The HyperTexts

Rejection Slips
by Michael R. Burch

I chose the title "Rejection Slips" ironically, since I question whether the "slips" were made by the poet or his editors. These are poems of mine that were rejected multiple times before being published; some have never been formally published. I have given my "suspicions" why in some cases. Of course it could be that the poems in question simply appeal to me more than to other people, but I like to think these are publishable poems and that it was the editors who slipped up!



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we’ll discover what the heart is for.



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today.
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away . . .

This poem appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern, in 1976. It also appeared in my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977. But I don't believe it was ever published elsewhere. I believe I had The Summer of '42 in mind when I wrote the poem. Ironically, I didn't see the movie until many years later, but something about its advertisement touched me. Am I the only poet who ever wrote a love poem for Jennifer O'Neil after seeing her fleeting image in a blurb? At least in that respect, I may be unique! In any case, the movie came out in 1971 or 1972, so I was probably around 14 when I wrote the poem.



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters,
deep and dark and still . . .
all men have passed this way,
or will.

I don't remember exactly when I wrote this poem—probably in my teens—but I do remember it being part of a longer poem titled "Death." The first four lines seemed better than the rest of the poem, so I opted for the better part of valor: discretion.



Sex Hex
by Michael R. Burch

Love’s full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes).



Moments
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

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




Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

I suspect "Nun Fun Undone" is too naughty and heretical for some editors. The poem was published by Brief Poems, thanks to editor Connor Kelly, many years after it was originally written. The title may be a poem in its own right.



Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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
Exaggeration.

I believe "Caveat Spender" is my most-rejected poem. Just in case there are any masochists out there, I have published five different versions of the poem at the bottom of this page!



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.



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

Moonbeams on water —
the reflected light
of a halcyon star
now drowning in night ...
So your memories are.

Footprints on beaches
now flooding with water;
the small, broken ribcage
of some primitive slaughter ...
So near, yet so far.

I’m not sure why "Distances" hasn’t been snapped up. It may be my favorite of all my unpublished poems. In the first stanza the "halcyon star" is the sun, which has dropped below the horizon and is thus "drowning in night." But its light strikes the moon, creating moonbeams which are reflected in the water. Sometimes memories seem that distant, that faint, that elusive. Footprints are being washed away, a heart is missing from its ribcage, and even things close at hand can be infinitely beyond our reach. Every time the poem has been rejected, I have been surprised and disappointed.



Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!



Aubade
by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify. ...

Abide
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).



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

How can I write and not be true
to the rhythm that wells within?
How can the ocean not be blue,
not buck with the clapboard slap of tide,
the clockwork shock of wave on rock,
the motion creation stirs within?

Originally published by The Lyric



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.

This is another poem of mine that has been rejected a number of times over the years.



Frail Envelope of Flesh
―for the mothers and children of the Holocaust and Gaza

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

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

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

The title and first line of this poem came from a comic book that I read around age eleven while living in Wiesbaden, Germany. The line, uttered by a super-villain really struck me and stayed with me.



Dispensing Keys
by Hafiz
translation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile
constructs cages
for everyone he knows,
while the sage
(who has to duck his head
whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys
all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy,
prison gang.

I love the wisdom and spirit of Hafiz in this subversive (pardon the pun) little poem. I can see Trump putting refugees in cages, while Hafiz goes around letting them out for a moondance.



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; though 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.
Until we become them, O, let us steadfastly forget them, even as we know our children must.



This is one of my most-rejected poems, but I still hold out slight hopes for it ...

Erin
by Michael R. Burch

All that’s left of Ireland is her hair—
bright carrot—and her milkmaid-pallid skin,
her brilliant air of cavalier despair,
her train of children—some conceived in sin,
the others to avoid it. For nowhere
is evidence of thought. Devout, pale, thin,
gay, nonchalant, all radiance. So fair!

How can men look upon her and not spin
like wobbly buoys churned by her skirt’s brisk air?
They buy. They grope to pat her nyloned shin,
to share her elevated, pale Despair ...
to find at last two spirits ease no one’s.

