The HyperTexts

Poems for Poets
by Michael R. Burch

These are poems I have written for other poets, poems I have written about other poets, and poems I have written after other poets...

Safe Harbor
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

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

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

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

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

"Safe Harbor" was written by Michael R. Burch in 2001 after a discussion about Romanticism in the late 20th century.

There are more of the poems I wrote for Kevin later on this page.

by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

"What will you conceive in me?"
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

"Naked, I bore your child
when the wolf wind howled,
when the cold moon scowled . . .

naked, and gladly."
"What will become of me?"
I asked her, as she

absently stroked my hand.
Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered, "I Am."

This was the first poem Kevin published in the first issue of Romantics Quarterly.

The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

I have not come for the harvest of roses—
the poets' mad visions,
their railing at rhyme ...
for I have discerned what their writing discloses:
weak words wanting meaning,
beat torsioning time.

Nor have I come for the reaping of gossamer—
images weak,
too forced not to fail;
gathered by poets who worship their luster,
they shimmer, impendent,
resplendently pale.

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, Poetry Life & Times and The Chained Muse

Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

for Stephen Spender

It’s better not to speculate
"continually" on who is great.
Though relentless awe’s
a Célèbre Cause,
please reserve some time for the contemplation
of the perils of

Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

Originally published by Light Quarterly

The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On...)
by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a frigid and over-rigid Formalist

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at "meter," I crossly concluded
I'd use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I'm under-quaaluded.

The Better Man
by Michael R. Burch
Dear Ed: I don't understand why
you will publish this other guy—
when I'm brilliant, devoted,
one hell of a poet!
Yet you publish Anonymous. Fie!

Fie! A pox on your head if you favor
this poet who's dubious, unsavor
y, inconsistent in texts,
no address (I checked!) :
since he's plagiarized Unknown, I'll wager!

by Michael R. Burch

for Edgar Allan Poe

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty...

what do we know of love,
or duty?

by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

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 ...

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

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.

At Wilfred Owen's Grave
by Michael R. Burch

A week before the Armistice, you died.
They did not keep your heart like Livingstone's,
then plant your bones near Shakespeare's. So you lie
between two privates, sacrificed like Christ
to politics, your poetry unknown
except for one brief flurry: thirteen months
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death

Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of "ergotherapists" that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful's merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath's transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine—scalding eyes,
and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.

Originally published by The Chariton Review

by Michael R. Burch

after Philip Larkin's "Aubade"

It is hard to understand or accept mortality—
such an alien concept: not to be.
Perhaps unsettling enough to spawn religion,
or to scare mutant fish out of a primordial sea

boiling like goopy green tea in a kettle.
Perhaps a man should exhibit more mettle
than to admit such fear, denying Nirvana exists
simply because we are stuck here in such a fine fettle.

And so we abide . . .
even in life, staring out across that dark brink.
And if the thought of death makes your questioning heart sink,
it is best not to drink
(or, drinking, certainly not to think).

Originally published by Light Quarterly

by michael r. burch

for anaïs vionet

to live among the daffodil folk...
slip down the rainslickened drainpipe...
suddenly pop out
minuscule as alice, shout
in wee exultant glee
to be leaving behind the

by Michael R. Burch

for Anaïs Vionet

Sometimes it’s not
so hot
to be hot,

like when you’re
a bullfrog
boiling in a pot

or when you’re a hottie
who’s been a bit naughty
and now has a stalker

who needs to be shot!

The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

for Seamus Heaney

To at last be indestructible, a poem
must first glow, almost flammable, upon
a thing inert, as gray, as dull as stone,

then bend this way and that, and slowly cool
at arms-length, something irreducible
drawn out with caution, toughened in a pool

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it—water instantly a mist.
It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness ...

And then the driven hammer falls and falls.
The horses prick their ears in nearby stalls.
A soldier on his cot leans back and smiles.

A sound of ancient import, with the ring
of honest labor, sings of fashioning.

Originally published by The Chariton Review

The Heimlich Limerick
by Michael R. Burch

for Tom Merrill

The sanest of poets once wrote:
"Friend, why be a sheep or a goat?
Why follow the leader
or be a blind breeder?"
But almost no one took note.

The Pain of Love
by Michael R. Burch

for Tom Merrill

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 (II)
by Michael R. Burch

for Tom Merrill

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.

The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kites—amazed,
in dream of shocks that suddenly came true...

but came almost as static—background noise,
a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned into their kite strings, saucer-eared.

They thought to feel the lightning's brilliant sparks
electrify their nerves, their brains; the smoke
of words poured from their overheated hearts.
The kite string, knotted, made a nifty rope...

You will not find them here; they blew away—
in tumbling flight beyond nights' stars. They clung
by fingertips to satellites. They strayed
too far to remain mortal. Elfin, young,

their words are with us still. Devout and fey,
they wink at us whenever skies are gray.

Originally published by The Lyric

More or Less
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

Less is more —
in a dress, I suppose,
and in intimate clothes
like crotchless hose.

But now Moore is less
due to death’s subtraction
and I must confess:
I hate such redaction!

The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

for Norman Kraeft in memory of his beloved wife June

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him—obscene illusion! —
made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness—
her ghost beyond perfection—for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.

Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom and the Ivory Towerists

Come down, O, come down
from your high mountain tower.
How coldly the wind blows,
how late this chill hour...

and I cannot wait
for a meteor shower
to show you the time
must be now, or not ever.

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
now brittle and brown
as fierce northern gales sever.

Come down, or your hearts will grow cold as the weather
when winter devours and spring returns never.

At Cædmon's Grave

'Cædmon's Hymn' was composed at the Monastery of Whitby, a North Yorkshire fishing village. It is the oldest known poem written in the English language, dating back to around 680 A.D. I wrote this poem after visiting Caedmon's grave at Whitby.

