The HyperTexts

Free Verse
by Michael R. Burch

What is free verse, exactly? Socrates would advise us to define the term "free verse" before using it! I like the original French term vers libre ("liberated verse"). Some of my free verse poems rhyme, some don't. Some are more metrical/musical than others. What these poems share is being "liberated" from rules and being able to do pretty much do as they please.

These are free verse poems (is that redundant?) that start with the first non-rhyming poem that I wrote as a teenager ...



Something
―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba
by Michael R. Burch

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which finality swept into a corner, where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

This was my first poem that didn't rhyme, written in my late teens. The poem came to me "from blue nothing" (to borrow a phrase from my friend the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier). Years later, I dedicated the poem to the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba.



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 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 famous love poem by e. e. cummings. I went through a "cummings phase" around age 15 and wrote a number of poems "under the influence."



Lady’s Favor
by Michael R. Burch

May
spring
fling
her riotous petals
devil-
may-care
into the air,
ignoring the lethal
nettles
and may
May
cry gleeful-
ly Hooray!
as the abundance
settles,
till a sudden June
swoon
leave us out of tune,
torn,
when the last rose is left
inconsolably bereft,
rudely shorn
of every device but her thorn.



Southern Icarus
by Michael R. Burch

Windborne, lover of heights,
unspooled from the truck’s wildly lurching embrace,
you climb, skittish kite . . .

What do you know of the world’s despair,
gliding in vast          solitariness           there,
so that all that remains is to

fall?

Only a little longer the wind invests its sighs;
you
stall,
spread-eagled, as the canvas snaps

and flaps
its white rebellious wings,
and all

the houses watch with baffled eyes.



brrExit
by Michael R. Burch

what would u give
to simply not exist—
for a painless exit?
he asked himself, uncertain.

then from behind
the hospital room curtain
a patient screamed—
"my life!"



The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

With every wearying year
the weight of the winter grows
and while the schoolgirl outgrows
her clothes,
the widow disappears
in hers.



Sometimes the Dead
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

a soft blur.

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

and flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

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



grave request
by Michael R. Burch

come to ur doom
in Tombstone;

the stars stark and chill
over Boot Hill

care nothing for ur desire;

still,

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

for there’s nothing to life but the thrill
of living until u expire;
so come, spend ur last hardearned bill
on Tombstone.



briefling
by Michael R. Burch

manishatched,hopsintotheMix,
cavorts,hassex(quick!,spawnanewBrood!);
then,likeamayfly,he’ssuddenlygone:
plantfood



bachelorhoodwinked
by Michael R. Burch

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

u
are
chic
as a sheikh's
harem girl in the sheets
but now my bed’s not my own
and my kingdom's been overthrown!



Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all tied up
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp.

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something more important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure
that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure.
After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.



Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch

“Burn Ovid”—Austin Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sex 101
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

The most unlikely coupling—

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

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

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

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



Veiled
by Michael R. Burch

She has belief
without comprehension
and in her crutchwork shack
she is
much like us . . .

tamping the bread
into edible forms,
regarding her children
at play
with something akin to relief . . .

ignoring the towers ablaze
in the distance
because they are not revelations
but things of glass,
easily shattered . . .

and if you were to ask her,
she might say—
sometimes God visits his wrath
upon an impious nation
for its leaders’ sins,

and we might agree:
seeing her mutilations.



Lucifer, to the Enola Gay
by Michael R. Burch

Go then,
and give them my meaning
so that their teeming
streets
become my city.

Bring back a pretty
flower—
a chrysanthemum,
perhaps, to bloom
if but an hour,
within a certain room
of mine
where
the sun does not rise or fall,
and the moon,
although it is content to shine,
helps nothing at all.