All that’s left of Ireland is the Care,
her impish grin, green eyes like leprechauns’.



Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

“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.”



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 its thorn.



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.



The Pain of Love
by Michael R. Burch

for T. M.

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

the train steaming from the station
whistling abnegation;

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

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

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

Note: The title “The Pain of Love” was suggested by an interview with Little Richard, then eighty years old, in Rolling Stone. He said that someone should create a song called “The Pain of Love.” I have always found the departure platforms of railway stations and the vanishing broken white bars of highway dividing lines depressing.



Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today's genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
Michael R. Burch



Polish
by Michael R. Burch

Your fingers end in talons—
the ones you trim to hide
the predator inside.

Ten thousand creatures sacrificed;
but really, what’s the loss?
Apply a splash of gloss.

You picked the perfect color
to mirror nature’s law:
red, like tooth and claw.



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.



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.



In this Ordinary Swoon
by Michael R. Burch

In this ordinary swoon
as I pass from life to death,
I feel no heat from the cold, pale moon;
I feel no sympathy for breath.

Who I am and why I came,
I do not know; nor does it matter.
The end of every man’s the same
and every god’s as mad as a hatter.

I do not fear the letting go;
I only fear the clinging on
to hope when there’s no hope, although
I lift my face to the blazing sun

and feel the greater intensity
of the wilder inferno within me.



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.



Album
by Michael R. Burch

I caress them—trapped in brittle cellophane—
and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flight—an old prop plane,
their blissful arc through alien blue skies ...

And I touch them here through leaves which—tattered, frayed—
are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects’ wings—pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never changed, remaining two ...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on feral claws
as It scratched Its way into their hearts, depends
on sorrows such as theirs, and works Its jaws ...

and slavers for Its meat—those young, unwise,
who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.



Finally to Burn
(the Descent of Icarus)
by Michael R. Burch

Athena takes me
sometimes by both hands

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 drift
far beyond any 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, that is Bliss
in Love’s recursive Dream,

for the Night has Wings
pallid as 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 in the There,
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.



This is another much-rejected poem. If a joke falls and no one gets it, did the jokester really exist?

Artificial Smile
by Michael R. Burch

I’m waiting for my artificial teeth
to stretch belief, to hollow out the cob
of zealous righteousness, to grasp life’s stub
between clenched molars, and yank out the grief.

Mine must be art-official—zenlike Art—
a disembodied, white-enameled grin
of Cheshire manufacture. Part by part,
the human smile becomes mock porcelain.

Till in the end, the smile alone remains:
titanium-based alloys undestroyed
with graves’ worm-eaten contents, all the pains
of bridgework unrecalled, and what annoyed

us most about the corpses rectified
to quaintest dust. The Smile winks, deified.



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.)



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.



Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-stoned.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-stoned,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-stoned,
we first proved we had lives of our own).



Conformists
by Michael R. Burch

Conformists of a feather
flock together.



Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.

This is a heretical poem of mine that I ended up publishing myself. After having read the Bible from cover to cover as a young boy, I came to agree with William Blake, who called the biblical god "Nobodaddy" because no child would want him for a father.



we did not Dye in vain!
by Michael R. Burch

from “songs of the sea snails”

though i’m just a slimy crawler,
my lineage is proud:
my forebears gave their lives
(oh, let the trumps blare loud!)
so purple-mantled Royals
might stand out in a crowd.

i salute you, fellow loyals,
who labor without scruple
as your incomes fall
while deficits quadruple
to swaddle unjust Lords
in bright imperial purple!