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

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

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

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

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

Published by The Lyric

by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

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.

Among the prisoners
I saw
the leaden manacles
of Law,

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

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

I saw redemption,
and I smiled.
Satanic millers,

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.

The following poems were written for she-of-many-names Felicity Teague, who also goes by F. F. Teague and Fliss. Together with her Columbine companion, Fliss publishes via Coo & Co. and Word-Bird Rhyme-Time.

a poem in which i a-coos Coo & Co. of being unfairly lovable
by Michael R. Burch

Coo & Co. are unfairly lovable!
their poems are entirely too huggable!
for what hope have we po'-its,
we intellectual know-its,
or no-wits, when ours are so drubabble?

Thanksgiving Poem #1
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Felicity Teague,
we’ve a prophet who doesn’t deceive.
Put down religion,
all furor and schism:
just read her epistles and breathe!

Thanksgiving Poem #2
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Coo & Co.
we learn what’s important to know:
Fliss gives us the skinny
about lovely Ginny,
George Swan and the others. Bravo!

Courtly, Courteous Coo
by Michael R. Burch

Coo, the mysterious Columbine,
I’m glad to say, is a friend of mine.

Coo publishes poems composed by Fliss,
and a few of mine, whether hit or miss.

For Coo's much too courteous to say,
as graceless humans do, “No way!”

Plover One to Ground Control
by Michael R. Burch

for Coo & Co.

"Plover, please confirm
you’re not hungover by the worm!"

"I admit it made me squirm
with its stinky, slimy derm

but my beak left no real doubt,
then the tussle became a rout.

I’ve returned to my rocky redoubt.
Plover, over and out."

Millay Has Her Way with a Vassar Professor
by Michael R. Burch

After a night of hard drinking and spreading her legs,
Millay hits the dorm, where the Vassar don begs:
'Please act more chastely, more discretely, more seemly! '
(His name, let's assume, was, er... Percival Queemly.)

'Expel me! Expel me! '—She flashes her eyes.
'Oh! Please! No! I couldn't! That wouldn't be wise,
for a great banished Shelley would tarnish my name...
Eek! My game will be lame if I can't milque your fame! '

'Continue to live here—carouse as you please! '
the beleaguered don sighs as he sags to his knees.
Millay grinds her crotch half an inch from his nose:
'I can live in your hellhole, strange man, I suppose...
but the price is your firstborn, whom I'll sacrifice to Moloch.'
(Which explains what became of pale Percy's son, Enoch.)

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms

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.

Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

It's hard to be a man of taste
in such a waste:
hence the lambaste.

Tea Party Madness
by Michael R. Burch

for Connor Kelly

Since we agree,
let's have a nice tea
with our bats in the belfry.

Pointed Art
by Michael R. Burch

for Lewis Carroll

The point of art is that
there is no point.
(A grinning, quick-dissolving cat
from Cheshire
must have told you that.)

The point of art is this—
the hiss
of Cupid's bright bolt, should it miss,
is bliss
compared to Truth's neurotic kiss.

Gallant Knight
by Michael R. Burch

for Alfred Dorn and Anita Dorn

Till you rest with your beautiful Anita,
rouse yourself, Poet; rouse and write.
The world is not ready for your departure,
Gallant Knight.

Teach us to sing in the ringing cathedrals
of your Verse, as you outduel the Night.
Give us new eyes to see Love's bright Vision
robed in Light.

Teach us to pray, that the true Word may conquer,
that the slaves may be freed, the blind have Sight.
Write the word LOVE with a burning finger.
I shall recite.

O, bless us again with your chivalrous pen,
Gallant Knight!

The People Loved What They Had Loved Before
by Michael R. Burch

We did not worship at the shrine of tears;
we knew not to believe, not to confess.
And so, ahemming victors, to false cheers,
we wrote off love, we gave a stern address
to bards whose methods irked us, greats of yore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We did not build stone monuments to stand
six hundred years and grow more strong and arch
like bridges from the people to the Land
beyond their reach. Instead, we played a march,
pale Neros, sparking flames from door to door.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We could not pipe of cheer, or even woe.
We played a minor air of Ire (in E) .
The sheep chose to ignore us, even though,
long destitute, we plied our songs for free.
We wrote, rewrote and warbled one same score.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

At last outlandish wailing, we confess,
ensued, because no listeners were left.
We built a shrine to tears: our goddess less
divine than man, and, like us, long bereft.
We stooped to love too late, too Learned to whore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho, wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse.—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I’ll forgive Aaron Poochigian his “dumb damn PhD”
if he’ll focus all his intellectual powers on me!
—Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

for Dylan Thomas

We feel rather than understand what he meant
as he reveals a shattered firmament
which before him never existed.

Here, there are no images gnarled and twisted
out of too many words,
but only flocks of white birds

wheeling and flying.

Here, as Time spins, reeling and dying,
the voice of a last gull
or perhaps some spirit no longer whole,

echoes its lonely madrigal
and we feel its strange pull
on the astonished soul.

O My Prodigal!

The vents of the sky, ripped asunder,
echo this wild, primal thunder—
now dying into undulations of vanishing wings . . .

and this voice which in haggard bleak rapture still somehow downward sings.

by Michael R. Burch

for and after Dylan Thomas

The poet delves earth’s detritus—hard toil—
for raw-edged nouns, barbed verbs, vowels’ lush bouquet;
each syllable his pen excretes—dense soil,
dark images impacted, rooted clay.

The poet sees the sea but feels its meaning—
the teeming brine, the mirrored oval flame
that leashes and excites its turgid surface ...
then squanders years imagining love’s the same.

Belatedly he turns to what lies broken—
the scarred and furrowed plot he fiercely sifts,
among death’s sicksweet dungs and composts seeking
one element whose scorching flame uplifts.