There,
if I hear the wistful call
of their voices
regretting choices
made
or perhaps not made
in time,
I can look back upon it and recall,
in all
its pale forms sublime,
still
Death will never be holy again.



escape!
by michael r. burch

for anaïs vionet

to live among the daffodil folk . . .
slip down the rainslickened drainpipe . . .
suddenly pop out
the GARGANTUAN SPOUT . . .
minuscule as alice, shout
yippee-yi-yee!
in wee exultant glee
to be leaving behind the
LARGE
THREE-DENALI GARAGE.



Escape!!
by Michael R. Burch

You are too beautiful,
too innocent,
too inherently lovely
to merely reflect the sun’s splendor ...

too full of irresistible candor
to remain silent,
too delicately fawnlike
for a world so violent ...

Come, my beautiful Bambi
and I will protect you ...
but of course you have already been lured away
by the dew-laden roses ...



Loose Knit
by Michael R. Burch

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

And if her hand jerks and twitches in puppet-like fits,
she tells herself
reality is not as threadbare as it seems ...

that a little more darning may gather loose seams.

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



It’s Hard Not To Be Optimistic: An Updated Sonnet to Science
by Michael R. Burch

“DNA has cured deadly diseases and allowed
labs to create animals with fantastic new
features.” — U.S. News & World Report

It’s hard not to be optimistic
when things are so wondrously futuristic:
when DNA, our new Louie Pasteur,
can effect an autonomous, miraculous cure,
while labs churn out fluorescent monkeys
who, with infinite typewriters, might soon outdo USN&WR’s flunkeys.

It’s hard not to be optimistic
when the world is so delightfully pluralistic:
when Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive,
and Hawking says time can run backwards. We thrive,
befuddled drones, on someone else’s regurgitated nectar,
while our cheers drown out poet-alarmists who might Hector

the Achilles heel of pure science (common sense)
and reporters who tap out supersillyous nonsense.

NOTE: I am a fan of both real science and science fiction, and I like to think I can tell the difference, at least between the two extremes. I feel confident that Schrödinger didn’t think the cat in his famous experiment was both dead and alive. Rather, he was pointing out that we can’t know until we open the box, scratchings and smell aside. While traveling backwards in time is great for science fiction, it seems extremely doubtful as a practical application. And as for DNA curing deadly diseases ... well, it must have created them, so perhaps don’t give it too much credit!

Submitted to U.S. News & World Report

Dear Editor,

While I’m usually a fan of your magazine, as a writer I must take to task the Frankensteinian logic of the excerpt I cited, and I challenge you to publish my “letter” as proof that poets do have a function in the third millennium, even if it is only to suggest that paid writers should not create such outlandish, freakish horrors of the English language.

Somewhat irked, but still a fan,
Michael R. Burch



The Octopi Jars
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

Published by Triplopia and The Poetic Musings of Sam Hudson



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

Athena takes me
sometimes by the hand

and we go levitating
through strange Dreamlands

where Apollo sleeps
in his dark forgetting

and Passion seems
like a wise bloodletting

and all I remember
,upon awaking,

is: to Love sometimes
is like forsaking

one’s Being—to glide
heroically beyond thought,

forsaking the here
for the There and the Not.

*

O, finally to Burn,
gravity beyond escaping!

To plummet is Bliss
when the blisters breaking

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

Feathers and wax
and the watchers huddle ...

Flocculent sheep,
O, and innocent lambs!,

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

*

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

for the Night has Wings
gentler than Moonbeams—

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

fluttering off
to quarry the Sphinx.

*

Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Quixotic, I seek Love
amid the tarnished

rusted-out steel
when to live is varnish.

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

soak by the candle,
aflame in the tub.

*

Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Somewhither, somewhither
aglitter and strange,

we must moult off all knowledge
or perish caged.

*

I am reconciled to Life
somewhere beyond thought—

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

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

so fatten the oxen;
make a nice baste.

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

though we injure noone,
ourselves wildaglow.



Lozenge
by Michael R. Burch

When I was closest to love, it did not seem
real at all, but a thing of such tenuous sweetness
it might dissolve in my mouth
like a lozenge of sugar.