Notes: In ancient times the purple dye produced from the secretions of purpura mollusks (sea snails) was known as “Tyrian purple,” “royal purple” and “imperial purple.” It was greatly prized in antiquity, and was very expensive according to the historian Theopompus: “Purple for dyes fetched its weight in silver at Colophon.” Thus, purple-dyed fabrics became status symbols, and laws often prevented commoners from possessing them. The production of Tyrian purple was tightly controlled in Byzantium, where the imperial court restricted its use to the coloring of imperial silks. A child born to the reigning emperor was literally porphyrogenitos ("born to the purple") because the imperial birthing apartment was walled in porphyry, a purple-hued rock, and draped with purple silks. Royal babies were swaddled in purple; we know this because the iconodules, who disagreed with the emperor Constantine about the veneration of images, accused him of defecating on his imperial purple swaddling clothes!



briefling
by Michael R. Burch

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



The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For dreams discarded, useless dust,
brief lusts that animated clay,
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,

for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,

for waltzes ending in a hush
and rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames exhausted, leaving ash,
and petals falling from the rose,

I raise my cup before I drink
in reverence to a love long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to passages, to time that fled.



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt, who died April 4, 1998.

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

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

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

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



The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

for Norman Kraeft in memory of his beloved wife June Kysilko Kraeft

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.



The Sky Was Turning Blue
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday I saw you
as the snow flurries died,
spent winds becalmed.
When I saw your solemn face
alone in the crowd,
I felt my heart, so long embalmed,
begin to beat aloud.

Was it another winter,
another day like this?
Was it so long ago?
Where you the rose-cheeked girl
who slapped my face, then stole a kiss?
Was the sky this gray with snow,
my heart so all a-whirl?

How is it in one moment
it was twenty years ago,
lost worlds remade anew?
When your eyes met mine, I knew
you felt it too, as though
we heard the robin's song
and the sky was turning blue.



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!

I have never understood why this one wasn't snapped up by Light or some other publisher of humorous poetry. It seems rather cute and clever to me, but what do I know? The poem was published by The Eclectic Muse, thanks to editor Joe M. Ruggier.



The State of the Art (?)
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Shall poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

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 a Stolen Moment
by Kim Cherub

In a stolen moment,
when the clock’s hands complete their inevitable course
and sleep is the night’s dark spell,
I call it a curse,

seeking the force,
the font of candescent words, the electric thrill
tingling from brain to spine
to incessant quill—

the fever, the chill.
I know it as well as I know myself.
Time’s second hand stirs; not I; in my cell,
words spill.



Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,

that likes its pikes’ sharp rows of teeth
and doesn’t mind its victims’ grief

(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.



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.



Thirty
by Michael R. Burch

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail.
As three decades passed, she waited for the winds to shift;
now, claws unsheathed, she lies ready to assail
her defenseless prey.



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,
and in thankful ignorance,
and especially for my son

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



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.



Am I
by Michael R. Burch

Am I inconsequential;
do I matter not at all?
Am I just a snowflake,
to sparkle, then to fall?

Am I only chaff?
Of what use am I?
Am I just a flame,
to flicker, then to die?

Am I inadvertent?
For what reason am I here?
Am I just a ripple
in a pool that once was clear?

Am I insignificant?
Will time pass me by?
Am I just a flower,
to live one day, then die?

Am I unimportant?
Do I matter either way?
Or am I just an echo—
soon to fade away?

This seems like a pretty well-crafted poem for a teenage poet just getting started. I believe I was around 14 or 15 when I wrote it. The title is a reversal of the biblical "I Am."



Time
by Michael R. Burch

Time,
where have you gone?
What turned out so short,
had seemed like so long.

Time,
where have you flown?
What seemed like mere days
were years come and gone.

Time,
see what you've done:
for now I am old,
when once I was young.

Time,
do you even know why
your days, minutes, seconds
preternaturally fly?

This is a companion piece to "Am I" Both poems appeared in my high school project notebook (titled "Poems"), so I was probably around 14 or 15 when I wrote them. I believe the class was 10th grade English and the poems had already been written.



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.



Willy Nilly
by Michael R. Burch

for the Demiurge aka Yahweh/Jehovah

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You made the stallion,
you made the filly,
and now they sleep
in the dark earth, stilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You forced them to run
all their days uphilly.
They ran till they dropped—
life’s a pickle, dilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
They say I should worship you!
Oh, really!
They say I should pray
so you’ll not act illy.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

This is yet another heretical poem that it has been difficult to find publishers for.