A Passing Observation about Thinking Outside the Box
by Michael R. Burch

William Blake had no public, and yet he's still read.
His critics are dead.

Housman was right...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life's not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It's just the 'bon voyage' is hard
and the objections loud.

US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

The Unisphere mentioned is a large stainless steel representation of the earth; it was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

for Emily Dickinson

All things become one
Through death's long division
And perfect precision.

Nod to the Master
by Michael R. Burch

If every witty thing that's said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!

by Michael R. Burch

Perhaps at three
you'll come to tea,
to have a cuppa here?

You'll just stop in
to sip dry gin?
I only have a beer.

To name the 'greats':
Pope, Dryden, mates?
The whole world knows their names.

Discuss the 'songs'
of Emerson?
But these are children's games.

Give me rhythms
wild as Dylan's!
Give me Bobbie Burns!

Give me Psalms,
or Hopkins' poems,
Hart Crane's, if he returns!

Or Langston railing!
Blake assailing!
Few others I desire.

Or go away,
yes, leave today:
your tepid poets tire.

I Learned Too Late
by Michael R. Burch

'Show, don't tell.'

I learned too late that poetry has rules,
although they may be rules for greater fools.

In any case, by dodging rules and schools,
I avoided useless duels.

I learned too late that sentiment is bad—
that Blake and Keats and Plath had all been had.

In any case, by following my heart,
I learned to walk apart.

I learned too late that 'telling' is a crime.
Did Shakespeare know? Is Milton doing time?

In any case, by telling, I admit:
I think such rules are s**t.

by Michael R. Burch

for lovers of traditional poetry

The meter I had sought to find, perplexed,
was ripped from books of 'verse' that read like prose.
I found it in sheet music, in long rows
of hologramic CDs, in sad wrecks
of long-forgotten volumes undisturbed
half-centuries by archivists, unscanned.
I read their fading numbers, frowned, perturbed—
why should such tattered artistry be banned?

I heard the sleigh bells' jingles, vampish ads,
the supermodels' babble, Seuss's books
extolled in major movies, blurbs for abs...
A few poor thinnish journals crammed in nooks
are all I've found this late to sell to those
who'd classify free verse 'expensive prose.'

The Composition of Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

'I made it out of a mouthful of air.'—W. B. Yeats

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

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

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

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

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

by Michael R. Burch

(I stole this poem
From Muhammad Ali.)

Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians! , all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.

What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

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

To Please The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who still write musical verse

To please the poet, words must dance—
staccato, brisk, a two-step:
Or waltz in elegance to time
of music—mild,

To please the poet, words must chance
emotion in catharsis—
Or splash into salt seas, descend
in sheets of silver-shining

To please the poet, words must prance
and gallop, gambol, revel,
Or muse upon a moment—mute,
obscure, unsure, imperfect,

To please the poet, words must sing,
or croak, wart-tongued, imagining.

Originally published by The Lyric

Confetti for Ferlinghetti
by Michael R. Burch

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
is the only poet whose name rhymes with 'spaghetti'
and, while not being quite as rich as J. Paul Getty,
he still deserves some confetti
for selling a million books while being a modern Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

(Like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his rhyming namesake, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was both poet and painter.)


These are poems about professor poets and other "intellectuals" who miss the main point of poetry, which is to connect with readers via pleasing sounds and the communication of emotion as well as meaning.

Professor Poets
by Michael R. Burch

Professor poets remind me of drones
chasing the Classical queen's aging bones.
With bottle-thick glasses they still see to write —
droning on, endlessly buzzing all night.
And still in our classrooms their tomes are decreed...
Perhaps they're too busy with buzzing to breed?

The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On...)
by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a frigid and over-rigid Formalist

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at "meter," I crossly concluded
I'd use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I'm under-quaaluded.

by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a poetry professor

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

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

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

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

In my next poem the "businessmen" are the poetry professors and professional poetry publishers who speak dismissively of the things that made poetry popular with the masses: rhythm, rhyme, clarity, accessible storytelling, etc.

The Board
by Michael R. Burch

Accessible rhyme is never good.
The penalty is understood—
soft titters from dark board rooms where
the businessmen paste on their hair
and, Colonel Klinks, defend the Muse
with reprimands of Dr. Seuss.

Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom and the Ivory Towerists

Come down, O, come down
from your high mountain tower.
How coldly the wind blows,
how late this chill hour...
and I cannot wait
for a meteor shower
to show you the time
must be now, or not ever.

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
blown, brittle and brown,
as fierce northern gales sever.
Come down, or your heart
will grow cold as the weather
when winter devours
and spring returns never.

Rant: The Elite
by Michael R. Burch

When I heard Harold Bloom unsurprisingly say:
'Poetry is necessarily difficult. It is our elitist art...'
I felt a small suspicious thrill. After all, sweetheart,
isn't this who we are? Aren't we obviously better,
and certainly fairer and taller, than they are?

Though once I found Ezra Pound
perhaps a smidgen too profound,
perhaps a bit over-fond of Benito
and the advantages of fascism
to be taken ad finem, like high tea
with a pure white spot of intellectualism
and an artificial sweetener, calorie-free.

I know! I know! Politics has nothing to do with art
And it tempts us so to be elite, to stand apart...
but somehow the word just doesn't ring true,
echoing effetely away—the distance from me to you.

Of course, politics has nothing to do with art,
but sometimes art has everything to do with becoming elite,
with climbing the cultural ladder, with being able to meet
someone more Exalted than you, who can demonstrate how to fart
so that everyone below claims one's odor is sweet.

'You had to be there! We were falling apart
with gratitude! We saw him! We wept at his feet! '

Though someone will always be far, far above you, clouding your air,
gazing down at you with a look of wondering despair.

