The HyperTexts

Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch is one of the world's most-published poets, with over 9,000 publications (not including self-published poems). Mike Burch is an American poet, editor and translator who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, a talkative parakeet, Kiwi, two outrageously spoiled puppies, Buffy and Oz, and the ghost of a hamster, Olive, murdered by a former canine family member.

Are mayflies missed by mountains? Do stars
applaud the glowworm’s stellar mimicry?
—excerpt from “Mayflies” by Michael R. Burch

For an expanded bio, circum vitae, career timeline, reviews, interviews and other information of interest to scholars, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio. To read his best poems, please click here: The Best Poems of Michael R. Burch (per Google and in his own opinion). For his best translations please click here: The Best Translations of Michael R. Burch. To find poems on specific themes or Burch's analysis of his own poems, please scroll to the bottom of this page.

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
—“Epitaph for a Ukrainian Child” by Michael R. Burch

Please click here for more Poems for Ukraine by Michael R. Burch and other contemporary poets.

Later there’ll be talk of saving whales
over racks of lamb and flambéed snails.
—“After the Poetry Recital” by Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch's poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories, puns, jokes and letters have appeared more than 9,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Guardian, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3,, Daily Kos, American Dissident, Journal of Arts and Humanities, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing and hundreds of literary journals, websites and blogs.

A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy?
—Albert Einstein, poetic interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Burch began writing poetry around age eleven and became a "serious poet" at age fourteen. This is one of his earliest poems:

by Michael R. Burch

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

Poems written by Burch as a teenager have been published by literary journals which include The Lyric, The New Lyre, Setu (India), Borderless Journal (Singapore), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Poezii (Romania), Nebo, Blue Unicorn, Better Than Starbucks, Romantics Quarterly, Penny Dreadful and Trinacria. This is one of the first poems, written as a teen, that made Burch feel like a "real poet":

by Michael R. Burch

Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your heart sought its shell like a crab on a beach,
then scuttled inside to be safe, out of reach?

Might I lift you tonight from earth’s wreckage and damage
on these waves gently rising to pay the moon homage?
Or better, perhaps, let me say that I, too,
have dreamed of infinity … windswept and blue.

Mike Burch, as he is called in the real world, is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google's rankings, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba.

Love is either wholly folly
or fully holy.
—Michael R. Burch

Burch 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.

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

Michael R. Burch's poems have been published by hundreds of literary journals, taught in high schools and colleges, translated into 19 languages, incorporated into three plays and four operas, and set to music, from swamp blues to opera, 59 times by 32 composers.

His poem "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. According to Google the poem at one time appeared on a staggering 691,000 web pages. That's a lot of cutting and pasting!

Burch is currently on the board of the international literary journal Borderless Journal and has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks.

If you're a student, teacher or poetry lover who would like permission to use his poems, you can email Mike Burch at; messages sent via Facebook and Twitter may not always reach him, so email is best (and please be sure not to miss the "r" between his first and last names). For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio. For an index of his critical writings please click here: Michael R. Burch Critical Writings and Miscellanea. Editors, publishers, anthologists, archivists and scholars, please note that this page contains the final, authoritative versions of the poems published here.

by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty …

what do we know of love,
or duty?

by Michael R. Burch

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

Between the prophecies 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.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme

Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch

Brilliant leaves abandon battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees,
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak November sky ...

Now, as I watch the leaves' high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say—

Several of my early poems were about aging, loss and death. Young poets can be so morbid! Like "Death" this poem is the parings of a longer poem. Most of my poems end up being sonnet-length or shorter. I think the sounds here are pretty good for a young poet "testing his wings." This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," that dates to around age 14-16. "Leave Taking" has been published by The Lyric, Mindful of Poetry, Silver Stork Magazine and There is Something in the Autumn (an anthology). The longer poem appears later on this page.

Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all
for children, however tall.

And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call
the one who was everything.

That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all
for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won’t remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.

No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.


by Michael R. Burch

for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba

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

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

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

Originally published by There Is Something in the Autumn (anthology)

The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
  without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
    but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
      felt more than seen.
      I was eighteen,
    my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
  Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant…
  without words, but with a deeper communion,
    as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
      liquidly our lips met
      —feverish, wet—
    forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
  in the immediacy of our fumbling union
as the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

This is one of my early poems but I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it. Due to its romantic style and the age specified, I believe the poem was probably written during my first two years in college, making me 18 or 19 at the time. "The Communion of Sighs" has also been published as "Corona," a title I used during the coronavirus pandemic. The poem was originally published as "The Communion of Sighs" by Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Webring, then later online with both titles. But I think of the poem as I originally wrote it, as "The Communion of Sighs."

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

which 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.

"Mending" is dedicated to the victims of 9-11 and their families and friends.

Roses for a Lover, Idealized
by Michael R. Burch

When you have become to me
as roses bloom, in memory,
exquisite, each sharp thorn forgot,
will I recall—yours made me bleed?

When winter makes me think of you—
whorls petrified in frozen dew,
bright promises blithe spring forsook,
will I recall your words—barbed, cruel?

Published by The Lyric, La Luce Che Non Moure (Italy), The Chained Muse, Setu (India), Borderless Journal (Singapore), Glass Facets of Poetry, Better Than Starbucks and Trinacria

by Michael R. Burch

We had—almost—an affair.
You almost ran your fingers through my hair.
I almost kissed the almonds of your toes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

You almost contemplated using Nair
and adding henna highlights to your hair,
while I considered plucking you a Rose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost found the words to say, “I care.”
We almost kissed, and yet you didn’t dare.
I heard coarse stubble grate against your hose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

You almost called me suave and debonair
(perhaps because my chest is pale and bare?).
I almost bought you edible underclothes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost asked you where you kept your lair
and if by chance I might seduce you there.
You almost tweezed the redwoods from my nose.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

We almost danced like Rogers and Astaire
on gliding feet; we almost waltzed on air …
until I mashed your plain, unpolished toes.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

I almost was strange Sonny to your Cher.
We almost sat in love’s electric chair
to be enlightninged, till our hearts unfroze.
We almost loved,
that’s always how love goes.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online


by Michael R. Burch

There are days that I believe
(and nights that I deny)
love is not mutilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There are tightropes leaps bereave—
taut wires strumming high
brief songs, infatuations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were cannon shots’ soirees,
hearts barricaded, wise …
and then … annihilation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were nights our hearts conceived
untruths reborn as sighs.
To dream was our consolation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were acrobatic leaves
that tumbled down to lie
at our feet, bright trepidations.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

There were hearts carved into trees—
tall stakes where you and I
left childhood’s salt libations …

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

Where once you scraped your knees;
love later bruised your thighs.
Death numbs all, our sedation.

Daredevil, dry your eyes.

Originally published by New Lyre


by Michael R. Burch

Though you possessed the moon and stars,
you are bound to fate and wed to chance.
Your lips deny they crave a kiss;
your feet deny they ache to dance.
Your heart imagines wild romance.

Though you cupped fire in your hands
and molded incandescent forms,
you are barren now, and—spent of flame—
the ashes that remain are borne
toward the sun upon a storm.

You, who demanded more, have less,
your heart within its cells of sighs
held fast by chains of misery,
confined till death for peddling lies—
imprisonment your sense denies.

