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PERSONIFICATIONS.

Boys.            Girls.
  January.                February.
  March.                  April.
  July.                   May.
  August.                 June.
  October.                September.
  December.               November.

  Robin Redbreasts; Lambs and Sheep; Nightingale and
  Nestlings.

  Various Flowers, Fruits, etc.

  Scene: A Cottage with its Grounds.


[A room in a large comfortable cottage; a fire burning on
the hearth; a table on which the breakfast things have
been left standing. January discovered seated by the
fire.]


          January.

Cold the day and cold the drifted snow,
Dim the day until the cold dark night.

                    [Stirs the fire.

Crackle, sparkle, *****; embers glow:
Some one may be plodding through the snow
Longing for a light,
For the light that you and I can show.
If no one else should come,
Here Robin Redbreast's welcome to a crumb,
And never troublesome:
Robin, why don't you come and fetch your crumb?


  Here's butter for my hunch of bread,
    And sugar for your crumb;
  Here's room upon the hearthrug,
    If you'll only come.

  In your scarlet waistcoat,
    With your keen bright eye,
  Where are you loitering?
    Wings were made to fly!

  Make haste to breakfast,
    Come and fetch your crumb,
  For I'm as glad to see you
    As you are glad to come.


[Two Robin Redbreasts are seen tapping with their beaks at
the lattice, which January opens. The birds flutter in,
hop about the floor, and peck up the crumbs and sugar
thrown to them. They have scarcely finished their meal,
when a knock is heard at the door. January hangs a
guard in front of the fire, and opens to February, who
appears with a bunch of snowdrops in her hand.]

          January.

Good-morrow, sister.

          February.

            Brother, joy to you!
I've brought some snowdrops; only just a few,
But quite enough to prove the world awake,
Cheerful and hopeful in the frosty dew
And for the pale sun's sake.

[She hands a few of her snowdrops to January, who retires
into the background. While February stands arranging
the remaining snowdrops in a glass of water on the
window-sill, a soft butting and bleating are heard outside.
She opens the door, and sees one foremost lamb, with
other sheep and lambs bleating and crowding towards
her.]

          February.

O you, you little wonder, come--come in,
You wonderful, you woolly soft white lamb:
You panting mother ewe, come too,
And lead that tottering twin
Safe in:
Bring all your bleating kith and kin,
Except the ***** ram.

[February opens a second door in the background, and the
little flock files through into a warm and sheltered compartment
out of sight.]

  The lambkin tottering in its walk
    With just a fleece to wear;
  The snowdrop drooping on its stalk
      So slender,--
  Snowdrop and lamb, a pretty pair,
  Braving the cold for our delight,
      Both white,
      Both tender.

[A rattling of doors and windows; branches seen without,
tossing violently to and fro.]

How the doors rattle, and the branches sway!
Here's brother March comes whirling on his way
With winds that eddy and sing.

[She turns the handle of the door, which bursts open, and
discloses March hastening up, both hands full of violets
and anemones.]

          February.

Come, show me what you bring;
For I have said my say, fulfilled my day,
And must away.

          March.

[Stopping short on the threshold.]

    I blow an arouse
    Through the world's wide house
  To quicken the torpid earth:
    Grappling I fling
    Each feeble thing,
  But bring strong life to the birth.
    I wrestle and frown,
    And topple down;
  I wrench, I rend, I uproot;
    Yet the violet
    Is born where I set
  The sole of my flying foot,

[Hands violets and anemones to February, who retires into
the background.]

    And in my wake
    Frail wind-flowers quake,
  And the catkins promise fruit.
    I drive ocean ashore
    With rush and roar,
  And he cannot say me nay:
    My harpstrings all
    Are the forests tall,
  Making music when I play.
    And as others perforce,
    So I on my course
  Run and needs must run,
    With sap on the mount
    And buds past count
  And rivers and clouds and sun,
    With seasons and breath
    And time and death
  And all that has yet begun.

[Before March has done speaking, a voice is heard approaching
accompanied by a twittering of birds. April comes
along singing, and stands outside and out of sight to finish
her song.]

          April.

[Outside.]

  Pretty little three
  Sparrows in a tree,
    Light upon the wing;
    Though you cannot sing
    You can chirp of Spring:
  Chirp of Spring to me,
  Sparrows, from your tree.

  Never mind the showers,
  Chirp about the flowers
    While you build a nest:
    Straws from east and west,
    Feathers from your breast,
  Make the snuggest bowers
  In a world of flowers.

  You must dart away
  From the chosen spray,
    You intrusive third
    Extra little bird;
    Join the unwedded herd!
  These have done with play,
  And must work to-day.

          April.

[Appearing at the open door.]

Good-morrow and good-bye: if others fly,
Of all the flying months you're the most flying.

          March.

You're hope and sweetness, April.

          April.

            Birth means dying,
As wings and wind mean flying;
So you and I and all things fly or die;
And sometimes I sit sighing to think of dying.
But meanwhile I've a rainbow in my showers,
And a lapful of flowers,
And these dear nestlings aged three hours;
And here's their mother sitting,
Their father's merely flitting
To find their breakfast somewhere in my bowers.

[As she speaks April shows March her apron full of flowers
and nest full of birds. March wanders away into the
grounds. April, without entering the cottage, hangs over
the hungry nestlings watching them.]

          April.

  What beaks you have, you funny things,
    What voices shrill and weak;
  Who'd think that anything that sings
    Could sing through such a beak?
  Yet you'll be nightingales one day,
    And charm the country-side,
  When I'm away and far away
    And May is queen and bride.

[May arrives unperceived by April, and gives her a kiss.
April starts and looks round.]

          April.

Ah May, good-morrow May, and so good-bye.

          May.

That's just your way, sweet April, smile and sigh:
Your sorrow's half in fun,
Begun and done
And turned to joy while twenty seconds run.
I've gathered flowers all as I came along,
At every step a flower
Fed by your last bright shower,--

[She divides an armful of all sorts of flowers with April, who
strolls away through the garden.]

          May.

And gathering flowers I listened to the song
Of every bird in bower.
    The world and I are far too full of bliss
    To think or plan or toil or care;
      The sun is waxing strong,
      The days are waxing long,
        And all that is,
          Is fair.

    Here are my buds of lily and of rose,
    And here's my namesake-blossom, may;
      And from a watery spot
      See here forget-me-not,
        With all that blows
          To-day.

    Hark to my linnets from the hedges green,
    Blackbird and lark and thrush and dove,
      And every nightingale
      And cuckoo tells its tale,
        And all they mean
          Is love.

[June appears at the further end of the garden, coming slowly
towards May, who, seeing her, exclaims]

          May.

Surely you're come too early, sister June.

          June.

Indeed I feel as if I came too soon
To round your young May moon
And set the world a-gasping at my noon.
Yet come I must. So here are strawberries
Sun-flushed and sweet, as many as you please;
And here are full-blown roses by the score,
More roses, and yet more.

[May, eating strawberries, withdraws among the flower beds.]

          June.

The sun does all my long day's work for me,
  Raises and ripens everything;
I need but sit beneath a leafy tree
    And watch and sing.

[Seats herself in the shadow of a laburnum.

Or if I'm lulled by note of bird and bee,
  Or lulled by noontide's silence deep,
I need but nestle down beneath my tree
    And drop asleep.

[June falls asleep; and is not awakened by the voice of July,
who behind the scenes is heard half singing, half calling.]

          July.

     [Behind the scenes.]

Blue flags, yellow flags, flags all freckled,
Which will you take? yellow, blue, speckled!
Take which you will, speckled, blue, yellow,
Each in its way has not a fellow.

[Enter July, a basket of many-colored irises slung upon his
shoulders, a bunch of ripe grass in one hand, and a plate
piled full of peaches balanced upon the other. He steals
up to June, and tickles her with the grass. She wakes.]

          June.

What, here already?

          July.

                  Nay, my tryst is kept;
The longest day slipped by you while you slept.
I've brought you one curved pyramid of bloom,

                        [Hands her the plate.

Not flowers, but peaches, gathered where the bees,
As downy, bask and boom
In sunshine and in gloom of trees.
But get you in, a storm is at my heels;
The whirlwind whistles and wheels,
Lightning flashes and thunder peals,
Flying and following hard upon my heels.

[June takes shelter in a thickly-woven arbor.]

          July.

  The roar of a storm sweeps up
    From the east to the lurid west,
  The darkening sky, like a cup,
    Is filled with rain to the brink;

  The sky is purple and fire,
    Blackness and noise and unrest;
  The earth, parched with desire,
      Opens her mouth to drink.

  Send forth thy thunder and fire,
    Turn over thy brimming cup,
  O sky, appease the desire
    Of earth in her parched unrest;
  Pour out drink to her thirst,
    Her famishing life lift up;
  Make thyself fair as at first,
      With a rainbow for thy crest.

  Have done with thunder and fire,
    O sky with the rainbow crest;
  O earth, have done with desire,
    Drink, and drink deep, and rest.

[Enter August, carrying a sheaf made up of different kinds of
grain.]

          July.

Hail, brother August, flushed and warm
And scatheless from my storm.
Your hands are full of corn, I see,
As full as hands can be:

And earth and air both smell as sweet as balm
In their recovered calm,
And that they owe to me.

[July retires into a shrubbery.]

          August.

  Wheat sways heavy, oats are airy,
    Barley bows a graceful head,
  Short and small shoots up canary,
    Each of these is some one's bread;
  Bread for man or bread for beast,
      Or at very least
      A bird's savory feast.

  Men are brethren of each other,
    One in flesh and one in food;
  And a sort of foster brother
    Is the litter, or the brood,
  Of that folk in fur or feather,
      Who, with men together,
      Breast the wind and weather.

[August descries September toiling across the lawn.]

          August.

My harvest home is ended; and I spy
September drawing nigh
With the first thought of Autumn in her eye,
And the first sigh
Of Autumn wind among her locks that fly.

[September arrives, carrying upon her head a basket heaped
high with fruit]


          September.

Unload me, brother. I have brought a few
Plums and these pears for you,
A dozen kinds of apples, one or two
Melons, some figs all bursting through
Their skins, and pearled with dew
These damsons violet-blue.

[While September is speaking, August lifts the basket to the
ground, selects various fruits, and withdraws slowly along
the gravel walk, eating a pear as he goes.]

      
1
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

2
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of
the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the
earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

3
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and
increase, always ***,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of
life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well
entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not
my soul.

Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every ***** and attribute of me, and of any man hearty
and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be
less familiar than the rest.

I am satisfied - I see, dance, laugh, sing;
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the
night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy
tread,
Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels swelling the house with
their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my
eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is
ahead?

4
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old
and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is *****, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

5
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to
you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over
upon me,
And parted the shirt from my *****-bone, and plunged your tongue
to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my
feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
poke-****.

6
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the ******* of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for
nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

7
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know
it.

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and
am not contain’d between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.

Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be
shaken away.

8
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
with my hand.

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.

The suicide sprawls on the ****** floor of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol
has fallen.

The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of
the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-*****,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous’d mobs,
The flap of the curtain’d litter, a sick man inside borne to the
hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv’d who fall sunstruck or in
fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls
restrain’d by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,
rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them-I come and I depart.

9
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack’d to the sagging mow.

I am there, I help, I came stretch’d atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

10
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-****’d game,
Falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog and gun by my
side.

The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle
and scud,
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from
the deck.

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me,
I tuck’d my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,
the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his
luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride
by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to her
feet.

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and
weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d
feet,
And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.

11
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
arch,
They do not think whom they ***** with spray.

12
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife
at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in
the fire.

From the cinder-strew’d threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

13
The ***** holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags
underneath on its tied-over chain,
The ***** that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and
tall he stands pois’d on one leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over
his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat
away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of
his polish’d and perfect limbs.

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop
there,
I go with the team also.

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as
forward sluing,
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
Absorbing all to myself and for this song.

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what
is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and
day-long ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around.

I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown i
Shofi Ahmed Mar 2018
The body entices life long
but only to die or could there be one
is immortal will resurrect hundred times
only to embody the real McCoy,
the soul, spirit don't know
but one that never die?
That was yet in the making
The first and foremost luminary feminine
moves on heartily pans out
flawless flow to the finest angle.
Across the nadir to the zenith
Fathima eyes on upon it like it
shapes and forms art of miracle:
One true masterpiece without a mirror!

Arts on the go Fathima moves on.
Praise be to the Lord she being made
to measure inborn mathematical the pi is her!
(For the perfect circle the circumference is masculine
The pi tends to circle the blank space within is feminine)
She can budge equally in the shadow
in patternless pi decimals and in the open,
in integer into a whole full number!

Hops up her first step she looks for ‘the all’
the complete whole the absolute one Allah.
Time and again she steps up but finds no floor
Her measured step by default lays on 360-degree circle
Scans all things at the first go still finds no bottom!

The first luminary masculine peace be upon him
first looks in the open she takes the veiled angle.
Through the evermore pi decimal micro-hole
She looks on and witnesses the first water drop
surfaces up without a base without a roof on top!
It follows through truly the copy of the original
softly springing around the serene water paints  
of all the maters to be created from this first drop.
Fathima looks at it and veils withdraws her reflection.

It’s still remembered in the sky that follows suit.  
First, a star was born stepping in Fathima’s shoe.
It tried so did the full set of the galaxy only to disperse
into a profound constellation never finds a bottom.
Because amidst this water circle floats the first soil.
Allah called it His house that He first created from it.
Every planetary orb pilgrimage around it in the core
known as Ka’abah up to the heart of the earth it rose.

In the pre-designed world after the first masculine
the first feminine Fathima thus did the first pilgrimage.
She walked the walk did so in the patternless pi veil.

Nature is never uneven on the hidden hand of the pi.
Every little fraction, the small decimal does it count
connects to the dot without showing up a pattern
Long live, long live the digital charisma is on the rise!

Retracing time and again the sun rises in the median lane,
yet the black box scores it's only a dark chart at the end of the day!
The Moon is yet to moon over an unturned sublunary-dip
It pulls all, the mighty sea that the earth can't
and sync in the feminine water cycle but save only one
with Fathima floating out of the box it can’t link up!

Like millions, ever wonder where Fathima’s grave is?
The earth strived too to the death bite to print her footprint!
Most of the mass visiting Medina look too see the grave of the holy lady Fathima. It has been a tradition since her death some fourteen hundred years ago. There are two graves where she is buried but which one is her is still unknown. Reportedly she wanted her grave to remain unidentified.
Cyril Blythe Nov 2012
Janie pushes the metal book cart back into its parking space in the Document Delivery Department of the St. Louis Public Library and hangs the last sticky note for October 30, 2012 on the wall by the head of the department’s closed door. She retightens her brown scarf under her chin, tucking the wispy hairs above her ears back into hiding. Having your hair begin to prematurely gray as a teenager has dramatic effects on a person. Her mother wore scarves around her wrists when Janie was growing up and when Janie begin to wear scarves to conceal her salt-and-pepper hair, her mother just smiled. The clock hanging on the wall above the children’s section reads 11:28pm.
Two more minutes.
She reorganized the pens and books on her desk and set the box reading NOTES onto the right corner or her desk with three blue pens and a stack of note cards. Her coworkers learned fast that Janie does not like to talk. She does not like eye contact. She loves the silence, and never ever to ask her about her hair. Her manager gave her the NOTES box after about a month of horrible miscommunication and everyday it fills with requests for books or tasks that Janie has to complete. She completes the tasks one by one, alone, in her back office in the Reference Department and hangs the completed sticky notes on the wall by her manager’s door. She works the night shift and locks the library up every night. When she’s alone she can talk out loud to herself and those are the only voices she cares to hear.
“Goodnight, books. Good night, rooms.” Janie shut the heavy wooden door to the library, placed the color-coded keys in the front right pocket of her jacket, and began her walk to the bus stop one corner away. She avoids the main road, taking her first right onto a side street that she knows would spit her out right beside the bus stop.
“Goodnight Taco Bell Sign. Goodnight Rite-Aide. Goodnight Westside Apartments. Goodnight Jack-o-Lantern smile.” She stopped in the middle of the alley and peered up at the Jack-o-Lantern grinning down at her from the third story window above. “Mother wouldn’t’ve liked your smirk, Jack. She would’ve slapped that **** right off your face.” Janie, satisfied the pumpkin was put in its rightful place, smiled as she trotted on.
“Mother carved smiles into her arms and that’s why Daddy left, it is, it is.” She kicked at a crushed Mountain Dew can as she remembered that night from years ago.

“Mommy?” Janie pushed opened the door to her mother’s bedroom and saw the moving-boxes torn open and all their contents scattered across the floor. She tiptoed through piles of scarves and silverware and corkscrews until she reached the bathroom in her mom’s room.
“Come to us like rain, oh lord, come and stay and sting a while more, oh lord…” her mother’s voice was slipping off the tiled bathroom walls. Janie pushed open the door and saw the blood for the first time pouring from her mother’s wrist. Her mother was naked and perched on the bathroom sink, singing to a red razor blade.
“Mommy?”
“GET OUT!” Her mother jumped from the counter and perched on all fours on the floor. She began to growl and speak in a voice too deep to be coming from her own throat.
“Mommy! It’s Janie!” She began to cry as her mother, still naked and bleeding, twisted and writhed onto her back and began to crawl towards the door that Janie hid behind.


“Thirty-Three percent, dear. Just a thirty-three percent chance.” She shivered trying to clear the last memory of her mother with the words that all the shrinks had echoed to her over the years. “Schizophrenia is directly related to genetics, little is known about the type of Schizophrenia mother was diagnosed with except that it is definitely passed on genetically. But, there is only a thirty-three percent chance you could have it, dear. Thirty-three percent.” The sound of the bus stop ahead reminds her it is time to be silent again.
“Disorganized Schizophrenia.” She mouthed to herself as she stepped back out onto the busy street from her alleyway. She tightened her scarf and saw the bus pull into the pickup spot. She walked forward to the bus, again immersed in her self-imposed silence.
Stepping out of the February cold, Janie removes her wool scarf as the bus doors close behind her.
“Where to baby?” The driver smiles a sticky smile. Her nametag reads, “Shannon” and has a decaying Hello-Kitty sticker in the bottom left corner.
“The Clinton Street drop.” She hands the driver her $2.50 fare and avoids the woman’s questioning eyes. The night drivers are always more talkative, curious.
“Your ticket hon.” She tears Janie a ticket stub. “Everything is pretty dead this late, I’ll have you there in ten minutes top.”
Janie begins to shuffle towards the seats, ignoring the woman.
“You mind if I crank up the music?” The bus driver asks, purple fingernails scratching in her thick blonde hair. “I need to keep my eyes open and blood flowing and music is my fire of choice you know?”
“Sure.” Janie shrugs her bag onto her shoulder and walks on before the woman can say anything else.
“Route E-2, homebound.” Shannon’s voice crackles over the loudspeaker.
She shuffles down the bus towards her usual seat; second from the back right side.  Shannon starts the bus rolling before she reaches her seat and Janie can hear her singing along to “Summertime” by Janis Joplin. The bus floor, today, is sticky because of the morning rain. Two years of riding public transportation has taught Janie that staring at the floor as she walks to her seat is better than the risk of making eye contact. The bus is usually empty this late but if there ever happens to be anyone else on, it’s better not to converse. Safer that way.
She plops into her seat filling the indention that ghosts of past passengers left. The seat is still warm and Janie squirms around until the stranger heat is forgotten. She tightens her scarf and sighs. The brown pleather seatback in front of her is peeling towards the top. Janie leans forward and idly picks at the scab-like dangles of brown as she watches the sodden city canvas roll past her out the foggy window. As she picks, the hole grows. She twists and digs her unpainted nails into the seat until her hands feel wet, warm. Looking down, they are covered in blood and mud.
“What. The. Actual. ****.” she whispers, wiping her hands on her pants leg. She cautiously picks off another piece of pleather and a trickle of deep red begins to run from the seat back, clumps of mud now falling onto her knees. A puddle of blood and mire splatter down her legs and pool around her feet as she picks at the seat. Her white tights are definitely beyond saving now, so she digs faster until her thumbnail catches on something, bends back, and cracks. She gasps and withdraws her shaking hand, watching her own blood mix with the clotting muck in the seat, half of her thumbnail completely stripped off.
Looking around, all else seems normal. The driver is now muttering along to some banter by Kanye West, completely unaware of Janie’s predicament. She closes her eyes.
This is a dream, this is a dream, wake the **** up.
She opens her eyes to see the pool of filth around her feet trickling towards the front of the bus. Panic sets in with a whisper, They’re going to think it was you, your fault, you’ll be thrown in jail.
“But I didn’t do this.” She lashes out to herself. “I didn’t hurt anyone.”
Next stop, E-2. Shannon blares on the intercom.
“It’s just a dream, get your **** together, Janie.” She laughs at herself, manic.
Prove it! Her subconscious screams.
Convinced to end this moment she has to continue; Janie plunges her hand into the pleather grave one more time. Frantic and confused she laughs as she digs, spittle of muck splashing on her bus window.
Faster, faster, faster.
Deeper, deeper, deeper.
Realer, realer, real.
Wake up, now!
Then, as the bus slows, one last chuck of mud splatters to the floor and Janie sees a pink piece of her thumbnail stabbed into the white of a bone in the bottom of the seatback pit. Her white Ked’s were becoming so red they were almost black. She pulls her knees up to her chest and begins to rock back and forth. Clenching shut her eyes she begins to hum. Janie’s sweet soprano harmonizes with the buses deep droning purr, their wet melody interweaving with the driver’s alto and Lil Wayne’s screech made her feel dizzy as the bus turned right.
She take my money when I'm in need
Yeah she's a trifling friend indeed
Oh she's a gold digger way over town
That dig's on me
The bus slows to a stop and the bass is shaking. Janie is cold. She slowly peeks out of her right eye, expecting to be instantly immersed into the same dismal scene. The seatback is whole again. Releasing her knees, her feet fall back to the floor and her shaking fingers stroke the solid pleather.