Keywords/Tags: Harold Bloom, literary critic, literary criticism, elitist, ivory tower, poetry professor, literary fascist

Sweenies (or Swine-ies) Among the Nightingales
by Michael R. Burch

for the Corseted Ones and the Erratics

Open yourself to words, and if they come,
be glad the stone-tongued apes are stricken dumb
by anything like music; they believe
in petrified dry meaning. Love conceives
wild harmonies,
while lumberjacks fell trees.

Sweet, unifying music, a cappella...
but apeneck Sweeny's not the brightest fella.
He has no interest in celestial brightness;
he'd distill Love to chivalry, politeness,
yet longs to be acclaimed, like those before him
who (should the truth be told) confuse and bore him.

For Sweeney is himself a piggish boor —
the kind pale pearl-less swine claim to adore.

The opposite approach to the poetry professors, the poetry journalists and the uber-intellectuals is that of musicians to their instruments and the music they produce…

Duet, Minor Key
by Michael R. Burch

Without the drama of cymbals
or the fanfare and snares of drums,
I present my case
stripped of its fine veneer:
Behold, thy instrument.
Play, for the night is long.

US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World's Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to 'Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.' The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden's love poem "Lullaby."

by Michael R. Burch

If only we were not so eloquent,
we might sing, and only sing, not to impress,
but only to enjoy, to be enjoyed.

We might inundate the earth with thankfulness
for light, although it dies, and make a song
of night descending on the earth like bliss,

with other lights beyond—not to be known—
but only to be welcomed and enjoyed,
before all worlds and stars are overthrown...

as a lover's hands embrace a sleeping face
and find it beautiful for emptiness
of all but joy. There is no thought to love

but love itself. How senseless to redress,
in darkness, such becoming nakedness...

Untitled Haiku

thinking to illuminate the darkness?
—Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

You will find in her hair
a fragrance more severe
than camphor.

You will find in her dress
no hint of a sweet

You will find in her eyes
horn-owlish and wise
no metaphors
of love, but only reflections
of books, books, books.

If you like Her looks,
meet me in the long rows,
between Poetry and Prose,

where we'll win Her favor
with jousts, and savor
the wine of Her hair,

the shimmery wantonness
of Her rich-satined dress;
where we'll press

our good deeds upon Her, save Her
from every distress,
for the lovingkindness

of Her matchless eyes
and all the suns of Her tongues.
We were young,

unlearned and unwise...
but, O, to be young

when love comes disguised
with the whisper of silks
and idolatry,

and even the childish tongue claims
the intimacy of Poetry.

by Michael R. Burch

Tonight my pen
is barren
of passion, spent of poetry.

I hear your name
upon the rain
and yet it cannot comfort me.

I feel the pain
of dreams that wane,
of poems that falter, losing force.

I write again
words without end,
but I cannot control their course...

Tonight my pen
is sullen
and wants no more of poetry.

I hear your voice
as if a choice,
but how can I respond, or flee?

I feel a flame
I cannot name
that sends me searching for a word,

but there is none
not over-done,
unless it's one I never heard.

I believe this poem was written in my late teens or early twenties.

The Monarch's Rose or The Hedgerow Rose
by Michael R. Burch

I lead you here to pluck this florid rose
still tethered to its post, a dreary mass
propped up to stiff attention, winsome-thorned
(what hand was ever daunted less to touch
such flame, in blatant disregard of all
but atavistic beauty) ? Does this rose
not symbolize our love? But as I place
its emblem to your breast, how can this poem,
long centuries deflowered, not debase
all art, if merely genuine, but not
"original"? Love, how can reused words
though frailer than all petals, bent by air
to lovelier contortions, still persist,
defying even gravity? For here
beat Monarch's wings: they rise on emptiness!

Over(t) Simplification
by Michael R. Burch

"Keep it simple, stupid."

A sonnet is not simple, but the rule
is simply this: let poems be beautiful,
or comforting, or horrifying. Move
the reader, and the world will not reprove
the idiosyncrasies of too few lines,
too many syllables, or offbeat beats.

It only matters that *she* taps her feet
or that *he* frowns, or smiles, or grimaces,
or sits bemused—a child—as images
of worlds he'd lost come flooding back, and then...
they'll cheer the poet's insubordinate pen.

A sonnet is not simple, but the rule
is simply this: let poems be beautiful.

Writing Verse for Free, Versus Programs for a Fee
by Michael R. Burch

How is writing a program like writing a poem? You start with an idea, something fresh. Almost a wish. Something effervescent, like foam flailing itself against the rocks of a lost tropical coast..

After the idea, of course, there are complications and trepidations, as with the poem or even the foam. Who will see it, appreciate it, understand it? What will it do? Is it worth the effort, all the mad dashing and crashing about, the vortex—all that? And to what effect?

Next comes the real labor, the travail, the scouring hail of things that simply don't fit or make sense. Of course, with programming you have the density of users to fix, which is never a problem with poetry, since the users have already had their fix (this we know because they are still reading and think everything makes sense) ; but this is the only difference.

Anyway, what's left is the debugging, or, if you're a poet, the hugging yourself and crying, hoping someone will hear you, so that you can shame them into reading your poem, which they will refuse, but which your mother will do if you phone, perhaps with only the tiniest little mother-of-the-poet, harried, self-righteous moan.

The biggest difference between writing a program and writing a poem is simply this: if your program works, or seems to work, or almost works, or doesn't work at all, you're set and hugely overpaid. Made-in-the-shade-have-a-pink-lemonade-and-ticker-tape-parade OVERPAID.