You, who collected hearts like leaves
and pressed each once within your book,
forgot. None—winsome, bright or rare—
not one was worth a second look.
My heart, as others, you forsook.

But I, though I loved you from afar
through silent dawns, and gathered rue
from gardens where your footsteps left
cold paths among the asters, knew—
each moonless night the nettles grew

and strangled hope, where love dies too.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

Ophelia, madness suits you well,
as the ocean sounds in an empty shell,
as the moon shines brightest in a starless sky,
as suns supernova before they die …

Originally published by The HyperTexts

by Michael R. Burch

There were skies onyx at night … moons by day …
lakes pale as her eyes … breathless winds
undressing tall elms; … she would say
that we loved, but I figured we’d sinned.

Soon impatiens too fiery to stay
sagged; the crocus bells drooped, golden-limned;
things of brightness, rinsed out, ran to gray …
all the light of that world softly dimmed.

Where our feet were inclined, we would stray;
there were paths where dead weeds stood untrimmed,
distant mountains that loomed in our way,
thunder booming down valleys dark-hymned.

What I found, I found lost in her face
while yielding all my virtue to her grace.

Marsh Song
by Michael R. Burch

Here there is only the great sad song of the reeds
and the silent herons, wraithlike in the mist,
and a few drab sunken stones, unblessed
by the sunlight these late sixteen thousand years,
and the beaded dews that drench strange ferns, like tears
collected against an overwhelming sadness.

Here the marsh exposes its dejectedness,
its gutted rotting belly, and its roots
rise out of the earth’s distended heaviness,
to claw hard at existence, till the scars
remind us that we all have wounds, and I …
I have learned again that living is despair
as the herons cleave the placid, dreamless air.

Originally published by The Lyric

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 to the lees
as fierce northern gales sever.

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

Originally published by Borderless Journal (International/Singapore)

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

Originally published by Writer's Gazette

by Michael R. Burch

for Virginia Woolf

Weigh me down with stones ...
   fill all the pockets of my gown ...
      I’m going down,
         mad as the world
            that can’t recover,
to where even mermaids drown.

by Michael R. Burch

I have no words
for winter’s pale splendors
awash in gray twilight,
nor these slow-dripping eaves
renewing their tinkling songs.

Life’s like the failing resistance
of autumn to winter
and plays its low accompaniment,
slipping slowly


Originally published by The HyperTexts

Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Years later I found the proper name—“pokeweed”—while perusing a dictionary.
Surprised, I asked why anyone would eat a weed.
I still can hear his laconic reply …
“Well, chile, s’m’times them times wus hard.”

Originally published by Lonzie's Fried Chicken

by Michael R. Burch

Toss this poem aside
to the filigreed and the prettified 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.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in her pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still, …
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
I had nothing left …
yet I smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Water and Gold
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joys are wan illusions to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

You came to me as riches to a miser
when all is gold, or so his heart believes,
until he dies much thinner and much wiser,
his gleaming bones hauled off by chortling thieves.

You gave your heart too soon, too dear, too vastly;
I could not take it in; it was too much.
I pledged to meet your price, but promised rashly.
I died of thirst, of your bright Midas touch.

I dreamed you gave me water of your lips,
then sealed my tomb with golden hieroglyphs.

Originally published by The Lyric

This is a poem longing to be a hymn, if anyone can set it to music …

Ave Maria
by Michael R. Burch

Ave Maria,
Maiden mild,
listen to my earnest prayer.
Listen, O, and be beguiled.
Ave Maria.

Ave Maria,
Maiden mild,
be Mother now to every child
beset by earth’s thorned briars wild.
Ave Maria.

Ave Maria,
Maiden mild,
embrace us with your Love and Grace.
Let us look upon your Face.
Ave Maria.

Ave Maria,
Maiden mild,
please attend to our earnest call—
When will Love be All in All?
Ave Maria.

Copyright © 2020 by Michael R. Burch

Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Death 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

then flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

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

Copyright © 1999 by Michael R. Burch; published by New Lyre and The Chained Muse (and recited twice in a TCM podcast); translated into Chinese by Chen Bolai; set to music by David Hamilton and performed by the Jade String Quartet.

Hymn to an Art-o-matic Laundromat
by Michael R. Burch

after Richard Moore’s “Hymn to an Automatic Washer”

O, terrible-immaculate
ALL-cleansing godly Laundromat,
where cleanliness is next to Art
—a bright Kinkade (bought at K-Mart),
a Persian rug (made in Taiwan),
a Royal Bonn Clock (time zone Guam)—
embrace my ass in cushioned vinyl,
erase all marks: anal, vaginal,
penile, inkspot, red wine, dirt.
O, sterilize her skirt, my shirt,
my skidmarked briefs, her padded bra;
suds-away in your white maw
all filth, the day’s accumulation.
Make us pure by INUNDATION.

Published by The Oldie, where it was the winner of a poetry contest.

Crescendo Against Heaven
by Michael R. Burch

As curiously formal as the rose,
the imperious Word grows
until it sheds red-gilded leaves:
then heaven grieves
love’s tiny pool of crimson recrimination
against God, its contention
of the price of salvation.

These industrious trees,
endlessly losing and re-losing their leaves,
finally unleashing themselves from earth, lashing
themselves to bits, washing
themselves free
of all but the final ignominy
of death, become
at last: fast planks of our coffins, dumb.

Together now, rude coffins, crosses,
death-cursed but bright vermilion roses,
bodies, stumps, tears, words: conspire
together with a nearby spire
to raise their Accusation Dire …
to scream, complain, to point out these
and other Dark Anomalies.

God always silent, ever afar,
distant as Bethlehem’s retrograde star,
we point out now, in resignation:
You asked too much of man’s beleaguered nation,
gave too much strength to his Enemy,
as though to prove Your Self greater than He,
at our expense, and so men die
(whose accusations vex the sky)
yet hope, somehow, that You are good …
just, O greatest of Poets!, misunderstood.

All the More Human, for Eve Pandora
by Michael R. Burch

a lullaby for the first human Clone

God provide the soul, and let her sleep
be natural as ours, unplagued by dreams
of being someone else, lost in the deep
wild swells of grieving all that human means …

and do not let her come to doubt herself—
that she is as we are, so much alike
in frailty, in the books that line the shelf
that tell us who we are—a rickety dike

against the flood of doubt—that we are more
than cells and chance, that love, perhaps, exists
because of someone else who would endure
such pain because some part of her persists

in us, and calls us blesséd by her bed,
become a saint at last, in whose frail arms
we see ourselves—the gray won out of red,
the ash of blonde—till love is safe from harm

and all that human means is that we live
in doubt, and die in doubt, and only love
the more because together we must strive
against an end we loathe and fear. What of?—

we cannot say, imagining the Night
as some weird darkened structure caving in
to cold enormous pressure. Lacking sight,
we lie unbreathing, thinking breath a sin …

and that is to be human. You are us—
true mortal, child of doubt, hopeful and curious.

Brief Encounters: Prose Epigrams

• Elevate your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch
• No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.—Seneca the Younger, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch
• You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.—Pablo Neruda, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Warmthless beauty attracts but does not engage us; it floats like hookless bait.—Capito, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
• Love distills the eyes’ desires, love bewitches the heart with its grace.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch
• He who follows will never surpass.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch
• My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes!—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Fools call wisdom foolishness.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Improve yourself through others' writings, attaining freely what they acquired at great expense.—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Experience is the best teacher but a hard taskmaster.—Michael R. Burch
• A man may attempt to burnish pure gold, but who can think to improve on his mother?—Mahatma Gandhi, translation by Michael R. Burch

The Horror
by Michael R. Burch

What I ache to say is beyond saying—
no words for the horror
                             of not loving enough,
like a mummy half-wrapped in its moldering casements
holding a lily aloft.