“Ma’am? We’re at the Clinton Drop.”
Janie hurriedly picks up her bag and flees down the aisle to the bus doors.
“Everything alright, dear?” The bus driver asks, smiling.
“Fine, just fine.”
“You be safe out there tonight. The night is dark and only ghouls stroll the streets this late.”  Shannon laughed as Janie’s jaw dropped. “Happy Halloween, dear. It’s midnight, today is October 31st.”
The bus doors opened and a cold wind ****** the warm bot-air surrounding Janie into the streets. She begrudgingly followed, her mind spinning as she stepped onto the pavement. The doors slammed behind her and she turned to see Shannon pull out a tube of lipstick and smear it, red, across her cracked lips. Shannon made a duck-face in the mirror and reached down to crank up the music as loud as it would go. The bus exhaled and rolled forward, leaving Janie behind as it splashed through the potholes.
She surveys the surrounding midnight gloom and the street is quiet and dark. Even the stars are hidden behind swirling clouds. She begins to hum, hands in her pocket, and shuffle towards her apartment.
“Goodnight, stars. Goodnight, street.”
As she approaches her single-bedroom apartment, digging through her coat pocket for her keys, her thumb pulsates. She grasps the keys and pulls them out as she steps up to the apartment. Sticking the cold, silver key in the lock she looks down at her thumb and in the shadows of the porch sees half of the nail completely missing. She laughs as she pushes the door open to her bare apartment, light flooding out. Without any hesitation she closes the door behind her, sheds her clothes, and slips onto the mattress in the corner of the room gripping her thumb tight. She reaches out for the glass of milk on the floor beside her bed from the morning and it’s still cold. Nursing the milk, surrounded by blankets and solitude, she reminds herself,  “Only a thirty-three percent chance. A nice, small, round number. Small.”  
She sets down the empty glass and curls into the fetal position under the heavy blankets, pointer finger tracing circles on her thumb. Only when she has heated her blanket cocoon enough to feel safe does she remove her scarf and allow her thick white hair to fall around her face.
“Goodnight, room. Goodnight, mother,”
1970 Odysseus visits cousin Patsy in New York City she introduces him to her best friend Lauren’s older less attractive more reclusive sister Tanya Mulhaney extremely wealthy family father founded corporation manufactures pinball machines which years later develop to video games then casino empire he favors and spoils Tanya but dies suddenly her envious sisters and mother gang up on Tanya is pale skinny flat-chested copious brown bush Odysseus sits in bathtub with Tanya and he probes in a way they hits it off maybe no boy has ever touched her in that way her complexion is so fragile slightest fluster prompts pink blotches on her cheeks neck chest back he admires her book smarts he’s attracted to her refined strangeness he thinks her bush and flat-chest are **** she laughs shyly offers to take him around the world he accepts Odysseus tells his parents Mom goes crazy yells into telephone what are you a ******? you father and i work like fools to send you to the best schools so you can make something of yourself you’re going to throw everything away to be a ***? i tell you we’ll disown you you won’t have a home to come back to do you hear me? we’ll disown you! she sobs how can you just walk out after all we have done for you? you ******* kid! Odysseus takes leave of absence from art school he and Tanya take Iberia jet 12 hour flight with stopover in Iceland to Belgium Tanya sinks into one of her moods swallows several pills to help her rest sitting on other side of Odysseus is curly haired skinny talkative musician claims he has jammed with Miles Davis and other jazz greats Odysseus says yeah right and i’ve shown with Johns and Twombly where exactly are you heading in Europe? musician answers he is a scientologist on his way to visit L. Ron Hubbard in England Odysseus does not know what Dianetics are and wants explanation he asks many questions and musician talks for hours they enjoy each other’s rapport as jet descends in Brussels they exchange home addresses in the States 9 months later when Odysseus returns to America a friend notices scribbled address while skimming through his travel journals Odys! how did you get Chick Corea’s address? do you know him? do you realize how brilliant he is? he’s a keyboard virtuoso! Odysseus questions Chick Corea? who’s Chick Corea? he looks at journal page then says oh that guy i sat next to him on the jet to Europe so he really is a famous musician huh? wow!

in October 1970 Brussels is damp chilly Tanya wears hip-hugger jeans black turtle-neck top North Face shell she huddles her arms around her chest smokes cigarettes looks through hotel room window out into gray overcast sky speaks in defeatist voice i didn’t bring clothes for this weather she picks at her plate in hotel restaurant glumly vacillates later in bed after refusing *** decides they leave tomorrow fly to Canary Islands for several weeks to get tan before traveling through Morocco during winter months Canary Islands are laden with Swedish tourists including bikini clad young girls many not wearing tops Odysseus is thinking about how to swing some of that Swedish free love once Tanya gets drunk succumbs to Odysseus’s ****** overtures it is good  one day while returning to hotel from beach 2 Spanish police stop and question Tanya and Odysseus police order to see their passports then command them into squad car police bark in Spanish rifle through their daypacks point a finger Odysseus can smell alcohol on their breaths Tanya and Odysseus are terrified police drive off main road to remote location abandoned ruins no one is around police order them to step out police drive off laughing Tanya’s complexion is crimson she sobs they could have murdered us no one would know who we are or where to find us we’re lost where are we? Odysseus looks around replies don’t worry we’ll be all right i watched where the driver was going we’ll retrace their trail

they fly to Tangier travel south by train Tanya is irritable insisting Odysseus carry her backpack Casablanca is ***** 3 men peer from sunglasses act suspicious wear tattered trench coats Tanya and Odysseus snack at cafe which provides hookahs for smoking hashish Odysseus scores several grams Tanya laughs suggests they rent car drive south travel to sandy beaches of Diabet for 6 weeks in the morning she paces around French hotel room with cigarette in one hand ashtray in other like she is sultry 1940’s Hollywood actress she stays in room and devours Penguin Classics Tolstoy Stendhal Proust Huysmans Zola turns out Tanya is sexually frigid she buys Odysseus anything he wants but does not put out they take train Marrakech it is sun drenched with blue skies mountains in distance Odysseus wants to go out explore get ***** with the natives he visits Medina daily witnessing many bizarre scenes he does not understand a woman squatting over an egg a man with no legs dragging himself through marketplace holding up cigarette butts in his hand he meets a professor who is out of work because king of Morocco has closed the universities due to teachers’ strike professor explains woman squatting over egg is fortuneteller and man dragging himself has been offered crutches many times yet makes more money playing off pity of tourists cigarette butts are for sale the professor invites Odysseus to visit Berbers in mountains Odysseus persuades Tanya she reluctantly agrees the 3 travel by bus in first-class front row seats vehicle filled with lively families chickens pig bus driver has assistant who lugs people onto bus or shoves them out door at a midpoint bus stops in little town everyone exits bus then men women children urinate in street local venders sell trinkets snacks Odysseus buys nibbles shish-kabob that later professor informs is roasted cat and dog they reenter bus wait suddenly butchered lamb flank is flung onto Odysseus’s lap a man climbs aboard bus stairs then grabs large carcass and heedlessly walks to back seat Odysseus wipes blood and slime off his jeans Tanya demurely giggles bus climbs mountains arrives at small Berber village professor leads them along narrow winding street of shanty huts sheltering merchants open kitchens professor tastes from various steaming iron kettles finally decides on one they are directed to rickety roof where they sit wait a boy comes up with plastic bowl filled with water and small box of Tide following professor they wash their hands then minutes later proprietor brings up simmering *** of couscous serves it with scratched raw plastic bowls no eating utensils they eat with their fingers Tanya seems bothered declines to partake she withdraws into silence after meal she becomes irritable complains of headache says she needs to return to Marrakech she remains standoffish on bus all the way to French hotel

after Marrakech they take boat trip to Italy while onboard Odysseus meets Italian Count who has an eye for him Odysseus wears Jim Morrison beat-up leather jeans Bruce Lee t-shirt scraggly whiskers Count wears thin manicured beard tiny red Speedo swim trunks Tanya grins amused Count offers Odysseus and Tanya to be guests at his villa in Milan city flourishes with stylish clothes loud lively restaurants classical sculptures covered in car pollution following several weeks of aristocratic wining and dining amazing 11 course elegant soiree Odysseus botches compliance with Count’s desires they are asked to leave Tanya laughs hysterically they board train to Germany based on Tanya’s tour book they find historic hotel with wind rattling windows coin operated hot water bath in Munich Tanya stays in room Odysseus goes to dance club meets brown-hared pale skinned German girl neither speak the other’s language he pays for hourly rated room they play German girl in animated gesturing warns him as he is going down on her but he does not understand until several days later scratching beard finds ***** seeks A-200 lice treatment German version leather pants disposed Tanya knows but says nothing she buys Volkswagen they drive through Black Forest Tanya wants to visit King Ludwig’s castles Odysseus does the driving mostly they listen to the Who’s “Who’s Next” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” he follows Tanya’s instructions not knowing who King Ludwig was eventually he learns Ludwig was colorful character built extravagant Disney like castles and friends Richard Wagner Bavaria is cold gray brown deep forest green scenic Swiss Alps visible in southern view they drive from Neuschwanstein to Linderhof to Herrenchiemsee then Freiburg lodge in bed and breakfasts Tanya grows restless by all the driving decides to ditch car along road in northern France as Odysseus unscrews car license by road side several cars stop French people concerned they need help Tanya is anxious hoping for clean get away from abandoning vehicle they board train to Paris Tanya speaks a little French in spring of 1971 they are backpacking in search of hotel on Left Bank it rains all morning sky is overcast Tanya reads “Pride and Prejudice” Odysseus draws in sketchbook at sidewalk café sitting next to them are older Parisian couple man detects they are Americans he turns to them expresses in English his contempt why can’t you Americans learn from France’s lessons in Vietnam? Tanya and Odysseus don’t look up they feel like dumb ugly Americans within days they leave Paris

cross English Channel by boat they find temporary apartment in Earl’s Court in London it is overcast almost every day within a month they move to larger place in Chelsea with backyard with run down English garden Odysseus weeds garden plants tomatoes lettuce carrots radishes flowers Tanya stays in her room smokes reads at night they go out to ethnic restaurants one night they visit Indian restaurant a very proper English woman sitting at next table orders exotic fruit for dessert Odysseus asks waiter what kind of fruit waiter answers mango Odysseus has never seen or tasted mango English woman delicately eats the fruit with fork and knife Odysseus orders mango for dessert he attempts to imitate how English lady proceeded fruit slips around on plate finally out of frustration he picks it up in his hands bites into it he is aroused by how luscious mango is sniffing with nose scraping fruit’s skin with front teeth then ******* the seed Tanya makes a face suddenly the seed slides from his grasp shoots across table Tanya’s cheeks neck turn scarlet voice raises stop it Odys! you’re disgusting! are you intentionally trying to embarrass me? why are you doing this? he replies i’m not doing anything to you i’m enjoying the most delicious fruit i’ve ever tasted who cares what it looks like? later she laughs about incident offers to buy more mangos promises to take him shopping at Harrods tomorrow he goes along with their arrangement until it all seems like pretty background scenery to an empty intimacy missing all his friends back at art school he writes about his loneliness he feels trapped in Tanya’s web several times he sneaks English girls into his room when Tanya jealously confronts him he admits he has had enough and wants to go back to Hartford she suggests at the least they fly to Bermuda for several weeks to get tan before returning he declines on June 30 1971 Odysseus returns to Hartford and Tanya moves to San Francisco on July 3 Jim Morrison overdoses in Paris
guy scutellaro Oct 2019
The rain ****** through a darkening sky.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles. Softly, he whispers, " Man, you're the biggest, whitest, what hell are you anyway?"

The pup sits up and Jack Delleto caresses her neck, but much to the mutt's chagrin the man stands up and walks away.

Jack has his hand on the door about to go into the bar. The pup issues an interrogatory, "Woof?"

The rain turns to snow.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles, "My grandma used to say that when it snows the angels are sweeping heaven. I'll be back for you, Snowflake."

Jack shivers. His smile fading, the night jumps back into his eyes.

Snowflake chuffs once, twice.

The man is gone.



The room would have been a cold, dark place except the bodies who sit on the barstools or stand on the ***** linoleum floor produce heat. The cigarette smoke burns his eyes. Jack Delleto looks down the length of the bar to the boarded shut fire place and although the faces are shadows, he knows them all.

The old man who always sits at the second barstool from the dart board is sitting at the second bar stool. His fist clenched tightly around the beer mug, he stares at his own reflection in the mirror.

The aging barmaid, who often weeps from her apartment window on a hot summer night or a cold winter evening, is coming on to a man half her age. She is going to slip her arm around his bicep at any moment.

"Yeah," Jack smiles, "there she goes."

Jack Delleto knows where the regulars sit night after night clutching the bar with desperation, the wood rail is worn smooth.

In the mirror that runs the length of the bar Jack Delleto sees himself with clarity. Brown hair and brown eyes. Just an ordinary 29 year old man.

"Old Fred is right," he thinks to himself, "If you stare at shadows long enough, they stare back." Jack smiles and the red head returns his smile crossing her long legs that protrude beneath a too short skirt.

The bartender recognizes the man smiling at the redhead.

"Well,  Jack Delleto, Dell, I heard you were dead. " The six foot, two hundred pound bartender tells him as Dell is walking over to the bar.

"Who told you that?"

"Crazy George, while he was swinging from the wagon wheel lamp." Bob O'Malley says as he points to the wagon wheel lamp hanging from the ceiling.

"George, I heard, HE was dead."

The bartender reaches over the bar resting the palms of his big hands on the edge of the bar and flashes a smile of white, uneven teeth. Bob extends his hand. "Where the hell have you been?"

They shake hands.

Dell looks up at the Irishman. "I ve been at Harry's Bar in Venice drinking ****** Marys with Elvis and Ernest."

Bob O'Malley grins, puts two shot glasses on the bar, and reaches under the bar to grab a bottle of bourbon. After filling the glasses with Wild Turkey, he hands one glass to Dell. They touch glasses and throw down the shots.

"Gobble, gobble," O Malley smiles.


The front door of the bar swings open and a cold wind drifts through the bar. Paul Keater takes off his Giants baseball cap and with the back of his hand wipes the snow off of his face.

"Keater," Bob O'Malley calls to the Blackman standing in the doorway.

Keater freezes, his eyes moving side to side in short, quick movements. He points a long slim finger at O'Malley, "I don't owe you any money," Paul Keater shouts.

The people sitting the barstools do not turn to look.

"You're always pulling that **** on me." Keater rushes to the bar, "I PPPAID YOU."

As Delleto watches Keater arguing with O'Malley, the anger grows into the loathing Dell feels for Keater. The sauve, sophisticated Paul Keater living in a room above the bar. The man is disgusting. His belly hangs pregnant over his belt. His jeans have fallen exposing the crack of his ***, and Keater just doesn't give a ****. And that ragged, faded, baseball cap, ****, he never takes it off.

When Keater glances down, he realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto. Usually, Paul Keater would have at least considered punching Delleto in his face. "The **** wasn't any good," Paul feining anger tells O'Malley. "Everybody said it was, ****."

The bartender finishes rinsing a glass in the soapy sink water and then places it on a towel. "*******."

Keater slides the Giant baseball cap back and forth across his flat forehead. "**** it," he turns and storms out of the bar.

"Can I get a beer?" Dell asks but O"Malley is already reaching into the beer box. Twisting the cap off, he puts it on the bar. "It's not that Keater owes me a few bucks, "he tells Dell, "if I didn't cut him off he'd do the stuff until he died." Bob grabs a towel and dries his hands.

"But the smartest rats always get out of the maze first," Jack tells Bob.


Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and losing lottery tickets litter the linoleum floor. Jack Delleto grabs the bottle of beer off the bar and crosses the specter of unfilled wishes.

In the adjacent room he sits at a table next to the pinball machine to watch a disfigured man with an anorexic women shoot pool. Sometimes he listens to them talk, whisper, laugh. Sometimes he just stares at the wall.

"We have a winner, "the pinball machine announces, "come ride the ferris wheel."



"I'm part Indian. "

Jack looks up from his beer. The Indian has straight black hair that hangs a few inches above her shoulders, a thin face, a cigarette dangling from her too red lips.

"My Mom was one third Souix, " the drunken women tells Jack Delleto.

The Indian exhales smoke from her petite nose waiting for a come on from the man with the sad face. And he just stares, stares at the wall.

Her bushy eyebrows come together forming a delicate frown.

Jack turns to watch a brunette shoot pool. The woman leans over the pool table about to shoot the nine ball into the side pocket. It is an easy shot.

The brunette looks across the pool table at Jack Delleto, "What the **** are you starin at?" She jams the pool stick and miscues. The cue ball runs along the rail and taps the eight ball into the corner pocket. "AH ****," she says.

And Jack smiles.

The Indian thinks Jack is smiling at her, so she sits down.

"In the shadows I couldn't see your eyes," he tells her, "but when you leaned forward to light that cigarette, you have the prettiest green eyes."

She smiles.

" I'm Kathleen," her eyes sparkling like broken glass in an alley.

Delleto tries to speak.

"I don't want to know your name," she tells Jack Delleto, the smile disappearing from her face. "I just want to talk for a few minutes like we're friends," she takes a drag off the cigarette, exhales the smoke across the room.

Jack recognizes the look on her face. Bad dreams.

"I'll be your friend," he tells her.

"We're not going to have ***." The Indian slowly grinds out the cigarette into the ashtray, looks up at the man with the sad face.

I met my older sister in Baltimore yesterday. Hadn't seen her since I was nine, since Mom died. I wanted to know why Dad put me in foster homes. Why? I had so many questions and you know what?
I didn't ask one."

Jack is finishing his beer.

"Maybe if you knew the reasons, now, it wouldn't matter anyway."

The man with the black eye just doesn't get it. She lived with them long enough. Long enough to love them.

She stands up, stares at Jack Delleto.

And walks away.


It's the fat blondes turn to shoot pool. She leans her great body ever so gently across the green felt of the pool table, shoots and misses. When she tries to raise herself up off the pool table, the tip of the pool cue hits the Miller Lite sign above the pool table sending the lamb rocking violently back and forth. In flashes of light like the frames from and old Chaplin movie the sad and grotesque appear and disappear.

"What the **** are you starin at?" The skinny brunette asks.

Jack pretends to think for a moment. "An unhappy childhood."

Suddenly, she stands up, looking like death wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt.

"Dove sta amore?" Jack Delleto wonders.

Death is angry, steps closer.

"Must be that time of the month, huh," Jack grins.

With her two tiny fists clenched tightly at her side, the brunette stares down into Delleto's eyes. Suddenly, she punches Jack in the eye.

Jack stands up bringing his forearm up to protect his face. At the same time Death steps closer. His forearm catches her under the chin. The bony ***** goes down.

Women rush from the shadows. They pull Jack to the ***** floor, punch and kick him.

In the blinking of the Miller Light Jack Delleto exclaims," I'm being smother by fat lesbians in soft satin pants."  But then someone is pulling the women off of him.

The Miller Lite gently rocks and then it stops.

Jack stands up, shakes his head and smiles.

"Nice punch Dell," Bob O' Malley says, "I saw from the bar."

Jack hits the dust off of his pants, grabs the beer bottle off of the table, takes a swallow. Smiling, he says, "I box a little."

"I can tell by your black eye." O'Malley puts his hand on his friends shoulder. "Come on I'll buy you a shot. What caused this spontaneous expression of love?"

"They thought I was a ******."


2 a.m.

Jack Delleto walks out the door of the bar into the wind swept gloom. The gray desolation of boarded shut downtown is gone.

The rain has finally turn to snow.

His eyes follow the blue rope from the parking meter pole to its frayed end in the plowed hill of snow at the corner of Cookman Avenue.

The dog, Snowflake, dead, Jack thinks.


The snow covers everything. It covers the abandon cars and the abandon buildings, the sidewalk and its cracks. The city, Delleto imagines, is and adjectiveless word, a book of white pages. He steps off the curb into the gutter and the street is empty for as far as he can see. He starts walking.

Jack disappears into empty pages.


Chapter 2


Paul Keater has a room above Wagon Wheel Bar where the loud rock music shakes the rats in the walls til 2a.m. The vibrations travel through the concrete floor, up the bed posts, and into the matress.

Slowly Paul's eyes open. Who the hell is he fooling. Even without the loud music, he would not be able to sleep, anyway.

Soft red neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks into his room.

Paul Keater sits up, sighs, resigns himself to another sleepless night, swings his legs off the bed. His x-wife. He thinks about her frequently. He went to a phycologist because he loved her.

Dump the *****, the doctor said.

"I paid him eighty bucks and all he had to say was dump the *****." He laughs, shakes his head.

Paul thinks about *******, looks around the tiny room, and spots a clear plastic case containing the baseball cards he had collected when he was a boy.

He walks to the dresser and puts on his Giant's baseball cap. Paul sits down on the wooden chair by the sink. Turns on the lamp. The card on top is ***** Mays. Holding it in his hand, it is perfect. The edges are not worn like the other cards.

It was his tenth birthday and his dad had taken him to his first baseball game and his father had bought the card from a dealer.

Oblivious to the loud rock music filtering into his room, he stares at the card.

Fondly, he remembers.

Dad.


                                     *     

It arrives unobtrusively. His heart begins to race faster.
Jack Delleto rolls away from the cracked wall. He sits up and drops his legs off the bed.

Jack Delleto thinks about mountains.

When he cannot sleep he thinks about climbing up through the fog that makes the day obscure, passing where the stunted spruce and fir tees are twisted by the wind, into cold brilliant light. Once as he climbed through the fog he saw his shadow stretching a half a mile across a cloud and the world was small. Far down to the east laid cliffs and gullies, glaciated mountains and to the west were the plains and cities of everyday life.

The army coat is draped over the back of the chair. In the pocket is his notebook. Jack stands and takes the notebook from the pocket. When he sits in the wooden chair he opens the book and slides the pen from the binder.

When he finishes his story he makes the end into the beginning.



                                           Chapter 3


"I want a captain in a truck." The 10 year old boy with the brown hair tells his mom. "I want it NOW."

His blonde haired mom wearing the gold diamond bracelet nods her head at Jack Delleto. Jack looks up at the clock on the wall. It is only 9a.m. After four years of college Jack has a part time job at K.B. Toy store. "We're all out of them," he tells her for the second time.

"Honey," Blondie tells her boy, "they're all out of them."

"YOU PROMISED."

"How about a sargeant in a jeep?

"OK, but I want a missile firing truck , too."

Delleto turns to the display case behind the counter. Briefly, he studies his black eye in the display case mirror and then begins searching the four shelves and twenty rows of 3 inch plastic toys. He finds the truck. His head is aching. He finds the truck and puts it on the counter in front of the boy.

"Sorry, we're all out of the sargeant," Jack tells the pretty lady. The aching in his head just won't go away.

"Mommy, mommy, I want an ATTACK HELIOCOPTER, MOMMMEEE, I WANTAH TTTAAANNNK..."

Jack Delleto leans over the counter resting his elbows on the glass top. The boy is staring at the man with the black eye, at his bruised, unshaven face.

"Well, we haven't got any, GODDAMED TANKS. How about a , KICKINTHE ***."

Finally the boy and his mother are quiet.

"My husband will have you fired."

She grabs the boy by the hand. Turns to rush out of the store.

Jack mutters something.

"MMOOOMEEE,  what does..."

"Oh, shut the hell up," the pretty lady tells her son


                              
     

The assistant manager takes a deep drag on her cigarette, exhales, and crosses her arms to hold the cigarette in front of her. Susan looks down at Jack sitting on the stool behind the counter. He stands up. "Did you tell some lady to blow you?" She crushes the cigarette out in the ashtray on the shelf below the counter. "Maybe you don't need this job but I do."

"Sue, there's no smoking in the mall."

"Jack, you look tired," the cubby teenager tells him, "and your eye. Another black eye."

"I was attacked by five women."

'Oh, I see, in your dreams maybe. I see, it's one of those male fantasies I'm always reading about in Cosmo. You re not boxing again, are you Dell?" Sue likes to call him Dell.

"I go down to the gym to work out. Felix says I've got something."

"Yeah, a black eye." Susan laughs, opens the big vanilla envelope, and hands Jack his check.