If your poem is about your lover and sucks up quite nicely, perhaps you'll get laid. Perhaps. Regardless, you'll probably see someone repossessing your furniture and TV to bring them posthaste to someone like me. The moral is this: write programs first, then whatever passes for poetry. DO YOUR SHARE; HELP END POVERTY TODAY!

a peom in supsport of a dsylexci peot
by michael r. burch, allso a peot
for ken d williams

pay no hede to the saynayers,
the asburd wordslayers,
the splayers and sprayers,
the heartless diecriers,
the liers!

what the hell due ur criticks no?
let them bellow below!

ur every peom has a good haert
and culd allso seerv as an ichart!

There are a number of puns, including ur (my term for original/ancient/first) , no/know, pay/due, the critic as both absurd and an as(s) -burd who is he(artless) , and the poet as the (seer) v of an (i) -chart for all. Here is an encoded version:

(pay) k(no) w hede to the say(nay) ers,
the as(s) bird word(s*) layers,
the s*(players) and s*(prayers) ,
the he(artless) (die) (cry) ers,
the (lie) rs!

what the hell (due) ur (cry) (ticks) k(no) w?
let them (be) l(low) below!

(ur) every peom has a good haert
and culd (all) so (seer) ve as an (i) chart!

Gwynn and Bear It
by Michael R. Burch

He once was a scholar,
but now he's just hot under the collar:
civility repealed,
his redneck at last revealed.
Parasites to the venue:
cooked Gwynn's on the menu!

I wrote the poem above after Sam Gwynn reported that both his A/C units had gone out at the same time and it was 89 degrees in his office.

Letter to Certain Crime-Abetting Editors
by Michael R. Burch

I once had good feelings
about A. E. Stallings,
but then I saw her take my space in the Norton Anthology.
I demand an apology!

"B" comes before "S"!
Such BS!

Then, to make matters much, much worse
in the Universe of Verse,
she took my position at Oxford!

Sincerely, I am
a disgruntled former fan.

by Michael R. Burch

for A. E. Stallings

I wanted to be good as gold,
but being good, as I've been told,
requires something, discipline,
I simply have no interest in!

Kinda Crazy
by Michael R. Burch

It’s kinda crazy, what I did...
Translated everybody. How?
Batman. Robin. Alfred? Jeeves?
Holy Cow!

How It Happened
by Michael R. Burch

I came, a little out of luck,
to be a poet. Much by pluck.
After destroying
all my annoying
childhood poems “because they suck!”
I gathered all my might,
and then continued to write
(a little by day, but mostly by night)
at odds with the moon
and a “silver shoon,”
seeking a song that someone might croon,
following Blake and a fellow from Doon.
Did it come late, or did it come soon?
Did it come at all?
Fifty years later, “Stay tuned.”

Thanksgiving Poem #1
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Felicity Teague,
we’ve a prophet who doesn’t deceive.
Put down religion,
all furor and schism:
just read her epistles and breathe!

Thanksgiving Poem #2
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Coo & Co.
we learn what’s important to know:
Fliss gives us the skinny
about lovely Ginny,
George Swan and the others. Bravo!

John Masella
’s an engaging fella;
if he writes a book,
it’ll be a bestsella;
and he’s got lotsa things
he’ll be happy to tell ya.
—Michael R. Burch

Jousting for her maidenhood, the Princes Charmin come.
COVID won’t deter them, emboldened by cheap rum.
They’ll meekly beg a favor:
garter, thong or blazer,
then take on, say, King Kong.
—Michael R. Burch

When I visited Byron's residence at Newstead Abbey, there were peacocks running around the grounds, which I thought quite appropriate.

was not a shy one,
as peacocks run.
—Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

It's a crisis in truth, I'm not lying!
Is it "eyeing" or "eying"?

I, for one, am not ayeing

Furthermore, is it "dyeing" or "dying"?

I am eyeing "eying" ire-ily!
Is it "lyeing" or "lying"?
Inform me!

Lines written after A. E. Stallings raised this critical question in a tweet.

Further Stallings
by Michael R. Burch

I am eyeing "eying" ire-ily!
Is it "dyeing" or "dying"?
Inform me!

I wrote “Further Stallings” after A. E. Stallings tweeted that “eyeing” has become “eying” according to some publisher’s house rules. Is the publisher in question Elon Musk or Donald Trump, perhaps?

This is my tribute poem for Bob Dylan, based on my first "meeting" with him at age 11 on a London rooftop...

My boyhood introduction to the Prophet Laureate and how I became his Mini-Me at age eleven
by Michael R. Burch

for Martin Mc Carthy, author of “The Perfect Voice”

Atop a London rooftop
on a rare cloudless day,
between the potted geraniums,
I hear the strange music play ...

Not quite a vintage Victrola,
but maybe a half step up:
late ’69 technology.
I sat up, abrupt.

What the hell was I hearing,
a prophet from days of yore?
Whatever it was, I felt it —
and felt it to the core.

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

The unspoken answer meandered
on the wings of a light summer breeze,
unfiltered by the geraniums
and the dove in me felt ill at ease.

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

I was only eleven and far from heaven,
intent on rock music (and lust),
far from God and his holy rod
(seduced by each small budding bust).

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Who was this unknown prophet
calling me back to the path
of brotherhood through peace?
I felt like I needed a bath!

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Needless to say, I was altered.
Perhaps I was altared too.
I became a poet, peace activist,
and now I Am preaching to you!