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 Bachelor Spectacular
by Michael R. Burch

One heart? Tossed aside.
The other? A bride’s.
In all his great wisdom, the bachelor decides.

Eeenie, mean-ie, mine-y, mo’,
one gal must stay and one must go.
If she hollers? That’s the show!

No heart can handle such despair!
But hearts get broken, hearts repair.
Next season? The treasoned will rule the air.



Brief Fling I

by Michael R. Burch

“Epigram”
means cram,
then scram!



Brief Fling II
by Michael R. Burch

To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram,
dull sham!



Pity Clarity
by Michael R. Burch

Pity Clarity,
and, if you should find her,
release her from the tangled webs
of dusty verse that bind her.

And as for Brevity,
once the soul of wit—
she feels the gravity
of ironic chains and massive rhetoric.

And Poetry,
before you may adore her,
must first be freed
from those who for her loveliness would whore her.

This poem expresses my unhappiness with the "state of the art" in three different poetic camps or churches.



The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch

Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over ...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each unembraceable lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their bright laughter’s the wine ...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion ...

and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again “soon” ...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon ...

and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune ...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.

And I know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their words are unreadable runes
unlikely to stand in this waterlogged land
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined ...

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it’s something to be loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, outshining the night
and all the stars ringed high above ...

and you whisper, "It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while."
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, "Yes, I would," to your small, troubled smile.

I rather vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with presumably a lot of office parties). This would have been after my sophomore year in college, making me around 20 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the upper-level managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time.



Modern Appetite

by Michael R. Burch

It grumbled low, insisting it would feast
on blood and flesh, etcetera, at least
three times a day. With soft lubricious grease

and pale salacious oils, it would ease
its way through life. Each day—an aperitif.
Each night—a frothy bromide, for relief.

It lived on TV fare, wore pinafores,
slurped sugar-coated gumballs, gobbled S’mores.
When gas ensued, it burped and farted. ’Course,

it thought aloud, my wife will leave me. Whores
are not so damn particular. Divorce
is certainly a settlement, toujours!


A Tums a day will keep the shrink away,
recalcify old bones, keep gas at bay.
If Simon says, etcetera, Mother, may

I have my hit of calcium today?



Instruction
by Michael R. Burch

Toss this poem aside
to the filigree and the wild tide
of sunset.

Strike my name,
and still it is all the same.
The onset

of night is in the despairing skies;
each hut shuts its bright bewildered eyes.
The wind sighs

and my heart sighs with her—
my only companion, O Lovely Drifter!
Still, men are not wise.

The moon appears; the arms of the wind lift her,
pooling the light of her silver portent,
while men, impatient,

are beings of hurried and harried despair.
Now willows entangle their fragrant hair.
Men sleep.

Cornsilk tassels the moonbright air.
Deep is the sea; the stars are fair.
I reap.



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.



Break Time
by Michael R. Burch

for those who lost loved ones on 9-11

Intrude upon my grief; sit; take a spot
of milk to cloud the blackness that you feel;
add artificial sweeteners to conceal
the bitter aftertaste of loss. You’ll heal
if I do not. The coffee’s hot. You speak:
of bundt cakes, polls, the price of eggs. You glance
twice at your watch, cough, look at me askance.
The TV drones oeuvres of high romance
in syncopated lip-synch. Should I feel
the underbelly of Love’s warm Ideal,
its fuzzy-wuzzy tummy, and not reel
toward some dark conclusion? Disappear
to pale, dissolving atoms. Were you here?
I brush you off: like saccharine, like a tear.

 

911 Carousel
by Michael R. Burch

“And what rough beast ... slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”—W. B. Yeats

They laugh and do not comprehend, nor ask
which way the wind is blowing, no, nor why
the reeling azure fixture of the sky
grows pale with ash, and whispers “Holocaust.”

