Karimova, who was born with severely deformed legs and five fingers missing. Alina loves to draw mermaids and believes her fingers will eventually grow out.

Although I am only four years old,
they say that I have an old soul.
I must have been born long, long ago,
here, where the eerie mountains glow
at night, in the Urals.

A madman named Geiger has cursed these slopes;
now, shut in at night, the emphatic ticking
fills us with dread.
(Still, my momma hopes
that I will soon walk with my new legs.)

It’s not so much legs as the fingers I miss,
drawing the mermaids under the ledges.
(Observing, Papa will kiss me
in all his distracted joy;
but why does he cry?)

And there is a boy
who whispers my name.
Then I am not lame;
for I leap, and I follow.
(G’amma brings a wiseman who says

our infirmities are ours, not God’s,
that someday a beautiful Child
will return from the stars,
and then my new fingers will grow
if only I trust Him; and so

I am preparing to meet Him, to go,
should He care to receive me.)



splintering
by michael r. burch

we have grown too far apart,
each heart
long numbed by time and pain.

we have grown too far apart;
the DARK
now calls us. why refrain?

we have grown too far apart;
what spark
could ignite our lives again

or persuade us to remain?



After the Poetry Recital
by Michael R. Burch

Later there’ll be talk of saving whales
over racks of lamb and flambéed snails.



H.B.
for Hermann Broch
by Hannah Arendt
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Survival.
But how does one live without the dead?
Where is the sound of their lost company?
Where now, their companionable embraces?
We wish they were still with us.
We are left with the cry that ripped them from us.
Left with the veil that shrouds their empty gazes.
What avails? That we commit ourselves to them,
and through this commitment, learn to survive.



I Love the Earth
by Hannah Arendt
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I love the earth
like a trip
to a foreign land
and not otherwise.
Even so life spins me
on its loom softly
into never-before-seen patterns.
Until suddenly
like the last farewells of a new journey,
the great silence breaks the frame.



Abdul Ghani Khan – aka Ghani Baba – was an Pakistani poet, philosopher, engineer, sculptor, painter, writer and politician who wrote in Pashto.

Excerpts from “Zama Mahal” (“My Palace”)
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I fashioned a palace from the river’s white sands,
as the world, in great amazement, watched on in disbelief ...
My palace was carpeted with rose petals.
Its walls were made of melodies, sung by Rabab.
It was lit by a fair crescent, coupled with the divine couplets of Venus.
It was strung with the dewdrops of a necklace I entwined.
Eyes, inebriated by the stars, twinkled ever so brightly!



The Chalice
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A note of drunkenness floats on the dusk;
Come, drown your sorrows in the chalice!
What does it matter if you’re a yogi or an emir?
Here there’s no difference between master and slave.
Death’s hand, the Black Hunter’s, is weighing the blow;
Laugh! Laugh now, before laughter is ensnared.



Entreaty
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not need your polished lips,
Nor your hair in loops like a serpent’s coils,
Nor your nape as graceful as a swan’s,
Nor your narcissistic eyes drunk on your own beauty,
Nor your teeth perfect as pearls,
Nor your cheeks ruddy as ripe pomegranates,
Nor your voice mellifluous as a viola’s,
Nor your figure elegant as a poplar, ...
But show me this and only this, my love:
I seek a heart stained red, like a poppy flower.
Pearls by millions I would gladly forfeit
For one tear born of heartfelt love and grief.

(Written at age 15, in July 1929, on the ship Neldera)



To God
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

i don’t say You don’t exist, i say You do,
yet Your universe seems to lack an owner!



Look Up
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To understand the magnificence of the Universe,
look up.



The Brain and the Heart
by Ghani Baba
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The brain and the heart? Two powerful independent kings governing one country.



Someone please tell me:
How does one fall in love?
—Ghani Baba, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Last night the mountain peak
Spoke softly to the evening star.
—Ghani Baba, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Paradise lay beneath my mother’s feet.
—Ghani Baba, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wherever our mothers walk, beneath their feet lies Paradise.
—Ghani Baba, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



The King of Beasts in the Museum of the Extinct
by Michael R. Burch

The king of beasts, my child,
was terrible, and wild.

His roaring shook the earth
till the feeble cursed his birth.

And all things feared his might:
even rhinos fled, in fright.

Now here these bones attest
to what the brute did best

and the pain he caused his prey
when he hunted in his day.

For he slew them just for sport
till his own pride was cut short

with a mushrooming cloud and wild thunder;
Exhibit "B" will reveal his blunder.