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Get off your duffs, do what you can,
follow the Prophet’s declaiming:
no need to kneel, just even the keel,
For the times, they are a-changin’!

by Michael R. Burch

apologies to Allen Ginsberg

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media, overdressed obsessive savers dragging themselves scowling through albino streets at dawn looking for a Facebook fix while cautiously protecting their Personal Data,
addleheaded quipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the latest Podcast,
who in poverty for lack of a Smartphone upgrade sat hollow-eyed smoking medicinal weed in the unnatural illumination of their rebooting routers while contemplating the wonders of AI,
who bared their brains to ChatGPT and saw Marvel-ous angels in YouTube ads while waxing nostalgic about things they never actually experienced,
who passed through minor universities with solid B’s hallucinating careers as computer programmers advancing quickly to systems analysts, ready to compete confidently with robots,
who were never expelled for publishing obscene odes on bathroom stalls or Subway walls, but were always well-behaved and polite to their supervisors,
who always wore appropriate underwear to job interviews and never burned their bras in defiance of Big Brother,
who never grew their hair too long or sprouted scraggly beards while returning on redeyes from Big Apple job interviews,
who never ate fire in paint hotels, or drank turpentine in paradise alley, or purgatoried their toned torsos night after night with dreams, or with drugs, but only with reruns of Games of Thrones,
who never wandered blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of canada & paterson, but rather sought the mystical illumination of AI,
who scorned peyote for the tantalizing Tweets of Technocrats sharing their opinions like oracles,
who never once chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from battery to the bronx on benzedrine, but only arrived at the next job interview drained of brilliance in the drear light of the latest breakup between Ross and Rachel,
who were always ready to please their oppressive employers with robotic diligence while advancing in their careers like automatons,
who never sank all night in the submarine light of bickford’s but floated high on the stirring strains of the Spice Girls and Justin Bieber,
who talked continuously seventy hours about the advantages of homoeopathic medicines, a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists more progressive than Wonder Bread and Wireless Bras, all crying “me too,”
yakety-yakking facts, anecdotes and memories all plastered incessantly on Instagram,
whose intellects were disgorged for seven sleepless days and nights with eyes dulled by monitor radiance, as if they’d been marooned on the moon with Maroon 5,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of unambiguous selfies shot with the ubiquitous holy iPhone, suffering Whatsapp withdrawal sweats and Internet downtime migraines worse than any heroin addict’s,
who wandered restless at midnight wondering when Paradise Lost would be restored, i.e. the Internet coming back up, while making prophets of Green Day,
who never lit cigarettes in boxcars or even knew what boxcars were, but rode Virtual “Reality” snowmobiles to the north pole, then bragged about their conquests on Quora,
who never read plotinus poe st. john of the cross but knew by heart every word uttered in the Marvel Universe and every word of Klingon ever spoken on Star Trek,
who never loned it through the streets of idaho seeking visionary indian angels but only revered Warren Kenneth Worthington III,
who experienced bliss when the Big Bang aired in supernatural ecstasy and a nerd nailed the cute girl (Aye, there is hope for us all!).
who rode in rented limousines on prom night dreaming of similar hookups while listening to Justin Timberlake prophetically sing “Cry Me a River,”
who lounged wellfed through houston seeking sex or Smartphone games only to relate their lack of success on SnapChat,
who disappeared into the bowels of Bluetooth wired to their earbuds never to be seen again, not even on Reddit,
only to reappear on TikTok investigating 9-11 conspiracy theories and posting incomprehensible memes,
who burned vape holes in their arms protesting the cancellation of Friends, then posted the pictures on Pinterest,
who distributed languid Tweets mildly protesting the term “slacktivism,”
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the bullying of jocks,
who bit their abusers with sharp braces and attacked them with protractors stored unconcealed in their plaid shirt pockets’ plastic holsters,
who howled on their knees for faster Internet access, like monks for transcendence,
who watched Internet porn until their libidos shriveled,
who were blown, then blown away by sexy Avatars,
who balled so infrequently they had only 2.02 children,
who preferred Marvel’s Angel to those of religion,
who lost their loverboys and/or lovergirls to the lures of the latest Video Game and LinkedIn,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with Alexa until they came eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who preferred the snatches of virtual girlfriends to those of their real ones (And safer as well!) trembling with joy after sunset but redeyed rising from lack of sleep perusing Paradisal Porn,
who went out VR-whoring safe from venereal diseases, fabled Cocksmen and Adonises of their sheeplike Android Dreams, the Marvel-ous Masters of innumerable lays of girls with artificial breasts bigger than Bot-swana,
who starred in sordid movies as their Avatars, grabbed snatches of sleep, then woke with sudden Smartwatch alarms in order to arrive dutifully at work on time, if slightly worse for wear,
who never walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for an east river door to swing open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
but instead employed E-Readers to study Ulysses in preparation for MFA exams,
who never ate the lamb stew of the imagination but only digested slimy eels dredged from the muddy river bottoms of Babel-on,
who wept at the music of Britney Spears pouring endlessly from their Smart Speakers,
whose best friends and heroes were Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj (And how earnestly we prayed for them to finally get laid!),
who never sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, nor rose to build harpsichords in their lofts,
but instead worshiped the gods of American Idol and bowed prostrate before a heavenly Voice,
who confused rock-‘n’-roll with fizzled pop, whose anthem became “I Want It That Way” sung by the Backstreet Boys,
whose archetype was Eminem’s Stan, the Holy Grail of Fandom,
who screamed “Save the whales!” while shucking oysters and watching Predator reruns,
who never plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg, but instead preferred vegan Egg Replacers,
who never threw their watches from roofs to cast their ballot for Eternity outside Time, but dutifully set their Smartwatches to remind them when to exercise, and stop, and when to record Sex and the City,
who never opened actual antique stores but sold their families’ heirlooms on eBay,
who were never burned alive in their well-tailored suits on Madison Avenue but were run down after hours by the drunken taxicab of Leisure Suit Larry,
who never jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge but once bungeed from the Bridge to Nowhere on a dare,
who never sang from their windows in despair, but posted many aggrieved missives on their sacred Facebook walls,
who barreled down many Virtual Highways in their Virtual Hotrods despite never mastering a real-world stick shift,
whose only Mario was a plumber,
who never drove crosscountry seventytwo hours pursuing a vision of eternity, but once played Gran Turismo seventytwo hours nonstop,
who never made it to Denver, but managed the Broncos thanks to Madden,
who never fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation, but blessed each other in the names of Marvel-ous Odin, Thor and heavenly Asgaard,
who retired to California to cultivate legal weed and thus never ended up in jail pleading to pay their bail with BitCoin,
who never demanded sanity trials but questioned the nature of reality having grokked The Matrix,
who never threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers but were always attentive to their mentors,
who like the Cambridge ladies were invariably interested in various things like insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protests revolted mildly against the trumping of the paris accords,
who would have been bald by now except for hair plugs imprecisely implanted,
who never bickered with the echoes of the soul in foetid halls as their bodies turned to stone heavy as the moon,
but always thanked their mothers on Facebook after watching It’s a Wonderful Life (obligatory at Christmastime) for the umpteenth time.