They think to seize the ring, life’s tinfoil prize,
and, breathless with endeavor, shriek aloud.
The voice of terror thunders from a cloud
that darkens over children adult-wise,

far less inclined to error, when a step
in any wrong direction is to fall
a JDAM short of heaven. Decoys call,
their voices plangent, honking to be shot . . .

Here, childish dreams and nightmares whirl, collide,
as East and West, on slouching beasts, they ride.



Recursion
by Michael R. Burch

In a dream I saw boys lying
under banners gaily flying
and I heard their mothers sighing
from some dark distant shore.

For I saw their sons essaying
into fields—gleeful, braying—
their bright armaments displaying;
such manly oaths they swore!

From their playfields, boys returning
full of honor’s white-hot burning
and desire’s restless yearning
sired new kids for the corps.

In a dream I saw boys dying
under banners gaily lying
and I heard their mothers crying
from some dark distant shore.



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.



Drones
by Michael R. Burch

“Intellectual” 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.
Yet still in our classrooms their tomes are decreed . . .
Perhaps they're too busy with buzzing to breed.



Your e-Verse
by Michael R. Burch

—for the posters and posers on www.fillintheblank.com

I cannot understand a word you’ve said
(and this despite an adequate I.Q.);
it must be some exotic new haiku
combined with Latin suddenly undead.

It must be hieroglyphics mixed with Greek.
Have Pound and T. S. Eliot been cloned?
Perhaps you wrote it on the pot, so stoned
you spelled it backwards, just to be oblique.

I think you’re very funny—so, “Yuk! Yuk!”
I know you must be kidding; didn’t we
write crap like this and call it “poetry,”
a form of verbal exercise, P.E.,
in kindergarten, when we ran “amuck?”

Oh, sorry, I forgot to “make it new.”
Perhaps I still can learn a thing or two
from someone tres original, like you.



Relative Theories
by Michael R. Burch

Hawking, who makes my head spin,
says time may flow backward. I grin,
imagining the surprise
in my mother’s eyes
when I head for the womb once again!

Hawking’s Brief History of Time
is such a relief! How sublime
that time, in reverse,
may un-write this verse
and un-spend my last thin dime!

Einstein the frizzy-haired
claimed E equals MC squared.
Thus all mass decreases
as activity ceases?
Not my mass, my ass declared!

Relativity, the theorists’ creed,
claims mass increases with speed.
My (m)ass grows when I sit it.
Mr. Einstein, get with it;
equate its deflation, I plead!

Einstein’s theory is really quite silly—
it says masses increase willy-nilly
at speeds close to light.
Well, his relatives’ might,
but mine grow their (m)asses more stilly.

Einstein’s relative theory
says masses increase, all too clearly,
at speeds close to light.
Well, his relatives’ might,
but mine grow their m(asses) more stilly.



The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

He walks to the sink,
takes out his teeth,
rubs his gums.
He tries not to think.

In the mirror, on the mantle,
Time—the silver measure—
does not stare or blink,
but in a wrinkle flutters,
in a hand upon the brink
of a second, hovers.

Through a mousehole,
something scuttles
on restless incessant feet.
There is no link

between life and death
or from a fading past
to a more tenuous present
that a word uncovers
in the great wink.

The white foam lathers
at his thin pink
stretched neck
like a tightening noose.
He tries not to think.



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.



Mother of Cowards
by Michael R. Burch

So unlike the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Showering gold, spread-eagled, a strumpet stands:
A much-used trollop with a torch, whose flame
Has long since been extinguished. And her name?
"Mother of Cowards!" From her enervate hand
Soft ash descends. Her furtive eyes demand
allegiance to her Pimp's repulsive game.

"Keep, ancient lands, your wretched poor!" cries she
With scarlet lips. "Give me your hale, your whole,
Your huddled tycoons, yearning to be pleased!
The wretched refuse of your toilet hole?
Oh, never send one unwashed child to me!
I await Trump's pleasure by the gilded bowl!"