She turns and takes a pair of sunglasses from the display stand. "You 're scaring the children, Dell ." Susan steps closer looks into Dell's brown eyes and the slips the sunglasses on his face. "Why don't you go to lunch."

                                        
     

It's noon and the mall is crowded at the food court area. Jack gets a 20oz cup of coffee, finds a table and sits down.

"Go over and talk to him. " Susan says. Jack turns his head , looks back, sees the Indian walking towards his table.

"Hello, Kathrine," says Jack Delleto.

"My names not Kathrine, it's Kathleen."

Jack pulls the chair away from the table, "Have a seat Kate."

Her eyebrows form that delicate frown. "My names Kathleen." As soon as she sits down she takes a cigarette from the pack sticking out of her pocketbook. "I had to leave. I told the baby sitter I'd only be gone an hour. Anyway you weren't much help."

"So why did you come over to talk to me?"

"You were alone, the bar full of people and you were alone, always alone."

"You've seen me there before?"

"Yeah, sitting by the pin ball machine staring at the wall, and sometimes, you'd take out your little blue note pad and write in it.
"What are you writing? Are you goin to write about me..."

"How many kids do you have?"

"Just one. A boy, and believe me one is enough. He'll be four in June," Kathleen smiles but then she remembers and abruptly the smile disappears from her face. "Sometimes I see Anthony's father in the mall and I ask him if he'd like to meet his son, but he doesn't.

Kathleen draws the cigarette smoke deep into her lungs, tilts her head back, and blows the smoke towards the skylight. Suddenly caught in the sunlight the smoke becomes a gray cloud. " I didn't want to marry him anyway, I don't know why he thought that."

She hears the scars as Delleto talks, something sad about the man, something like old newspapers blowing across a deserted street. She hears the scars and knows never, never ask where the scars came from.


                              
     

As Jack walks towards the bank to cash his check, he glances out the front entrance to the mall. It is a bright, cold day and the snowplows are finishing up the parking lot plowing the snow into big white hills. That is the fate of the big white pup plowed to the corner of Cookman and Main buried deep in ***** snow. At that street corner when the school is over the children will play on the hill never realizing what lay beneath there feet.

The snow must melt; spring is inevitable.

His pup will be back.



                                           Chapter 4


The 19 year old light heavyweight leans his muscular body forward to rest his gloved hands on the tope rope of the ring. He bows his head waiting to regain his breath as his lungs fight to force air deep into his chest. Bill Wain has finished boxing 4 rounds with Red.

Harry the trainer, gently pulls the untied boxing gloves from Red's hands. "Good fight, he says, patting Red on the back as the fighter climbs through the ropes and heads to the showers. Harry hands the sweat soaked gloves to Felix who puts one glove under his arm while he loosens the laces on the other 12ounce glove. He makes the sleeve wider.

"Do you want the head gear?" Felix asks.

Jack Delleto shakes his head and pushes his taped hand deep into the glove.

The old man takes the other glove from under his arm, pulls the laces out, and holds it open. Without turning his head to look at him, Felix tells Harry, "Make sure Bill doesn't cool down. Tell him to shadow box. Harry walks over to Bill and Bill starts shadow boxing.

Jack pushes his hand into the glove. "Make a fist." Jack does. Felix pulls the laces and ties it into a bow.

Felix looks intently into Delleto's eyes. "How does that feel?"

"About right."

"You look tired."

"I am a little."

"Are you sick or is it a woman."

"I'm not sick."

A big smile forms across the face of the former welterweight champion of Nevada. The face of the 68 year old Blackman is lined and cracked like the old boxing gloves that Jack is wearing but his tall body is youthful and athletic in appearance. Above Felix's eyebrows Jack sees the effect of 20 years as a professional fighter. He sees the thick scar tissue and the thin white lines where the old man's skin has been stitched and restitched many times. As he gives instructions to Jack, Felix's brown eyes seem to be staring at something distant and Jack wonders if Felix has chased around the ring one time too often his dream.

"And get off first. Don't stop punching until he goes down. You've got it kid and not every fighter does."

Jack and Felix start walking over to the ring.

"What is it I've got?" Jack Deletto wonders.

Felix puts his foot on the fourth strand of the rings rope and with his hand pulls up the top strand and as Jack steps into the ring, "You've got, HEART."

In the opposite corner Bill Wain waits.

"Will he be alright?" Harry asks.

"Bill's tired, " Felix replies, then he tries to explain. "It's not about money. I'm almost 70 and I want to go out a winner." Felix pauses and the offers, he can hit hard with either hand."

"Yeah, but at best he's a small middleweight and he only moves in one direction, straight ahead."

"Harry, I love the guy," Felix puts his hand on Harry's shoulder, he's like Tyson at the end of his career. He'd fight you to the death but he's not fighting to win anymore."

Harry puts his hands in his pocket and stares at the floor. "Do you want me to tell him to go easy." Harry looks up at Felix waiting for an answer.

"I'm tired of sweeping dirt from behind the boxes of wax beans and tuna fish. I'm sick of collecting shopping carts in the rain. A half way decent white heavyweight can make a lot of money. It's stupid for a fighter to practice holding back. Bill's a winner. Jack'll be alright."

Felix hands the pocket watch to Harry so he can time the rounds.

Bill Wain comes out of his corner circling left.

Jack rushes straight ahead.

Felix winks at Jack Delleto and whispers, "The Jack of hearts."



                                           Chapter 5


The front door of the Wagon Wheel bar explodes open to Ziggy Pop's, "YOU'VE GOT A LUST FOR LIFE." Jack Delleto steps over the curb and vanishes into the dark doorway.

"HEY, JACK, JACK DELLETO," The lanky bartender shouts over the din.

Delleto makes his way through the crowd over to bar. How the hell have you been Snake?" Jack asks.

"Just great," says Snake. "You're lookin pretty ****** good for a dead man."

"Who told you that? Crazy George?"

The bartender points across the room to where a man in a pin stripe suit is swinging to and fro from a wagon wheel lamp attached to the ceiling.

"Yeah, I thought so. Haven't seen Crazy George in a year and he's been telling everyone I'm dead. I'm gonna have to have a long talk with that man."

Snake hands Jack a shot of tequila. The men touch glasses and throw down the shots.

How's the other George? Dell asks.

"AA."

"How's Tommy? You see him anymore?"

"Rehab."

"What about Robbie?"

Snake refills the glasses. "He's livin in a nudist colony in Florida, he has two wives and 6 children."


Jack looks across the room and sees Bob O'Malley trying to adjust the rose in the lapel of his tuxedo. Satisfied it won't fall out O'Malley looks up at the man swinging from the lamp. "Quick, name man's three greatest inventions."

"Alcohol, tobacco, and the wheel," Crazy George shoots back.

O'Malley smiles and then jumps up on the top of the bar and although he is over six feet and weighs two hundred pounds, he has the dexterity and grace of a ballerina as he pirouttes around and jumps over the shot glasses and beer bottles that litter the bar.

Wedding guests lean back in their chairs as strangers fearful of his gyrations ****** their drinks off the bar. Bob fakes a slip as he prances along but he is always in control and never falters. Forty three year old Bob O'Malley is Jim Brown who dodges danger to score the winning touch down.

When Bob reaches the end of the bar he jumps to the floor, pulls two aluminum lids from the beer box, and with one in each hand he smacks them together like cymbals.

Some guests clap. The bemused just stare.

In the back of the room sitting at the wedding table the father of the bride leans over, whispers into the ear of his crying wife, "If I had a gun I'd shoot Bob."

The bride raises a glass of champagne into the smoke filled air and Bob takes a bow but then heads towards the kitchen at the other end of the room.

" Hey, Bob," Jack Delleto shouts to the groom.

O'Malley stops under the wagon wheel lamp and turns as Delleto steps into the  circle of light cast onto the floor.

"Congratulations, I know Theresa and you are goin to be happy. I mean that." Delleto offers his hand and they shake hands.

"Thanks, Mr. Cool."

Jack takes off the sunglasses.

"TWO black eyes. Your nose is bleeding. What happened?"

Dell takes the handkerchief from his back pocket, wipes the blood dripping down his face. "It's broken."

"What happened?" O'Malley asks again.

"Bill Wain."

"He turned pro."

"Yeah, but he's nothing special. Hell, he couldn't even knock me down."

O'Malley shakes his head. "Put the sunglasses back on, you look like a friggin raccoon."

Dell smiles. The blood running down his lips."Thersa's beautiful, Bob, you're a lucky guy."

"Thanks Dell." O'Malley puts his hand on Dell's shoulder and sqeezes affectionately. Bob looks across the room at Theresa. "Yeah, she is beautiful." Theresa mother has stopped crying. Her father just stares at the wall.

O'Malley looks away from his bride and passed the archway that divides the poolroom from the bar and into the corner. With the lamp light above his head gleaming in his eyes Bob seems to see a ghost fleeting in the far distant, dark corner. Slowly, a peculiar half smile forms uneven, white, tombstone teeth.  A pensive smile.

Curious, Dell turns his head to look into the darkness of the poolroom, too.

At night in July the moths were everywhere. When Dell was a boy he would sit on his porch and try to count them. The moths appeared as faint splashes of whiteness scattered throughout the night, odd circles of white that moved haphazardly, forward and then sideways, sometimes up and down.

Sometimes the patches of moths flew higher and higher and Dell imagined the lights those creatures were seeking were the stars themselves; Orion, the Big Dipper and even the milky hue of the Milkyway.

One night as the moths pursued starlight he saw shadows dropping one by one from the tops of the trees. The swallows were soundless and when he caught a glimpse of sudden darkness, blacker than the night, the shadows erased the dreamer and its dream.

His imagination gave definition to form. There was a sound to the shadows of the swallows in his thoughts, the melody and the song played over and over. Perhaps he saw his reflection in the night. Perhaps there are shadows where nothing exists to cast them.

"Do you hear them, Bob?"

"Hear what?" Bob asks.

"All of them."

"All of what?"

"Nothin," Delleto candidly tells his friend, "Nothin."

O'Malley doesn't understand but it does not matter. The two men have shared the same corner of darkness.

Bob calls to Paul Keater. Keater smiles broadly, slides the brim of his Giant baseball cap to the side of his forehead. The two men disappear through the swinging kitchen door.


                                          Chapter 6


"Hello Kate." Jack Delleto says and sits down. She has a blue bow in her hair and make up on.

"My names Kathleen."

She fondles the whiskey glass in her slim fingers. "Hello, Dell, Sue thinks Dell is such a **** name. Kathleen takes a last drag on her cigarette, rubs it out in the ashtray, looks up at him, "What should I call you?"

"How about, Darlin?"

"Hello, Jack, DARLIN," her soft, deep voice whispers. Kathleen crosses her legs and the black dress rides up to the middle of her thigh.

Jack glances at the milky white flesh between the blue ***** hose and the hem of her dress. Kate is drunk and Dell does not care. He leans closer, "Do you wanna dance?"

"But no one else is dancing."

"Well, we can go down to the beach, take a walk along the sand."

"It's twenty degrees out there."

"I'll keep you warm."

"All right, lets dance."

Jack stands up takes her by the hand. As Kathleen rises Jack draws her close to him. Her ******* flatten against his chest. He feels her heart thumping.

The Elvis impersonator that almost played Las Vegas; the hairdresser that wanted to be a race car driver; the insurance salesman with a Porche and a wife.  Her men talked about what they owned or what they could do.

And Kathleen was impressed.

But Dell wasn't like them. Dell never talked about himself. Did he have a dream? Was there something he wanted more than anything?

Kathleen had never meant anyone quite like Dell.

She rests her head on his shoulder. "What do you what more than anything? What do you dream about at night?"

"Nothing."

"Come on," she says," what do you want more than anything? Tell me your dreams."

Jack smiles, "Just to make it through another day."  He smiles that sad smile that she saw the first time they met. "Tell me what you want."

Kate lifts her head off of his shoulder and looks into his eyes."I don't want to be on welfare the rest of my life and I want to be able to send my son to college." She rests her cheek against his, "I've lived in foster homes all my life and every time I knew one day I'd have to leave, what I want most is a home. Do you know the difference between a house and a home?"

"No."

Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear, "LOVE."

The song comes to an end and they leave the circle of light and sit down. Kate takes a cigarette from the pack.

Dell strikes a match. The flame flickering in her eyes. "Maybe someday you'll have your home."

"Do you want me to?"

"Yeah."

Kate blows out the match.


                                  
     


"Can you take me home?" Kate asks slurring her words.

Kathleen and Jack walk over to where the bride and groom are standing near the big glass refrigerator door with Paul Keater. When Paul realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto he rocks back and forth on the heals of his worn shoes, slides his Giants baseball cap back and forth across his forehead and walks away.

O'Malley bends down and kisses Kathleen on the cheek and turns to shake hands with Dell. "Good luck," says Dell. Kathleen embraces the bride.

Outside the bar the sun is setting behind the boarded shut Delleto store.

"That was my Dad's store, " Jack tells Kate and then Jack whispers to to himself as he reads the graffiti spray painted on the front wall.
"TELL YOUR DREAMS TO ME, TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, IF YOU LOVE ME, TELL ALL YOUR DREAMS TO ME."


                                         Chapter 7


An old man comes shuffling down the street, "Hello Mr. Martin, " Jack says, "How are you?"

"I'm an old man Jack, how could I be," and then he smiles, "ah, I can't complain. How are you?"

"Still alive and well."

"Who is this pretty young lady?"

"This Kate."

Joesph Martin takes Kathleen by the arm and  gently squeezes, "Hello Kate, such a pretty women, ah, if I was only sixty," and the old man smiles.

Kathleen forces a smile.

The thick eyeglasses that Mr. Martin wears magnifys his eyes as he looks from Kathleen to Jack, "Have fun now because when you are dead you are going to be dead a long, long time."

"How long?  Delleto inquires.

The old man smirks and waves as he continues up the street to the door leading to the rooms above the bar. He turns to face the door. The small window is broken and the shards of glass catch the twilight.

Joesph Martin turns back looking at the man and young woman who are about to get into the car. He is not certain what he wants to say to them. Perhaps he wants to tell them that it ***** being an old man and the upstairs hallway always smells of ****.

Joesph Martin wants to tell someone that although Anna died seven years ago his love endures and he misses her everyday. Joesph recalls that Plato in Tamaeus believed that the soul is a stranger to the Earth and has fallen into matter because of sin.

A faint smile appears on the wrinkled face of the old man as he heeds the resignation he hears in his own thoughts.

Jack waves to Mr. Martin.  Joesph waves back. The mustang drives off.

Earth, O island Earth.


                                               Chapter 8


Joseph pushes open the door and goes into the hallway. The fragments of glass scattered across the foyer crunch and clink under his shoes. The cold wind blowing through the broken window touches his warm neck. He shivers and walks up the stairs. There is only enough light to see the wall and his own warm breathing. There is just enough light like when he has awaken from a  bad dream, enough to remember who he is and to separate the horror of what is real from the horror of what is dreamt.

The old man continues climbing the stairs following the familiar shadow of the wall cast onto the stairs. If he crosses the vague line of shadow and light he will disappear like a brown trout in the deepest hole in a creek.

By the time he reaches the second floor he is out of breath. Joseph pauses and with the handkerchief he has taken from his back pocket he wipes the fog from the lenses of his eyeglasses and the sweat from his forehead.

A couple of doors are standing open and the old man looks cautiously into each room as he hurries passed. One forty watt bulb hangs from a frayed wire in the center of the hallway. The wiring is old and the bulb in the white porcelain socket flickers like the blinking of an eye or the fearful beating of the heart of an old man.

When he opens the door to his room it sags on ruined hinges.

Joesph searches with his hand for the light switch.  Several seconds linger. Can't find it.

Finds it and quickly pushes the door shut. He sits down on the bed, doesn't take his coat off, reaches for the radio. It is gone.

Joseph looks around the room. A small dresser, the sink with a mirror above it. He takes off his coat and above the mirror hangs the coat on the nail he has put there.

Hard soled boots echo hollowly off the hallway walls. The echoes are overlapping and he can not determine if the footsteps are leaving or approaching.

The crow bar is under his pillow.

He grabs it. Holds it until there is silence.

He lays back on the bed. Another night without sleep. Joseph rolls onto his side and faces the wall.

Earth, O island Earth.



                                           Chapter 9


Tangled in the tree tops a rising moon hangs above the roofs of identical Cape Cod houses.

Jack pulls the red mustang behind a station wagon. Kathleen is looking at Dell. His face is a faint shadow on the other side of the car. "Do you want to come up?" she asks.

Kathleen steps out of the car, breathes the cold air deep into her lungs. It is fresh and sweet. Jack comes around the side of the car just as she knew he would. He takes her into his arms and kisses her and they walk beneath the old oak tree and the roots have raised and crack the sidewalk and in the spring tiny blue flowers will bloom. The flowers remind Jack of the columbines that bloom in high mountain meadows above treeline heralding a brief season of sun and warmth.

"Did you win?" Kathleen asks as she fits the key into the upstairs apartment door. The door swings open into the kitchen.

Dell, standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts. "It doesn't matter."

"You lost?"

"Yeah."

Crossing the room she takes off her coat and places it on the back of the kitchen chair. When Kate leans across the kitchen table to turn on the radio the mini dress rides up her thigh, tugs tightly around her buttocks.

The radio plays softly.

Jack stands and as Kathleen turns he slips his arms around her waist and she is staring into his eyes like a cat into a fire. His body gently presses against the table and when he lifts her onto the table her legs wrap around his waist.

Kathleen sighs.

Jack kisses her. Her lips are cold like the rain. His hand reaches. There is a faint click. The room slips into darkness. It is Eddie Money on the radio, now, with Ronnie Spectre singing the back up vocals. Eddie belts out, "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, I WON"T LET YOU LEAVE TIL..."

When Jack withdraws from the kiss her eyes are shining like diamonds in moonlight.

The buttons of her dress are unfastened.  Her arms circle his neck and pull him to her *******. "Don't Jack. You mustn't. I just want a friend." His hands slide up her thighs. "I'll be your friend, " says Jack.

"*** always ruins every thing," Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear. He pulls her to the edge of the table as Ronnie sings, "O DARLIN, O MY DARLIN, WON'T YOU BE MY LITTLE BAABBBY NOOWWW."


They are sitting on a couch in the room that atone time had been a sun porch.

Now that they have gotten *** out of the way, maybe they can talk. Sliding her hands around his face she pulls him closer.

"Jack, what do you dream about? You know what I mean, tell your dreams to me."

"How did you get those little round scars on your arm," Jack wonders. "Up and down, hear and there."

"Do you really want to know?" There is anger in her voice and Jack does not understand.

"Why, yeah."

"My foster mom always wanted me to be clean and if I didn't I got hit with the belt. I tried to keep my face clean but it didn't do any good.

He was the worst, though, dad. He'd burn me with his cigarette. That's how I got these ****** scars. And when I knew he was coming home I'd get sick to my stomach and when I heard his key in the door, I'd wet myself.

But that wasn't the worst of it.

When they didn't beat me or burn me they ignored me, like I didn't exist, like I wasn't even there."



                                             Chapter 10



All the windows in the apartment are open. The cool breeze flows through her brown hair. "You're getting too serious, Jack, and I don't want to need you."

"That's because I care for you."

The rain pounds the roof.

Jack Delleto sits down on the bed, caresses her shoulder. "I hate the rain. Come on, give me a smile. "Kathleen pulls away and faces the wall.

"Well I don't need anyone."

"People need people."

There is silence, then, "I only care about my son and Father Anthony."

"What is it with you and the priest?" You named your son Anthony is that because he's the father."

"Your an *******. Get out of here. I don't love you." And then, "I've been hurt by people and you'll get over it."

The lingering silence. Jack gets up from the bed, stares at her dark form facing the wall. "Isn't this how it always ends for you?"

The room is quiet and grows hot. When the silence numbs his racing heart, he goes into the kitchen, opens the front door and walks down the steps into the cold rain.


"Anthony," Kathleen calls to her son to come to her from the other bedroom and he climbs into the bed and she holds him close. The ghost of relationships past haunt her and although they are all sad, she has she clings to them.


On the sidewalk below the apartment window Jack stops. He thinks he hears his name being called but whatever he has heard is carried off by the wind. He continues up the  dark street to his Harley.

High in reachless branches of the old oak tree a mockingbird is singing. The leaves twist in the wind and  the singing goes on and on.



                                            
     



The ringing phone.

"Who the hell is this?" The clock on the dresser says 5a.m.

"Jack, I'm scared."

"Kate?"

"Someone broke into my apartment."

"Is he still there?"

"No, He ran out the door when I screamed."

"I'll be right over."



                                         Chapter11


"How hot is it?" Kathleen asks.

The bar is empty except for O'Malley, Keater, a man and a woman.

"98.6,"Says Jack. The sweat rolls down his cheeks.

"Let's go to the boardwalk."

"When it's hot like this, it's hot all over."

"We could go on the rides."

"I've got the next pool game, then we'll go."

"It's my birthday."

"I bought you flowers."

"Yeah, carnations."

Laughing, Paul Keater slides the brim of his baseball cap back and forth across his forehead.

Jack starts for Keater, Katheen steps in front of Jack, puts her hands on his shoulders. She looks into his eyes.

"What is it with you , two? But as always you'll say nothing, nothing." As Jack tries to speak she walks over to the bar and sits on the barstool.

"It's my birthday," she tells O'Malley.

When Bob turns from the horse races on he T.V., he notices her long legs and the short skirt. "Hey, happy birthday, Kate, Jack Daniels?"

"Fine."

Filling the glasses O'Malley hands one to Kathleen, "You look great," he tells her.

"Jack doesn't think so. Thanks, at least someone thinks so."

"Hope Jack won't mind," and he leans over the bar and kisses her.

Kathleen looks over her shoulder at Delleto. Jack is playing pool with a woman wearing a black tight halter top. The woman comes over to Jack, stands close, smiles, and Jack smiles back.

The boyfriend stares angrily at Jack.

When Kathleen turns back O'Malley is filling her shot glass.

Jack wins that game, too.



                                                 Chapter 12



"Daddy,"the little girl with her hands folded in her lap is looking up at her father. "When will the ride stop? I want to go on."

"Soon, Darling, "her father assures her.

"I don't think it will ever stop."

"The ride always stops, Sweetie." Daddy takes her by the hand, gently squeezes.


When the carousel begins to slow down but has not quite stopped Kathleen steps onto the platform, grabs the brass support pole. The momentum of the machine grabs her with a **** onto the ride, into a white horse with big blue eyes. Dropping her cigarette she takes hold of the pole that goes through the center of the horse. She struggles to put her foot in the stirrup, finds it, and throws her leg over the horse. The carousel music begins to play. With a tremble and a jolt, the ride starts.

Sitting on the pony has made her skirt ride well up her legs. The ticket man is staring at her but she is too drunk to care. She hands him the ticket, gives him the finger.

The ticket man goes over to the little girl and her father who are sitting in a golden chariot pulled by to black horses.

"Ooooh, Daddy, I love this."

"So do I," The father smiles and strokes his daughters hair.