When I held you in my arms, I did not feel
our lack of completeness,
knowing how easy it was
for us to cling to each other.

And there were nights when the clouds
sped across the moon’s face,
exposing such rarified brightness
we did not witness

so much as embrace
love’s human appearance.



Orpheus
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

I.

Many a sun
and many a moon
I walked the earth
and whistled a tune.

I did not whistle
as I worked:
the whistle was my work.
I shirked

nothing I saw
and made a rhyme
to children at play
and hard time.

II.

Among the prisoners
I saw
the leaden manacles
of Law,

the heavy ball and chain,
the quirt.
And yet I whistled
at my work.

III.

Among the children’s
daisy faces
and in the women’s
frowsy laces,

I saw redemption,
and I smiled.
Satanic millers,
unbeguiled,

were swayed by neither girl,
nor child,
nor any God of Love.
Yet mild

I whistled at my work,
and Song
broke out,
ere long.



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

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

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



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.



Privilege
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Harvey Stanbrough, an ex-marine who was nominated for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize and has written passionately and eloquently about the horror and absurdity of war in Lessons for a Barren Population.

No, I will never know
what you saw or what you felt,
thrust into the maw of Eternity,

watching the mortars nightly
greedily making their rounds,
hearing the soft damp hiss

of men’s souls like helium escaping
their collapsing torn bodies,
or lying alone, feeling the great roar

of your own heart.
But I know:
there is a bitter knowledge

of death I have not achieved.
Thus in thankful ignorance,
and especially for my son

and for all who benefit so easily
at so unthinkable a price,
I thank you.



no foothold
by Michael R. Burch

there is no hope;
therefore i became invulnerable to love.
now even god cannot move me:
nothing to push or shove,
no foothold.

so let me live out my remaining days in clarity,
mine being the only nativity,
my death the final crucifixion
and apocalypse,

as far as the i can see ...



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?



Resemblance
by Michael R. Burch

Take this geode with its rough exterior—
crude-skinned, brilliant-hearted ...

a diode of amethyst—wild, electric;
its sequined cavity—parted, revealing.

Find in its fire all brittle passion,
each jagged shard relentlessly aching.

Each spire inward—a fission startled;
in its shattered entrails—fractured light,

the heart ice breaking.



Imperfect Sonnet
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch
a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

I.

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time alone,
not untouched,
and I am as they were—
                                       unsure,
and the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.

Ah, faithless lover—
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has leapt from the pinnacle of love,
and the result of every infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.

A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we seldom gauge Time’s speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.

Ungentle maiden—
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.

A measureless rhythm rules the night—
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.

So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills
that groan as I do, yet somehow sleep
through the nightjar’s cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any . . .
how can I, when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed in whorls of fretted lace,
and a tear upon your pillowcase?

VII.

If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled strange lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today—
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude—
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone by himself, to think.

VIII.

And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.

Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.

X.

A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.

This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these hallowed halls.



Kindred (II)
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

What is the dawn now, to you or to me?
We are as one,
out of favor with the sun.

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

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

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



The Evolution of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love among the infinitesimal
flotillas of amoebas is a dance
of transient appendages, wild sails
that gather in warm brine and then express
one headstream as two small, divergent wakes.

Minuscule voyage—love! Upon false feet,
the pseudopods of uprightness, we creep
toward self-immolation: two nee one.

We cannot photosynthesize the sun,
and so we love in darkness, till we come
at last to understand: man’s spineless heart
is alien to any land.
                             We part
to single cells; we rise on buoyant tears,
amoeba-light, to breathe new atmospheres ...
and still we sink.
                         The night is full of stars
we cannot grasp, though all the World is ours.

Have we such cells within us, bent on love
to ever-changingness, so that to part
is not to be the same, or even one?
Is love our evolution, or a scream
against the thought of separateness—a cry
of strangled recognition? Love, or die,
or love and die a little. Hopeful death!
Come scale these cliffs, lie changing, share this breath.