Recursion
by Michael R. Burch

In a dream I saw men lying
under banners gaily flying
and I heard their mothers
sighing from some dark distant shore.

Then I saw their sons essaying
into fields—gleeful, braying—
their proud armaments displaying;
such manly oaths they swore!

From their playfields, some returning
full of honor’s white-hot burning
and desire’s restless yearning
sired new kids for the corps.

In a dream I saw men dying
under banners gaily lying
and I heard their mothers crying
from some dark distant shore.



Second Sight

by Michael R. Burch

Newborns see best at a distance of 8 to 14 inches.

Wiser than we know, the newborn screams,
red-faced from breath, and wonders what life means
this close to death, amid the arctic glare
of warmthless lights above.
Beware! Beware!—
encrypted signals, codes? Or ciphers, noughts?

Interpretless, almost, as his own thoughts—
the brilliant lights, the brilliant lights exist.
Intruding faces ogle, gape, insist—
this madness, this soft-hissing breath, makes sense.
Why can he not float on, in dark suspense,
and dream of life? Why did they rip him out?

He frowns at them—small gnomish frowns, all doubt—
and with an ancient mien, O sorrowful!,
re-closes eyes that saw in darkness null
ecstatic sights, exceeding beautiful.



Winter
by Michael R. Burch

The rose of lost potential
lies tattered by the thorn;
her scent was sweet
but at her feet
the pallid lilies mourn.

The lilac of devotion
has felt the winter hoar
and shed her dress;
companionless,
she shivers at the door.



To Please The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



Whose Woods
by Michael R. Burch

Whose woods these are, I think I know.
Dick Cheney’s in the White House, though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his chip mills overflow.

My sterile horse must think it queer
To stop without a ’skeeter near
Beside this softly glowing “lake”
Of six-limbed frogs gone nuclear.

He gives his hairless tail a shake;
I fear he’s made his last mistake—
He took a sip of water blue
(Blue-slicked with oil and HazMat waste).

Get out your wallets; Dick’s not through—
Enron’s defunct, the bill comes due . . .
Which he will send to me, and you.
Which he will send to me, and you.



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.



Sailing to My Grandfather, for George Hurt
by Michael R. Burch

This distance between us
—this vast sea
of remembrance—
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spray—light fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.

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



Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

"My father!"
"My son!"

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



War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

Trump’s war is on children

War is obsolete;
even the strange machinery of dread
weeps for the child in the street
who cannot lift her head
to reprimand the Man
who failed to countermand
her soft defeat.

But war is obsolete;
even the cold robotic drone
that flies far overhead
has sense enough to moan
and shudder at her plight
(only men bereft of Light
with hearts indurate stone
embrace war’s Siberian night.)

For war is obsolete;
man’s tribal “gods,” long dead,
have fled his awakening sight
while the true Sun, overhead,
has pity on her plight.
O sweet, precipitate Light! —
embrace her, reject the night
that leaves gentle changelings dead.

For each brute ancestor lies
with his totems and his “gods”
in the slavehold of premature night
that awaited him in his tomb;
while Love, the ancestral womb,
still longs to give birth to the Light.
Which child shall we murder tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?

Originally published by The Flea



One-Liners
by Michael R. Burch

If the US consulted a competent headshrinker, it might boil down to nothing more than hot air and delusions.—Michael R. Burch

Thanks to politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, we now have a
duh-mock-racy.—Michael R. Burch


Q: What do you call it when a Man-Baby takes over the American government?
A: Coup d'Tot.
Michael R. Burch

Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick; Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.—Michael R. Burch

Sarah Palin is truly unique: she alone can make us appreciate Bush Junior's vastly superior intellect.—Michael R. Burch

I believe God is using Michelle Bachmann to conclusively prove that man did not evolve.—Michael R. Burch



Eerie Dearie
by Michael R. Burch

A trembling young auditor, white
as a sheet, like a ghost in the night,
saw his dreams, his career
in a poof!, disappear,
and then, strangely Enronic, his wife.



