The HyperTexts

Michael R. Burch Family Poems



Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. These are poems he wrote for members of his family and friends who became like family. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories, puns, jokes and letters have appeared more than 6,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Unlikely Stories and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google's rankings, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books, Violets for Beth (White Violet Press, 2012) and O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013). A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed. Burch's poetry has been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by nine composers. Burch has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks. Editors, publishers, anthologists and archivists, please note that this page contains the final, authoritative versions of the poems included here that do not appear on his main poetry page at The HyperTexts.



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for all my family
and extended family


I pray tonight
the starry Light
might
surround you.

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

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

Originally published by Kritya



don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

don’t forget to remember
that Space is curved
(like your Heart)
and that even Light is bent
by your Gravity.

I have dedicated this poem to the love of my life, but you are welcome to dedicate it to the love of yours, if you like it. The opening lines were inspired by a love poem by e. e. cummings.



Beth Harris Burch, the wife of Mike Burch, turned into a work of art by Lauren McCall.



Jeremy Michael Burch, the son of Michael R. Burch and Elizabeth Harris Burch.



Jeremy Michael Burch on the left, with his uncle William Sykes Harris III.



The Desk
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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


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

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

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

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

One thing, though—

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

Originally published by TALESetc

Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

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

Will wake together, by and by.

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

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

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

Know nothing but this lullaby.

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.



Here's a "very English" picture of my mother, pushing me in pram down an English lane.



Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

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

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

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

I think this may have been the family passport picture, made when my sister Debby was a baby. That's me on the left, Debby in the middle, Sandy on the right, and mom in the background.



The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

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

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

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

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

Here are pictures of the love of my father's life: his English rose and my mother, Christine Ena Hurt (Burch), looking very fair, very English, and very beautiful:



The smiling woman behind my mother is her mother, Christine Ena Spouse Hurt. The man is her father, George Edwin Hurt Sr.

Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

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

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

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

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





Our English Rose
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The rose is—
the ornament of the earth,
the glory of nature,
the archetype of the flowers,
the blush of the meadows,
a lightning flash of beauty.

This is my translation of a Sappho epigram.

Here are pictures of my mother and father before their wedding. The boy in the middle picture is mom's younger brother, my uncle Colin Hurt.



Here are pictures from my parents' wedding in Mattersey, England:



If my parents didn't know what they were getting into with me, they were really heading into uncharted waters when they had my pesky sisters! Here I am with Sandra, known as Sandy to everyone but Herself:



Here are we are, hard at play. I believe the third picture is of grandfather Hurt's vegetable garden in Mattersey, England. He definitely had a green thumb, but I think his grandchildren were mostly making a mess.






These are my translations of Cherokee poems, proverbs and blessings that I dedicated to my father, Paul Ray Burch Jr., when he chose to forego dialysis and enter the final stage of his life ...

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing I
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I will extract the thorns from your feet.
For yet a little while longer, we will walk life's sunlit paths together.
I will love you like my own brother, my own blood.
When you are disconsolate, I will wipe the tears from your eyes.
And when you are too sad to live, I will put your aching heart to rest.

Here's my father, Paul Ray Burch Jr., on the left. This picture was taken on the day of his wedding, July 14, 1956 at the Parish Church in Mattersey, East Retford, Nottingham, England. Dad looks quite dashing. His best man, on the right, was Richard A. Allen. According to the marriage certificate, my future mother was a 20-year-old "spinster"! (My, how times and the language have changed.) Dad's profession was listed as an airman first class, and mom's as a "fell-binder." His residence was listed as Sturgate AFB, hers as her parents' house at 22 Priory Close, Mattersey. Her father's profession was listed as a railway laborer. There was no mention of her mother in those chauvinistic times. Robert Wilson was the vicar.



This picture of my father and his best man walking down an English sidewalk on an overcast, rainy day, depicts something experienced by thousands of young American men who were enchanted by the English roses they found, despite the often-dismal weather.



Cherokee Travelers' Blessing II
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

Happily may you walk
in the paths of the Rainbow.
                                           Oh,
and may it always be beautiful before you,
beautiful behind you,
beautiful below you,
beautiful above you,
and beautiful all around you
where in Perfection beauty is finished.

Cherokee Travelers' Blessing III
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

May Heaven’s warming winds blow gently there,
where you reside,
and may the Great Spirit bless all those you care for,
this side of the farther tide.