No, there are no words for the horror
as a cyclone howls through the teetering floes
and the cold freezes down to my clawed hairy toes …

What use to me, now, if the stars appear?

As I moan
         the moon finds me,
                             fangs goring the deer.

by Michael R. Burch

Over hushed quadrants
forever landlocked in snow,
time’s senseless winds blow …

leaving odd relics of lives half-revealed,
if still mostly concealed …
such are the things we are unable to know

that once intrigued us so.

Come then, let us quickly repent
of whatever truths we’d once determined to learn:
for whatever is left, we are unable to discern.

There’s nothing left of us here; it’s time to go.

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 pink-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 white mausoleum, to inquire—
What use, O things of erstwhile loveliness?

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.

Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?

First They Came for the Muslims

by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

It is indeed an honor to have one of my poems published by such an outstanding organization as Amnesty International, one of the world's finest. Not only is the cause good―a stated goal is to teach students about human rights through poetry―but so far the poetry published seems quite good to me. My poem appears beneath the famous Holocaust poem that inspired it, "First They Came" by Martin Niemöller. Here's a bit of background information: Words That Burn is an online poetry anthology and human rights educational resource for students and teachers created by Amnesty International in partnership with The Poetry Hour. Amnesty International is the world’s largest human rights organization, with seven million supporters. Its new webpage has been designed to "enable young people to explore human rights through poetry whilst developing their voice and skills as poets." This exemplary resource was inspired by the poetry anthology Words that Burn, curated by Josephine Hart of The Poetry Hour, which in turn was inspired by Thomas Gray's observation that "Poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn." My poem now returns a staggering 690,000 Google results, suggesting that it has been widely cut-and-pasted.

Momentum! Momentum!
by Michael R. Burch

for the neo-Cons

Crossing the Rubicon, we come!
Momentum! Momentum! Furious hooves!
The Gauls we have slaughtered, no man disapproves.
War’s hawks shrieking-strident, white doves stricken dumb.

Coo us no cooings of pale-breasted peace!
Momentum! Momentum! Imperious hooves!
The blood of barbarians brightens our greaves.
Pompey’s head in a basket? We slumber at ease.

Seduce us again, great Bellona, dark queen!
Momentum! Momentum! Curious hooves
Now pound out strange questions, but what can they mean
As the great stallions rear and their riders careen?

Bellona was the Roman goddess of war. The name "Bellona" derives from the Latin word for "war" (bellum), and is linguistically related to the English word "belligerent" (literally, "war-waging"). In earlier times she was called Duellona, that name being derived from a more ancient word for "battle."

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

for the Religious Right

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

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

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure!
After all, your intentions were ineluctably pure.
And what the hell does THE LORD care about palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were correct about negroes and indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.

In His Kingdom of Corpses
by Michael R. Burch

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many enraged discourses,
aghast, from some mountain peak
where He’s lectured man on compassion
while the sparrows around Him fell,
and babes, for His meager ration
of rain, died and went to hell,
unbaptized, for that’s His fashion.

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to vent
in many obscure discourses
on the need for man to repent,
to admit he’s a lust-addled sinner;
give up threesomes, and riches, and fame;
to be disciplined at his dinner
though always he dies the same,
whether fatter or thinner.

In his kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many absurd discourses
of man’s Ego, precipitous Peak!,
while demanding praise and worship,
and the bending of every knee.
And though He sounds like the Devil,
all good Christian men agree:
He loves them indubitably.

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.

This poem was written in 2001 after a discussion about Romanticism in the late 20th century. Kevin N. Roberts was the founder and first editor of the literary journal Romantics Quarterly, and a talented and accomplished poet, writer and philosopher.

Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar [1460-1525]
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue men hold most dear―
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I found flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently―
yet nowhere one leaf nor petal of rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair flower and left her downcast;
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that I long to replant love's root again―
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.

If the tenth line seems confusing, it helps to know that rue symbolizes pity and also has medicinal uses; thus I believe the unrequiting lover is being accused of a lack of compassion and perhaps of withholding her healing attentions. The penultimate line can be taken as a rather naughty double entendre, but I will leave that interpretation up to the reader!

by Michael R. Burch

Friends, beware
of her iniquitous hair—
long, ravenblack & melancholy.

Many suitors drowned there—
lost, unaware
of the length & extent of their folly.

Originally published in Grand Little Things

Less Heroic Couplets: Murder Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

“Murder most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner.

As you fall on my sword,
take it up with the Lord!”

the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online and in Potcake Chapbook #7

NOTE: In an attempt to demonstrate that not all couplets are heroic, I have created a series of poems called “Less Heroic Couplets.” I believe even poets should abide by truth-in-advertising laws! — Michael R. Burch

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 casual lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their forced 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 hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the dark hand of Fate,
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined …

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it were something you loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, brimming with the soft light
of the stars winking sagely above …

Then 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. Oh, and I changed the season too, because it was a Christmas/New Year's party and there were no katydids or crickets to be seen or heard.

The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(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,
for rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames' exhausted, drifting ash,
and petals falling from the rose, …
I raise my cup before I drink,
saluting ghosts of loves long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to joys set free, and those I fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme

War is Obsolete
by Michael R. Burch

Trump’s war is on children and their mothers.
"If we are to carry out a real war against war, we will have to begin with the children." — Gandhi
"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." — Gandhi

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 fledglings 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.
So which child shall we murder tonight,
or which Ares condemn to the gloom?

Originally published by The Flea

While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump insisted that, as commander-in-chief of the American military, he would order American soldiers to track down and murder women and children as "retribution" for acts of terrorism. When disbelieving journalists asked Trump if he could possibly have meant what he said, he verified several times that he did.

Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus

Heroin or Heroine?
by Michael R. Burch

for mothers battling addiction

serve the Addiction;
worship the Beast;
feed the foul Pythons,
your flesh, their fair feast …

or rise up, resist
the huge many-headed hydra;
for the sake of your Loved Ones
decapitate medusa.

Please feel free to share this poem with anyone it might help …

Self Reflection
by Michael R. Burch

for anyone struggling with self-image

She has a comely form
and a smile that brightens her dorm …
but she’s grossly unthin
when seen from within;
soon a griefstricken campus will mourn.

Yet she’d never once criticize
a friend for the size of her thighs.
Do unto others—
sisters and brothers?
Yes, but also ourselves, likewise.

For All that I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved …
and yet I hold her close within my thought.
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could …
I'd reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush
my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

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

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

too full of irrepressible candor
to remain silent,
too delicately fawnlike
for a world so violent …

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

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

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

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

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

Published by The Lyric, Writer’s Journal, Grassroots Poetry, Tucumcari Literary Journal, Unlikely Stories and Poetry Life & Times

At Tintagel
by Michael R. Burch

The legend of what happened on a stormy night at Tintagel is endlessly intriguing. Supposedly, Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon to look like Gorlois so that he could sleep with Ygraine, the lovely wife of the unlucky duke. While Uther was enjoying Ygraine’s lovemaking, Gorlois was off getting himself killed. The question is: did Igraine suspect that her lover was not her husband? Regardless, Arthur was the child conceived out of this supernatural (?) encounter.