Our Sweet Ecologist
by Michael R. Burch

Our sweet ecologist —
what will she do with the ants
and the cockroaches, bedbugs and lice
when they want to live in her pants?



Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what’s good, or merely flaunt?

(for Unclever Trevor and Mor the Inch-Roarer)



Lines in Favor of Female Muses
by Michael R. Burch

I guess Asses of Parnassus are okay ...
But those Lasses of Parnassus? My! Olé!

Published by Asses of Parnassus



DPAA Hymn
by Kim Cherub

Sound the awesome cannons.
Pin medals to each breast.
Attention, honor guard!
Give them a hero’s rest.

Recite their names to the heavens
Till the stars recognize their kin.
Then let the land they defended
Gather them in again.

NOTE: When I learned there’s an American military organization, the DPAA (Defense/POW/MIA Accounting Agency) that is still finding and bringing home the bodies of soldiers who died serving their country in World War II, after blubbering like a baby, I managed to eke out this poem.



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



Huntress
by Michael R. Burch

Lynx-eyed, cat-like and cruel, you creep
across a crevice dropping deep
into a dark and doomed domain.
Your claws are sheathed. You smile, insane.
Rain falls upon your path, and pain
pours down. Your paws are pierced. You pause
and heed the antediluvian laws
which bid you not begin again
till night returns. You wail like wind,
the sighing of a soul for sin,
and give up hunting for a heart.
Till sunset falls again, depart,
though hate and hunger urge you—On!
Heed, hearts, your hope—the break of dawn.

Published by Sonnetto Poesia



In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free—
in chains bound.
Manifest Destiny?
I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.
This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.
I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.
We were wrong.
This is my history.
I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.
We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina



Quanta
by Michael R. Burch

The stars shine fierce and hard across the Abyss
and only seem to twinkle from such distance
we scarcely see at all. But sheer persistence
in seeing what makes “sense” to us, is man’s
best art and science. BIG, he comprehends.
Love’s photons are too small, escape the lens.

Who dares to look upon familiar things
will find them alien. True distance reels.
Less what he knows than what his finger feels,
the lightning of the socket sparks and sings,
then stings him into comic reverie.
Cartoonish lightbulbs overhead, do we

not “think” because we feel there must be More,
as less and less we know what we explore?

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Fly’s Eyes
by Michael R. Burch

Inhibited, dark agile fly along
paint-peeling sills, up to the bright glass drawn
by radiance compounded thousandfold,—
I do not see the same as you, but hold
antenna to the brilliant pane of life
and buzz bewilderedly.
                                    In your belief
the world outside is “as it is” because
you see it clearly, windowed without flaws,
you err.
             I see strange terrors in the glass—
dead airless bubbles light can never pass
without distortion, fingerprints that blur
the sun itself. No, nothing here is clear.
You see the earth distinct, eyes “open wide.”
It only seems that way, unmagnified.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Merciles Beaute ("Merciless Beauty")
by Geoffrey Chaucer
translation by Michael R. Burch

Your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.

Unless your words heal me hastily,
my heart's wound will remain green;
for your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain.

By all truth, I tell you faithfully
that you are my life and my death, my queen ...
for at my death this truth shall at last be seen:
your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.



Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.



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, Walter Mitties, defend the Muse
with reprimands of Dr. Seuss.

The best book of the age sold two,
or three, or four (but not to you),
strange copies of the ones before,
misreadings that delight the board.
They sit and clap; their revenues
fall trillions short of Mother Goose.



Completing the Pattern
by Michael R. Burch

Walk with me now, among the transfixed dead
who kept life’s compact and who thus endure
harsh sentence here—among white-petaled beds
and manicured green lawns. The sky’s azure,
pale blue once like their eyes, will gleam blood-red
at last when sunset staggers to the door
of each mute mausoleum, to inquire—
What use, O things of erstwhile loveliness?