The heat makes the dizziness grow and as the ride picks up speed she sees two of everything. There are two rows of pin ball machines, eight flashing signs, six prize machines. All the red, blue and green lights from the ride blend together like when a car drives at night down a rain soaked street.

Kathleen feels the impulse to *****.

"Can we go on again?" The little girl asks.

"But the ride isn't over, yet."


Kathleen concentrates on the rain soaked street and the dizziness and nausea lessens. She perceives the images as a montage like the elements that make up a painting or a life. She has become accustom to the machine and its movement. The circling ride creates a cooling breeze that becomes a tranquil, flowing waterfall.

The ponies in front are always becoming the ponies in the back and the ponies in back are becoming the ponies in the front. Around and around. All the ponies galloping. Settling back into the saddle she rides the pony into the ever present waterfall.

You can lose all sense of the clock staring into the waterfall of blue, red and green. Kathleen leans forward to embrace the ride for a long as it lasts.

Just as suddenly as it started, the ride slowystops, the music stops playing.

Coming down off the pony she does not wait for the ride to stop, stumbles off the platform and out the  Casino amusement park door."****, *******," she yells careening into the railing almost falling into Wesley Lake.

She staggers a few steps, sits down on the grass by the curb, hears the carousel music playing and knows the ride is beginning again, and all the her dreams crawls into her like a dying animal from its hidden place.

And it all comes up from her throat taking her breath away. A distant yet familiar wind so she lies down on the grass facing the  street of broken buildings filled with broken people. From the empting lot of scattered thoughts the mockingbird is singing and the images shoot off into a darkening landscape, exploding, illuminating for a brief moment, only to grow dimmer, light and warmth fading into cold and darkness.




                                      
     

"Your girlfriend is flirting with me," Jack Delleto tells the man. "It's my game."

The man stands up, takes a pool stick from the rack, as he comes towards Jack Delleto the man turns the pool stick around holding the heavy part with two hands.

There is an explosion of light inside his head, Delleto sees two spinning lizards playing trumpets, 3 dwarfs with purple hair running to and fro, intuitively he knows he has to get up off the floor, and when he does he catches the bigger man with a left hook, throws the overhand right. The man stumbles back.

His girlfriend in the tight black halter top is jumping up and down, screaming at, screaming at Jack Delleto to stop, but Jack does not. Stepping forward, a left hook to the midsection, hook to the head, spins right, throws the overhand right.

The man does down.

Jack wins.



                                                  CHAPTE­R 13

"It's too much," and Jack looks up from the two lines of white powder at Bob O'Malley. "I'll never be able to fall asleep and I hate not being able to sleep."

" Here," Bob takes a big white pill from his shirt pocket.

Jack drops the pill into his shirt pocket and says, "No more." He hands the rolled up dollar bill to Bob who bends over the powder.

"Tom sold the house so you're upstairs? O Malley asks, and like a magician the two lines of white powder disappear. Straightening up, he looks at Dell, "I know you 're hurting Dell , I'm sorry, I'm sad about Kate, too."

Jack becomes quiet, walks through the darkened room over to the bar. Leaning over the bar he grabs two shot glasses and a bottle of Wild Turkey, walks back into the poolroom. He puts the shot glasses on top of the pin ball machine. "We have a winner, "the pin ball machine announces. Dell fills the glasses.

"Felix came in the other day, he's taken it hard. Bill Wain knock down four times in the sixth round, lost consciousness in the dressing room, and died at the hospital," Bob tells him.

"What's the longest you went without sleep? Jack asks.

"Oooohhh, five, six days, who knows, after awhile you loose all track of the clock."

They take the shots and throw them down.

"I wonder if animals dream," Jack wants to know. "I wonder if dogs dream."

"Sure they do, " O'Malley asures him, nodding his head up and down, "dogs, cats, squirrels, birds."

"Probably not insects."

"Why not? Sure they do, june bugs, fleas, even moths, it's all biochemical, dreams are biochemical, mix the right combination of certain chemicals, electric impulses, and you'll produce love and dreams."

                                          
     

Jack Delleto goes into the room, studies it. The light from the unshaded lamp on the night stand casts a huge shadow of him onto the adjacent wall. Not much to the room, a sink with a mirror above it next to a dresser, a bed against the wall, a wooden chair in front of a narrow window.

The rain pounds the roof.

The apprehension grows. The panic turns into anger. Jack rushes the white wall, meets his shadow, explodes with a left hook. He throws the right uppercut, the over hand right, three left hooks. He punches the wall and his knucles bleed. He punches and kicks the blood stained wall.

At last he is exhausted, collapses into the chair in front of the open window. Fist sized holes in the plaster revel the bones of the building. The room has been punched and kicked without mercy.

The austere room has won.

The yellow note pad, he needs the yellow note pad, finds it, takes the pencil from the binder but no words will come so he writes, "insomnia, the absence of dream." He reaches for the lamp on the night stand, finds it, and turns off the light. Red and blue, blue and red, the neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks soft neon into his room. The sign seems to pulsate to the cadence of the rock music coming from the bar.

Taking the big white pill from his shirt pocket, he swallows it, leans back into the chair watching the shadows of rain bleed down the wall. The darkness intensifys. Jack slides into the night.



                                           Chapter 14


The rain turns to snow.

With each step he takes the pain throbs in his arm and shoulder socket. His raw throat aches from the drafts of cold air he is ******* through his gaping mouth and although his legs ache he does not turn to look back. Jack must keep punching holes with his ice axe, probing the snow to avoid a fall into an abyss.

The pole of the ice axe falls effortlessly into the snow, "**** it, another one."

Moonlight coats the glacier in an irridecent glow and the mountain looms over him. It is four in the mourning and Jack knows he needs to be high on the mountain before the  mourning sun softens the snow. He moves carefully, quietly, humbly to avoid a fall into a crevasse. When he reaches the top of the couloir the wind begins to howl.

"DA DA DUN, DA DA DUN, HEY PURPLE HAZE ALL AROUND  MY BRAIN..."

Jack thinks the song is in his head but the electric guitar notes float down through the huge blocks of ice that litter the glacier and there standing on the arête is Jimi, his long dexterous fingers flying over the guitar strings at 741 mph.

"Wait a minute, " Jack wonders, stopping dead in his tracks. The sun is hitting the distant wind blown peaks. "Ah, what the hell," and Jack jumps in strumming his ice axe like an air guitar, singing, shouting, "LATELY THINGS DON'T SEEM THE SAME, IS THIS A DREAM,  WHATEVER IT IS THAT GIRL PUT A SPELL ON MEEEE, PURRPPLLE HAZZEEE."


                                        
     


Slowly the door moans open.

"Jack, are you awake?" her voice startles him.

"Yeah, I'm awake."

"What's the matter, can't sleep?"

Jack sifts position on the chair. "Oh, I can sleep all right." He recognizes the voice of the shadow. "I want to climb to a high mountain through ice and snow and never be found."

"A heart that's empty hurts, I miss you Jack Delleto."

"I'm glad someone does, I miss you ,too."

There is silence for several minutes and the voice comes out of the darkness again.

"Jack, you forgot something that night."

"What?" The dark shape moves towards him. When it is in front of him, Jack stands, slips his arms around her waist.

"You didn't kiss me goodbye."

Her lips are soft and warm. Her arms tighten around his neck and the warmth of her body comes to him through the cold night.

"Jack, what's the matter?" She raises her head to look at him, "Why, you're crying."

"Yeah, I'm crying."

"Don't cry Darlin," her lips are soft against his ear. "I can't bare to see you unhappy, if you love me, tell me you love me."

"I love you, I do," he whispers softly.

"Hold me, Jack, hold me tighter."

"I'll never let you go." He tries to hug the shadow.


                                          
      *


The dread grows into an explosion of consciousness. Suddenly, he sits up ******* in the cold drafts of air coming into the room from the open window. Jack Delleto gets up off the chair and walks over to the sink. He turns on the cold water and bending forward splashes water onto his face. Water dripping, he leans against the sink, staring into the mirror, into his eyes that lately seem alien to him.



                                            Chapter 15


Someone approaches, Jacks turns, looks out the open door, sees Joesph Martin go shuffling by wearing a faded bathrobe and one red slipper. Jack hears Martin 's door slam shut and the for thirty seconds the old man screams, "AAHHH, AAAHHH, AAAHH."
Then the building is silent and Jack listens to his own labored breathing.

A glance at the clock. It is a few minutes to 7 a.m. Jack hurries from his room into the hallway.  They pass each other on the stairs. The big man is coming up the stairs and Jack is going down to see O'Malley.

Jack has committed a trespass.

When the big man reaches the top of the stairs, the red exit light flickers like a votive candle above his head. The man slides the brim of his Giants baseball cap back and forth across his forehead, he turns and looks down, "Hello, Jack, brother. Dad loved you, too, you know." An instant later the sound of a door closing echoes down the hallway steps.


Jack Delleto is standing in the doorway at the bottom of the steps looking out onto the wet, bright street.

"Hey, Jack, man it's good to see you, glad to see you're still alive."

Jack turns, looks over his shoulder, "Felix, how the hell are you?"
The two men shake hands, then embrace momentarily.

"Ah, things don't get any better and they don't get any worse," shrugs the old man and then he smiles but his brown eyes are dull and Jack can smell the cheap wine on the breath of the old boxer. "When are comin back? Man, you've got something, Kid, and we're going places."

"Yeah, Felix, I'll be coming back."  Jack extends his hand. The old fighter smiles and they shake hands. Suddenly, Felix takes off down Main Street towards Foodtown as if he has some important place to go.

Jack is curious. He sees the rope when he starts walking towards the Wagon Wheel Bar. One end of the rope is tied around the parking meter pole. The rest of the rope extends across the sidewalk disappearing into the entrance to the bar. The rattling of a chain catches his attention and when the huge white head of the dog pops out of the doorway Jack is startled. He stops dead in his tracks and as he spins around to run, he slips falling to the wet pavement.

The big, white mutt growls, woofs once and comes charging down the sidewalk at him. The rope is quickly growing shorter, stretches till it meets it end, tightens, and then snaps. Now, unimpeded by the tension of the rope the mutt comes charging down the sidewalk at Delleto. Jack's body grows tense anticipating the attack. He tries to stand up, makes it to his knees just as the dog bowls into him knocking him to the cement. The huge mutt has him pinned down, goes for his face.

And begins licking him.

Jack Delleto struggles to his knees, hugs her tightly to him. Looking over her shoulder, across Main Street to the graffiti painted on the boarded shut Delleto Market...

                               FANTASY WILL SET YOU FREE

                                                 The End

To Tommy, Crazy George and Snake, we all enjoyed a little madness for awhile.


"Conversations With a Dead Dog..."
Grahame Jun 2014
A  MOONLIT  KNIGHT.

Fern rises and looks out of her window.
Silver shards of moonlight lick the lawn.
She who once felt gay and oh so joyous,
Now feels oh so desolate and lorn.

Will she ever find true love again?
She before has never felt so low.
Should she, for love, continue searching?
Or give up by ending it here and now?

Outside, all is monochrome and still,
Inside, Fern is still and very sad.
Will she feel happiness again?
Who knows how long she’ll feel this bad?

At the stroke of midnight, there’s a change,
There seems to be a disturbance in the air.
Gradually something seems to materialise
On the lawn, a shape, come from where?

It is a knight, armoured cap-à-pie,
On a horse, for war caparisoned.
From his saddle hangs a jousting shield,
A silver moon on it is designed.

A white plume is mounted on his helmet,
On his lance a white pennon is tied.
The knight looks at her, at her window,
Silently he sits and does bide.

He raises a gauntleted hand and beckons,
Should she stay in, or venture out?
In her white nightdress she goes downstairs,
Deciding to see what it’s all about.

Cautiously she opens up the door,
And putting her head out, looks outside.
The knight still sits, patiently waiting.
Fern wonders what might now betide.

Slipping on an old pair of shoes,
She slowly walks over to the knight.
In her wake she leaves a dewy trail,
And as she nears, the knight fades from sight.

Fern wonders what this all might mean,
Is she dreaming or is she awake?
Is, what she has seen, been real?
Or has she made a big mistake?

Then, whilst standing there in wonder,
She happens to look down at the ground.
Where the knight was, the grass is trampled,
As though a horse has curvetted around.

Then she hears a sound from behind her,
And startled, Fern quickly turns round.
Her house no longer seems to be there,
In its stead, a keep there is stound.

The sound she hears is a woman calling,
“My Lady, please come back here inside.
You shouldn’t be alone out in the dark,
Please come back and in your chamber bide.”

The woman, from a window, looks at Fern.
“Excuse me, are you addressing me?”
Fern directs the question at the woman,
Who replies to her, “Of course, my Lady.”

“’Tis not safe out at this time of night,
And you are in your night attire dight,
So if someone, of you, catches sight,
You’ll not be seen in a good light.”

Before Fern can think of what to say,
She hears the sound of a galloping horse.
It is getting nearer in the dark.
She hopes that things will now not get worse.

“My Lady, quickly, please get you inside,
Do not just stand there as if dazed.
Hurry now, before it it too late.”
Fern, though, does stand there amazed.

Approaching through the night is a horse,
The one she’d seen before on her lawn,
The same knight is seated on its back,
Though now the pennant on his lance is torn.

The horse stops right next to Fern,
And caracoles to bring them face-to-face.
The knight lowers his lance to show his pennant,
Which Fern sees is a torn fragment of white lace.

The knight again does sit in stilly silence,
He waits, and does not make any demand.
Then lowers his lance to touch her nightdress’s hem,
When suddenly, Fern does understand.

The hem of her nightdress is lace trimmed,
So Fern bends, and seizes it in hand.
Then with a sharp tug she tears it off,
Removing it in a single strand.

The knight raises up his lance higher,
The old lace, from the lance, Fern does remove.
Then ties the furbelow on very tightly,
Saying, “Please take this favour with my love.”

The knight dips his lance in salute,
Then turns his horse, back down the road to face.
His spurs lightly touch the horse’s flanks,
Which straight away gallops off at pace.

Fern walks across to the keep.
The woman opens the main door wide.
Fern steps across the threshold,
And now, in her own house is inside.

She turns to look back across the lawn,
Which is still lit by the silver moon’s light.
The lawn is now smooth and unblemished,
With no marks caused by the steed of the knight.

Fern goes upstairs to her bedroom.
Has this all been a dream ere now?
Then, as she gets back into bed,
She sees her nightdress lacks its furbelow.

Fern remembers her nightdress has a pocket,
And into it, her hand she does place,
Then, to her utter amazement,
She pulls out a fragment of torn lace.

Fern wonders at what’s just happened,
Was it real, or only in her mind?
If it was just her imagination,
Why has she been able, the fragment to find?

Eventually Fern drifts off to sleep,
Waking with the chorus of the dawn.
Although she doesn’t think she has changed,
She no longer feels quite so forlorn.

“Why does the knight appear to me?
Why has he only come at night?
Is he trying to find out if he’s wanted?
Is he trying to make something right?”

Later on that day Fern walks to town,
And heads for the library to find,
If there are any references to knights
That might help to ease her troubled mind.

Fern does find a story of a knight,
Who had a moon device on his shield.
He was very brave in the fight,
And to a foe would never yield.

He had been commissioned to take a message,
To a lord, by order of the king.
It was to be delivered urgently,
And he was not to stop for anything.

He was nearly there when something happened.
By the side of the highway lay a maid.
Being a chivalrous knight, he should have stopped,
Instead, he carried on, not giving aid.

He delivered the message to the lord,
And later was seated, drinking in the hall,
When there entered in some serving men,
Carrying on their shoulders a shrouded pall.

They lay down their burden on the floor,
And without having said a word,
Reverently uncovered the face of a body.
It was the lady of the lord.

Then entered in another knight,
Who stepped up to the lord, and said,
“On our way here, we found your lady.
She was wounded, and now, alas, she’s dead.”

The other knight continued with his story,
“Seemingly, she had been robbed and *****.
There was no sign of the perpetrators,
We think they’d been disturbed, and then escaped.”

“Perhaps if we had managed to come sooner,
We might have been there to prevent this crime.
However, it seems the Fates conspired against us,
So we were not there to help in time.”

The Knight of the Moon sat there horror-struck,
He knew if he’d not been so keen to arrive,
Though helped, as his conscience had dictated,
The lady might yet even be alive.

Instead of speaking up, he stayed silent,
And never about this matter spoke a word.
Then he rose, and gave his condolence,
And went out from the presence of the lord.

The lady was removed to lie in state,
The Knight of the Moon went, to look at her face.
He knelt there in silent prayer awhile,
Then, from her dress, removed a length of lace.

He accoutred himself in his full armour,
Then rode from the keep that very night.
He left a note, stating his omission,
And of him, no-one ever saw a sight.

Fern is very sad to read this story.
What had then been in the knight’s mind?
Had he ridden off to end his disgrace,
Or the perpetrators, gone to find?

Fern now makes her thoughtful way home,
Hoping he’d found surcease from his torment,
Wondering what to him had befallen,
And if, for his lapse, he’d made atonement.

Fern reaches home rather tired,
So lies down on her bed, then falls asleep.
She dreams of knights in armour and fair damsels,
And jousting in the grounds of the keep.

Eventually, Fern wakens from her slumber.
She lies for a moment in her bed.
Yet again she thinks about her dream.
Was it real, or made up in her head.

“Perhaps,” she thinks, “I’m just on the rebound,
Because I’m still in mourning for my love.
And being of a romantic nature,
Dreaming of knights this does this prove.”

“Knights should have been chivalrous and kind,
Treating damsels in distress with care.
Except, when a knight I truly needed,
As it happened, there was not one there.”

“On that night, if we’d had some help,
My husband might still be alive.
Now, he has been taken from me,
And I feel that alone I cannot thrive.”

“However, life must go on as usual,
I should carry on, if just for him,
And so, perhaps, I should cease this moping,
And try to get on with my life again.”

So Fern gets up, refreshed from her nap,
Then decides, after eating, to go out.
That she must now get herself together,
Fern is not left in any doubt.

“Perhaps a short drive into the country,
And to stretch my legs, a gentle walk.
However, I will get on much quicker,
If I do not, to myself, talk.”

Fern puts on her coat and gets her bag,
Then goes out and walks to her car.
This is the first time that she’s driven
Since losing him, so she’ll not go too far.

Fern unlocks her car, and sits inside,
Then she is overcome with fear.
“Suppose, now, I am too scared to drive.
Perhaps I’d feel better if help was near.”

“Come on Fern, pull yourself together!
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
If you don’t do it now, then when?
Start the car, and let’s be on our way.”

So having given herself a little lecture,
Fern belts up, and pulls out of her drive.
Then, not really knowing where she’s headed,
Off she goes to see where she’ll arrive.

Fern motors out into the country,
And following a lane, drives up a hill.
At the top she parks and gets out.
Everything seems peaceful and so still.

She aimlessly ambles round the hill top,
And reads a notice saying it was a fort.
Then, Fern drifts off into a daydream,
And views the panorama without thought.

In her mind’s eye she sees a castle,
Decorated with many banners bright.
A tournament seems to be in progress,
And the winner is, of course, her moonlit knight.

Eventually, Fern becomes aware,
That she has gone some distance from her car.
So she slowly makes her way back to it.
She hadn’t meant to walk quite so far.

The shades of night are now falling fast,
And everything is starting to look grey.
So Fern unlocks her car and gets inside,
Ready to be getting on her way.

Slowly, she starts off down the hill,
The lane is very narrow with high hedges,
The moon is hidden behind some lowering clouds,
The track’s overgrown with grass and sedges.

Somehow, she’s gone a different way.
In the dark, everything seems wrong.
Fern is now starting to get worried,
And wonders why the track seems so long.

Eventually, she debouches onto a road,
Though she is not sure exactly where.
Fern is by now really anxious,
Then suddenly, gets an awful scare.

It looks just like the road they had been travelling,
When her husband lost control of the car.
It had skidded, spun and then rolled over,
The door had opened, and Fern had been flung far.

Her husband had still been trapped inside,
When it suddenly erupted into flame.
Fern could only stand and helplessly watch,
All the while loudly screaming his name.

No-one was around at that moment,
Perhaps someone might have pulled him out.
Then, as other motorists arrived,
They phoned for help, while listening to Fern shout.

Quite soon, a fire-engine came,
Closely followed by an ambulance.
The fire was eventually put out,
And Fern driven off still in a trance.

That had been several weeks ago,
And Fern has not since passed that place.
Now, it looks as if she is there,
And will, her darkest moment, have to face.

Then, to her horror, she sees a shape,
Dimly lit by her headlamps’ light.
It is a fallen motorcycle,
And the rider’s lying by it, just in sight.

Fern stops her car, and runs up to him.
Perhaps she can be of some aid.
As she approaches, the man gets up,
While a voice behind her says, “Don’t be afraid.”

“You just do exactly as we tell you.
We only want your money, and some fun.
Then, you can be on your way.
Do not even think of trying to run.”

The first man picks up the bike,
And pushes it to the road’s side.
The other man comes up close to Fern,
Who wonders again what might betide.

The wind blows the clouds across the sky,
Bringing the bright moon into sight.
The road that ’til then was hidden in darkness,
Is now lit with shards of silver light.

Fern then hears the sound of a horse,
Approaching through the wild and windy night.
The jingling of trappings can be heard,
And Fern thinks that now all will be right.

The courser slowly comes into view,
With the same knight seated on its back.
His lance is not couched, it’s held *****,
And the reins are loosely held, and quite slack.

Casually the steed comes to a stop,
And lowers his head to nibble at some grass.
The men, uncertain, both watch the knight,
While each wonders what might now pass.

One of them goes up to the bike,
And opens up the box on the back,
Then takes from it two crash helmets,
And a length of chain, which dangles slack.

He throws a helmet to his crony,
And they each fasten one upon their head.
Then they both turn to face the knight,
Who has not a word utteréd.

The one with the chain lifts it up,
And menacingly starts to whirl it around,
Then slowly walks towards the knight,
Who casually sits, not giving ground.

The other man reaches into his pocket,
Pulling out a wicked flick-knife,
And then, letting the blade spring open,
Prepares to join in with the strife.

He circles round the knight to the rear,
As the other man comes in from the side,
When the knight drops his lance into rest,
And suddenly, off he does ride.

He charges away from the men,
And gallops right past Fern at full speed.
Then, his lance aimed at the motorcycle,
He urges on his racing steed.

The lance pierces into the fuel tank,
And knocks the bike over in the road.
Petrol gushes out in a torrent,
And soon over the tarmac it has flowed.

The lance is broken in twain, the knight drops it,
And very quickly turns his horse about,
Then as he gallops back past the bike,
Both of the men start to shout.

Sparks from the horse’s hoofs come flying,
Igniting the petrol on the road.
Fern gives a shrill scream in panic,
Thinking that the bike might now explode.

The man with the chain wildly flails it,
Desperately trying to hit the horse’s head.
The knight strikes the man with a morning-star,
Who drops down, just like one who’s dead.

The knight then dismounts, drawing his sword,
And silently strides towards the other man,
Who flings away his knife, and starts running,
Fleeing just as fast as ever he can.