That night,
at Tintagel,
there was darkness such as man had never seen . . .
darkness and treachery,
and the unholy thundering of the sea . . .

In his arms,
who can say how much she knew?
And if he whispered her name . . .
. . . could she tell above the howling wind and rain?

Could she tell, or did she care,
by the length of his hair
or the heat of his flesh, . . .
that her faceless companion
was Uther, the dragon,

and Gorlois lay dead?

Published by Songs of Innocence, Celtic Twilight, Fables, Fickle Muses and Poetry Life & Times

Ode to Postmodernism, or, Bury Me at St. Edmonds!
by Michael R. Burch

“Bury St. Edmonds—Amid the squirrels, pigeons, flowers and manicured lawns of Abbey Gardens, one can plug a modem into a park bench and check e-mail, download files or surf the Web, absolutely free.”—Tennessean News Service. (The bench was erected free of charge by the British division of MSN, after a local bureaucrat wrote a contest-winning ode of sorts to MSN.)

Our post-modernist-equipped park bench will let
you browse the World Wide Web, the Internet,
commune with nature, interact with hackers,
design a virus, feed brown bitterns crackers.

Discretely-wired phone lines lead to plugs—
four ports we swept last night for nasty bugs,
so your privacy’s assured (a threesome’s fine)
while invited friends can scan the party line:

for Internet alerts on new positions,
the randier exploits of politicians,
exotic birds on web cams (DO NOT FEED!).
The cybersex is great, it’s guaranteed

to leave you breathless—flushed, free of disease
and malware viruses. Enjoy the trees,
the birds, the bench—this product of Our pen.
We won in with an ode to MSN.

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

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

by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

by Michael R. Burch

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

by Michael R. Burch

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

"Styx" is one of my earliest poems, written as a teenager.

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

qui laetificat juventutem meam
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone
… . requiescat in pace
May she rest in peace
… . amen

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager. I later decided to incorporate it into a poem, which I started in high school and revised as an adult. From what I now understand, “ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” means “to the God who gives joy to my youth,” but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Latin Vulgate Bible (circa 385 AD). I can’t remember exactly when I read the novel or wrote the poem, but I believe it was around my junior year of high school, age 17 or thereabouts. This was my first translation. I revised the poem slightly in 2001 after realizing I had “misremembered” one of the words in the Latin prayer.

don’t forget …
by Michael R. Burch

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 love poem by e. e. cummings.

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

There is within her a welling forth
of love unfathomable.
She is not comfortable
with the thought of merely loving:
but she must give all.

At night, she heeds the storm's calamitous call;
nay, longs for it. Why?
O, if a man understood, he might get her.
But that never would do!
Beth, as you embrace the storm,

so I embrace elemental you.

The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

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

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.

NOTE: 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 by 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 seem infinitely beyond our reach.

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 Nabokov's wings—pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never merged, remaining two …

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on furtive claws
as It scritched 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.

Reflections on the Loss of Vision
by Michael R. Burch

The sparrow that cries from the shelter of an ancient oak tree and the squirrels
that dash in delight through the treetops as the first snow glistens and swirls,
remind me so much of my childhood and how the world seemed to me then,
that it seems if I tried
and just closed my eyes,
I could once again be nine or ten.

The rabbits that hide in the bushes where the snowflakes collect as they fall,
hunch there, I know, in the fast-piling snow, yet now I can't see them at all.
For time slowly weakened my vision; while the patterns seem almost as clear,
some things that I saw
when I was a boy,
are lost to me now in my "advancing" years.

The chipmunk who seeks out his burrow and the geese now preparing to leave
are there as they were, and yet they are not; and if it seems childish to grieve,
still, who would condemn a blind man for bemoaning the vision he lost?
Well, in a small way,
through the passage of days,
I have learned some of his loss.

As a keen-eyed young lad I endeavored to see things most adults could not—
the camouflaged nests of the hoot owls, the woodpecker’s favorite haunts.
But now I no longer can find them, nor understand how I once could,
and it seems such a waste
of those far-sighted days,
to end up near blind in this wood.

NOTE: I believe I wrote the first version of this poem around 1978 at age 19 or 20. I put it aside for many years and didn’t finish it until 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. This is one of my more Robert-Frost-like poems and perhaps not a bad one for the age at which it was written.

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.
Sappho, fragment 42, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight …
This is what I remember

now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember:
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh …

our soft cries, like regret,

… the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase …

now that I have forgotten her face.

Originally published by Poetry Magazine; also set to music by the award-winning New Zealand composer David Hamilton

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

White in the shadows
I see your face,
unbidden. Go, tell
Love it is commonplace;

Tell Regret it is not so rare.

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.

Lost in darkness, I fear
the past is our resting place.

by Michael R. Burch

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.

A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!
Sappho, fragment 155, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

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

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

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

The moon has long since set;
The Pleiades are gone;
Now half the night is spent,
Yet here I lie … alone.
Sappho, fragment 156, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She keeps her scents
in a dressing-case.
And her sense?
In some undiscoverable place.
Sappho, fragment 156, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Frail Envelope of Flesh
―for the mothers and children of the Holocaust and Gaza
by Michael R. Burch

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 …

Sappho, fragment 156, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Step Into Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Step into starlight,
lovely and wild,
lonely and longing,
a woman, a child …

Throw back drawn curtains,
enter the night,
dream of his kiss
as a comet ignites …

Then fall to your knees
in a wind-fumbled cloud
and shudder to hear
oak hocks groaning aloud.

Flee down the dark path
to where the snaking vine bends
and withers and writhes
as winter descends …

And learn that each season
ends one vanished day,
that each pregnant moon holds
no spent tides in its sway …

For, as suns seek horizons—
boys fall, men decline.
As the grape sags with its burden,
remember—the wine!

I believe I wrote the original version of this poem in my early twenties.

Since I'm dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that suckled and reared me;
Once again I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

In the Poetry Chat Room
by Michael R. Burch

ANYWAY!!! :(

Sing for the cool night,
whispers of constellations.
Sing for the supple grass,
the tall grass, gently whispering.
Sing of infinities, multitudes,
of all that lies beyond us now,
whispers begetting whispers.
And i am glad to also whisper …


i abide beyond serenities
and realms of grace,
above love’s misdirected earth,
i lift my face.
i am beyond finding now …


i loved her once, before, when i
was mortal too, and sometimes i
would listen and distinctly hear
her laughter from the juniper,
but did not go …


Travail, inherent to all flesh,
i do not know, nor how to feel.
Although i sing them nighttimes still:
the bitter woes, that do not heal …


The words like breath, i find them here,
among the fragrant juniper,
and conifers amid the snow,
old loves imagined long ago …


What use is love, to me, or Thou?
O Words, my awe, to fly so smooth
above the anguished hearts of men
to heights unknown, Thy bare remove …

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!