Love Stronger than Time
by Victor Hugo
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Since I first set my lips to your full cup,
Since my pallid face first nested in your hands,
Since I sensed your soul and every bloom lit up—
Till those rare perfumes were lost to deepening sands;

Since I was once allowed those pleasures deep—
To hear your heart speak mysteries, divine;
Since I have seen you smile, have watched you weep,
Your lips pressed to my lips, your eyes on mine;

Since I have sensed above my thoughts the gleam
Of a ray, a single ray, of your bright star
(If sometimes veiled), and felt light falling stream,
Like one rose petal plucked from high, afar;

I now can say to time's swift-changing hours:
Pass, pass upon your way, for you grow old;
Flee to the dark abyss with your drear flowers,
but one unmarred within my heart I hold.

Your flapping wings may jar but cannot spill
The cup fulfilled of love, from which I drink;
My heart has fires your frosts can never chill,
My soul more love to fly than you can sink.



Trump’s Silver Lining
by Michael R. Burch

Things are bad
and getting worse:
the president’s mad,
the supremacists terse;
the earth itself
may require a hearse ...
The silver lining?
Trump inspires verse!


Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today’s genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
Michael R. Burch



Long Division
by Kim Cherub

after Laura Riding Jackson

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



Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

Love is a splendid ideal
(at least till it costs us a meal).




There’s no need to rant about Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The cruelty of “civilization” suffices:
our ordinary vices.
Michael R. Burch



Self-ish
by Kim Cherub

Let’s not pretend we “understand” other elves
As long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.



Piecemeal
by Kim Cherub

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.



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.



Lean Harvests
by Michael R. Burch

for T.M.

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

Published by The Rotary Dial and Angle



faith(less)
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



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

for Beth

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

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

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

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



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 ...



First Dance
by Michael R. Burch

for Sykes and Mary Harris

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




Keep the Body Well
by Michael R. Burch

for William Sykes Harris III

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

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




The Discovery
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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




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 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.




Wickett
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Dog Daze
by Michael R. Burch

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

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



Love’s Extreme Unction
by Michael R. Burch

Lines composed during Jeremy’s first Nashville Christian football game (he played tuba), while I watched Beth watch him.

Within the intimate chapels of her eyes—
devotions, meditations, reverence.
I find in them Love’s very residence
and hearing the ardent rapture of her sighs
I prophesy beatitudes to come,
when Love like hers commands us, “All be One!”




All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

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

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

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

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

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

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .




Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

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

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

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

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

make them complete.



My Touchstone
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather George Edwin Hurt Sr.

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

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



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.



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

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."



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 last 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.



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 ...



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!"



Dust
by Michael R. Burch

Flame within flame,
  we burned and burned relentlessly
    till there was nothing left to be consumed.
    Only ash remained, the smoke plumed
  like a spirit leaving its corpse, and we
were left with only a name
ever common between us.
  We had thought to love “eternally,”
    but the wick sputtered, the candle swooned,
    the flame subsided, the smoke ballooned,
  and our commonest thought was: flee, flee, flee
the choking dust.



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?



Tillage
by Michael R. Burch

What stirs within me
is no great welling
straining to flood forth,
but an emptiness
waiting to be filled.

I am not an orchard
ready to be harvested,
but a field
rough and barren
waiting to be tilled.



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

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

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

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

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



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.



Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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
Exaggeration.

Caveat Spender II
by Michael R. Burch

It’s better not to speculate
“continually” on who is great:
it makes the mediocre fuss
(and others less than great, like us).

Caveat Spender III
by Michael R. Burch

It’s better not to speculate
“continually” on who is great:
it makes the language purists fuss,
and poets less than great, like us.

Caveat Spender IV
by Michael R. Burch

It’s better not to speculate
“continually” on who is great:
or those your musings aggravate
will say your poems exaggerate
and that your logic’s second rate.

Caveat Spender V
by Michael R. Burch

It’s better not to speculate
“continually” on who is great:
this leaves no time for opuses
and makes you sound pretentious; thus,
because your poem’s so serious,
we find it quite ridiculous.

Clyde Lied, or, Honeymoon Not-So-Sweet
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.




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 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 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

The HyperTexts