Mending
by Michael R. Burch

I am besieged with kindnesses;
sometimes I laugh,
delighted for a moment,
then resume
the more seemly occupation of my craft.

I do not taste the candies;
the perfume
of roses is uplifted
in a draft
that vanishes into the ceiling’s fans

that spin like old propellers
till the room
is full of ghostly bits of yarn . . .
My task
is not to knit,

but not to end too soon.



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

There is a small cleanness about her,
as though she has always just been washed,
and there is a dull obedience to convention
in her accommodating slenderness
as she feints at her salad.

She has never heard of Faust, or Frost,
and she is unlikely to have been seen
rummaging through bookstores
for mementos of others
more difficult to name.

She might imagine “poetry”
to be something in common between us,
as we write, bridging the expanse
between convention and something . . .
something the world calls “art”
for want of a better word.

At night I scream
at the conventions of both our worlds,
at the distances between words
and their objects: distances
come lately between us,
like a clean break.



Psycho Analysis
by Michael R. Burch

This is not what I need . . .
analysis,
paralysis,
as though I were a seed
to be planted,
supported
with a stick and some string
until I emerge.
Your words
are not water. I need something
more nourishing,
like cherishing,
something essential, like love
so that when I climb
out of the lime
and the mulch. When I shove
myself up
from the muck . . .
we can fuck.



Consequence
by Michael R. Burch

They are fresh-faced,
not innocent, but perhaps not yet jaded,
oblivious to time and death,
of each counted breath
in the pendulum’s sway
falling unheeded.

They are bright, undissuaded
by foreign tongues,
by sepulchers empty and waiting,
by sarcophagi of ancient kings,
by proclamations,
by rituals of scalpels and rings.

They are sworn, they are fated
to misadventure and grief;
but they revel in life
till the sun falls, receding
into silent halls
to torrents of inconsequential tears . . .

. . . to brief tragedies of tears
when they consider this: No one else sees.
But I know.
We all know.
We all know the consequence
of being so young.



Cycles
by Michael R. Burch

I see his eyes caress my daughter’s breasts
through her thin cotton dress,
and how an indiscreet strap of her white bra
holds his bald fingers
in fumbling mammalian awe . . .

And I remember long cycles into the bruised dusk
of a distant park,
hot blushes,
wild, disembodied rushes of blood,
portentous intrusions of lips, tongues and fingers . . .

and now in him the memory of me lingers
like something thought rancid,
proved rotten.
I see Another again—hard, staring, and silent—
though long-ago forgotten . . .

And I remember conjectures of panty lines,
brief flashes of white down bleacher stairs,
coarse patches of hair glimpsed in bathroom mirrors,
all the odd, questioning stares . . .

Yes, I remember it all now,
and I shoo them away,
willing them not to play too long or too hard
in the back yard—
with a long, ineffectual stare

that years from now, he may suddenly remember.



Incommunicado
by Michael R. Burch

All I need to know of life I learned
in the slap of a moment,
as my outward eye turned
toward a gauntlet of overhanging lights
which coldly burned, hissing—

"There is no way back!"

As the ironic bright blood
trickled down my face,
I watched strange albino creatures twisting
my flesh into tight knots of separation
while tediously insisting—

“He's doing just fine!"



An Ecstasy of Fumbling
by Michael R. Burch

The poets believe
everything resolves to metaphor—
a distillation,
a vapor
beyond filtration,
though perhaps not quite as volatile as before.

The poets conceive
of death in the trenches
as the price of art,
not war,
fumbling with their masque-like
dissertations
to describe the Hollywood-like gore

as something beyond belief,
abstracting concrete bunkers to Achaemenid bas-relief.



East End, 1888
by Michael R. Burch

He slouched East
through a steady downpour,
a slovenly beast
befouling each puddle
with bright footprints of blood.