The Lingering and the Unconsoled Heart
by Michael R. Burch

There is a silence—
the last unspoken moment
before death,

when the moon,
cratered and broken,
is all madness and light,

when the breath comes low and complaining,
and the heart is a ruin
of emptiness and night.

There is a grief—
the grief of a lover's embrace
while faith still shimmers in a mother’s tears ...

There is no emptier time, nor place,
while the faint glimmer of life is ours
that the lingering and the unconsoled heart fears

beyond this: seeing its own stricken face
in eyes that drift toward some incomprehensible place.



I’m afraid Donald Justice was a bit over-optimistic in his poem “Men at Forty” …

Men at Sixty
by Michael R. Burch

after Donald Justice's "Men at Forty"

Learn to gently close
doors to rooms
you can never re-enter.

Rest against the stair rail
as the solid steps
buck and buckle like ships’ decks.

Rediscover in mirrors
your father’s face
once warm with the mystery of lather,
now electrically plucked.



That country ***** bewitches your heart?
Hell, her most beguiling art’s
hiking her dress
to ****** you with her ankles' nakedness!
Sappho, fragment 57, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: mermaid, mermaids, child, children, childhood, Urals, Ural Mountains, soul, soulmate, radiation
Valentine Mbagu Dec 2014
Here breaths Paris the city of love
A citadel that protects the love of many a lovers heart,
An ancient tower standing tall like the heavens above
A city that bonds together lovers heart never to part.

A beautiful city that dresses the bed of couples honeymoon
A honeycomb that attracts the heart of many a lovers taste,
An oak that shows forth her beauty like the beam of bloom
A city of grandeur that nurtures lovers heart to her best.

A city that retains her honour as the heart of lovers den
A land of love spiced with romance, soaring her fame to the heavens and skies,
A nation that forms the desires of many a heart every now and then
An un-wavering city that pampers the face of lovers heart with smiles.

A city that is as beautiful as herself the city of light
A tower whose arms forms the comfort city of many a lovers heart,
A legendary city that holds the breathe of lovers heart so tight
An empress whose beauty waters the isles of lovers path.

A citadel of light that is as bright as the morning sun
A city that leaves the legacy of love to her offsprings un-born,
A magnificent tower that causes every travellers imagination to run
A volcano that erupts the love skills of many a heart to storm.

It's Paris the legendary city of love
A city that forms the base of love amongst all cities,
A beautiful empress whose heart is as pure as a dove
A pageant city that teaches all hearts the basics of love ethics.
Tribute to my Dream Country, Paris the City Of Love.
xoK May 2014
Lovers are fools.
Words like "forever" and "always"
Dance across their lips
Hidden scribbles on notebook pages.
Lovers are fools.
Candles and rose petals
Cloud a room full
Of expectation and uncertainty.
Lovers are fools.
Blind, deaf, mute
And shrouded in moonbeams,
Unable to face the reality of the world.

Foolish lovers,
Open your eyes
For you will  f a l l  if you do not watch where you leap.
Foolish lovers,
How can you stop the time tables,
Step off the life-carousel -
Racing horses frozen in mid-air
And twinkle-light music driven to utter silence?
Foolish lovers,
Teach me how to use my fragile love
As an indestructible armor
Against the lightening bolts and ice storms,
Apocalypse and crop circle fears.

Lovers are fools.
She loves me all up,
So if being one with her means
Being a **fool


I say,
                      *Bring it on.
LDR life.
Let’s be lovers again on the Belvedere
Hand in hand we would climb the stairs
Then fly to the past in our memories’ wings
To that timeless space where duelled Hastings!

Let’s be lovers again in that time spectral
On Victoria’s lawn her memorial
In the autumn’s white blue horizon
Under the bronzed face of Curzon!

Let’s be lovers again in our revived heart
In wind kissed skin on the Prinsep Ghat
See the sun go down on the west bank low
Coloring our eyes in the river’s glow!

Let’s be lovers again in the garden of Kyd
Where under the banyan love poems we read
Take a boat sail to the south upstream
Where the Hugli flows in the Bay’s dream!