Fern sees the fallen man get up,
Rising groggily to stagger to his feet.
He looks at them, and then he turns away,
Slowly stumbling off, not yet too fleet.

Suddenly, the night becomes quite dark.
Clouds again, do the moon obscure.
Fern turns to try to thank the knight.
He’s gone, though she now feels secure.

Confidently she walks towards the bike,
And sees the lance by the fire’s light.
Fern bends and unties the lace from the lance,
And slowly walks back with it through the night.

She reaches her car, and gets inside,
Then starts driving off to get back home.
Belatedly thinking of her husband,
And wondering what next to her will come.

Safely arriving home, Fern parks the car,
And getting out, she sees on the lawn,
A pavilion has there been erected,
Turned rosaceous by the coming dawn.

The horse is also there, grazing tackless,
And by the entrance hangs a well-known targe.
Fern carefully goes and looks inside.
The pavilion’s quite small, not very large.

She sees the knight, kneeling on the ground,
His head bowed, as like one in prayer.
He holds his sword in front, just like a cross,
Of her, he seems not to be aware.

Quietly, Fern withdraws from the pavilion,
Then thinks, of the horse, to get a sight.
It’s nowhere to be seen, she turns around,
The pavilion’s now bathed in golden light.

As Fern stares at it in wonder,
See thinks that she can hear an ætherial sound,
Like a choir of heavenly angels singing,
And the pavilion vanishes from the ground.

Fern sees only a sword, stuck in the lawn,
And hanging from a nearby tree, the shield.
Then reliving what occurred in the night,
To tears of relief, Fern does yield.

She wonders if the knight has been translated,
Having now atoned for his mistake,
And Fern hopes that he’s managed to find peace,
For risking his life for her sake.

Fern hangs the sword above her bed,
And fastens the shield over her door.
She feels much more confidant now,
And is able to do so much more.

Sometimes though, when the moon is full,
Fern goes outside at midnight,
Carrying in her hand a strip of lace,
And seems just to vanish from sight.

At that time, if anyone was around,
They might then hear an unusual sound,
As though a fully accoutred
The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
   And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
   And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
   And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
   Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; ******* the heel of spring
   Treads summer sure to die, for ******* hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
   Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
   Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
   And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
   The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
   The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When thou descendest once the shades among,
   The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
   No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
   Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chain
   The love of comrades cannot take away.
Atlas Nov 2013
Suicides
Snails swim in salt
Fish fly out of water
Toxic
Toxic
Toxic

Birds stay North for the winter
People trying to swim in the snow
Hypothermia
A slight burn to the nose

Suicides
A rabbit painted yellow
Waiting openly in a field
Flowers remain blossomed
In the frosted winter
A frozen death is brought upon them
Toxic
Toxic
Toxic

Teenagers drinking
Frequently every weekend
Nicotine addictions
Replaced with weeks full of sadness
Withdraw
Withdraw
Withdraw

Suicides
Taking a risk behind the wheel
Never hoping for survival
Diving into shark infested waters
A whole lifetime without breathing
Toxic
Toxic
Toxic

Major addictions
For a feeling
A feeling of magic
Of surreal living
Addicted to an alternative reality
Without a pause
No withdraws
No withdraws
Terry O'Leary Feb 2014
NOW

Well, GI Jack is welcome back, he left his legs in 'Nam.
He wakes at night in sweat and fright, then drinks another dram.
He doesn't know quite where to go, so seeks his uncle, Sam.


                           BEFORE

One can't ignore - his ma was poor, and seasons sometimes cruel,
yet Jack was brave and well behaved and surely no one's fool
so joined the ranks that man the tanks, as soon as he left school

He learned to **** our foes at will (ordained a sacred rite)
then packed his bag, unfurled his flag, when sent away to fight.
And yes, the tide was on our side (for, clearly, might makes right)

Through tangled days in jungles' maze, he sought the enemy
behind the trees where, ill at ease, he fought the Yellow sea -
upon the waves of gravelled graves he sailed a killing spree

The ****** dropped and cooked the crops, charred huts along the way
and tanks, with zest, erased the rest, their villages of clay.
(Yes, turret guns are loads of fun with roaring roundelay.)

While on the hunt with other grunts, he burned some babes alive
and wondered why frail things must die, while evil's phantoms thrive -
<When folly ends, he'll make amends if only he'll survive>

With ***** traps (sticks smeared with crap), yes, Charlie fought unfair.
He hid in holes with snakes and voles and snuck up everywhere
and like a mite within the night, caught Jackie unaware

At battle's end, Jack sought his friends - their souls were washed away
and only he and destiny were left in disarray -
with bed and pan, just half a man, the man of yesterday

When Jack awoke beyond the smoke, his frame no longer whole,
he found instead some suture thread neath wraps to hide the hole,
and realized a further prize: a chair on wheels to roll

His head felt light, as well it might, at Victory Day Parade
(across his chest, you've surely guessed, his medals shone, arrayed)
for when he rolled, while others strolled, his boots no longer weighed


                           AFTER

Well, Jack stayed home (no roads to Rome) to start his life anew
receiving dole which took its toll as largess went askew
for sure enough, when times got tough, his uncle, Sam, withdrew

To walk the streets with fine elites (or else some *** who begs)
or find a job (or even rob) requires both your legs.
And those who can't, are viewed askant like those we call the dregs.

For getting by he tried to ply and mine his medals' worth -
a wooden cup, a mangy pup, a smirk when miming mirth,
and best of all, at midnight’s call, beneath a bridge, a ‘berth’

He clutched a sign 'A dime to dine?', if anybody cared,
but soon he found, as time unwound, that victors seldom shared.
And Jackie's pride was slowly fried by vacant eyes that stared


                           ENLIGHTENMENT

He took to drink to break the link with thoughts of what he'd done
and threads of doubt began to flout the yarns Big Brother spun
of freedom's ring and other things, like what it was we'd won

His vague unease arrayed a breeze with words that chilled the air
and like the fogs above the bogs, they floated through the square
where people sat at tea to chat, and shrieked 'How could he dare?'

Yes, freedom's price is never nice: like storms before the flood
the Daily Rag was on a jag, was looking out for blood,
deemed Jackie's thoughts untamed and fraught, then dragged him through the mud

By hacking clues, they plucked his views like grapes upon the vine.
Big Brother came, blamed Jackie's name for thinking out of line,
shut Jack away from light of day, eclipsing freedom’s shine

The Junto Brass, with eyes of glass, were robed in fine array
to hear the words (though slightly slurred) the witness gasped to say,
while Justice snored (the waterboard awash with Perrier)

Well, Jack was charged with laws enlarged in secret dossiers
within the guise of spreading lies and leading thoughts astray -
The Jury's out... the rabble shout “well someone's gotta pay”

The Judge (who fears the mind’s frontiers) inclined his head to yawn
while making haste through courtroom waste, though slightly pale and wan.
(A voodoo Loon withdraws as soon as Night condemns the Dawn.)


                           ETERNITY

While in his cell, the verdict fell - the sighs of Silence, rife
While in his cell, the verdict fell - the Reaper played a fife
While in his cell, the verdict fell - the price was Jackie's life


                           EPILOGUE

Well Jackie's ghost, unlike the most, still mused upon the praise
for misdeeds done in victories won when cruising in a craze,
and once again upon the sin of thinking, nowadays
where, cunningly, humanity’s served lies, and trust betrays.
Then, reconciled, it simply smiled at fortune's wanton ways.


                           EPITAPH

A mind was caught while thinking thoughts neath Sammy’s prying gaze
and forced to stop by concept cops, else join the castaways.
For now it's law to hold in awe the brave new world's malaise
and cerebrate with programmed pate, adorned with thorned bouquets,
then mimic mimes in troubled times - and no one disobeys.
With freedom’s death, truth holds its breath awaiting better days.
Now swarthy Summer, by rude health embrowned,
    Precedence takes of rosy fingered Spring;
And laughing Joy, with wild flowers prank’d, and crown’d,
    A wild and giddy thing,
And Health robust, from every care unbound,
    Come on the zephyr’s wing,
      And cheer the toiling clown.

  Happy as holiday-enjoying face,
    Loud tongued, and “merry as a marriage bell,”
Thy lightsome step sheds joy in every place;
    And where the troubled dwell,
Thy witching charms wean them of half their cares;
    And from thy sunny spell,
      They greet joy unawares.

  Then with thy sultry locks all loose and rude,
    And mantle laced with gems of garish light,
Come as of wont; for I would fain intrude,
    And in the world’s despite,
Share the rude wealth that thy own heart beguiles;
    If haply so I might
      Win pleasure from thy smiles.

  Me not the noise of brawling pleasure cheers,
    In nightly revels or in city streets;
But joys which soothe, and not distract the ears,
    That one at leisure meets
In the green woods, and meadows summer-shorn,
    Or fields, where bee-fly greets
      The ear with mellow horn.

  The green-swathed grasshopper, on treble pipe,
    Sings there, and dances, in mad-hearted pranks;
There bees go courting every flower that’s ripe,
    On baulks and sunny banks;
And droning dragon-fly, on rude bassoon,
    Attempts to give God thanks
      In no discordant tune.

  The speckled thrush, by self-delight embued,
    There sings unto himself for joy’s amends,
And drinks the honey dew of solitude.
    There Happiness attends
With ****** Joy until the heart o’erflow,
    Of which the world’s rude friends,
      Nought heeding, nothing know.

  There the gay river, laughing as it goes,
    Plashes with easy wave its flaggy sides,
And to the calm of heart, in calmness shows
    What pleasure there abides,
To trace its sedgy banks, from trouble free:
    Spots Solitude provides
      To muse, and happy be.

  There ruminating ’neath some pleasant bush,
    On sweet silk grass I stretch me at mine ease,
Where I can pillow on the yielding rush;
    And, acting as I please,
Drop into pleasant dreams; or musing lie,
    Mark the wind-shaken trees,
      And cloud-betravelled sky.

  There think me how some barter joy for care,
    And waste life’s summer-health in riot rude,
Of nature, nor of nature’s sweets aware.
    When passions vain intrude,
These, by calm musings, softened are and still;
    And the heart’s better mood
      Feels sick of doing ill.

  There I can live, and at my leisure seek
    Joys far from cold restraints—not fearing pride—
Free as the winds, that breathe upon my cheek
    Rude health, so long denied.
Here poor Integrity can sit at ease,
    And list self-satisfied
      The song of honey-bees.

  The green lane now I traverse, where it goes
    Nought guessing, till some sudden turn espies
Rude batter’d finger post, that stooping shows
    Where the snug mystery lies;
And then a mossy spire, with ivy crown,
    Cheers up the short surprise,
      And shows a peeping town.

  I see the wild flowers, in their summer morn
    Of beauty, feeding on joy’s luscious hours;
The gay convolvulus, wreathing round the thorn,
    Agape for honey showers;
And slender kingcup, burnished with the dew
    Of morning’s early hours,
      Like gold yminted new.

  And mark by rustic bridge, o’er shallow stream,
    Cow-tending boy, to toil unreconciled,
Absorbed as in some vagrant summer dream;
    Who now, in gestures wild,
Starts dancing to his shadow on the wall,
    Feeling self-gratified,
      Nor fearing human thrall.

  Or thread the sunny valley laced with streams,
    Or forests rude, and the o’ershadow’d brims
Of simple ponds, where idle shepherd dreams,
    Stretching his listless limbs;
Or trace hay-scented meadows, smooth and long,
    Where joy’s wild impulse swims
      In one continued song.

  I love at early morn, from new mown swath,
    To see the startled frog his route pursue;
To mark while, leaping o’er the dripping path,
    His bright sides scatter dew,
The early lark that from its bustle flies,
    To hail his matin new;
      And watch him to the skies.

  To note on hedgerow baulks, in moisture sprent,
    The jetty snail creep from the mossy thorn,
With earnest heed, and tremulous intent,
    Frail brother of the morn,
That from the tiny bent’s dew-misted leaves
    Withdraws his timid horn,
      And fearful vision weaves.

  Or swallow heed on smoke-tanned chimney top,
    Wont to be first unsealing Morning’s eye,
Ere yet the bee hath gleaned one wayward drop
    Of honey on his thigh;
To see him seek morn’s airy couch to sing,
    Until the golden sky
      Bepaint his russet wing.

  Or sauntering boy by tanning corn to spy,
    With clapping noise to startle birds away,
And hear him bawl to every passer by
    To know the hour of day;
While the uncradled breezes, fresh and strong,
    With waking blossoms play,
      And breathe Æolian song.

  I love the south-west wind, or low or loud,
    And not the less when sudden drops of rain
Moisten my glowing cheek from ebon cloud,
    Threatening soft showers again,
That over lands new ploughed and meadow grounds,
    Summer’s sweet breath unchain,
      And wake harmonious sounds.

  Rich music breathes in Summer’s every sound;
    And in her harmony of varied greens,
Woods, meadows, hedge-rows, corn-fields, all around
    Much beauty intervenes,
Filling with harmony the ear and eye;
    While o’er the mingling scenes
      Far spreads the laughing sky.

  See, how the wind-enamoured aspen leaves
    Turn up their silver lining to the sun!
And hark! the rustling noise, that oft deceives,
    And makes the sheep-boy run:
The sound so mimics fast-approaching showers,
    He thinks the rain’s begun,
      And hastes to sheltering bowers.

  But now the evening curdles dank and grey,
    Changing her watchet hue for sombre ****;
And moping owls, to close the lids of day,
    On drowsy wing proceed;
While chickering crickets, tremulous and long,
    Light’s farewell inly heed,
      And give it parting song.

  The pranking bat its flighty circlet makes;
    The glow-worm burnishes its lamp anew;
O’er meadows dew-besprent, the beetle wakes
    Inquiries ever new,
Teazing each passing ear with murmurs vain,
    As wanting to pursue
      His homeward path again.

  Hark! ’tis the melody of distant bells
    That on the wind with pleasing hum rebounds
By fitful starts, then musically swells
    O’er the dim stilly grounds;
While on the meadow-bridge the pausing boy
    Listens the mellow sounds,
      And hums in vacant joy.

  Now homeward-bound, the hedger bundles round
    His evening ******, and with every stride
His leathern doublet leaves a rustling sound,
    Till silly sheep beside
His path start tremulous, and once again
    Look back dissatisfied,
      And scour the dewy plain.

  How sweet the soothing calmness that distills
    O’er the heart’s every sense its ****** dews,
In meek-eyed moods and ever balmy trills!
    That softens and subdues,
With gentle Quiet’s bland and sober train,
    Which dreamy eve renews
      In many a mellow strain!

  I love to walk the fields, they are to me
    A legacy no evil can destroy;
They, like a spell, set every rapture free
    That cheer’d me when a boy.
Play—pastime—all Time’s blotting pen conceal’d,
    Comes like a new-born joy,
      To greet me in the field.

  For Nature’s objects ever harmonize
    With emulous Taste, that ****** deed annoys;
Which loves in pensive moods to sympathize,
    And meet vibrating joys
O’er Nature’s pleasing things; nor slighting, deems
    Pastimes, the Muse employs,
      Vain and obtrusive themes.
I

Not once in all our days of poignant love,
Did I a single instant give to thee
My undivided being wholly free.
Not all thy potent passion could remove
The barrier that loomed between to prove
The full supreme surrendering of me.
Oh, I was beaten, helpless utterly
Against the shadow-fact with which I strove.
For when a cruel power forced me to face
The truth which poisoned our illicit wine,
That even I was faithless to my race
Bleeding beneath the iron hand of thine,
Our union seemed a monstrous thing and base!
I was an outcast from thy world and mine.

II

Adventure-seasoned and storm-buffeted,
I shun all signs of anchorage, because
The zest of life exceeds the bound of laws.
New gales of tropic fury round my head
Break lashing me through hours of soulful dread;
But when the terror thins and, spent, withdraws,
Leaving me wondering awhile, I pause--
But soon again the risky ways I tread!
No rigid road for me, no peace, no rest,
While molten elements run through my blood;
And beauty-burning bodies manifest
Their warm, heart-melting motions to be wooed;
And passion boldly rising in my breast,
Like rivers of the Spring, lets loose its flood.
To outer senses there is peace,
A dreamy peace on either hand
Deep silence in the shadowy land,
Deep silence where the shadows cease.

Save for a cry that echoes shrill
From some lone bird disconsolate;
A corncrake calling to its mate;
The answer from the misty hill.

And suddenly the moon withdraws
Her sickle from the lightening skies,
And to her sombre cavern flies,
Wrapped in a veil of yellow gauze.
Mark Lecuona Feb 2015
Nothing familiar is the answer
It is always someone you don’t understand
Finding meaning
Outside our own means
As if they have nothing to lose
And they don’t
They do not think of their parents
Or what they were taught
Except for facts
Warding off
Things that are unexplained
Strange
Scary
Secret societies
Dystopian
Cold
Every institution of man
Rejected
As man withdraws from convention
Stirring the drink
With a hint of every influence
Without burden of form
Changing course on a whim
Fully versed in possibility
Stopping along the way
Every corner
To explore
For days and days
Forgetting the mission
Except to learn
A being of discovery
Courageous failures
Skeptical of every word
Unless it is their own questions
Enduring shock
Smiles instead of fears
No sense of consciousness
The natural act of a man unafraid
Except his own existence
Because then he has to acknowledge yours
And though he loves you
He cannot just sit next to you
And watch flowers return to their rightful place
So you can grimly smile that what you always wanted
May only be counted in moments instead of days
That become years
Though each moment is what he wanted all along
Because time is nothing to consider
Except how much remains
mark john junor Jun 2014
she sat on a driftwood throne
at her feet lay the ruins of a stone man
her hair a wild world of winds draws you into her hurricane eyes
her lip a forest of meanings tender and soft
a single loose tear like a wild horse run free
she sat on a driftwood throne in all her glory
sun and salt water cadence to the living breathing dream
song of existence untainted

and now another song intrudes
one of loves lionhearted and bold
seafarer's son come of age
come seeking courtship of her soft hand
to be bound in the silken desire's both hot and sweet
and the dark ones such shy girl dare not speak

he brushes away the sand from her soft thigh
and within his mind romances such sweet
tender spot with a reign of kisses
but just then she arose graceful like the soft beatings of dove's wing
and emerging from the veil of his minds fanciful dreams
she laid before him her sandpaper eyes
so intense that summer sounds
like children at play and such soothing tones
could not hide her behind
he withdraws still no more than a child in her eyes
she desires a stronger, a true love
one that is not a fleeting fancy dream
one of a man who can speak his heart

the sand had invaded her driftwood throne
so into the dusk she sauntered slowly
with graceful flow
trailing his eyes behind her like glories of wishes
like worshiping doves
for such beauties perfection
he will return some day a man
once he has learned
Hal Loyd Denton Jan 2012
Her life can’t be denied
First to vent then try to understand then accept death of innocence first seething anger only more enflamed by people trying to
Politicize and lessen the loss of innocent American lives especially little one, long before face book there was basebook evil’s network
This country has rings of evil a year after the bombing in Oklahoma I flew back here and then drove a car back home I stopped and
Videoed the bomb site and then many miles later and much video of this great country I pulled up behind a pickup in Kingman Arizona
Still videoing I was surprised and angered when he had a bumper sticker up on his back window over from his lariat and high powered
Rifle that said something to the effect you haven’t got all of the explosives this wasn’t the only comment there were other signs of a
Gun culture what made it so offensive was it was well known McVeigh and Terry Moore had used Kingman as a base of operations
Arguably this was just a bunch of jerks not real disturbed people like the one in Tucson I understand because while running production
In a chemical plant we had a big government contract which involved a lot of piecemeal work we hired in thirty temps and one was a
Carbon copy of the shooter in Tucson we already had two deadly chemicals everyone knows cyanide but phenol is liquid poison it has
A couple of tricks it freezes at eighty degrees and it absorbs through the skin and when it gets to the blood your dead one guy
Unloading a tanker the line froze he breaks the hose but when he does the chunk of ice flows out hitting him with a load he was dead
before he hit the ground I got a face full of it deluded to fifteen percent when the electric pump transferring to another drum caused the
Plastic hose to jump out the force of the pump shot the deluded phenol against the rim across from me I saw it coming all I could do
Was close my eyes as tight as I could get them instantly ten thousand bees were stinging my face I staggered around until one of the
Guys led me to the emergency shower that was there for this very reason I was taken to the hospital my wife walked in and stated
Crying my brother in law said I looked like Anthony Quinn in the film requiem for a prize fighter they told me as they continued to
Steadily bathe my face with water if the phenol got to the blood there was nothing they could do I survived but then one of the temps
Named randy was a skin head so now we had three deadly poisons it was the hardest thing to interact even simple conservation was
Really impossible like the scene with two polar bears it followed their lives from cubs to three years old and they were being shipped
To another zoo how cute but something triggered the one he became pure bear instant raw aggression at a level that was unnerving
Even from watching it from Television it was like it was crazed just like Randy in an instant he was back in his room with his swastikas
Barely coherent and defiantly not cogent being around him was like getting high on some of our bad fumes I’m interested in helping
People the most powerful drugs couldn’t get you in line with his thinking delusional twisted into a knot of hate and violence he had a
Another thing he liked to brag and had a habit of drinking weird stuff he poured our H B Fuller industrial strength glue into a Pepsi can
And drank it we never seen him again although we watched with keen interest all the entry points to the building for the next two
Weeks incase Randy was paying us a visit with his AK forty seven rifle that is the only reason I have any concern for the shooter in
Arizona again all the warning signs were evident he is disturbed others must protect him plus others he would harm but they still
Wait until yet again as a nation we bleed with profound sorrow from innocence lost.
Madness slays a princess, love of country brought her to the place it would be so harshly violated
In her face America shines with what it should be perfected in innocence raised with all the colors of our vibrancy as a nation then the
Dark foreboding it steals light and life at only nine but she was far ahead of that measurement of earthen time she was endowed with
Power that lives in highest possibilities that are only possible in true unaffected innocence her country was the true country not this
Unrecognizable one that every manner of evil is allowed to flourish and then when openly shown its true depths of departure from
Its true excellence we fail to take the reigns as men and women of character we let drugs alcohol and *** rule without raising the least
Bit of a challenge our enemies spit and scoff at our claims of being a moral ceat for the rest of the world we seek only rewards never
Stopping to be sacrificial givers I know our troops and there are a select few that are this noble but the scale is tipped in evils favor
We are weighed divine justice and peace withdraws behind our ways that are filled with greed and failure at every turn measures taken
From our history shows such gaps of even the smallest vestures of righteous endeavor is tossed as backward living out of tune with the
Times Tucson is the product of the new standard of thought that guides us as a people you can’t wallow in filth and then go out to
Be a force and an advocacy for truth you are breaking down all moral restraints and wonder why we are in a flood of insanity you sow
To the wind then you reap a whirlwind each step each day distances us from divine defenses we invite only trouble as long as we
Pursue the course we are on all who is weak in our nation bare the blunt of this misguided thinking the world has never been this
Close to the brink it’s beyond human control that which is to be played out get in line or see more innocence perish right before our
Eyes this tide can be turned but it takes us all not a grand few that are ignored and steam rolled as a new advantage is gobbled up
For a short temporary season our founding fathers talked of posterity we talk of prosperity and everyone else be dammed.
Cory Morrell Oct 2012
A flourish of red,
a bold stroke of yellow,
and thin, black dots
Form the image on the canvas.
The artist washes his brush
in a bowl filled with water,
now murky, brown, and indiscriminate.
He lifts the veil over his mind
and paints what he sees:
A girl twirls
among the towering red petals
of the flowers.
She laughs,
throwing her medium-length,
black hair behind her.
Her pale, tan skin
reflects the brilliance of the Sun
as she dances with her partner,
a fair boy born deep within the wood.
Mirth.  Cheer.  Joy.
These emotions swarm the picture,
like bees buzzing amid the daisies.
The painter withdraws again from his masterpiece;
a vibrant Harmony.
He smiles.
Written for a school project (2011-2012)
Sadie S Sep 2014
I'm addicted to you
And everything you do.
All the pain you put me through.