Outlined in a pub door,
lewdly, wantonly, she stood . . .
mocked and brazenly offered.
He took what he could
till she afforded no more.

Now a single bright copper
glints becrimsoned by the door
of the pub where he met her.
He holds to his breast the one part
of her body she was unable to whore,

grips her heart to his wildly stammering heart . . .
unable to forgive or forget her.

Originally published by Penny Dreadful



i o u
by Michael R. Burch

i might have said it
but i didn’t

u might have noticed
but u wouldn’t

we might have been us
but we couldn’t

u might respond
but probably shouldn’t



Peace Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

Be calm.
Be still.
Be silent, content.

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

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

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

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



Ultimate Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

"My father!"
"My son!"

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



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

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

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

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

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

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

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .



Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

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

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

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

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

make them complete.



The 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.



Our English Rose
by Michael R. Burch

for 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.

NOTE: This is my translation/interpretation of a Sappho epigram.



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.



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.



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.



Everlasting
by Michael R. Burch

Where the wind goes
when the storm dies,
there my spirit lives
though I close my eyes.

Do not weep for me;
I am never far.
Whisper my name
to the final star ...

then let me sleep,
think of me no more.

But here’s the odd and curious thing:
in my words I remain – everlasting.



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.



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.

Originally published by Setu



Upon a Frozen Star
by Michael R. Burch

Oh, was it in this dark-Decembered world
we walked among the moonbeam-shadowed fields
and did not know ourselves for weight of snow
upon our laden parkas? White as sheets,
as spectral-white as ghosts, with clawlike hands
thrust deep into our pockets, holding what
we thought were tickets home: what did we know
of anything that night? Were we deceived
by moonlight making shadows of gaunt trees
that loomed like fiends between us, by the songs
of owls like phantoms hooting: Who? Who? Who?

And if that night I looked and smiled at you
a little out of tenderness ... or kissed
the wet salt from your lips, or took your hand,
so cold inside your parka ... if I wished
upon a frozen star ... that I could give
you something of myself to keep you warm ...
yet something still not love ... if I embraced
the contours of your face with one stiff glove ...

How could I know the years would strip away
the soft flesh from your face, that time would flay
your heart of consolation, that my words
would break like ice between us, till the void
of words became eternal? Oh, my love,
I never knew. I never knew at all,
that anything so vast could curl so small.

NOTE: I believe this was my first attempt at blank verse.



Shadowselves
by Michael R. Burch

In our hearts, knowing
fewer days—and milder—beckon,
how are we, now, to measure
that flame by which we reckon
the time we have remaining?

We are shadows
spawned by a blue spurt of candlelight.
Darkly, we watch ourselves flicker.
Where shall we go when the flame burns less bright?
When chill night steals our vigor?

Why are we less than ourselves? We are shadows.
Where is the fire of youth? We grow cold.
Why does our future loom dark? We are old.
Why do we shiver?

In our hearts, seeing
fewer days—and briefer—breaking,
now, even more, we treasure
the brittle leaf-like aching
that tells us we are living.



Longing
by Michael R. Burch

We stare out at the cold gray sea,
                               overcome
with such sudden and intense longing . . .
our eyes meet,
                         inviolate,
and we are not of this earth,
this strange, inert mass.

Before we crept
out of the shoals of the inchoate sea,
before we grew
the quaint appendages
and orifices of love . . .

before our jellylike nuclei,
struggling to be hearts,
                                   leapt
at the sight of that first bright, oracular sun,
then watched it plummet,
the birth and death of our illumination . . .

before we wept . . .
before we knew . . .
before our unformed hearts grew numb,
                                                             again,
in the depths of the sea’s indecipherable darkness . . .

When we were only
a swirling profusion of recombinant things
wafting loose silt from the sea’s soft floor,
writhing and sucking in convulsive beds
of mucousy foliage,

flowering,
               flowering,
                               flowering . . .

what jolted us to life?