Why can’t we be lovers like the olden time
Where landed Charnock in the humid clime
That grew to a city with three villages to start
And etched forever in two lovers’ hearts!
Belvedere House - Alipore, Calcutta, former palace for the Viceroy of India and the Governor General of Bengal, now houses the National Library.
Warren Hastings - first Governor General of Bengal (1772-85), he had wounded Sir Phillip Francis in a duel in the lawn of Belvedere.
Victoria Memorial - built by Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), built between 1906-1921.
Prinsep Ghat - built on the riverbank of Hugli in memory of James Prinsep,  English scholar, orientalist and antiquary.
Ghat - riverbank
Kyd - Colonel Robert Kyd (1746-93), a British army officer in India who founded the Botanical Garden, Calcutta in 1787. The garden has one of the oldest banyan trees in the world.
Hugli - Hugli river, tributary of the Ganges
Bay - Bay of Bengal
Charnock - Job Charnock (1630-92), administrator of the English East India Company, regarded as the founder of the city of Calcutta starting with three villages Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata.
p.s. I was born, grew up and loved in Calcutta now known as Kolkata, the City of Joy.
Emily Raso Oct 2012
Draw your swords, young lovers.
You have blinded the light,
and now you're both covered in soars.
Listen to these words and grab them to the core.
Young lovers, won't you realize it shouldn't be a chore,
to feel love,  and have someone to adore.
Let your ego down,  send it away on a ship.
Before your heart breaks apart and sails into the abyss.
Young lovers, don't you see?
Moments like these **** your integrity.
Shut your mouths, open your eyes, speak no words, & come to realize.
At the end of the day when tears are shed,
the only person you want to mend your heart is the one who want's you dead.  
Young lovers can't you comprehend.
You're killing your spirit and then laying with it in bed.
Read between each line, and try and find it's soul.
Young lovers, it's taking a toll.
The screams, and cry's do not clear your eyes,
you are blinded, blinded. blinded by your love.
It takes someone else to realize how you can't compromise the way that you each bend.
Jonny Bolduc Feb 2014
Lovers as Places

There’s a place inside of me saved for lovers,
a space to be filled–

sometimes a parking space,
lovers, like traffic, zip out, zoom–rush hour.
Sometimes a vacant lot
lovers, like weeds, peek up from broken glass.

sometimes a perch on a hill
sometimes a rocky island
the places change as lovers come and go–

I’ve always asked, in silence,
“What place is your heart?”
“Will you stay?”

But you, lover
you
are the most
beautiful place I’ve been
Marisia Delafuga Mar 2015
Lovers  speak the language of the Universe
They hold the infinite joy and smiles
lovers are reborn everyday
lovers are the new gold
lovers like you and me
we are the heavens melody
we bring new music in this new Era
Aetherial mystic directly to warm Our soul connection
Lovers speak Orenda!
In this Orenda I Surrender
In this Orenda We Surrender
were the miracles takes place
Lovers Lovers
infinite Lovers!
Apteryx Jul 2011
In the kingdom of Toledo,
None burn bright as thy shadow
(From time very long ago)
A tale of first lovers –
(I and D’lorme)
Loved with the love that covers
The bay of a margin sea –

In the alleys of Toledo,
None radiated well as thy shadow
(From time not so long ago)
A tale of two lovers –
(Me and D’lorme)
Claim a star that hovers
Bellow our silent sea.

In the battles of Toledo,
All dim down as thy shadow
(Of a time we know so well, long ago,)
A tale of no lovers –
(‘Who?’ And D’lorme)
Never uncovers
The wound of a sunder sea –

In the welfare of Toledo,
By a dark tinctured shadow
(To a time long so far ago)
A tale of burnt lovers --
With 'her' and D'lorme;
With blood to the clovers
Drown in our golden sea.

In the debris of Toledo,
In the murky ashes of thy shadow
(From time to past o'er ago)
The tales of one lover --
('Gone' and D'lorme)
Whom now rediscover
The loss of his love in a lament sea.

To the angels above Toledo,
None burn bright as their shadow
(Of time given so long ago)
A tale of dead lovers --
(Isbella and D'lorme)
Together soaring then hovers
To the gallant sea.
(c) 2011 Poetry Foundation
Veronika Nov 2014
Goodnight, the fire burns brightly
Goodnight, you kiss my forehead lightly
Almost paternally now
- We were lovers

Goodnight, clinging to the sheets by your side
Goodnight, heartache in this house tonight
Someday we will forget
- We were lovers

This distance will turn my blood cold
A grave look on a pale face of youth
If I could shrink the ocean to be close
Would you save me anymore
Love became an ugly truth

Goodnight, the fire burns brightly
Goodnight, I held on to the moment tightly
Almost in retrospect
- We were lovers

— The End —