It's like a drug you put inside me.
Trying to keep me same
But instead your driving me insane.

I stayed up late last night
All because you started a fight.

I'm addicted to you
And everything you do.
All the paid you put me through.
It's all because I stay with you.

I hang on by every word you say.
As I inject you straight to my veins.

The way you kiss me.
The way you move your hands around me.
It's so seducing.
I can not help but wanting more.
Without you I can feel my withdraws.
Breaking all of the laws.

I'm addicted to you
And everything you do.
Even with all the pain you put me through.
I just cannot be without you.

The words of your mouth.
Hatred and anger.
The touch of your hand
Sends me a tingling sensation.

I keep going back to you.
Even though I say I am through with you.
As I inject you.
Withdrawls without you.
Is too much pain to handle.
I'd rather be with you.
Just hold my hand.
Please understand.

I'm addicted to you
And everything you do.
All the pain you put me through
I still come running back to you.
My boyfriend I keep going back to. Even through all the pain he's put me through for five years.
Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
The zebra stripes along his jaw
Swelling to maculate giraffe.

The circles of the stormy moon
Slide westward toward the River Plate,
Death and the Raven drift above
And Sweeney guards the hornèd gate.

Gloomy Orion and the Dog
Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
The person in the Spanish cape
Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees

Slips and pulls the table cloth
Overturns a coffee-cup,
Reorganised upon the floor
She yawns and draws a stocking up;

The silent man in mocha brown
Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;
The waiter brings in oranges
Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;

The silent vertebrate in brown
Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;
Rachel née Rabinovitch
Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

She and the lady in the cape
Are suspect, thought to be in league;
Therefore the man with heavy eyes
Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

Leaves the room and reappears
Outside the window, leaning in,
Branches of wistaria
Circumscribe a golden grin;

The host with someone indistinct
Converses at the door apart,
The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

And sang within the ****** wood
When Agamemnon cried aloud,
And let their liquid siftings fall
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.
1197

I should not dare to be so sad
So many Years again—
A Load is first impossible
When we have put it down—

The Superhuman then withdraws
And we who never saw
The Giant at the other side
Begin to perish now.
Pagan Paul Jun 2017
.
The menace emerges from the shadows,
a barked order, but unintelligible.
Then the soft steel kiss
slicing through flesh into entrails.
A fist connects with a crunching face,
legs buckle with pain and blood-loss.
And the Darkness of Death takes me,
like a comfort blanket of soft wool.
My Temple violated and de-sanctified,
the blade withdraws with a whisper.
Darkness cuddles
and welcomes me with a smile.

The morphine haze
keeps me inert and motionless,
but makes my mind giggle.
It wanders aimless
through psychedelic chapters …

This place is sterile, white, drab.
My eyes move slowly left.
There is something in a doorway.
The door.

… my head flies to a Poets Banquet,
where I am the bones thrown to the dogs.
And the wood grain in the door moves,
a cascading chocolate fountain,
over and over again,
flowing, melting like molten lava.
They taught me to write,
then cut off my hands.
Obscurity is purity;
fame is pain.
So I penned a letter to the dead.

My eyeballs are all that move,
floating in mid-air,
but still connected and transmitting
drug induced images.
I remember the assassin, the blade,
the darkness, the sirens, but no pain.
Images but no feeling.
They move right to a cold bedside table,
and then I think I cried.
Somebody Knows me.
No chocolates, no flowers.
Somebody Knows me.
No fruit. No magazines.
Just …
a pen and a pad.
Somebody Knows me.
I did cry, someone remembers me.
And each teardrop contained a thousand images,
a thousand stories, a thousand poems.
Inspiration. Illusion. Insight.
And the Darkness of Sleep takes me
like a comfort blanket of soft wool.
The morphine haze retreats
further into my mind and I dream …

of ambulances and white walls
of green gowns and bright lights
of scalpels and scissors and surgery
of needles and nurses and nightmares

… I dream of Poetry
in colour.
I see worlds in the sky
and words painted on clouds.
A kaleidoscope of teardrops
dripping images into my mind.
A fountain of mist cascading,
seeping into a memory sponge.
And I feel; somebody who Knows me
gently wipe away the tears.

© Pagan Paul (04/06/17)
.
Jessica Fowler Mar 2012
There’s plenty of flesh on her finger,
sagging, loose, folded ,
crumpled at the knuckle.

The nail is peach, white at the tip
manicured, manufactured; plastic.

She reaches out towards a musty key.
The greyish, flesh-coloured cube
awaits her touch.

She withdraws from her ******,
her finger folds away with the rest.

Reassured, she begins again.
Her fat stub hovering
over the scrabble of letters

With a satisfied click
the key flattens into the board.
Sjr1000 Oct 2015
Ocean wave
curls and calls
gives its all
then
withdraws.
The ocean is never silent.
1357

“Faithful to the end” Amended
From the Heavenly Clause—
Constancy with a Proviso
Constancy abhors—

“Crowns of Life” are servile Prizes
To the stately Heart,
Given for the Giving, solely,
No Emolument.

“Faithful to the end” Amended
From the Heavenly clause—
Lucrative indeed the offer
But the Heart withdraws—

“I will give” the base Proviso—
Spare Your “Crown of Life”—
Those it fits, too fair to wear it—
Try it on Yourself—
1209

To disappear enhances—
The Man that runs away
Is tinctured for an instant
With Immortality

But yesterday a Vagrant—
Today in Memory lain
With superstitious value
We tamper with “Again”

But “Never” far as Honor
Withdraws the Worthless thing
And impotent to cherish
We hasten to adorn—

Of Death the sternest function
That just as we discern
The Excellence defies us—
Securest gathered then

The Fruit perverse to plucking,
But leaning to the Sight
With the ecstatic limit
Of unobtained Delight—
Sally A Bayan Sep 2018
Sun is setting.....the dark rushes in,
from its bright orange glow,  a pale
tint of  orange turns fast to  bronze
gray, like metal.....suddenly, there's
that powerful whistle!.......suddenly
what matters, is to count the hours
'til whistle sounds its leaving, on its
way into the open sea...as a million
stars...graciously take over the sky

grip relaxes........hand lets go of old photos
candle light flickers, moth dances in circles
"no rain, please," a whisper, like  soft wind
blowing.....the heart leaps each time a boat
arrives, heart breaks when the whistle tells
of departure....the whistle...haunts this sad
soul...swaying trees, wooden walls, in their
own ways, listen....lizards rarely knock, the
cicadas stop their night songs......as dweller
withdraws from an old self, from an old life.
hushed wailings melt bits of pain...it's hard
to forget a life lived solely....for one's selfish
interests....a family abandoned...a lost voice
talks to God....of repentance....and of regret,
for years of straying, for precious time lost
an errant human being, longs to be  within
family circle again....the hugs....the giggles
baby's cheeks......the warmth of loved ones
they're a thousand reasons.....to reconsider
babies have grown up....people are weaker.
wind whispers their names under the fiery
sun...but, mostly.......in the still of the night.

"God, who would want me back?....why didn't
you let me? there at the gorge, or the stream?"

how many futile attempts had there been?
how many more boats must come and go?
how many more sunrises....sunsets to see?
one cannot.....could never escape from life
how does one learn to accept....to forgive?
when?...how....does one forgive one's self?

sleep didn't come.......faint dawn light peeps
through clearing clouds...the owner, the old
man is back, brought a daily.....with a photo
of the dweller...reportedly missing for years
a contact number, and a reward...offered for
precious information...the old man knew, he
too, was lost once.....he understood the need
offered the old cottage....to help another lost
soul, find himself again.....took long, but this
new, overwhelming courage has taken over!
dweller hurried.....then, hugged the old man
a God-given friend...in his darkest moments
the boat arrives by noon......sails before dark,
..........finally, to take the dweller...back...........
.............................. H O M E ..............................

Sally


Copyright Rosalia Rosario A. Bayan
September 28, 2018  (Pacific time)
...a sequel to The Cottage, The Gorges and The Stream
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
Poems about Leaves and Leave Taking (i.e., leaving friends and family, loss, death, parting, separation, divorce, etc.)


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."

Published by The Lyric, Mindful of Poetry, There is Something in the Autumn (anthology). Keywords/Tags: autumn, leaves, fall, falling, wind, barren, trees, goodbye, leaving, farewell, separation, age, aging, mortality, death, mrbepi, mrbleave

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," which dates to around age 14 or 15, or perhaps a bit later. But I worked on the poem several times over the years until it was largely finished in 1978. I am sure of the completion date because that year the poem was included in my first large poetry submission manuscript for a chapbook contest.



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has since been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish, Arabic and Romanian.



Something

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

Published by There is Something in the Autumn, The Eclectic Muse, Setu, FreeXpression, Life and Legends, Poetry Super Highway, Poet's Corner, Promosaik, Better Than Starbucks and The Chained Muse. Also translated into Romanian by Petru Dimofte, into Turkish by Nurgül Yayman, turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong, and used by the Windsor Jewish Community Centre during a candle-lighting ceremony



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Herbsttag ("Autumn Day")
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lord, it is time. Let the immense summer go.
Lay your long shadows over the sundials
and over the meadows, let the free winds blow.
Command the late fruits to fatten and shine;
O, grant them another Mediterranean hour!
Urge them to completion, and with power
convey final sweetness to the heavy wine.
Who has no house now, never will build one.
Who's alone now, shall continue alone;
he'll wake, read, write long letters to friends,
and pace the tree-lined pathways up and down,
restlessly, as autumn leaves drift and descend.

Originally published by Measure



Flight
by Michael R. Burch

It is the nature of loveliness to vanish
as butterfly wings, batting against nothingness
seek transcendence...

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)



Less Heroic Couplets: ****** Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

"****** most foul! "
cried the mouse to the owl.

"Friend, I'm no sinner;
you're merely my dinner! "
the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Published by Lighten Upand in Potcake Chapbook #7



escape!

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.

Published by Andwerve and Bewildering Stories



Love Has a Southern Flavor

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

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

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

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

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Sonnet, The Eclectic Muse, Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse, Setu (India) , Victorian Violet Press and Trinacria



Daredevil
by Michael R. Burch

There are days that I believe
(and nights that I deny)
love is not mutilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There are tightropes leaps bereave—
taut wires strumming high
brief songs, infatuations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were cannon shots’ soirees,
hearts barricaded, wise . . .
and then . . . annihilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were nights our hearts conceived
dawns’ indiscriminate sighs.
To dream was our consolation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were acrobatic leaves
that tumbled down to lie
at our feet, bright trepidations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were hearts carved into trees—
tall stakes where you and I
left childhood’s salt libations . . .

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

Where once you scraped your knees;
love later bruised your thighs.
Death numbs all, our sedation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.



Talent
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

I liked the first passage
of her poem―where it led
(though not nearly enough
to retract what I said.)
Now the book propped up here
flutters, scarcely half read.
It will keep.
Before sleep,
let me read yours instead.

There's something like love
in the rhythms of night
―in the throb of streets
where the late workers drone,
in the sounds that attend
each day’s sad, squalid end―
that reminds us: till death
we are never alone.

So we write from the hearts
that will fail us anon,
words in red
truly bled
though they cannot reveal
whence they came,
who they're for.
And the tap at the door
goes unanswered. We write,
for there is nothing more
than a verse,
than a song,
than this chant of the blessed:
"If these words
be my sins,
let me die unconfessed!
Unconfessed, unrepentant;
I rescind all my vows!"
Write till sleep:
it’s the leap
only Talent allows.



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.



Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch

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



Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribable—our love—and still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray
to warm ourselves. We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we're older now, that "love" has had its day.
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest; published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, Mandrake Poetry Review, Carnelian, Poem Kingdom, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Famous Poets and Poems, FreeXpression, PW Review, Poetic Voices, Poetry Renewal and Poetry Life & Times



Are You the Thief
by Michael R. Burch

When I touch you now,
O sweet lover,
full of fire,
melting like ice
in my embrace,

when I part the delicate white lace,
baring pale flesh,
and your face
is so close
that I breathe your breath
and your hair surrounds me like a wreath...

tell me now,
O sweet, sweet lover,
in good faith:
are you the thief
who has stolen my heart?

Originally published as “Baring Pale Flesh” by Poetic License/Monumental Moments



At Tintagel
by Michael R. Burch

That night,
at Tintagel,
there was darkness such as man had never seen...
darkness and treachery,
and the unholy thundering of the sea...

In his arms,
who is to say how much she knew?
And if he whispered her name...
"Ygraine"
could she tell above the howling wind and rain?

Could she tell, or did she care,
by the length of his hair
or the heat of his flesh,...
that her faceless companion
was Uther, the dragon,

and Gorlois lay dead?

Originally published by Songs of Innocence, then subsequently by Celtic Twilight, Fables, Fickle Muses and Poetry Life & Times



Isolde's Song
by Michael R. Burch

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night's deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring's urgency, midsummer's heat, fall's lash,
wild winter's ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life's great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold
and you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



The Wild Hunt
by Michael R. Burch

Near Devon, the hunters appear in the sky
with Artur and Bedwyr sounding the call;
and the others, laughing, go dashing by.
They only appear when the moon is full:

Valerin, the King of the Tangled Wood,
and Valynt, the goodly King of Wales,
Gawain and Owain and the hearty men
who live on in many minstrels' tales.

They seek the white stag on a moonlit moor,
or Torc Triath, the fabled boar,
or Ysgithyrwyn, or Twrch Trwyth,
the other mighty boars of myth.

They appear, sometimes, on Halloween
to chase the moon across the green,
then fade into the shadowed hills
where memory alone prevails.

Originally published by Celtic Twilight, then by Celtic Lifestyles and Auldwicce



Morgause's Song
by Michael R. Burch

Before he was my brother,
he was my lover,
though certainly not the best.

I found no joy
in that addled boy,
nor he at my breast.

Why him? Why him?
The years grow dim.
Now it's harder and harder to say...

Perhaps girls and boys
are the god's toys
when the skies are gray.

Originally published by Celtic Twilight as "The First Time"



Pellinore's Fancy
by Michael R. Burch

What do you do when your wife is a nag
and has sworn you to hunt neither fish, fowl, nor stag?
When the land is at peace, but at home you have none,
Is that, perchance, when... the Questing Beasts run?



The Last Enchantment
by Michael R. Burch

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.
Merlyn's words were only words;
and now his last enchantment wanes,
and we must put aside our swords...



Northern Flight: Lancelot's Last Love Letter to Guinevere
by Michael R. Burch

"Get thee to a nunnery..."

Now that the days have lengthened, I assume
the shadows also lengthen where you pause
to watch the sun and comprehend its laws,
or just to shiver in the deepening gloom.

But nothing in your antiquarian eyes
nor anything beyond your failing vision
repeals the night. Religion's circumcision
has left us worlds apart, but who's more wise?

I think I know you better now than then—
and love you all the more, because you are
... so distant. I can love you from afar,
forgiving your flight north, far from brute men,
because your fear's well-founded: God, forbid,
was bound to fail you here, as mortals did.

Originally published by Rotary Dial



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Truces
by Michael R. Burch

We must sometimes wonder if all the fighting related to King Arthur and his knights was really necessary. In particular, it seems that Lancelot fought and either captured or killed a fairly large percentage of the population of England. Could it be that Arthur preferred to fight than stay at home and do domestic chores? And, honestly now, if he and his knights were such incredible warriors, who would have been silly enough to do battle with them? Wygar was the name of Arthur's hauberk, or armored tunic, which was supposedly fashioned by one Witege or Widia, quite possibly the son of Wayland Smith. The legends suggest that Excalibur was forged upon the anvil of the smith-god Wayland, who was also known as Volund, which sounds suspiciously like Vulcan...

Artur took Cabal, his hound,
and Carwennan, his knife,
    and his sword forged by Wayland
    and Merlyn, his falcon,
and, saying goodbye to his sons and his wife,
he strode to the Table Rounde.

"Here is my spear, Rhongomyniad,
and here is Wygar that I wear,
    and ready for war,
    an oath I foreswore
to fight for all that is righteous and fair
from Wales to the towers of Gilead."

But none could be found to contest him,
for Lancelot had slewn them, forsooth,
so he hastened back home, for to rest him,
till his wife bade him, "Thatch up the roof! "

Originally published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, then by Celtic Twilight



Midsummer-Eve
by Michael R. Burch

What happened to the mysterious Tuatha De Danann, to the Ban Shee (from which we get the term "banshee") and, eventually, to the druids? One might assume that with the passing of Merlyn, Morgause and their ilk, the time of myths and magic ended. This poem is an epitaph of sorts.

In the ruins
of the dreams
and the schemes
of men;

when the moon
begets the tide
and the wide
sea sighs;

when a star
appears in heaven
and the raven
cries;

we will dance
and we will revel
in the devil's
fen...

if nevermore again.

Originally published by Penny Dreadful



The Pictish Faeries
by Michael R. Burch

Smaller and darker
than their closest kin,
the faeries learned only too well
never to dwell
close to the villages of larger men.

Only to dance in the starlight
when the moon was full
and men were afraid.
Only to worship in the farthest glade,
ever heeding the raven and the gull.



The Kiss of Ceridwen
by Michael R. Burch

The kiss of Ceridwen
I have felt upon my brow,
and the past and the future
have appeared, as though a vapor,
mingling with the here and now.

And Morrigan, the Raven,
the messenger, has come,
to tell me that the gods, unsung,
will not last long
when the druids' harps grow dumb.



Merlyn, on His Birth
by Michael R. Burch

Legend has it that Zephyr was an ancestor of Merlin. In this poem, I suggest that Merlin was an albino, which might have led to claims that he had no father, due to radical physical differences between father and son. This would have also added to his appearance as a mystical figure. The reference to Ursa Major, the bear, ties the birth of Merlin to the future birth of Arthur, whose Welsh name ("Artos" or "Artur") means "bear." Morydd is another possible ancestor of Merlin's. In Welsh names "dd" is pronounced "th."

I was born in Gwynedd,
or not born, as some men claim,
and the Zephyr of Caer Myrrdin
gave me my name.

My father was Madog Morfeyn
but our eyes were never the same,
nor our skin, nor our hair;
for his were dark, dark
—as our people's are—
and mine were fairer than fair.

The night of my birth, the Zephyr
carved of white stone a rune;
and the ringed stars of Ursa Major
outshone the cool pale moon;
and my grandfather, Morydd, the seer
saw wheeling, a-gyre in the sky,
a falcon with terrible yellow-gold eyes
when falcons never fly.



Merlyn's First Prophecy
by Michael R. Burch

Vortigern commanded a tower to be built upon Snowden,
but the earth would churn and within an hour its walls would cave in.

Then his druid said only the virginal blood of a fatherless son,
recently shed, would ever hold the foundation.

"There is, in Caer Myrrdin, a faery lad, a son with no father;
his name is Merlyn, and with his blood you would have your tower."

So Vortigern had them bring the boy, the child of the demon,
and, taciturn and without joy, looked out over Snowden.

"To **** a child brings little praise, but many tears."
Then the mountain slopes rang with the brays of Merlyn's jeers.

"Pure poppycock! You fumble and bumble and heed a fool.
At the base of the rock the foundations crumble into a pool! "

When they drained the pool, two dragons arose, one white and one red,
and since the old druid was blowing his nose, young Merlyn said:

"Vortigern is the white, Ambrosius the red; now, watch, indeed."
Then the former died as the latter fed and Vortigern peed.

Published by Celtic Twilight



It Is Not the Sword!
by Michael R. Burch

This poem illustrates the strong correlation between the names that appear in Welsh and Irish mythology. Much of this lore predates the Arthurian legends, and was assimilated as Arthur's fame (and hyperbole)grew. Caladbolg is the name of a mythical Irish sword, while Caladvwlch is its Welsh equivalent. Caliburn and Excalibur are later variants.

"It is not the sword,
but the man, "
said Merlyn.
But the people demanded a sign—
the sword of Macsen Wledig,
Caladbolg, the "lightning-shard."

"It is not the sword,
but the words men follow."
Still, he set it in the stone
—Caladvwlch, the sword of kings—
and many a man did strive, and swore,
and many a man did moan.

But none could budge it from the stone.

"It is not the sword
or the strength, "
said Merlyn,
"that makes a man a king,
but the truth and the conviction
that ring in his iron word."

"It is NOT the sword! "
cried Merlyn,
crowd-jostled, marveling
as Arthur drew forth Caliburn
with never a gasp,
with never a word,

and so became their king.



Uther's Last Battle
by Michael R. Burch

When Uther, the High King,
unable to walk, borne upon a litter
went to fight Colgrim, the Saxon King,
his legs were weak, and his visage bitter.
"Where is Merlyn, the sage?
For today I truly feel my age."

All day long the battle raged
and the dragon banner was sorely pressed,
but the courage of Uther never waned
till the sun hung low upon the west.
"Oh, where is Merlyn to speak my doom,
for truly I feel the chill of the tomb."

Then, with the battle almost lost
and the king besieged on every side,
a prince appeared, clad all in white,
and threw himself against the tide.
"Oh, where is Merlyn, who stole my son?
For, truly, now my life is done."

Then Merlyn came unto the king
as the Saxons fled before a sword
that flashed like lightning in the hand
of a prince that day become a lord.
"Oh, Merlyn, speak not, for I see
my son has truly come to me.

And today I need no prophecy
to see how bright his days will be."
So Uther, then, the valiant king
met his son, and kissed him twice—
the one, the first, the one, the last—
and smiled, and then his time was past.



Small Tales
by Michael R. Burch

According to legend, Arthur and Kay grew up together in Ector's court, Kay being a few years older than Arthur. Borrowing from Mary Stewart, I am assuming that Bedwyr (later Anglicized to Bedivere)might have befriended Arthur at an early age. By some accounts, Bedwyr was the original Lancelot. In any case, imagine the adventures these young heroes might have pursued (or dreamed up, to excuse tardiness or "lost" homework assignments). Manawydan and Llyr were ancient Welsh gods. Cath Pulag was a monstrous, clawing cat. ("Sorry teach! My theme paper on Homer was torn up by a cat bigger than a dragon! And meaner, too! ")Pen Palach is more or less a mystery, or perhaps just another old drinking buddy with a few good beery-bleary tales of his own. This poem assumes that many of the more outlandish Arthurian legends began more or less as "small tales, " little white lies which simply got larger and larger with each retelling. It also assumes that most of these tales came about just as the lads reached that age when boys fancy themselves men, and spend most of their free time drinking and puking...