Only Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

Moonlight in a pale silver rain caresses her cheek.
What she feels is an emptiness more chilling than fear ...

Nothing is questioned, yet the answer seems clear.
Night, inevitably, only seems to end.
Flesh is the stuff that does not endure.

The sand begins its passage through narrowing glass
as Time sifts out each seed yet to come.
Only flesh does not last.

Eternally, the days rise and fall with the sun;
each bright grain, slipping past, will return.
Only flesh fades to ash though unable to burn.
Only flesh does not last.

Only flesh, in the end, makes its bed in brown grass.
Only flesh shivers, pale as the pale wintry light.
Only flesh seeps in oils that will not ignite.
Only flesh rues its past.
Only flesh.



Memento Mori
by Michael R. Burch

I found among the elms
something like the sound of your voice,
something like the aftermath of love itself
after the lightning strikes,
when the startled wind shrieks . . .

a gored-out wound in wood,
love’s pale memento mori—
that white scar
in that first heart,
forever unhealed . . .

and a burled, thick knot incised
with six initials pledged
against all possible futures,
and penknife-notched below,
six edged, chipped words
that once cut deep and said . . .

WILL U B MINE
4 EVER?

. . . which now, so disconsolately answer . . .

N
EVER.


Salve
by Michael R. Burch

for the victims and survivors of 9-11

The world is unsalvageable ...

but as we lie here
in bed
stricken to the heart by love
despite war’s
flickering images,

sometimes we still touch,

laughing, amazed,
that our flesh
does not despair
of love
as we do,

that our bodies are wise

in ways we refuse
to comprehend,
still insisting we eat,
drink ...
even multiply.

And so we touch ...

touch, and only imagine
ourselves immune:
two among billions

in this night of wished-on stars,

caresses,
kisses,
and condolences.

We are not lovers of irony,

we
who imagine ourselves
beyond the redemption
of tears
because we have salvaged
so few
for ourselves ...

and so we laugh
at our predicament,
fumbling for the ointment.



The Secret of Her Clothes
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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



Litany
by Michael R. Burch

Will you take me with all my blemishes?
I will take you with all your blemishes, and show you mine. We’ll suck wine out of cardboard boxes till our teeth and lips shine red like greedily gorging foxes’. We’ll swill our fill, then have sex for hours till our neglected guts at last rebel. At two in the morning, we’ll eat cold Krystals out of greasy cardboard boxes, and we will be in love.

And that’s it?
That’s it.

And can I go out with my friends and drink until dawn?
You can go out with your friends and drink until dawn, come home lipstick-collared, pass out by the pool, or stay at the bar till the new moon sets, because we will be in love, and in love there is no room for remorse or regret. There is no right, no wrong, and no mistrust, only limb-numbing sex, hot-pistoning lust.

And that’s all?
That’s all.

That’s great!
But wait . . .

Wait? Why? What’s wrong?
I want to have your children.

Children?
Well, perhaps just one.

And what will happen when we have children?
The most incredible things will happen—you’ll change, stop acting so strangely, start paying more attention to me, start paying your bills on time, grow up and get rid of your horrible friends, and never come home at a-quarter-to-three drunk from a night of swilling, smelling like a lovesick skunk, stop acting so lewdly, start working incessantly so that we can afford a new house which I will decorate lavishly and then grow tired of in a year or two or three, start growing a paunch so that no other woman would ever have you, stop acting so boorishly, start growing a beard because you’re too tired to shave, or too afraid, thinking you might slit your worthless wrinkled throat . . .



Nucleotidings
by Michael R. Burch

“We will walk taller!” said Gupta,
sorta abrupta,
hand-in-hand with his mom,
eyeing the A-bomb.

“Who needs a mahatma
in the aftermath of NAFTA?
Now, that was a disaster,”
cried glib Punjab.