And when you go,
whether the journey is fast or slow,
may your moccasins leave many cunning footprints in the snow.
And when you look over your shoulder,
may you always find the Rainbow.

Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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

Ultimate Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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



My Great-Great Grandmother, Christine Alice Spouse, Actress



Christine Alice Spouse, portrait by Carlo Nieper



In the picture below, Robert Turner Burch is on the left and my grandfather Paul Ray Burch Sr. is on the right.



Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

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

“Nobody knows that it’s there, lad, or that it’s fit tuh eat
with some bacon drippin’s or lard.”


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


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


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

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

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

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

“Well, chile, s’m’times them times wus hard.”

In the picture below, left to right, are my grandfather Paul R. Burch Sr., William Edward Wilson and Lucille Burch Wilson, my grandfather's sister. The picture was provided by Bettie Joyce Wilson Childers, the daughter of Lucile Burch. William was the oldest child in the Wilson family, followed by Bettie, then their sister Marie.



Of Civilization and Disenchantment
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

The picture below is of my grandfather riding in a buggy with his father, the lawyer/judge Jefferson Davis Burch.



My father's father was Paul Ray Burch Sr. He worked for C. B. Ragland, in Nashville, Tennessee, as a truck driver. Paul Burch Sr. is reputed to have once lifted the back end of his truck so that a tire could be changed, a feat an English relative of the family, Russell Holland, repeated at the wedding of Sandra Jane Burch. She was named after my father's sister who died in a tragic accident at age nine ...



The first Sandra Jane Burch died on March 21, 1955. To avoid confusion with our living Sandra, I will call her Jane. Recently I came across a folder containing her schoolwork and certain other of her personal effects. Here's a picture of my sister, Debby Burch, that I found in Jane's school folder. They look like twins!



Here's a picture of Sandra Jane Burch (Boyte) ...



Here is a picture of our Aunt Jane lying in her casket, surrounded by flowers:



Jane was the daughter of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch Sr., and his second wife, Darkis Mary Stepp Burch, also known as Dottie. Here is a picture of Jane's grave in Nashville's Spring Hill Cemetery:



Here is a picture of Paul Ray Burch Sr. visiting his daughter's grave and leaving flowers:



Jane was born on December 23, 1945 (a Christmas baby!) and she died on March 21, 1955 at age nine. Her brother Paul Ray Burch Jr. was born on July 27, 1933 and died on the evening of March 20, 2013 at age 79. So he died just a few hours short of the anniversary of Jane's death. And when he died, his sister's picture was on the wall at the foot of his bed, so hers may have been the last face he saw in this world. At the time of her death, Jane was also survived by her parents, her other brother, Clint Beavers of Cleveland, Tennessee. She was also survived by her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Stepp, also of Cleveland, Tennessee. Darkis Mary Stepp Burch ("Dottie") on the left, with Chris Burch, on the steps of the Nashville Parthenon in August, 1957.



The newspaper clippings and photos below were in Jane's school folder, presumably added by her loved ones after her death.



Here are remembrances from dad's final viewing and funeral:







Before any assumes that Russell Holland got all the muscles in the family, please allow me to offer the evidence of the "guns" on "Muscle Beach":



More evidence (and my legs are much more shapely!):



But it seem only fair to note that Russell Holland entered the Guinness Book of World Records for a feat of strength, as reported by The Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times on Thursday, July 19, 1990, when he tied Geoff Capses's strongman record in the brick lift, carrying 24 bricks end-to-end, each weighing three kilos. Yes, but can he write villanelles and sonnets?



Sandra Burch Boyte is the eldest daughter and second-oldest child of Paul Burch and Christine Burch. She was born on August 17, 1959 in England. She graduated from Maplewood High School (Nashville) in 1977, and from Tennessee Technological University in 1981 with a degree in psychology.





Debby Burch White is the daughter of Paul and Christine Burch. 



A proud father at the wedding of his youngest daughter, or was he just happy to be getting rid of her?





Here are pictures of other Burch family members. The first picture below is of Lillian Lee holding me in May of 1959. The second picture is of Paul Burch Sr. holding me in May of 1958, when I was a few months old. The third picture, dated January 1960,  is of Eric Lee, Lillian's second husband, whom we called "Pappy."



The pictures below are of me on the beach with my grandmother, Ena Hurt, and my Uncle Colin Hurt.





Garrett White, my sister Debby Burch White and Walter White.