by Thomas Campion, an English poet who composed poems in Latin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their whores for exotic positions.

by Thomas Campion

Impressionum plurium librum laudat
Librarius; scortum nec non minus leno.

by Thomas Campion, an English poet who composed poems in Latin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dogs raise a ruckus at the stench of a thief,
so what would they say about you, given speech?
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Suspecto quid fure canes cum,
Pontice, latrent Dixissent melius, si potuere loqui?

Pindar Epigrams and Odes

Athens, celestial city, crowned with violets, beloved of poets, bulwark of Greece!
—Pindar, fragment 64, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not, O my soul, aspire to immortality, but exhaust life.
—Pindar, Pythian Ode III, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fairest of all preludes is mine to incomparable Athens
as I lay the foundation of songs for the mighty race of Alcmaeonidae and their majestic steeds.
Among all the nations, which heroic house compares with glorious Hellas?
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Toil and expense confront excellence in endeavors fraught with danger,
but those who succeed are considered wise by their companions.
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I rejoice at this accomplishment and yet I also grieve,
seeing how Envy slanders noble endeavors.
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Olympian Ode I
by Pindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water is best of all,
and after that Gold flaming like a fire in the night with the luster of imperial wealth;
but if you are reluctant, O my soul, to sing of prizes in mere games ... please consider this:
for just as the brightest star can never outshine the sun no matter how often we scan the heavens by day,
even so we shall never find any games greater than our Olympics!

Therefore we raise our voices!

Hence come these glorious hymns!

Thus our minds bend to those skillful in song,
who celebrate Zeus, the son of Kronos,
as they come to the rich and happy hearth of Hieron ...

Hieron, who wields the scepter of justice in Sicily of the many flocks!

Hieron, who culls the choicest fruits of all sorts of excellence!

Hieron, whose halls flower with the splendid music he makes, as one sings blithely at a friend’s table!

Take down from its peg the Dorian lute!

Let the wise sing of the stallion Pherenikos, the steed who carried Hieron to glory,
who now at Pisa has turned out souls toward glad thoughts and rejoicing,
because by the banks of Alpheos he ran, giving his ungoaded body to the course,
and thus delivered victory to his master, the Syracusans' king, who delights in horses!


Now the majesty we remember today will be ever sovereign to men. All men.
My role is to crown Hieron with an equestrian strain in an elegant Aeolian mood,
and I am sure that no host among men — now, or ever —
shall I ever glorify in the sounding labyrinths of song
who is more learned in the learning of honor or with more might to achieve it!

A god has set a guard over your hopes, O Hieron, and regards them with peculiar care.
And if this god does not fail you, I shall again proclaim in song a greater glory yet,
and find the appropriate words when the time comes,
when to the bright-shining mountain of Kronos I return:
my Muse has yet to release her strongest-wingéd dart!

There are many kinds of greatness in men,
but the highest can only be achieved by kings.
Think not to look further into this,
but let it be your lot to walk loftily all your life,
and mine to be friend to the game-winners, winning honor for my art among Hellenes everywhere.

by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

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

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

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

"Talent" was written by Michael R. Burch in 2000 after a discussion about the work of another poet; Kevin seemed to like this poem and requested it more than once in later conversations.

by Michael R. Burch

a prayer-poem for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

O, let me be the Beloved
and let the Longing be Yours;
but if You should “love” without Force,
how then shall I love—stone, unmoved?
But let me be the Beloved,
and let the Longing be Yours.

And as for the Saint, my dear friend,
tonight let his suffering end!,
and let him be your Beloved . . .
no longer be stone: Love unmoved!
But light on him now—Love, descend!
Tonight, let his suffering end.

For how can true Love be unmoved?
If he suffers for love, Love reproved,
I will never be your Beloved,
so love him instead, so behooved!
Yes, let him be your Beloved,
or let You be nothing, so proved.

Must this be our one and sole pact—
keep you hymen forever intact?

I wrote the poem above a few months before Kevin’s death. The poem is directed to a Higher Power in case such a being exists.

Too Gentle, Angelic
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

Too gentle, angelic for Nature, child,
too pure of heart for Religion’s vice . . .
Oh, charm us again, let us be beguiled!
With your passionate warmth melt men’s hearts of ice.

The poem above was written shortly after Kevin's death; he died on December 10, 2008 and the poem was written on December 23, 2008, just before Christmas.

by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

Only the long dolor of dusk delights me now,
     as I await death.
The rain has ruined the unborn corn,
          and the wasting breath
of autumn has cruelly, savagely shorn
                   each ear of its radiant health.
As the golden sun dims, so the dying land seems to relinquish its vanishing wealth.

Only a few erratic, trembling stalks still continue to stand,
     half upright,
and even these the winds have continually robbed of their once-plentiful,
          golden birthright.
I think of you and I sigh, forlorn, on edge
               with the rapidly encroaching night.
Ten thousand stillborn lilies lie limp, mixed with roses, unable to ignite.

