a poem by Michael R. Burch
Poem, Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning
What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?
What good, the warm benevolence of tears
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?
Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?
I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing ...
mournful, and distant.
How pitiful our "effort,"
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.
Form, Theme, Analysis and Meaning: "Neglect" is a free verse
poem about the cost of inaction. The poem is about what happens when we "say the
right things" but fail to act. After I wrote the poem, I dedicated it to children
who perished in Biafra, Bangladesh, Darfur, Haiti, Gaza, and other sites of natural and man-made
disasters. Why did I write "Neglect"? I was touched by pictures of children with
swollen bellies, who could have been saved such suffering if the world had only
acted to help them. It pains me to hear a rich American like Trump talk as if
refugee children are insects to be brushed aside. What happened to love, mercy,
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 4,000 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 M. Smith. 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
For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the
poet, please click
Burch Expanded Bio.