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

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

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

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

Dark-bosomed clouds
pregnant with heavy thunder …
the water breaks

―original haiku by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old and rolling
casually in their old age;
on the horizon youthful mountains
bathe themselves in windblown fountains …

By dying leaves and falling raindrops,
I have traced time's starts and stops,
and I have known the years to pass
almost unnoticed, whispering through treetops …

For here the valleys fill with sunlight
to the brim, then empty again,
and it seems that only I notice
how the years flood out, and in …

A solitary crow
 clings to a leafless branch:
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Free Fall (I)
by Michael R. Burch

These cloudless nights, the sky becomes a wheel
where suns revolve around an axle star …
Look there, and choose. Decide which moon is yours.
Sink Lethe-ward, held only by a heel.

Advantage. Disadvantage. Who can tell?
To see is not to know, but you can feel
the tug sometimes—the gravity, the shell
as lustrous as damp pearl. You sink, you reel

toward some draining revelation. Air—
too thin to grasp, to breathe. Such pressure. Gasp.
The stars invert, electric, everywhere.
And so we fall, down-tumbling through night’s fissure …

two beings pale, intent to fall forever
around each other—fumbling at love’s tether …
now separate, now distant, now together.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll

Free Fall (II)
by Michael R. Burch

I have no earthly remembrance of you, as if
we were never of earth, but merely white clouds adrift,
frail cirri swirling through Himalayan altitudes—
no more man and woman than exhausted breath—unable to fall
back to solid existence, despite the air’s sparseness: all
our being borne up, because of our lightness,
toward the sun’s unendurable brightness …

But since I touched you, fire consumes each wing!

We who are unable to fly, stall
contemplating disaster. Despair like an anchor, like an iron ball,
heavier than ballast, sinks on its thick-looped chain
toward the earth, and soon thereafter shall be sufficient pain
to recall existence, to make the coming darkness everlasting.

by Michael R. Burch

With her small eyes, pale blue and unforgiving,
she taught me: December is not for those
unweaned of love, the chirping nestlings
who bicker for worms with dramatic throats

still pinkly exposed, ... who have yet to learn
the first harsh lesson of survival: to devour
their weaker siblings in the high-leafed ferned
fortress and impregnable bower

from which men must fly like improbable dreams
to become poets. They have yet to grasp that,
before they can soar starward like fanciful archaic machines,
they must first assimilate the latest technology, ... or

lose all in the sudden realization of gravity,
following Icarus’s sun-unwinged, singed trajectory.

The Higher Atmospheres
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever we became climbed on the thought
of Love itself; we floated on plumed wings
ten thousand miles above the breasted earth
that vexed us to such Distance; now all things
seem small and pale, a girdle’s handsbreadth girth ...

I break upon the rocks; I break; I fling
my human form about; I writhe; I writhe.
Invention is not Mastery, nor wings
Salvation. Here the Vulture cruelly chides
and plunges at my eyes, and coos and sings ...

Oh, some will call the sun my doom, since Love
melts callow wax the higher atmospheres
made brittle. I flew high, just high enough
to melt such frozen resins ... thus, Her jeers.

Free Fall to Liftoff
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

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

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Flea

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!

― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love Has a Southern Flavor
by Michael R. Burch

Love has a Southern flavor: honeydew,
ripe cantaloupe, the honeysuckle’s spout
we tilt to basking faces to breathe out
the ordinary, and inhale perfume …

Love’s Dixieland-rambunctious: tangled vines,
wild clematis, the gold-brocaded leaves
that will not keep their order in the trees,
unmentionables that peek from dancing lines …

Love cannot be contained, like Southern nights:
the constellations’ dying mysteries,
the fireflies that hum to light, each tree’s
resplendent autumn cape, a genteel sight …

Love also is as wild, as sprawling-sweet,
as decadent as the wet leaves at our feet.

Originally published by The Lyric

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wulf and Eadwacer
(Anonymous, circa 960-990 AD)
― loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My clan's curs pursue him like crippled game.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
We are so different.

Wulf's on one island; I'm on another.
His island's a fortress, surrounded by fens.
Here bloodthirsty men howl for sacrifice.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
We are so different.

My thoughts pursued Wulf like panting hounds.
Whenever it rained and I wept, disconsolate,
big, battle-strong arms grabbed and held me.
It felt good, to a point, but the end was loathsome.
Wulf, oh, my Wulf! My desire for you
has made me sick; your seldom-comings
have left me famished, deprived of real meat.
Do you hear, Heaven-Watcher? A wolf has borne
our wretched whelp to the woods.
One can easily sever what never was one:
our song together.

Translator's Note: "Wulf and Eadwacer" is one of the truly great poems in the English language: a bittersweet saga of love and perhaps rape and betrayal. This ancient poem has been characterized as an elegy, a wild lament, a lover's lament, a passion play, a riddle, and as a song or early ballad with a refrain. However, most modern scholars choose to place it, along with The Wife's Lament, within the genre of the frauenlied, or woman's song. It may be the first extant poem authored by a woman in the fledgling English language, although the poet and his/her sex remain unknown. But it seems likely that the poet was a woman because we don't usually think of ancient warriors and scops pretending to be women. "Wulf and Eadwacer" is perhaps the first Old English poem to contain sexual intrigue not adulterated by Christian monks. It may also be called the first English feminist text, as the speaker seems to be challenging and mocking the man who has raped and impregnated her. And the poem's closing metaphor of a loveless relationship being like a song in which two voices never harmonized remains one of the strongest in the English language, or any language. The poem is also notable for its rich ambiguity, which leaves much open to reader interpretation. For instance, the "wolf" that has borne the whelp to the woods might be Wulf, the heartsick female speaker, Eadwacer, Eadwacer's jealous wife, or some other member of the clan. We do not know what happened to the child in the woods, but we have the impression of a dark catastrophe: perhaps human sacrifice. "Wulf and Eadwacer" is also one of the first English poems to employ a refrain, a hallmark of the great ballads and villanelles to come. The poem appeared in the Exeter Book, between "Deor's Lament" and the riddles, meaning that it was written no later than around 990 AD. But the poem itself is probably older, perhaps much older. I hope readers enjoy my other translations of this wonderfully powerful, haunting poem that speaks to us from the dawn of time and English poetry.—Michael R. Burch

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

See how her hair has thinned: it doesn't seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there and burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are—that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.

For loveliness remains in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book's.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.

Originally published by Writer's Digest's—The Year's Best Writing 2003

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
It is not like a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of man in its wake?
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for Peri

I pray tonight
the starry Light
surround you.

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

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

Originally published by Kritya

Athenian Epitaphs

Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
― Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
― Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

They observed our fearful fetters, marched against encroaching darkness.
Now we gravely extol their excellence: Bravely, they died for us.
― Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
― Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
― Michael R. Burch, after Plato

We who left behind the Aegean’s bellowings
Now sleep peacefully here on the mid-plains of Ecbatan:
Farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
Farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
― Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
― Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
—Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas,
that these valorous men lack breath.
Assume, like pale chattels,
an ashen silence at death.
—Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
—Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

There are more ancient Greek translations by Michael R. Burch at Athenian Epitaphs.

Cædmon's Hymn (circa 658-680 AD)
― loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now let us honour      heaven-kingdom's Guardian,
the might of the Architect      and his mind-plans,
the work of the Glory-Father.      First he, the eternal Lord,
established      the foundation of wonders.
Then he, the first Scop,      created heaven as a roof
for the sons of men,      holy Creator,
Guardian of mankind.      Then he, the eternal Lord,
afterwards made men middle-earth:      Master almighty!

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

Here I scrawl extravagant rainbows.
And there you go, skipping your way to school.
And here we are, drifting apart
like untethered balloons.