When Artur and Cai and Bedwyr
were but scrawny lads
they had many a ***** adventure
in the still glades
of Gwynedd.
When the sun beat down like an oven
upon the kiln-hot hills
and the scorched shores of Carmarthen,
they went searching
and found Manawydan, the son of Llyr.
They fought a day and a night
with Cath Pulag (or a screeching kitten),
rousted Pen Palach, then drank a beer
and told quite a talltale or two,
till thems wasn't so shore which'un's tails wus true.

And these have been passed down to me, and to you.



The Song of Amergin
by Michael R. Burch

Amergin is, in the words of Morgan Llywelyn, "the oldest known western European poet." Robert Graves said: "English poetic education should, really, begin not with The Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin." Amergin was one of the Milesians, or sons of Mil: Gaels who invaded Ireland and defeated the mysterious Tuatha De Danann, thereby establishing a Celtic beachhead, not only on the shores of the Emerald Isle, but also in the annals of Time and Poetry.

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

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

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

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



Stonehenge
by Michael R. Burch

Here where the wind imbues life within stone,
I once stood
and watched as the tempest made monuments groan
as though blood
boiled within them.

Here where the Druids stood charting the stars
I can tell
they longed for the heavens... perhaps because
hell
boiled beneath them?



The Celtic Cross at Île Grosse
by Michael R. Burch

"I actually visited the island and walked across those mass graves of 30, 000 Irish men, women and children, and I played a little tune on me whistle. I found it very peaceful, and there was relief there." - Paddy Maloney of The Chieftans

There was relief there,
and release,
on Île Grosse
in the spreading gorse
and the cry of the wild geese...

There was relief there,
without remorse
when the tin whistle lifted its voice
in a tune of artless grief,
piping achingly high and longingly of an island veiled in myth.
And the Celtic cross that stands here tells us, not of their grief,
but of their faith and belief—
like the last soft breath of evening lifting a fallen leaf.

When ravenous famine set all her demons loose,
driving men to the seas like lemmings,
they sought here the clemency of a better life, or death,
and their belief in God gave them hope, a sense of peace.

These were proud men with only their lives to owe,
who sought the liberation of a strange new land.
Now they lie here, ragged row on ragged row,
with only the shadows of their loved ones close at hand.

And each cross, their ancient burden and their glory,
reflects the death of sunlight on their story.

And their tale is sad—but, O, their faith was grand!



At Cædmon's Grave
by Michael R. Burch

"Cædmon's Hymn, " composed at the Monastery of Whitby (a North Yorkshire fishing village), is one of the oldest known poems written in the English language, dating back to around 680 A.D. According to legend, Cædmon, an illiterate Anglo-Saxon cowherd, received the gift of poetic composition from an angel; he subsequently founded a school of Christian poets. Unfortunately, only nine lines of Cædmon's verse survive, in the writings of the Venerable Bede. Whitby, tiny as it is, reappears later in the history of English literature, having been visited, in diametric contrast, by Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker's ghoulish yet evocative Dracula.

At the monastery of Whitby,
on a day when the sun sank through the sea,
and the gulls shrieked wildly, jubilant, free,

while the wind and time blew all around,
I paced those dusk-enamored grounds
and thought I heard the steps resound

of Carroll, Stoker and of Bede
who walked there, too, their spirits freed
—perhaps by God, perhaps by need—

to write, and with each line, remember
the glorious light of Cædmon's ember,
scorched tongues of flame words still engender.

Here, as darkness falls, at last we meet.
I lay this pale garland of words at his feet.

Originally published by The Lyric



faith(less), a coronavirus poem
by Michael R. Burch

Those who believed
and Those who misled
lie together at last
in the same narrow bed

and if god loved Them more
for Their strange lack of doubt,
he kept it well hidden
till he snuffed Them out.



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.



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 14-15 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.



Insurrection
by Michael R. Burch

She has become as the night—listening
for rumors of dawn—while the dew, glistening,
reminds me of her, and the wind, whistling,
lashes my cheeks with its soft chastening.

She has become as the lights—flickering
in the distance—till memories old and troubling
rise up again and demand remembering ...
like peasants rebelling against a mad king.

Originally published by The Chained Muse



Success
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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



Sappho's Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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



The People Loved What They Had Loved Before
by Michael R. Burch

We did not worship at the shrine of tears;
we knew not to believe, not to confess.
And so, ahemming victors, to false cheers,
we wrote off love, we gave a stern address
to things that we disapproved of, things of yore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We did not build stone monuments to stand
six hundred years and grow more strong and arch
like bridges from the people to the Land
beyond their reach. Instead, we played a march,
pale Neros, sparking flames from door to door.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We could not pipe of cheer, or even woe.
We played a minor air of Ire (in E).
The sheep chose to ignore us, even though,
long destitute, we plied our songs for free.
We wrote, rewrote and warbled one same score.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

At last outlandish wailing, we confess,
ensued, because no listeners were left.
We built a shrine to tears: our goddess less
divine than man, and, like us, long bereft.
We stooped to love too late, too Learned to *****.
And the people loved what they had loved before.



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

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



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch

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 unembraceable 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 I know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the Eraser, 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 presumably a lot of office parties). This would have been after my sophomore year in college, making me around 20 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the upper-level managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time. Keywords/Tags: premonition, office, party, parting, eve, evening, stranger, strangers, wine, laughter, moon, shadows



Survivors
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

a shiver of “empathy.”

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

like a turtle retracting its neck.



Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Locker
by Michael R. Burch

All the dull hollow clamor has died
and what was contained,
removed,

reproved
adulation or sentiment,
left with the pungent darkness

as remembered as the sudden light.



Tremble
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,
scans.

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged ******,
juts.

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,
waits.

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,
tremble.



Day, and Night
by Michael R. Burch

The moon exposes pockmarked scars of craters;
her visage, veiled by willows, palely looms.
And we who rise each day to grind a living,
dream each scented night of such perfumes
as drew us to the window, to the moonlight,
when all the earth was steeped in cobalt blue―
an eerie vase of achromatic flowers
bled silver by pale starlight, losing hue.

The night begins her waltz to waiting sunrise―
adagio, the music she now hears;
and we who in the sunlight slave for succor,
dreaming, seek communion with the spheres.
And all around the night is in crescendo,
and everywhere the stars’ bright legions form,
and here we hear the sweet incriminations
of lovers we had once to keep us warm.

And also here we find, like bled carnations,
red lips that whitened, kisses drawn to lies,
that touched us once with fierce incantations
and taught us love was prettier than wise.



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.



Komm, Du ("Come, You")
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This was Rilke’s last poem, written ten days before his death. He died open-eyed in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium, of leukemia and its complications. I had a friend who died of leukemia and he was burning up with fever in the end. I believe that is what Rilke was describing here: he was literally burning alive.

Come, you—the last one I acknowledge; return—
incurable pain searing this physical mesh.
As I burned in the spirit once, so now I burn
with you; meanwhile, you consume my flesh.

This wood that long resisted your embrace
now nourishes you; I surrender to your fury
as my gentleness mutates to hellish rage—
uncaged, wild, primal, mindless, outré.

Completely free, no longer future’s pawn,
I clambered up this crazy pyre of pain,
certain I’d never return—my heart’s reserves gone—
to become death’s nameless victim, purged by flame.

Now all I ever was must be denied.
I left my memories of my past elsewhere.
That life—my former life—remains outside.
Inside, I’m lost. Nobody knows me here.



This is my translation of the first of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Rilke began the first Duino Elegy in 1912, as a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea.

First Elegy
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Who, if I objected, would hear me among the angelic orders?
For if the least One pressed me intimately against its breast,
I would be lost in its infinite Immensity!
Because beauty, which we mortals can barely endure, is the beginning of terror;
we stand awed when it benignly declines to annihilate us.
Every Angel is terrifying!

And so I restrain myself, swallowing the sound of my pitiful sobbing.
For whom may we turn to, in our desire?
Not to Angels, nor to men, and already the sentient animals are aware
that we are all aliens in this metaphorical existence.
Perhaps some tree still stands on a hillside, which we can study with our ordinary vision.
Perhaps the commonplace street still remains amid man’s fealty to materiality—
the concrete items that never destabilize.
Oh, and of course there is the night: her dark currents caress our faces ...

But whom, then, do we live for?
That longed-for but mildly disappointing presence the lonely heart so desperately desires?
Is life any less difficult for lovers?
They only use each other to avoid their appointed fates!
How can you fail to comprehend?
Fling your arms’ emptiness into this space we occupy and inhale:
may birds fill the expanded air with more intimate flying!

Yes, the springtime still requires you.
Perpetually a star waits for you to recognize it.
A wave recedes toward you from the distant past,
or as you walk beneath an open window, a violin yields virginally to your ears.
All this was preordained. But how can you incorporate it? ...
Weren't you always distracted by expectations, as if every event presaged some new beloved?
(Where can you harbor, when all these enormous strange thoughts surging within you keep
you up all night, restlessly rising and falling?)

When you are full of yearning, sing of loving women, because their passions are finite;
sing of forsaken women (and how you almost envy them)
because they could love you more purely than the ones you left gratified.

Resume the unattainable exaltation; remember: the hero survives;
even his demise was merely a stepping stone toward his latest rebirth.

But spent and exhausted Nature withdraws lovers back into herself,
as if lacking the energy to recreate them.
Have you remembered Gaspara Stampa with sufficient focus—
how any abandoned girl might be inspired by her fierce example
and might ask herself, "How can I be like her?"

Shouldn't these ancient sufferings become fruitful for us?

Shouldn’t we free ourselves from the beloved,
quivering, as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension,
so that in the snap of release it soars beyond itself?
For there is nowhere else where we can remain.

Voices! Voices!

Listen, heart, as levitating saints once listened,
until the elevating call soared them heavenward;
and yet they continued kneeling, unaware, so complete was their concentration.

Not that you could endure God's voice—far from it!

But heed the wind’s voice and the ceaseless formless message of silence:
It murmurs now of the martyred young.

Whenever you attended a church in Naples or Rome,
didn't they come quietly to address you?
And didn’t an exalted inscription impress its mission upon you
recently, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa?
What they require of me is that I gently remove any appearance of injustice—
which at times slightly hinders their souls from advancing.

Of course, it is endlessly strange to no longer inhabit the earth;
to relinquish customs one barely had the time to acquire;
not to see in roses and other tokens a hopeful human future;
no longer to be oneself, cradled in infinitely caring hands;
to set aside even one's own name,
forgotten as easily as a child’s broken plaything.

How strange to no longer desire one's desires!
How strange to see meanings no longer cohere, drifting off into space.
Dying is difficult and requires retrieval before one can gradually decipher eternity.

The living all err in believing the too-sharp distinctions they create themselves.

Angels (men say) don't know whether they move among the living or the dead.
The eternal current merges all ages in its maelstrom
until the voices of both realms are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

In the end, the early-departed no longer need us:
they are weaned gently from earth's agonies and ecstasies,
as children outgrow their mothers’ *******.

But we, who need such immense mysteries,
and for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's progress—
how can we exist without them?

Is the legend of the lament for Linos meaningless—
the daring first notes of the song pierce our apathy;
then, in the interlude, when the youth, lovely as a god, has suddenly departed forever,
we experience the emptiness of the Void for the first time—
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and aids us?



Precipice
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

They will teach you to scoff at love
from the highest, windiest precipice of reason.

Do not believe them.

There is no place safe for you to fall
save into the arms of love.
save into the arms of love.



Love’s Extreme Unction
by Michael R. Burch

Lines composed during Jeremy’s first Nashville Christian football game (he played tuba), while I watched Beth watch him.

Within the intimate chapels of her eyes—
devotions, meditations, reverence.
I find in them Love’s very residence
and hearing the ardent rapture of her sighs
I prophesy beatitudes to come,
when Love like hers commands us, “All be One!”



Keywords/Tags: Rilke, elegy, elegies, angels, beauty, terror, terrifying, desire, vision, reality, heart, love, lovers, beloved, rose, saints, spirits, souls, ghosts, voices, torso, Apollo, Rodin, panther, autumn, beggar

Published as the collection "Leave Taking"
murari sinha Sep 2010
thus do learn how to tolerate
the blow of wings
of the most inflammable flesh

after the successful sacrifice of the student-hostel
jumping into the peacock-foams
how dangerously is changing the total travel-route of the nail-polish

in the high tide of the coconut-kernel
that conquers the world
today the water-pigeon gets pain

only by the flute made of palm-leaf
can’t be written the pleasure-trip in boat
of the injured-knee night-queen that is deposited heavily
on the collar of the village-moonlight

even-then the gramophone would be playing on
even-then the courageous pheasant would proceed further
to throw towards the squirrel a dinner-sleep

then all the daughters in disguise of birds certainly
may come out from within the salted mosquito-net
burning open-ground in their  eyes

even after  
the small boats of the fig leaves                      
would slip from the chorus song
of the roses

then they are to be pulled forward to the river-bed
of the late afternoon

to make them understand again

that such Xerox-centre which can ignore its metallic-birth
does not grow even now  on either side of this muddy road

so look at to see how the  epenthesis
of the screwpine-leaf withdraws her beak from the old dome

and pours
all new mathematics

into the compact-disc stitched with the back of the sea-tortoise

if that’s not real
how in the left and right
such evil-company of the oxygen would creep

if the next part of this commentary
resumes from the umbilicus cavity of the x-mass
would the blood-sugar of the water-plankton be rising continuously

look there again
the feather of colour that is in her adolescence  
touches the cold magnet of her gamut
to disperse the cherry orchards

now if the doors of this brown triangle be got open

you can see on the screen one by one
the projection of the apex-points of the red-palash

and in the night-texture of the kathakali-kathak
they are supplying continuously  
small sun-shines in poly-packs
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
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, Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems, Bewildering Stories, Neovictorian/Cochlea

Keywords/Tags: Poet, poetic vision, sight, seeing, swimmer, underwater, breath, bubbles, blur, blurry, blurred, blurring, obscure, obscured, obscuring

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Yes, bring me Homer’s lyre, no doubt,
but first yank the bloodstained strings out!
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here we find Anacreon,
an elderly lover of boys and wine.
His harp still sings in lonely Acheron
as he thinks of the lads he left behind ...
by Anacreon or the Anacreontea, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

We who left behind the Aegean’s bellowings
Now sleep peacefully here on the mid-plains of Ecbatan:
Farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
Farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

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

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

They observed our fearful fetters,
braved the overwhelming darkness.
Now we extol their excellence:
bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I lie dead and sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that reared and nurtured me;
once again I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

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

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch, Epitaph for a Palestinian Child

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

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie―whether heaven, or hell?
Perhaps when the gulls repent―
their shriekings may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius

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

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

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

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


Erinna Epigrams

This portrait is the work of sensitive, artistic hands.
See, my dear Prometheus, you have human equals!
For if whoever painted this girl had only added a voice,
she would have been Agatharkhis entirely.
by Erinna, translation by Michael R. Burch

You, my tall Columns, and you, my small Urn,
the receptacle of Hades’ tiny pittance of ash―
remember me to those who pass by
my grave, as they dash.
Tell them my story, as sad as it is:
that this grave sealed a young bride’s womb;
that my name was Baucis and Telos my land;
and that Erinna, my friend, etched this poem on my Tomb.
by Erinna, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …
… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...
... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …
… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …
… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...
... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...
… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...
... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...
... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...
... Desire becomes oblivion ...
... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …
... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eyeing this strange distaff ...
O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!

On a Betrothed Girl
by Errina
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"
Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis―
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.
*****! O Hymenaeus!


Roman Epigrams

Wall, we're astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
Ancient Roman graffiti, translation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.
Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening―
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.

Originally published by The Chained Muse


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

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


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!


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.


W. S. Rendra translations

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.


Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.


Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

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.


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.


faith(less)
by Michael R. Burch

Those who believed
and Those who misled
lie together at last
in the same narrow bed

and if god loved Them more
for Their strange lack of doubt,
he kept it well hidden
till he snuffed Them out.


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.



veni, vidi, etc.
by Michael R. Burch

the last will and testament of a preemie, from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

i came, i saw, i figured
it was better to be transfigured,
so rather than cross my Rubicon
i fled to the Great Beyond.
i bequeath my remains, so small,
to Brutus, et al.



Paradoxical Ode to Antinatalism
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

A stay on love
would end death’s hateful sway,
someday.

A stay on love
would thus be love,
I say.

Be true to love
and thus end death’s
fell sway!



Lighten your tread:
The ground beneath your feet is composed of the dead.

Walk slowly here and always take great pains
Not to trample some departed saint's remains.

And happiest here is the hermit with no hand
In making sons, who dies a childless man.

Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri (973-1057), antinatalist Shyari
loose translation by Michael R. Burch



There were antinatalist notes in Homer, around 3,000 years ago...

For the gods have decreed that unfortunate mortals must suffer, while they remain sorrowless. — Homer, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It is best not to be born or, having been born, to pass on as swiftly as possible.—attributed to Homer, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One of the first great voices to directly question whether human being should give birth was that of Sophocles, around 2,500 years ago...

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: birth, control, procreation, childbearing, children,  antinatalist, antinatalism, contraception



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.


evol-u-shun
by Michael R. Burch

does GOD adore the Tyger
while it’s ripping ur lamb apart?

does GOD applaud the Plague
while it’s eating u à la carte?

does GOD admire ur intelligence
while u pray that IT has a heart?

does GOD endorse the Bible
you blue-lighted at k-mart?


Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Temple Hymns of Enheduanna
with modern English translations by Michael R. Burch

Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You hack down everything you see, War God!

Rising on fearsome wings
you rush to destroy our land:
raging like thunderstorms,
howling like hurricanes,
screaming like tempests,
thundering, raging, ranting, drumming,
whiplashing whirlwinds!

Men falter at your approaching footsteps.
Tortured dirges scream on your lyre of despair.

Like a fiery Salamander you poison the land:
growling over the earth like thunder,
vegetation collapsing before you,
blood gushing down mountainsides.

Spirit of hatred, greed and vengeance!
******* of heaven and earth!
Your ferocious fire consumes our land.
Whipping your stallion
with furious commands,
you impose our fates.

You triumph over all human rites and prayers.
Who can explain your tirade,
why you carry on so?


Temple Hymn 15
to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain,
dark like a mother's womb ...

Dark shrine,
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...

Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair stands on end as we near you!

Gishbanda,
like a neck-stock,
like a fine-eyed fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!

But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!

Your prince
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's Holy One,
Lord Ningishzida!

Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!

Oh Gishbanda,
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!


The Exaltation of Inanna: Opening Lines and Excerpts
Nin-me-šara by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lady of all divine powers!
Lady of the resplendent light!
Righteous Lady adorned in heavenly radiance!
Beloved Lady of An and Uraš!
Hierodule of An, sun-adorned and bejeweled!
Heaven’s Mistress with the holy diadem,
Who loves the beautiful headdress befitting the office of her own high priestess!

Powerful Mistress, seizer of the seven divine powers!
My Heavenly Lady, guardian of the seven divine powers!
You have seized the seven divine powers!
You hold the divine powers in your hand!
You have gathered together the seven divine powers!
You have clasped the divine powers to your breast!
You have flooded the valleys with venom, like a viper;
all vegetation vanishes when you thunder like Iškur!
You have caused the mountains to flood the valleys!
When you roar like that, nothing on earth can withstand you!
Like a flood descending on floodplains, O Powerful One, you will teach foreigners to fear Inanna!
You have given wings to the storm, O Beloved of Enlil!
The storms do your bidding, blasting the unbelievers!
Foreign cities cower at the chaos You cause!
Entire countries cower in dread of Your deadly South Wind!
Men cower before you in their anguished implications,
raising their pitiful outcries,
weeping and wailing, beseeching Your benevolence with many wild lamentations!
But in the van of battle, everything falls before You, O Mighty Queen!
My Queen,
You are all-conquering, all-devouring!
You continue Your attacks like relentless storms!
You howl louder than the howling storms!
You thunder louder than Iškur!
You moan louder than the mournful winds!
Your feet never tire from trampling Your enemies!
You produce much wailing on the lyres of lamentations!
My Queen,
all the Anunna, the mightiest Gods,
fled before Your approach like fluttering bats!
They could not stand in Your awesome Presence
nor behold Your awesome Visage!
Who can soothe Your infuriated heart?
Your baleful heart is beyond being soothed!
Uncontrollable Wild Cow, elder daughter of Sin,
O Majestic Queen, greater than An,
who has ever paid You enough homage?
O Life-Giving Goddess, possessor of all powers,
Inanna the Exalted!
Merciful, Live-Giving Mother!
Inanna, the Radiant of Heart!
I have exalted You in accordance with Your power!
I have bowed before You in my holy garb,
I the En, I Enheduanna!
Carrying my masab-basket, I once entered and uttered my joyous chants ...
But now I no longer dwell in Your sanctuary.
The sun rose and scorched me.
Night fell and the South Wind overwhelmed me.
My laughter was stilled and my honey-sweet voice grew strident.
My joy became dust.
O Sin, King of Heaven, how bitter my fate!
To An, I declared: An will deliver me!
I declared it to An: He will deliver me!
But now the kingship of heaven has been seized by Inanna,
at Whose feet the floodplains lie.
Inanna the Exalted,
who has made me tremble together with all Ur!
Stay Her anger, or let Her heart be soothed by my supplications!
I, Enheduanna will offer my supplications to Inanna,
my tears flowing like sweet intoxicants!
Yes, I will proffer my tears and my prayers to the Holy Inanna,
I will greet Her in peace ...
O My Queen, I have exalted You,
Who alone are worthy to be exalted!
O My Queen, Beloved of An,
I have laid out Your daises,
set fire to the coals,
conducted the rites,
prepared Your nuptial chamber.
Now may Your heart embrace me!
These are my innovations,
O Mighty Queen, that I made for You!
What I composed for You by the dark of night,
The cantor will chant by day.
Now Inanna’s heart has been restored,
and the day became favorable to Her.
Clothed in beauty, radiant with joy,
she carried herself like the elegant moonlight.
Now to the Noble Hierodule,
to the Wrecker of foreign lands
presented by An with the seven divine powers,
and to my Queen garbed in the radiance of heaven ...
O Inanna, praise!


Temple Hymn 7: an Excerpt
to the Kesh Temple of Ninhursag
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, high-situated Kesh,
form-shifting summit,
inspiring fear like a venomous viper!

O, Lady of the Mountains,
Ninhursag’s house was constructed on a terrifying site!

O, Kesh, like holy Aratta: your womb dark and deep,
your walls high-towering and imposing!

O, great lion of the wildlands stalking the high plains! ...


Temple Hymn 17: an Excerpt
to the Badtibira Temple of Dumuzi
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of jeweled lapis illuminating the radiant bed
in the peace-inducing palace of our Lady of the Steppe!


Temple Hymn 22: an Excerpt
to the Sirara Temple of Nanshe
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house, you wild cow!
Made to conjure signs of the Divine!
You arise, beautiful to behold,
bedecked for your Mistress!