Photo

Samantha White is the daughter of Debby Burch White and Walter White.






Elizabeth Steed Harris Burch is the wife of Michael Ray Burch and the mother of Jeremy Michael Burch. She graduated from Little Rock's Lakeside High School in 1986, and attended the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), Belmont College (Nashville) and Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro), before dropping out to become a full-time mother, her true calling. She is also an award-winning actress and singer.



Moments
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

There were moments full of promise,
like the petal-scented rainfall of early spring,
when to hold you in my arms and to kiss your willing lips
seemed everything.

There are moments strangely empty
full of pale unearthly twilight—how the cold stars stare!
when to be without you is a dark enchantment
the night and I share.






Enigma
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth
 
O, terrible angel,
bright lover and avenger,
full of whimsical light and vile anger;
wild stranger,
seeking the solace of night, or the danger;
pale foreigner,
alien to man, or savior.

Who are you,
seeking consolation and passion
in the same breath,
screaming for pleasure, bereft
of all articles of faith,
finding life
harsher than death?

Grieving angel,
giving more than taking,
how lucky the man
who has found in your love, this—our reclamation;
fallen wren,
you must strive to fly though your heart is shaken;
weary pilgrim,
you must not give up though your feet are aching;
lonely child,
lie here still in my arms; you must soon be waking.


Because Her Heart Is Tender
by Michael R. Burch

 for Beth


She scrawled soft words in soap: "Never Forget,"
Dove-white on her car's window, and the wren,
because her heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her. As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: "Never Forget,"
and kept her heart's own counsel. No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers' glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on,
she stitches in wet linen: "NEVER FORGET,"
and listens to her heart's emphatic song.

The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when fledglings fell beyond, beyond, beyond ...
its reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.

She writes in adamant: "NEVER FORGET"
because her heart is tender with regret.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love of my life,
light of my morning
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.
Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.



Paula Hurt Harden is an English first cousin semi-adopted by the Burch clan.



Here is Beth with the newest member of our extended, ever-widening family: Talen Jace White, the son of Elon Adriel White. Elon has been like a second son to Beth, and a brother to Jeremy.



Yes, that's an ice pack on Beth's knee in the picture above. Beth is very accident prone. In fact, I once wrote a short story about her called "The Hoblitt." Here's Jeremy with his big brother, Elon White. They look even more alike now that Jeremy has grown a beard and his hair is longer.



Beth has also decided to adopt Nicole Elizabeth Prince White, also known as Nikke.

Photo: Dancing at the Old Bank in Swindon's Old Town district.

Here is Mike Burch on a freedom walk for Palestinian human rights. He was one of the speakers at the first freedom walk for Palestine to be held in Nashville.



Beth Burch channeling her inner Elvira!

Photo

Beth Burch enchants (or terrifies) the neighborhood children with her Haunted House on the Hill:



Beth's mother, Susan Elizabeth Johnson, appears in The Razorback, circa 1965. She later changed the spelling of her first name to Suzan.



William Sykes Harris I, affectionately called Paw-Paw, Beth's grandfather on her father's side:



William Sykes Harris, 89, of Warren, died Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008, at his home. The son of V. B. Harris and Luna Sykes Harris, he was born Oct. 17, 1918, in Bradley County. He received his education in the Warren Public School System. He attended Arkansas A&M College for two years and was a 1941 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He served as a pilot and instructor in the Eastern Flying Command division of the U.S. Army Corp., stationed at Moultrie, Ga., until the end of World War II. He worked at Sam Dixon Hardwood Flooring Co. and Bradley Lumber Co. and founded Wilson Oak Flooring and Sykes Flooring Co. He served as past president of the American Parquet Association for 17 years. He was past member and president of the Warren Rotary Club, a recipient of the Bradley County Citizen of the Year Award, a founding member and past president of the Warren Country Club, a member of the First United Methodist Church, and past chairman of the administrative board of the church. He was director of Warren Bank and Trust Co. for 30 years. He served a 10-year term on the University of Arkansas board of trustees with two years as chairman. He was named honorary citizen of Fayetteville and presented a key to the city. He served as director of the University of Arkansas Foundation for 10 years, and was also a member of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center Board. In 1993, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Razorback Foundation. In 1995, he received the University of Arkansas at Monticello Alumni Award for Achievement and Merit. He served as a director for the Cotton Bowl Association for five years, and was awarded the Chancellors Award from University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock  He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Mary Steed Harris; and a son, William Sykes Harris Jr. Survivors include a daughter, Sally Harris Barnett of Casscoe; a sister, Frances Harris Hedrick of Warren; five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

First Dance
by Michael R. Burch

for Sykes and Mary Harris

Beautiful ballerina—
so pert, pretty, poised and petite,
how lightly you dance for your waiting Beau
on those beautiful, elegant feet!
How palely he now awaits you, although
he’ll glow from the sparks when you meet!