Whatever became of the magical kernel, golden within
     at the winter solstice?
What of its promised kingdom, Amen!, meant to rise again
          from this balmless poultice,
this strange bottomland where one Scarecrow commands
              dark legions of ravens and mice?
And what of the Giant whose bellows demand our negligible lives, his black vice?

I find one bright grain here aglitter with rain, full of promise and purpose
     and drive.
Through lightning and hail and nightfalls and pale, cold sunless moons
          it will strive
to rise up from its “place” on a network of lace, to the glory
               of being alive.
Why does it bother, I wonder, my brother? O, am I unwise to believe?
                     But Jack had his beanstalk
                    and you had your poems
and the sun seems intent to ascend
and so I also must climb
to the end of my time,
however the story
may unwind

Storied Lovers
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin and Janice Roberts

In your quest for the Beloved,
my brother, did you make
a near-fatal mistake?


Did you trust in the Enchantress,
La Belle Dame, as they say,
Sans Merci? Shall I pray
more kindly hands to gather you
to warmer breasts, and hold
your Spirit there, enfold
your heart in love’s sweet blessedness?


No need! One Angel’s fond caress
was your sweet haven here.
None ever held more dear,
you harbored with your Anchoress
whenever storms drew near.


Whatever storms drew near,
however great the Flood,
she held you, kind and good,
no imperious savage Empress,
but as earthly Angels should.


In your quest for the Beloved
did the road take some strange fork
where ecstatic feys cavort
that led you to her hermitage
and her hearth, safe from that wood.
(Did La Belle Dame’s dark eyes hood?)


I am thankful for the marriage
two tender spirits shared.
When the raging waters glared
and the deadly bugles blared
like cruel Trumps of Doom, below
how strong death’s undertow!


But true spirits never sink.
Though he swam through hell’s fell stink
and a sea of putrid harms,
he swam back to your arms!


Life lived upon the brink
of death, man’s human fate,
can yet such Love create
that the hosts above, spellbound,
fall silent. So confound
the heavens with your Love
and fly, O tender Dove!,
to wherever hearts may rest
once having sweetly blessed
a heart like my dear brother’s
and be both storied lovers.


I wrote the poem above on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2009.

You Were the One Who Talked to Angels
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

You were the one who talked to Angels
while I was the one who berated God,
calling him Tyrant, Infidel, Fool,
Killer, Clown, Brute, Sod, Despot, Clod.

But you were the one who talked to Angels—
who, bathed in celestial light,
stood unarmed, except for your pen
and your journal, ecstatic, to write.

How kind their baptisms, how gentle their voices!
Considering their nature the world rejoices,
and you were their gentle, their chosen one . . .
you, my kind friend, now unkindly gone.

But you were the one who talked to Angels,
in empathy, being their kind,
a child of compassion whose tender heart
burst beneath skin’s ruptured rind.

You sought the Beloved with a questing Heart;
once found, the heav’n-quickened Spirit must fly!
You mastered Man’s strange, fatalistic Art—
to live, to love, to laugh, then die.

But living here, Angel, you found the arms
of a human Angel and, living, you knew
the glories of temporal, mortal love
where one and one eclipses two.

And now she mourns you, as we all do.

But you were the one who talked to Angels,
as William Blake did, in his day,
and, childlike, felt their eclectic grace—
sweet warmth, illuminating clay.

Two kinds of Warmth—a Wife’s, and Theirs.
Two kinds of Love—Human, Divine.
Two kinds of Grace—the Angels’, Hers.
Two Planes within one Heart combine.

And so you brought far heaven near,
and so you elevated earth
and Human Love, to where the Cloud
of Witnesses might see man’s worth.


My Christlike brother, who talked to Angels,
where do you soar today, I wonder?
Do you fly on white percussive wings,
far, far beyond earth’s abyssal thunder,
and looking back, regard the earth
and its lightnings and their bellowed hymns
as the sparks and groans of a temporal Forge,
as merely momentary things?

There, looking up, do you see the Host
of those who ascended, of those who see
all things more clearly, having slipped
thin veils of flesh, for Eternity?

And will you, in your Joy, forget
the sufferings of serfs below,
or will you remember, cry “Relent!”
to those with the power to bestow
the gifts of spirit upon the many
rather than just the Chosen Few,
who sell bottled grace for a pretty penny
and break the hearts of doves like you?

Or will you be the Advocate
of those who live—the fag; the whore;
the homeless man; the indigent;
the waif who begs at the kirk’s barred door
and dares not enter, for her “sins”
which the rich-robed mannequins deplore
as they circle her and mind the store?

Will mercy, pity, peace conspire
to hold you in their gravity
so that, still Human, you aspire
to change earth’s dark trajectory?

I wrote the poem above the day after Kevin died.

Limerick-Ode to a Lazy Susan
by Michael R. Burch

for one of the more vocal yokels of the Keystone Scops

There once was a lass who would charm us,
but whose “poems” (if we read them) might harm us.
A real lazy Susan
whose “thinking”’s confusin’
might (if she were read) quite alarm us.

Untroubled to bother with facts
and brainwashed by radical tracts,
our far-out-right hisser
is no hit-or-misser:
she’s always off track with her flak.

The Pissologist
by Michael R. Burch

for one of the more vocal yokels of the Keystone Scops

There once was a poet (alleged)
whose mal-feces’nce was never once hedged.
She hammered out rhymes
for the Medieval Times,
full of Dark Ages sewage she dredged.

Her intolerance proved quite compelling
to those in her med-evil dwelling:
her tone-deaf assayers
(as-incompetent brayers)
all applauded the shit she was selling.

But alas, it was soon down the hole
for this urinal crew on the dole
whom no one would hire
or save from the mire ...
There’s no way to tidy this bowl!

Related pages: Poems for Poets, Family Poems, Romantic Poems

The HyperTexts