Temple Hymn 26: an Excerpt
to the Zabalam Temple of Inanna
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O house illuminated by beams of bright light,
dressed in shimmering stone jewels,
awakening the world to awe!


Temple Hymn 42: an Excerpt
to the Eresh Temple of Nisaba
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of brilliant stars
bright with lapis stones,
you illuminate all lands!

...

The person who put this tablet together
is Enheduanna.
My king: something never created before,
did she not give birth to it?


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.


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?


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.


Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch

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?

Starry-eyed 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

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.


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!


Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

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

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again―
how rare.


Veronica Franco translations

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

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.


Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (II)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

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 considered a sin
to have liked *******.
Women have yet to realize
the cowardice that presides.
And if they should ever decide
to fight the shallow,
I would be the first, setting an example for them to follow.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Sessiz Gemi (“Silent Ship”)
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

for the refugees

The time to weigh anchor has come;
a ship departing harbor slips quietly out into the unknown,
cruising noiselessly, its occupants already ghosts.
No flourished handkerchiefs acknowledge their departure;
the landlocked mourners stand nurturing their grief,
scanning the bleak horizon, their eyes blurring ...
Poor souls! Desperate hearts! But this is hardly the last ship departing!
There is always more pain to unload in this sorrowful life!
The hesitations of lovers and their belovèds are futile,
for they cannot know where the vanished are bound.
Many hopes must be quenched by the distant waves,
since years must pass, and no one returns from this journey.


Full Moon
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

You are so lovely
the full moon just might
delight
in your rising,
as curious
and bright,
to vanquish night.

But what can a mortal man do,
dear,
but hope?
I’ll ponder your mysteries
and (hmmmm) try to
cope.

We both know
you have every right to say no.


The Music of the Snow
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This melody of a night lasting longer than a thousand years!
This music of the snow supposed to last for thousand years!

Sorrowful as the prayers of a secluded monastery,
It rises from a choir of a hundred voices!

As the *****’s harmonies resound profoundly,
I share the sufferings of Slavic grief.

Then my mind drifts far from this city, this era,
To the old records of Tanburi Cemil Bey.

Now I’m suddenly overjoyed as once again I hear,
With the ears of my heart, the purest sounds of Istanbul!

Thoughts of the snow and darkness depart me;
I keep them at bay all night with my dreams!


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

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

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

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


The Stake
by Michael R. Burch

Love, the heart bets,
if not without regrets,
will still prove, in the end,
worth the light we expend
mining the dark
for an exquisite heart.


If
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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


Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

Here I scrawl extravagant rainbows.
And there you go, skipping your way to school.
And here we are, drifting apart
like untethered balloons.

Here I am, creating "art,"
chanting in shadows,
pale as the crinoline moon,
ignoring your face.

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.
Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.


East Devon Beacon
by Michael R. Burch

Evening darkens upon the moors,
Forgiveness--a hairless thing
skirting the headlamps, fugitive.

Why have we come,
traversing the long miles
and extremities of solitude,
worriedly crisscrossing the wrong maps
with directions
obtained from passing strangers?

Why do we sit,
frantically retracing
love’s long-forgotten signal points
with cramping, ink-stained fingers?

Why the preemptive frowns,
the litigious silences,
when only yesterday we watched
as, out of an autumn sky this vast,
over an orchard or an onion field,
wild Vs of distressed geese
sped across the moon’s face,
the sound of their panicked wings
like our alarmed hearts
pounding in unison?


The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him―obscene illusion!―
made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness―
her ghost beyond perfection―for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.


I, Too, Sang America (in my diapers!)
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, served my country,
first as a tyke, then as a toddler, later as a rambunctious boy,
growing up on military bases around the world,
making friends only to leave them,
saluting the flag through veils of tears,
time and time again ...

In defense of my country,
I too did my awesome duty―
cursing the Communists,
confronting Them in backyard battles where They slunk around disguised as my sniggling Sisters,
while always demonstrating the immense courage
to start my small life over and over again
whenever Uncle Sam called ...

Building and rebuilding my shattered psyche,
such as it was,
dealing with PTSD (preschool traumatic stress disorder)
without the adornments of medals, ribbons or epaulets,
serving without pay,
following my father’s gruffly barked orders,
however ill-advised ...

A true warrior!
Will you salute me?


Wulf and Eadwacer (ancient Anglo-Saxon poem)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My clan’s curs pursue him like crippled game;
they'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

Wulf's on one island; we’re on another.
His island's a fortress, fastened by fens.
Here, bloodthirsty curs howl for carnage.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

My hopes pursued Wulf like panting hounds,
but whenever it rained―how I wept!―
the boldest cur grasped me in his paws:
good feelings for him, but for me loathsome!

Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you
has made me sick; your seldom-comings
have left me famished, deprived of real meat.
Have you heard, Eadwacer? Watchdog!
A wolf has borne our wretched whelp to the woods!
One can easily sever what never was one:
our song together.


Advice to Young Poets
by Nicanor Parra Sandoval
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Youngsters,
write however you will
in your preferred style.
Too much blood flowed under the bridge
for me to believe
there’s just one acceptable path.
In poetry everything’s permitted.


Prayer for a Merciful, Compassionate, etc., God to ****** His Creations Quickly & Painlessly, Rather than Slowly & Painfully
by Michael R. Burch

Lord, **** me fast and please do it quickly!
Please don’t leave me gassed, archaic and sickly!
Why render me mean, rude, wrinkly and prickly?
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re an expert killer!
Please, don’t leave me aging like Phyllis Diller!
Why torture me like some poor sap in a thriller?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, we all know you’re an expert at ******
like Abram―the wild-eyed demonic goat-herder
who’d slit his son’s throat without thought at your order.
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re a terrible sinner!
What did dull Japheth eat for his 300th dinner
after a year on the ark, growing thinner and thinner?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Dear Lord, did the lion and tiger compete
for the last of the lambkin’s sweet, tender meat?
How did Noah preserve his fast-rotting wheat?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, why not be a merciful Prelate?
Do you really want me to detest, loathe and hate
the Father, the Son and their Ghostly Mate?
Lord, why procrastinate?


Progress
by Michael R. Burch

There is no sense of urgency
at the local Burger King.

Birds and squirrels squabble outside
for the last scraps of autumn:
remnants of buns,
goopy pulps of dill pickles,
mucousy lettuce,
sesame seeds.

Inside, the workers all move
with the same très-glamorous lethargy,
conserving their energy, one assumes,
for more pressing endeavors: concerts and proms,
pep rallies, keg parties,
reruns of Jenny McCarthy on MTV.

The manager, as usual, is on the phone,
talking to her boyfriend.
She gently smiles,
brushing back wisps of insouciant hair,
ready for the cover of Glamour or Vogue.

Through her filmy white blouse
an indiscreet strap
suspends a lace cup
through which somehow the ****** still shows.
Progress, we guess, ...

and wait patiently in line,
hoping the Pokémons hold out.


Reclamation
by Michael R. Burch

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.


ANCIENT GREEK EPIGRAMS

These are my translations of ancient Greek and Roman epigrams, or they may be better described as interpretations or poems “after” the original poets …

You begrudge men your virginity?
Why? To what purpose?
You will find no one to embrace you in the grave.
The joys of love are for the living.
But in Acheron, dear ******,
we shall all lie dust and ashes.
—Asclepiades of Samos (circa 320-260 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me live with joy today, since tomorrow is unforeseeable.
―Michael R Burch, after Palladas of Alexandria

Laments for Animals

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

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

Hunter partridge,
we no longer hear your echoing cry
along the forest's dappled feeding ground
where, in times gone by,
you would decoy speckled kinsfolk to their doom,
luring them on,
for now you too have gone
down the dark path to Acheron.
―Michael R Burch, after Simmias

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

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

Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Epigrams

Euryalus, born of the blue-eyed Graces,
scion of the bright-tressed Seasons,
son of the Cyprian,
whom dew-lidded Persuasion birthed among rose-blossoms.
—Ibykos/Ibycus (circa 540 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 286, circa 564 B.C.
this poem has been titled "The Influence of Spring"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

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

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

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

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 282, circa 540 B.C.
Ibykos fragment 282, Oxyrhynchus papyrus, lines 1-32
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

... They also destroyed the glorious city of Priam, son of Dardanus,
after leaving Argos due to the devices of death-dealing Zeus,
encountering much-sung strife over the striking beauty of auburn-haired Helen,
waging woeful war when destruction rained down on longsuffering Pergamum
thanks to the machinations of golden-haired Aphrodite ...

But now it is not my intention to sing of Paris, the host-deceiver,
nor of slender-ankled Cassandra,
nor of Priam’s other children,
nor of the nameless day of the downfall of high-towered Troy,
nor even of the valour of the heroes who hid in the hollow, many-bolted horse ...

Such was the destruction of Troy.

They were heroic men and Agamemnon was their king,
a king from Pleisthenes,
a son of Atreus, son of a noble father.

The all-wise Muses of Helicon
might recount such tales accurately,
but no mortal man, unblessed,
could ever number those innumerable ships
Menelaus led across the Aegean from Aulos ...
"From Argos they came, the bronze-speared sons of the Achaeans ..."

Antipater Epigrams

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

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho,
wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

O Aeolian land, you lightly cover Sappho,
the mortal Muse who joined the Immortals,
whom Cypris and Eros fostered,
with whom Peitho wove undying wreaths,
who was the joy of Hellas and your glory.
O Fates who twine the spindle's triple thread,
why did you not spin undying life
for the singer whose deathless gifts
enchanted the Muses of Helicon?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here, O stranger, the sea-crashed earth covers Homer,
herald of heroes' valour,
spokesman of the Olympians,
second sun to the Greeks,
light of the immortal Muses,
the Voice that never diminishes.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This herald of heroes,
this interpreter of the Immortals,
this second sun shedding light on the life of Greece,
Homer,
the delight of the Muses,
the ageless voice of the world,
lies dead, O stranger,
washed away with the sea-washed sand ...
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

As high as the trumpet's cry exceeds the thin flute's,
so high above all others your lyre rang;
so much the sweeter your honey than the waxen-celled swarm's.
O Pindar, with your tender lips witness how the horned god Pan
forgot his pastoral reeds when he sang your hymns.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here lies Pindar, the Pierian trumpet,
the heavy-smiting smith of well-stuck hymns.
Hearing his melodies, one might believe
the immortal Muses possessed bees
to produce heavenly harmonies in the bridal chamber of Cadmus.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Harmonia, the goddess of Harmony, was the bride of Cadmus, so his bridal chamber would have been full of pleasant sounds.

Praise the well-wrought verses of tireless Antimachus,
a man worthy of the majesty of ancient demigods,
whose words were forged on the Muses' anvils.
If you are gifted with a keen ear,
if you aspire to weighty words,
if you would pursue a path less traveled,
if Homer holds the scepter of song,
and yet Zeus is greater than Poseidon,
even so Poseidon his inferior exceeds all other Immortals;
and even so the Colophonian bows before Homer,
but exceeds all other singers.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I, the trumpet that once blew the ****** battle-notes
and the sweet truce-tunes, now hang here, Pherenicus,
your gift to Athena, quieted from my clamorous music.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Behold Anacreon's tomb;
here the Teian swan sleeps with the unmitigated madness of his love for lads.
Still he sings songs of longing on the lyre of Bathyllus
and the albescent marble is perfumed with ivy.
Death has not quenched his desire
and the house of Acheron still burns with the fevers of Cypris.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May the four-clustered clover, Anacreon,
grow here by your grave,
ringed by the tender petals of the purple meadow-flowers,
and may fountains of white milk bubble up,
and the sweet-scented wine gush forth from the earth,
so that your ashes and bones may experience joy,
if indeed the dead know any delight.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Stranger passing by the simple tomb of Anacreon,
if you found any profit in my books,
please pour drops of your libation on my ashes,
so that my bones, refreshed by wine, may rejoice
that I, who so delighted in the boisterous revels of Dionysus,
and who played such manic music, as wine-drinkers do,
even in death may not travel without Bacchus
in my sojourn to that land to which all men must come.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Anacreon, glory of Ionia,
even in the land of the lost may you never be without your beloved revels,
or your well-loved lyre,
and may you still sing with glistening eyes,
shaking the braided flowers from your hair,
turning always towards Eurypyle, Megisteus, or the locks of Thracian Smerdies,
sipping sweet wine,
your robes drenched with the juices of grapes,
wringing intoxicating nectar from its folds ...
For all your life, old friend, was poured out as an offering to these three:
the Muses, Bacchus, and Love.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

You sleep amid the dead, Anacreon,
your day-labor done,
your well-loved lyre's sweet tongue silenced
that once sang incessantly all night long.
And Smerdies also sleeps,
the spring-tide of your loves,
for whom, tuning and turning you lyre,
you made music like sweetest nectar.
For you were Love's bullseye,
the lover of lads,
and he had the bow and the subtle archer's craft
to never miss his target.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Erinna's verses were few, nor were her songs overlong,
but her smallest works were inspired.
Therefore she cannot fail to be remembered
and is never lost beneath the shadowy wings of bleak night.
While we, the estranged, the innumerable throngs of tardy singers,
lie in pale corpse-heaps wasting into oblivion.
The moaned song of the lone swan outdoes the cawings of countless jackdaws
echoing far and wide through darkening clouds.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Who hung these glittering shields here,
these unstained spears and unruptured helmets,
dedicating to murderous Ares ornaments of no value?
Will no one cast these virginal weapons out of my armory?
Their proper place is in the peaceful halls of placid men,
not within the wild walls of Enyalius.
I delight in hacked heads and the blood of dying berserkers,
if, indeed, I am Ares the Destroyer.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May good Fortune, O stranger, keep you on course all your life before a fair breeze!
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Docile doves may coo for cowards,
but we delight in dauntless men.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here by the threshing-room floor,
little ant, you relentless toiler,
I built you a mound of liquid-absorbing earth,
so that even in death you may partake of the droughts of Demeter,
as you lie in the grave my plough burrowed.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This is your mother’s lament, Artemidorus,
weeping over your tomb,
bewailing your twelve brief years:
"All the fruit of my labor has gone up in smoke,
all your heartbroken father's endeavors are ash,
all your childish passion an extinguished flame.
For you have entered the land of the lost,
from which there is no return, never a home-coming.
You failed to reach your prime, my darling,
and now we have nothing but your headstone and dumb dust."
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the Sea
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the same;
why then do we idly blame
the Cyclades
or the harrowing waves of narrow Helle?

To protest is vain!

Justly, they have earned their fame.

Why then,
after I had escaped them,
did the harbor of Scarphe engulf me?

I advise whoever finds a fair passage home:
accept that the sea's way is its own.
Man is foam.
Aristagoras knows who's buried here.


Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains;
Leave beasts to wander stony plains;
No longer sing fierce winds to sleep,
Nor seek to enchant the tumultuous deep;
For you are dead; each Muse, forlorn,
Strums anguished strings as your mother mourns.
Mind, mere mortals, mind—no use to moan,
When even a Goddess could not save her own!


Orpheus, now you will never again enchant
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch



Orpheus, now you will never again enchant the charmed oaks,
never again mesmerize shepherdless herds of wild beasts,
never again lull the roaring winds,
never again tame the tumultuous hail
nor the sweeping snowstorms
nor the crashing sea,
for you have perished
and the daughters of Mnemosyne weep for you,
and your mother Calliope above all.
Why do mortals mourn their dead sons,
when not even the gods can protect their children from Hades?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch


The High Road to Death
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Men skilled in the stars call me brief-lifed;
I am, but what do I care, O Seleucus?
All men descend to Hades
and if our demise comes quicker,
the sooner we shall we look on Minos.
Let us drink then, for surely wine is a steed for the high-road,
when pedestrians march sadly to Death.


The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I have set my eyes upon
the lofty walls of Babylon
with its elevated road for chariots
... and upon the statue of Zeus
by the Alpheus ...
... and upon the hanging gardens ...
... upon the Colossus of the Sun ...
... upon the massive edifices
of the towering pyramids ...
... even upon the vast tomb of Mausolus ...
but when I saw the mansion of Artemis
disappearing into the cirri,
those other marvels lost their brilliancy
and I said, "Setting aside Olympus,
the Sun never shone on anything so fabulous!"


Sophocles Epigrams

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Never to be born may be the biggest boon of all.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oblivion: What a blessing, to lie untouched by pain!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The happiest life is one empty of thought.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Consider no man happy till he lies dead, free of pain at last.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What is worse than death? When death is desired but denied.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When a man endures nothing but endless miseries, what is the use of hanging on day after day,
edging closer and closer toward death? Anyone who warms his heart with the false glow of flickering hope is a wretch! The noble man should live with honor and die with honor. That's all that can be said.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Children anchor their mothers to life.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How terrible, to see the truth when the truth brings only pain to the seer!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wisdom outweighs all the world's wealth.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fortune never favors the faint-hearted.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wait for evening to appreciate the day's splendor.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Homer Epigrams

For the gods have decreed that unfortunate mortals must suffer, while they themselves are sorrowless.
—Homer, Iliad 24.525-526, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“It is best not to be born or, having been born, to pass on as swiftly as possible.”
—attributed to Homer (circa 800 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ancient Roman Epigrams

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

There is nothing so pointless, so perfidious as human life! ... The ultimate bliss is not to be born; otherwise we should speedily slip back into the original Nothingness.
—Seneca, On Consolation to Marcia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Less Heroic Couplets: Rejection Slips
by Michael R. Burch

pour Melissa Balmain

Whenever my writing gets rejected,
I always wonder how the rejecter got elected.
Are we exchanging at the same Bourse?
(Excepting present company, of course!)

I consider the term “rejection slip” to be a double entendre. When editors reject my poems, did I slip up, or did they? Is their slip showing, or is mine?



Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all

for children, however tall.
And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call

the one who was everything.
That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all

for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won’t remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.
No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.



Sailing to My Grandfather, for George Hurt
by Michael R. Burch

This distance between us
―this vast sea
of remembrance―
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spray―light fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.



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.



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!"


Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

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



Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …

… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...

... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …

… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …

… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...

... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...

… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...

... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...

... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...

... Desire becomes oblivion ...

... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …

... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eying this strange distaff ...

O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!



On a Betrothed Girl
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"

Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis —
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.

*****! O Hymenaeus!

Keywords/Tags: elegy, eulogy, child, childhood, death, death of a friend, lament, lamentation, epitaph, grave, funeral

Published as the collection "Ancient Greek Epigrams"
Aah, I love the cold
Almost harsh, or really harsh
Winter months
I love walking then
Walking alone
For miles and miles
Minutes and hours
I could keep walking
If there weren't parents
To reassure, a family,
A warm home to go back to
A dragging commitment
That is binding in every
Single link I've ever made

I could keep walking otherwise
Just a light jacket, hardly appropriate
For the weather, the temperature
Numbed by the chill
The soles of my feet sting
My feet wrinkled, grated against
My sandals, hardly sufficient
Completely dry skin, also cold
Almost too numb, maybe too corpse-like
No socks, no scarves, no gloves
No caps, no protection
Because protection is only needed
When there is an enemy

I could stay like this forever
A thought strikes me while I walk
That maybe this hopeless love
Exists solely because I am the closest
The closest I can be to being me
As I walk, and hide, and revel
Maybe even reveal Me

I silently lose myself in contemplation
Because the days are shorter
There is more space, more time to hide myself
Under warm blankets, comfortable clothes,
A cup of hot chocolate, in the cold starry nights
The sting on my cheek
That I lightly touch, can be disguised
Explained away as the caress of the cold wind

This loneliness that grows inside me
It is already so tired
Of seeing people walk away
That it is too tired, too weary
To talk to anyone, so it hides
Underneath the surface,
Appearing so much more closer
Than it ever has in these few months

I am raw, almost bleeding,
Waiting for the stars to come out
Just so they can shine on me
Over my head, down on me
With me, maybe even communicate with me
I'll pick up my drink
Acknowledge their presence
And drink to them and their beauty
Their unimaginable beauty that Always,
Without Fail, takes my breath away
My self rubs against my facade
So raw but it doesn't even matter
It is the closest to the surface
As I raise my drink and almost imagine
Myself in this lonely cold urbanscape
With all the scars, every **** thing
Not a thing out of place,
I almost imagine myself beautiful*
Revitalised but then this self withdraws
Back insideinsideinside
My facade still rubbed raw

Ah, but what a beautiful time
The cold times on the terrace
The chilling walks down nostalgia lane
No more brown leaves
Just a mere peak here and there
Like a little troublemaker
Waiting for me to go away again

*Winter is... truly one of my favourite seasons
Merry Christmas to everyone. :)
Potter Nov 2015
To find the love
Of the one I loved
Those many times before

To acknowledge my child
That I lost to the thoughts
Perceived there in my mind

To see the needs
As the numbness withdraws
For the power that they bring

To make new days of past
To see those gone
But know they do not control

To the one I loved
That I shall once more
The light now bright and sparking

To find the love
Of the one I loved
Those many times once more.
Dolores Stephen Jun 2010
There are some nights on this earth
when it is easier to ignore the signs
forget the laws and forget the composure.
Some nights ask you to smile
and it would be rude to decline.

It's very easy to forget
how heavy the days are,
sometimes.

We have these nights to remind us that
we try to smile and nothing comes out.
Nights in which it's easier to sit alone
and wait for the world to end
than to try and hold a hand.

Sometimes I wonder
if not all nights
are some-nights.

There are some nights
where joy must be squeezed out
or cracked like an egg --
elsewise it will sit, stagnant:
taunting.

Let the memories flood your mind
and stand in horror at what you find.
On some nights every recollection is
a needle jammed into your cerebral cortex.
Do not fear these nights for they are always.

The world turns and night turns to day
and turns to night and turns to etc.

An old man dies in his sleep,
a flower withdraws into its stalk
the fires subside and guide us
through this oblivion.
She wants him.
He wants to die.
They pass out, one by one.
Words fall to the floor
and sometimes -- if you're lucky--
the humming of insects and streetlights
enfolds every ripple in your brain
and you feel our concrete earth
remind you in a low tone:
'Everything is fine, status quo.
You will live another day.'

There are some nights on this earth
that are almost worth living.
Spencer Vaughn Feb 2014
I need a cigarette
not because i smoke but because:
I want to inhale something other than your toxic words
I have to feel something between my lips other than the absence of you
I require a new stench than the one you left when you walked by
I desire a new byproduct other than loneliness
I need to have something that will **** me before you do
O leave your hand where it lies cool
Upon the eyes whose lids are hot:
Its rosy shade is bountiful
Of silence, and assuages thought.
O lay your lips against your hand
And let me feel your breath through it,
While through the sense your song shall fit
   The soul to understand.

The music lives upon my brain
Between your hands within mine eyes;
It stirs your lifted throat like pain,
An aching pulse of melodies.
Lean nearer, let the music pause:
The soul may better understand
Your music, shadowed in your hand
   Now while the song withdraws.
Eilis Ni Eidhin Sep 2014
One turns to the other
Speaks in a triangled tongue
The other turns its back
And says what should be sung

One withdraws its claws
The other is likely to pause

— The End —