“After Y2k,
time will spin out of control anyway,”
flamed Vijay.

“My family is relatively heavy,
too big even for a pig-barn Chevy;
we need more space,”
spat What’s His Face.

“What does it matter,
dirge or mantra,”
sighed Serge.

“The world will wobble
in Hubble’s lens
till the tempest ends,”
wailed Mercedes.

“The world is going to hell in a bucket.
So fuck it and get outta my face!
We own this place!
Me and my friends got more guns than ISIS,
so what’s the crisis?”
cried Bubba Billy Joe Bob Puckett.



Confession
by Michael R. Burch

What shall I say to you, to confess,
words? Words that can never express
anything close to what I feel?

For words that seem tangible, real,
when I think them
become vaguely surreal when I put ink to them.

And words that I thought that I knew,
like "love" and "devotion"
never ring true.

While "passion"
sounds strangely like the latest fashion
or a perfume.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

NOTE: At the time I wrote this poem, a perfume called Passion was in fashion. Keywords/Tags: confession, confess, words, tangible, real, surreal, feelings, love, devotion, passion, perfume, fashion, false advertising, hype



Revision
by Michael R. Burch

I found a stone
ablaze in a streambed,
honed to a flickering jewel
by all the clear,
swiftly-flowing
millennia of water...

and as I kneeled
to do it obeisance,
the homage of retrieval,
it occurred to me
that perhaps its muddied
underbelly

rooted precariously
in the muck
and excrescence
of its slow loosening
upward...

might not be finished,
like a poem
brilliantly faceted
but only half revised,
which sparkles
seductively
but is not yet worth

ecstatic digging.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Open Portal
by Michael R. Burch

“You already have zero privacy—get over it.”—Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems

While you’re at it—
don’t bother to wear clothes:
We all know what you’re concealing underneath.

Let the bathroom door swing open.
Let, O let Us peer in!
What you’re doing, We’ve determined, may be a sin!

When you visit your mother
and it’s time to brush your teeth,
it’s okay to openly spit.

And, while you’re at it,
go ahead—
take a long, noisy shit.

What the he|ll is your objection?
What on earth is all this fuss?
Just what is it, exactly, you would hide from Us?

Originally published by The HyperTexts



They Take Their Shape
by Michael R. Burch

“We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning ...”—George W. Bush

We will not forget ...
    the moments of silence and the days of mourning,
    the bells that swung from leaden-shadowed vents
    to copper bursts above “hush!”-chastened children
    who saw the sun break free (abandonment
    to run and laugh forsaken for the moment),
    still flashing grins they could not quite repent ...
Nor should they—anguish triumphs just an instant;
    this every child accepts; the nymphet weaves;
    transformed, the grotesque adult-thing emerges:
    damp-winged, huge-eyed, to find the sun deceives ...
But children know; they spin limpwinged in darkness
    cocooned in hope—the shriveled chrysalis
    that paralyzes time. Suspended, dreaming,
    they do not fall, but grow toward what is,
    then grope about to find which transformation
    might best endure the light or dark. “Survive”
    becomes the whispered mantra of a pupa’s
    awakening ... till What takes shape and flies
    shrieks, parroting Our own shrill, restive cries.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



chrysalis
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

and yet You must love Your Self


If you know someone who is very caring and loving, but struggles with self worth, this may be a poem to consider.



Bio: Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories and letters have appeared more than 5,000 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, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Haiti, 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 eleven languages and set to music by the composers Mark Buller, Alexander Comitas and Seth Wright. One of his poems, "First They Came for the Muslims," has been adopted by Amnesty International for its Words That Burn anthology, a free online resource for students and educators. He has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the author, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

Categories: Early, Children, Family, Romantic, Heretical


Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Early Poems, Rejection Slips, Epigrams and Quotes, Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch, Romantic Poems by Michael R. Burch, Poems for Children by Michael R. Burch, Poems about Icarus by Michael R. Burch

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