William Sykes Harris III, Beth Harris Burch, William Sykes Harris I, Sally Barnett (Beth's aunt), and Mike Burch (still the tallest!):



William Sykes Harris I (Paw-Paw), with Mike Burch (looking a bit scraggly):



Mike Burch reading with Melody, another member of the Burch clan.



Beth looking angelic by our front yard swing, with an American flag in the background.





Reflex
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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



Passages on Fatherhood
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

His cherubic beauty
is felicity
to simplicity and passion—

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

***

It’s hard to be “wise”
when the years
career through our lives

and bees in their hives
test faith
and belief

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

***

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

is useless
unless
it encompasses this:

his kiss.



Boundless
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



First Steps
by Michael R. Burch

for my goddaughter, Caitlin Shea Murphy

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

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

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

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



The Pain of Love

by Michael R. Burch

for T. M.

The pain of love is this:
the parting after the kiss;

the train steaming from the station
whistling abnegation;

each interstate’s bleak white bar
that vanishes under your car;

every hour and flower and friend
that cannot be saved in the end;

dear things of immeasurable cost ...
now all irretrievably lost.

The title “The Pain of Love” was suggested by Little Richard, then eighty years old, in an interview with Rolling Stone. Little Richard said someone should create a song called “The Pain of Love.” How could I not obey a living legend? I have always found the departure platforms of railway stations and the vanishing broken white bars of highway dividing lines to be depressing, so they were natural images for my poem. Perhaps someone can set the lyrics to music and fulfill the Great Commission!



Lean Harvests
by Michael R. Burch

for T.M.

the trees are shedding their leaves again:
another summer is over.
the Christians are praising their Maker again,
but not the disconsolate plover:
i hear him berate
the fate
of his mate;
he claims God is no body’s lover.

Published by The Rotary Dial and Angle



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gulls,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss—
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here ...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back—
one long, descending glide ...

3.
Disgruntledly you grope dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells’ bright forts ...
You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts—
this way and that ...
Contentious, shrewd, you scan—
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.

Originally published by Able Muse



Peace Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

for Jim Dunlap

Be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.

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

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

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

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



Keep the Body Well
by Michael R. Burch

for William Sykes Harris III

Is the soul connected to the brain
by a slender silver thread,
so that when the thread is severed
we call the body “dead”
while the soul — released from fear and pain —
is able then to rise
beyond earth’s binding gravity
to heaven’s welcoming skies?

If so — no need to quail at death,
but keep the body well,
for when the body suffers
the soul experiences hell.



The Discovery
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

What use were my arms, before they held you?
What did my lips know of love, before they encountered yours?
I learned I was made for your heart, so true!,
to overwhelm with its tender force.



Dearly Beloved
by Michael R. Burch

for Suzan Blacksmith

She was

Dearly Beloved by her children, who gather
to pay their respects; they remember her
as they clung together through frightful weather,
always learning that Love can persevere ...

She was

Dearly Beloved by family and friends
who saw her great worth, even as she grew frail;
for they saw with Love’s eyes how Love’s vision transcends,
how her heart never faltered, through cyclones and hail ...

She is

Dearly Beloved, well-loved, sadly missed ...
and, while we mourn the lost days of a life too-soon ended,
we also rejoice that her suffering is past ...
she now lives in the Light, by kind Angels befriended.

And if

others were greater in fortune and fame,
and if some had iron wills when life’s pathways grew dark ...
still, since Love’s the great goal, we now reaffirm her claim
to the highest of honors: a mother’s Heart.



Beyond the Tempest
by Michael R. Burch

for Martha Pilkington Johnson

Martha Johnson was a formidable woman,
like her namesake, Martha Washington—
a woman like the Rock of Gibraltar,
a sure and steadfast refuge for her children and grandchildren
against the surging storms of life.