Here I am, creating "art,"
chanting in shadows,
pale as the crinoline moon,
ignoring your face.

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.
Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water

― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by Poet Lore

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide …
was man born to sorrow that first day,
the moon—a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied—
the tug at his heart's pink, bourgeoning clay?

The sea was not salt the first tide …
but grew bitter, bitter—man's torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing—forever astray,
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide …
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.

The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.

The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love's concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide …
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

For this poem I prefer the slightly longer and rounder "bourgeoning" to the more common "burgeoning." The unconventional line breaks aside, this is a villanelle.

Come, investigate loneliness:
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

Massive, gray, these leaden waves
bear their unchanging burden—
the sameness of each day to day

while the wind seems to struggle to say
something half-submerged planks at the mouth of the bay
might nuzzle limp seaweed to understand.

Now collapsing dull waves drain away
from the unenticing land;
shrieking gulls shadow fish through salt spray—
whitish streaks on a fogged silver mirror.

Sizzling lightning impresses its brand.
Unseen fingers scribble something in the wet sand.

Originally published by Southwest Review

Deepening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he make out? …
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter in the air:
my neighbor,
how does he fare?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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?

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What Would Santa Claus Say
by Michael R. Burch

What would Santa Claus say,
I wonder,
about Jesus returning
to kill and plunder?

For He’ll likely return
on Christmas day
to blow the bad
little boys away!

When He flashes like lightning
across the skies
and many a homosexual

when the harlots and heretics
are ripped asunder,
what will the Easter Bunny think,
I wonder?

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How Long the Night (Anonymous Old English Lyric, circa early 13th century AD)
― loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts
with the mild pheasants' song …
but now I feel the northern wind's blast—
its severe weather strong.
Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!
And I, because of my momentous wrong
now grieve, mourn and fast.

The first chill rain, so raw!
Poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw.
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

Now darkness ponds upon the violet hills;
cicadas sing; the tall elms gently sway;
and night bends near, a deepening shade of gray;
the bass concerto of a bullfrog fills
what silence there once was; globed searchlights play.

Green hanging ferns adorn dark window sills,
all drooping fronds, awaiting morning’s flares;
mosquitoes whine; the lissome moth again
flits like a veiled oud-dancer, and endures
the fumblings of night’s enervate gray rain.

And now the pact of night is made complete;
the air is fresh and cool, washed of the grime
of the city’s ashen breath; and, for a time,
the fragrance of her clings, obscure and sweet.

Published by The Eclectic Muse  and The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated …
― Buson Yosa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

                The Locker      
         by Michael R. Burch

All the dull hollow clamor has died
       and what was contained,
         adulation or sentiment,
    left with the pungent darkness
as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth's gravitron—
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn's cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful—
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we'd feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Isolde's Song
by Michael R. Burch

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night's deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring's urgency, midsummer's heat, fall's lash,
wild winter's ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life's great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold.
And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I revere her and enlist this sacred fire
to keep her memory's exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles;
they sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons."
                                              Sleeping, all.
Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                          Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

Originally published in a slightly different version by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

Walk here among the walking specters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that God is good, and never mind the Urn.

A lentil and a bean might plump their skin
with mothers’ bounteous, soft-dimpled fat
(and call it “health”), might quickly build again
the muscles of dead menfolk. Dream, like that,

and call it courage. Cry, and be deceived,
and so endure. Or burn, made wholly pure.
If one prayer is answered,
                                         “G-d” must be believed.

No holy pyre this—death’s hissing chamber.
Two thousand years ago—a starlit manger,
weird Herod’s cries for vengeance on the meek,
the children slaughtered. Fear, when angels speak,

the prophesies of man.
                                    Do what you "can,"
not what you must, or should.
                                               They call you “good,”

dead eyes devoid of tears; how shall they speak
except in blankness? Fear, then, how they weep.
Escape the gentle clutching stickfolk. Creep
away in shame to retch and flush away

your vomit from their ashes. Learn to pray.

Published by Other Voices International, Promosaik (Germany), Inspirational Stories, Ulita (Russia), The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Trinacria

The new calendar! …
as if tomorrow
is assured
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
innumerable oscillations, yet not lose
a second's beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth's; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.

If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what's been left to chance?
Should poets be more lax—their circumstance
as humble as it is?—or readers wince
to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
the moans of drones drown out the Chanticleer?

Originally published by The Eclectic Muse  then by The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Chiyo-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Watch
by Michael R. Burch

Moonlight spills down vacant sills,
illuminates an empty bed.
Dreams lie in crates. One hand creates
wan silver circles, left unread
by its companion—unmoved now
by anything that lies ahead.

I watch the minutes test the limits
of ornamental movement here,
where once another hand would hover.
Each circuit—incomplete. So dear,
so precious, so precise, the touch
of hands that wait, yet ask so much.

Originally published by The Lyric

stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Flight 93
by Michael R. Burch

I held the switch in trembling fingers, asked
why existence felt so small, so purposeless,
like a minnow wriggling feebly in my grasp …

vibrations of huge engines thrummed my arms
as, glistening with sweat, I nudged the switch
to OFF … I heard the klaxon-shrill alarms

like vultures’ shriekings … earthward, in a stall …
we floated … earthward … wings outstretched, aghast
like Icarus … as through the void we fell …

till nothing was so beautiful, so blue …
so vivid as that moment … and I held
an image of your face, and dreamed I flew

into your arms. The earth rushed up. I knew
such comfort, in that moment, loving you.

Originally published by The Lyric

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To Flower
by Michael R. Burch

When Pentheus ["grief'] went into the mountains in the garb of the bacchae, his mother [Agave] and the other maenads, possessed by Dionysus, tore him apart (Euripides, Bacchae; Apollodorus 3.5.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.511-733; Hyginus, Fabulae 184). The agave dies as soon as it blooms; the moonflower, or night-blooming cereus, is a desert plant of similar fate.

We are not long for this earth, I know—
you and I, all our petals incurled,
till a night of pale brilliance, moonflower aglow.
Is there love anywhere in this strange world?
The Agave knows best when it's time to die
and rages to life with such rapturous leaves
her name means Illustrious. Each hour more high,
she claws toward heaven, for, if she believes
in love at all, she has left it behind
to flower, to flower. When darkness falls
she wilts down to meet it, where something crawls:
beheaded, bewildered. And since love is blind,
she never adored it, nor watches it go.
Can we be as she is, moonflower aglow?

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

loomed at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch as "Sandy Hook Hallways Haiku"

by Michael R. Burch

Once, only once,
when the wind flicked your skirt
to an indiscreet height

and you laughed,
abruptly demure,
outblushing shocked violets:

I knew:
everything had changed

and as you braided your hair
into long bluish plaits
the shadows empurpled,

the dragonflies’
last darting feints
dissolving mid-air,

we watched the sun’s long glide
into evening,
knowing and unknowing.

O, how the illusions of love
await us in the commonplace
and rare

then haunt our small remainder of hours.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by Mandrake Poetry Review

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

American Eagle, Grounded
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,

Originally published by The Lyric as "Tremble"

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribable—our love—and still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled
, shivering, white …
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray
to warm ourselves.
 We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we're older now, that "love" has had its day.
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest; originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling …
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Because Her Heart Is Tender
by Michael R. Burch

 for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

Love of my life,
light of my morning
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.

Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.

Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch

We’d like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard,
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps,
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy "boo-boo!," only two.

We’d like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile,
that baseball’s just as fun with just one arm,
that God is always Just, that girls will smile,
not frown down at his thousand livid scars,
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.

We do not want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks,
that lips aren’t easily fashioned, that his smile’s
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears,
when tears are out of fashion.
                                             O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life’s Mysteries …

Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, "It’s me I see. Just me."

He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures.
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms

a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Endeavors of Lips
by Michael R. Burch

How sweet the endeavors of lips—to speak
of the heights of those pleasures which left us weak
in love’s strangely lit beds, where the cold springs creak:
for there is no illusion like love …

Grown childlike, we wish for those storied days,
for those bright sprays of flowers, those primrosed ways
that curled to the towers of Yesterdays
where She braided illusions of love …

"O, let down your hair!"—we might call and call,
to the dark-slatted window, the moonlit wall …
but our love is a shadow; we watch it crawl
like a spidery illusion. For love …

was never as real as that first kiss seemed
when we read by the flashlight and dreamed.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly (USA) and The Eclectic Muse (Canada)

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight,
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Indestructible, for Johnny Cash
by Michael R. Burch

What is a mountain, but stone?
Or a spire, but a trinket of steel?
Johnny Cash is gone,
black from his hair to his bootheels.

Can a man out-endure mountains’ stone
if his songs lift us closer to heaven?
Can the steel in his voice vibrate on
till his words are our manna and leaven?

Then sing, all you mountains of stone,
with the rasp of his voice, and the gravel.
Let the twang of thumbed steel lead us home
through these weary dark ways all men travel.

For what is a mountain, but stone?
Or a spire, but a trinket of steel?
Johnny Cash lives on—
black from his hair to his bootheels.

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

I did not delight in love so much
as in a kiss like linnets' wings,
the flutterings of a pulse so soft
the heart remembers, as it sings:
to bathe there was its transport, brushed
by marble lips, or porcelain,—
one liquid kiss, one cool outburst
from pale rosettes. What did it mean …

to float awhirl on minute tides
within the compass of your eyes,
to feel your alabaster bust
grow cold within? Ecstatic sighs
seem hisses now; your eyes, serene,
reflect the sun's pale tourmaline.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains …
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt.
     And I uphold the Law,
     for Grace has a Flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

I’ve got ten thousand reasons why Hell must exist,
and you’re at the top of my fast-swelling list!
     You’re nothing like me,
     so God must agree
and slam down the Hammer with His Loving Fist!

For what are the chances that God has a plan
to save everyone: even Boy George and Wham!?
     Eternal fell torture
     in Hell’s pressure scorcher
will separate homo from Man.

I’m glad I’m redeemed, ecstatic you’re not.
Did Christ die for sinners? Perish the thought!
     The "good news" is this:
     soon my Vengeance is His!,
for you’re not the lost sheep He sought.

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.

Second Sight
by Michael R. Burch

I never touched you—
that was my mistake.

Deep within,
I still feel the ache.

Can an unformed thing
eternally break?

Now, from a great distance,
I see you again

not as you are now,
but as you were then—

eternally present
and Sovereign.

Mare Clausum
by Michael R. Burch

These are the narrows of my soul—
dark waters pierced by eerie, haunting screams.
And these uncharted islands bleakly home
wild nightmares and deep, strange, forbidding dreams.

Please don’t think to find pearls’ pale, unearthly glow
within its shoals, nor corals in its reefs.
For, though you seek to salvage Love, I know
that vessel lists, and night brings no relief.

Pause here, and look, and know that all is lost;
then turn, and go; let salt consume, and rust.
This sea is not for sailors, but the damned
who lingered long past morning, till they learned

why it is named:
Mare Clausum.

Originally published by Penny Dreadful

NOTE: Mare Clausum is Latin for "Closed Sea." I wrote the first version of this poem as a teenager. It has been revised here and there. However, the poem remains essentially the same in meaning and the ending lines have survived unchanged. I seem to remember the poem being inspired by merely reading the term Mare Clausum somewhere and finding it eerie, haunting and a bit chilling. Over the years, I tried to find words and images with a similar eerie, haunting, chilling feel.

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!

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.

by Michael R. Burch

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf—
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain—
golden and humble in all its weary worth.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year of high school, around age 18 in late 1976. To my recollection this is my only poem directly influenced by the “sprung rhythm” of Dylan Thomas (moreso than that of Gerard Manley Hopkins). But I was not happy with the fourth line and put the poem aside for more than 20 years, until 1998, when I revised it. But I was still not happy with the fourth line, so I put it aside and revised it again in 2020, nearly half a century after originally writing the original poem!

Unapproved Absence
by Michael R. Burch

Christ, how I miss you!,
though your parting kiss is still warm on my lips.

Now the floor is not strewn with your stockings and slips
and the dishes are all stacked away.

You left me today …
and each word left unspoken now whispers regrets.

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.)

NOTE: 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.

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, woo 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.

by Michael R. Burch

love was a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and sometimes to sting

A Surfeit of Light
by Michael R. Burch

There was always a surfeit of light in your presence.
You stood distinctly apart, not of the humdrum world—
a chariot of gold in a procession of plywood.

We were all pioneers of the modern expedient race,
raising the ante: Home Depot to Lowe’s.
Yours was an antique grace—Thrace’s or Mesopotamia’s.

We were never quite sure of your silver allure,
of your trillium-and-platinum diadem,
of your utter lack of flatware-like utility.

You told us that night—your wound would not scar.
The black moment passed, then you were no more.
The darker the sky, how much brighter the Star!

The day of your funeral, I ripped out the crown mold.
You were this fool’s gold.

The Lingering and the Unconsoled Heart
by Michael R. Burch

There is a silence—
the last unspoken moment
before death,

when the moon,
cratered and broken,
is all madness and light,

when the breath comes low and complaining,
and the heart is a ruin
of emptiness and night.

There is a grief—
the grief of a lover's embrace
while faith still shimmers in a mother’s tears …

There is no emptier time, nor place,
while the faint glimmer of life is ours
that the lingering and the unconsoled heart fears

beyond this: seeing its own stricken face
in eyes that drift toward some incomprehensible place.

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.

by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The obscuring mirror of my era
because it magnified the small
and made the great seem insignificant.
Dictators and monsters monopolized its maze.
Now when I breathe
its jagged shards pierce my heart
and instead of sweat
I exude glass.

The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow …

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes—
I can almost remember—goes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me

rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

by Michael R. Burch

… Among the shadows of the groaning elms,
amid the darkening oaks, we fled ourselves …

… Once there were paths that led to coracles
that clung to piers like loosening barnacles …

… where we cannot return, because we lost
the pebbles and the playthings, and the moss …

… hangs weeping gently downward, maidens’ hair
who never were enchanted, and the stairs …

… that led up to the Fortress in the trees
will not support our weight, but on our knees …

… we still might fit inside those splendid hours
of damsels in distress, of rustic towers …

… of voices heard in wolves’ tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams’ soft, windy vowels …

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll

The Peripheries of Love

by Michael R. Burch

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above us—the sagging pavilions of clouds.
Below us—rough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a virgin
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved …
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near—

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

The City Is a Garment
by Michael R. Burch

A rhinestone skein, a jeweled brocade of light,—
the city is a garment stretched so thin
her festive colors bleed into the night,
and everywhere bright seams, unraveling,

cascade their brilliant contents out like coins
on motorways and esplanades; bead cars
come tumbling down long highways; at her groin
a railtrack like a zipper flashes sparks;

her hills are haired with brush like cashmere wool
and from their cleavage winking lights enlarge
and travel, slender fingers … softly pull
themselves into the semblance of a barge.