But later in her life
I beheld her transformation:
her hair became like a corona of light,
as if she were intent on becoming an angel
and something in her visage
brightened and softened,
as if she were preparing to enter heaven
where love and compassion rule
and the troubles of earth are like a tempest in teapot.



Wickett
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

and be reunited
with all our Good Tribe —
with Harmony and Paw-Paw
and Mary at their side.

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



Dog Daze
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



The Resting Place
by Michael R. Burch

for Harmony

Sleep, then, child;
you were dearly loved.

Sleep, and remember
her well-loved face,

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

with love’s infinite grace,
such tender caresses!

*

When autumn came early,
you could not stay.

Now, wherever you wander,
the wildflowers bloom

and love is eternal.
Her heart’s great room

is your resting place.

*

Await by the door
her remembered step,

her arms’ warm embraces,
that gathered you in.

Sleep, child, and remember.
Love need not regret

its moment of weakness,
for that is its strength,

And when you awaken,
she will be there,

smiling,
at the Rainbow Bridge.



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!”



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.



My Touchstone
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather George Edwin Hurt Sr.

A man is known
by the life he lives
and those he leaves,

by each heart touched,
which, left behind,
forever grieves.



Melting
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Entirely, as spring consumes the snow,
the thought of you consumes me: I am found
in rivulets, dissolved to what I know
of former winters’ passions. Underground,
perhaps one slender icicle remains
of what I was before, in some dark cave—
a stalactite, long calcified, now drains
to sodden pools, whose milky liquid laves
the colder rock, thus washing something clean
that never saw the light, that never knew
the crust could break above, that light could stream:
so luminous, so bright, so beautiful ...
I lie revealed, and so I stand transformed,
and all because you smiled on me, and warmed.



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

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



Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Flea



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

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

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

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



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of the Holocaust and Gaza

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

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

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



My English uncle, my mother's brother, George Edwin Hurt Jr., was born on February 27, 1931 and died on November 24, 2012.



Joy in the Morning
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George Edwin and Christine Ena Hurt

There will be joy in the morning
now this long twilight is over
and their separation has ended.
For fourteen years,
he had not seen her
whom he first befriended,
then courted and married.
Let there be joy, and no mourning,
for now in his arms she is carried
over a threshold vastly sweeter.
He never lost her;
she only tarried
until he was able to meet her.



Sailing to My Grandfather
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

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.

Note: Under the Sextant’s Stars is a painting by Benini.



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

"My father!"
"My son!"

NOTE: “Sanctuary at Dawn” appeared in my Just a Dream manuscript, so it was written either in high school or during my first two years of college. While 1976 is an educated guess, it was definitely written sometime between 1974 and 1978. At that time thirty seemed “old” to me and I used that age more than once to project my future adult self. For instance, in the poem “You.”



Love is her Belief and her Commandment
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love is her belief and her commandment;
in restless dreams at night, she dreams of Love;
and Love is her desire and her purpose;
and everywhere she goes, she sings of Love.

There is a tomb in Palestine: for others
the chance to stake their claims (the Chosen Ones),
but in her eyes, it’s Love’s most hallowed chancel
where Love was resurrected, where one comes
in wondering awe to dream of resurrection
to blissful realms, where Love reigns over all
with tenderness, with infinite affection.

While some may mock her faith, still others wonder
because they see the rare state of her soul,
and there are rumors: when she prays the heavens
illume more brightly, as if saints concur
who keep a constant vigil over her.

And once she prayed beside a dying woman:
the heavens opened and the angels came
in the form of long-departed friends and loved ones,
to comfort and encourage. I believe
not in her God, but always in her Love.



Your Gift
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Counsel, console.
This is your gift.
Calm, kiss and encourage.
Tenderly lift
each world-wounded heart
from its fatal dart.
Mend every rift.
Bid pain, “Depart!”
Save every sorrow
for your own untaught heart.



The One and Only
by Michael R. Burch

If anyone ever loved me,
It was you.
If anyone ever cared
beyond mere things declared;
if anyone ever knew ...
My darling, it was you.

If anyone ever touched
my beating heart as it flew,
it was you,
and only you.




She Gathered Lilacs
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Warming Her Pearls
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

Originally published by Erosha


Are You the Thief
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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



She Spoke
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

She spoke
and her words
were like a ringing echo dying
or like smoke
rising and drifting
while the earth below is spinning.

She awoke
with a cry
from a dream that had no ending,
without hope
or strength to rise,
into hopelessness descending.

And an ache
in her heart
toward that dream, retreating,
left a wake
of small waves
in circles never completing.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Let Me Give Her Diamonds
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Let me give her diamonds
for my heart’s
sharp edges.

Let me give her roses
for my soul’s
thorn.

Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.

Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter
season.

Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.

Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.

Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts
require

the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.



Once
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Once when her kisses were fire incarnate
and left in their imprint bright lipstick, and flame,
when her breath rose and fell over smoldering dunes,
leaving me listlessly sighing her name . . .

Once when her breasts were as pale, as beguiling,
as wan rivers of sand shedding heat like a mist,
when her words would at times softly, mildly rebuke me
all the while as her lips did more wildly insist . . .

Once when the thought of her echoed and whispered
through vast wastelands of need like a Bedouin chant,
I ached for the touch of her lips with such longing
that I vowed all my former vows to recant . . .

Once, only once, something bloomed, of a desiccate seed—
this implausible blossom her wild rains of kisses decreed.

Originally published by The Lyric



At Once
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Though she was fair,
though she sent me the epistle of her love at once
and inscribed therein love’s antique prayer,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would dare
pain’s pale, clinging shadows, to approach me at once,
the dark, haggard keeper of the lair,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would share
the all of her being, to heal me at once,
yet more than her touch I was unable bear.
I did not love her at once.

And yet she would care,
and pour out her essence ...
and yet—there was more!
I awoke from long darkness,

and yet—she was there.
I loved her the longer;
I loved her the more
because I did not love her at once.

Originally published by The Lyric



She is brighter than dawn
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

There’s a light about her
like the moon through a mist:
a bright incandescence
with which she is blessed

and my heart to her light
like the tide now is pulled ...
she is fair, O, and bright
like the moon silver-veiled.

There’s a fire within her
like the sun’s leaping forth
to lap up the darkness
of night from earth’s hearth

and my eyes to her flame
like twin moths now are drawn
till my heart is consumed.
She is brighter than dawn.



A True Story
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Jeremy hit the ball today,
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away

a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!)

Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across his neighbor’s yard.
So very hard across her yard

the bat that boomed a mighty “THWACK!”
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.

Originally published by TALESetc



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 dew-laden 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.



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.



Picturebook Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira


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

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



The Aery Faery Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira

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



Tallen the Mighty Thrower
by Michael R. Burch

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



Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch

for George Edwin Hurt Sr.

When I was a child
I never considered man’s impermanence,
for you were a mountain of adamant stone:
a man steadfast, immense,
and your words rang.

And when you were gone,
I still heard your voice, which never betrayed,
"Be strong and of a good courage,
neither be afraid ..."
as the angels sang.

And, O!, I believed
for your words were my truth, and I tried to be brave
though the years slipped away
with so little to save
of that talk.

Now I'm a man—
a man ... and yet Grandpa ... I'm still the same child
who sat at your feet
and learned as you smiled.
Be that rock.

I don't remember when I wrote this poem, but I will guess around age 18 in 1976. The verse quoted is from an old, well-worn King James Bible my grandfather gave me after his only visit to the United States, as he prepared to return to England with my grandmother. I was around eight at the time and didn't know if I would ever see my grandparents again, so I was heartbroken—destitute, really. Fortunately my father was later stationed at an Air Force base in Germany and we were able to spend four entire summer vacations with my grandparents. I was also able to visit them in England several times as an adult. But the years of separation were very difficult for me and I came to detest things that separated me from my family and friends: the departure platforms of train stations, airport runways, even the white dividing lines on lonely highways and interstates as they disappeared behind my car. My idea of heaven became a place where we are never again separated from our loved ones. And that puts hell here on earth.



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

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

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, The Chained Muse and Poetry Life & Times. This is a poem I wrote for my favorite college English teacher, George King, about poetic kinship, brotherhood and romantic flights of fancy.

Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Children's Poems, Doggerel, Early Poems, Epigrams and Quotes, Epitaphs, Erotic Poems, Free Verse, Haiku, Limericks, Love Poems, Nature and Animal Poems, Rejection Slips, Romantic Poems, Song Lyrics, Sonnets, Time and Death, Villanelles, Criticism, Poetry by Michael R. Burch, Did Lord Bryon inspire the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?

Self-Analysis Pages: "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Something" Analysis, "Self Reflection" Analysis

The HyperTexts