When night becomes too chill, she softly dons
great overcoats of warmest-colored dawn.

Originally published by The Lyric

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."

Originally published by The Chariton Review, then by Trinacria where it was nominated for the Pushcart Prize

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.

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

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."

The very first poem in the first issue of Romantics Quarterly

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 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.

Originally published by Able Muse

Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a spade a spade.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me nigger, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—Bold.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Note: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep, and the Ali family paid them $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying: “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.” The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in an Iranian publication called Bashgah. The poem was originally published by the literary journal Black Medina.―Michael R. Burch

Sex Hex
by Michael R. Burch

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

hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar."

Double Trouble
by Michael R. Burch

The villanelle is trouble:
it’s like you’re on the bubble
of beginning to see double.

It’s like you’re on the Hubble
when the lens begins to wobble:
the villanelle is trouble.

It’s like you’re Barney Rubble
scratching itchy beer-stained stubble
because you’re seeing double.

Then your lines begin to gobble
up the good rhymes, and you hobble.
The villanelle is trouble

and like drinking in the pub’ll
begin to make you babble
because you’re seeing double.

Because the form is flubbable
and is really not that loveable,
the villanelle is trouble:
it’s like you’re seeing double.

by Michael R. Burch

Memories flood the sand’s unfolding scroll;
they pour in with the long, cursive tides of night.

Memories of revenant blue eyes and wild lips
moist and frantic against my own.

Memories of ghostly white limbs …
of soft sighs
heard once again in the surf’s strangled moans.

We meet in the scarred, fissured caves of old dreams,
green waves of algae billowing about you,
becoming your hair.

Suspended there,
where pale sunset discolors the sea,
I see all that you are
and all that you have become to me.

Your love is a sea,
and I am its trawler—
harbored in dreams,
I ride out night’s storms.

Unanchored, I drift through the hours before morning,
dreaming the solace of your warm breasts,
pondering your riddles, savoring the feel
of the explosions of your hot, saline breath.

And I rise sometimes
from the tropical darkness
to gaze once again out over the sea …
You watch in the moonlight
that brushes the water;

bright waves throw back your reflection at me.

This is one of my more surreal poems, as the sea and lover become one. I believe I wrote this one at age 19. It has been published by Penny Dreadful, Romantics Quarterly, Boston Poetry Magazine and Poetry Life & Times. The poem may have had a different title when it was originally published, but it escapes me … ah, yes, "Entanglements."

Dry Hump
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joys are wan illusions to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

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

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail …
How patiently she waited for the winds to shift!
Now, claws unsheathed, she lies seething to assail
her helpless prey.

I think the octopus is evidence of three things: that there are aliens, that they live among us, and that they are infinitely wiser than we are …

The Octopi Jars
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

and I now know this: you were unlike me …
your imprisonment was never voluntary.

Published by Triplopia and The Poetic Musings of Sam Hudson

by Michael R. Burch

Undersea, by the shale and the coral forming,
by the shell’s pale rose and the pearl’s bright eye,
through the sea’s green bed of lank seaweed worming
like entangled hair where cold currents rise …
something lurks where the riptides sigh,
something curious, old and wise.

Something old when the world was forming
now lifts its beak, its snail-blind eye,
and, with tentacles like Medusa's squirming,
it feels the cloud blot out the skies' …
then shudders, settles with a sigh,
understanding man’s demise.

Excoriation of a Treat Slave
by Michael R. Burch

I am his Highness’s dog at Kew.
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
—Alexander Pope

We practice our fierce Yapping,
for when the treat slaves come
they’ll grant Us our desire.
(They really are that dumb!)

They’ll never catch Us napping —
our Ears pricked, keen and sharp.
When they step into Our parlor,
We’ll leap awake, and Bark.

But one is rather doltish;
he doesn’t understand
the meaning of Our savage,
imperial, wild Command.

The others are quite docile
and bow to Us on cue.
We think the dull one wrote a poem
(about some Dog from Kew?)

who never grasped Our secret,
whose mind stayed think, and dark.
It’s a question of obedience
conveyed by a Lordly Bark.

But as for playing fetch,
well, that’s another matter.
We think the dullard’s also
as mad as any hatter

and doesn’t grasp his duty
to fling Us slobbery balls
which We’d return to him, mincingly,
here in Our royal halls.

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.

Critical Mass
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this evening
and it has a certain gravity,
as if it knows its destination,
perhaps even its particular destiny.
I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,
although I, too, may be flung precipitously
and from a great height.

"Gravity" and "particular destiny" are puns, since rain droplets are seeded by minute particles of dust adrift in the atmosphere and they fall due to gravity when they reach "critical mass." The title is also a pun, since the poem is skeptical about heaven-lauding Masses and other religious ceremonies.

No One
by Michael R. Burch

No One hears the bells tonight;
they tell him something isn’t right.
But No One feels no need to rush;
he smiles from beds soft, green and lush
as far away a startled thrush
escapes horned owls in sinking flight.

No One hears the cannon’s roar
and muses that its voice means war
comes knocking on men’s doors tonight.
He sleeps outside in awed delight
beneath the enigmatic stars
and shivers in their cooling light.

No One knows the world will end,
that he’ll be lonely, without friend
or foe to conquer. All will be
once more, celestial harmony.
He’ll miss men’s voices, now and then,
but worlds can be remade again.

Infatuate, or Sweet Centerless Sixteen
by Michael R. Burch

Inconsolable as “love” had left your heart,
you woke this morning eager to pursue
warm lips again, or something “really cool”
on which to press your lips and leave their mark.

As breath upon a windowpane at dawn
soon glows, a spreading halo full of sun,
your thought of love blinks wildly—on and on …
then fizzles at the center, and is gone.

Originally published by Shot Glass Journal

Charon 2001
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, have stood—paralyzed at the helm
watching onrushing, inevitable disaster.
I too have felt sweat (or ecstatic tears) plaster
damp hair to my eyes, as a slug’s dense film
becomes mucous-insulate. Always, thereafter
living in darkness, bright things overwhelm.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

in-flight convergence
by Michael R. Burch

serene, almost angelic,
the lights of the city                extend
over lumbering behemoths
shrilly screeching displeasure;
                                             they say
that nothing is certain,
that nothing man dreams or ordains
long endures his command

here the streetlights that flicker
and those blazing steadfast
seem one:                from a distance;
they abruptly
part              ways,

so that nothing is one
which at times does not suddenly blend
into garish insignificance
in the familiar alleyways,
in the white neon flash
and the billboards of Convenience

and man seems the afterthought of his own Brilliance
as we thunder down the enlightened runways.

Originally published by The Aurorean then subsequently nominated for the Pushcart Prize

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.

Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the Horny Toad)
by Michael R. Burch

He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes) ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously), and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad’s …
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats …
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted,
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.

by Michael R. Burch

It’s not that I don’t want to die;
I shall be glad to go.
Enough of diabetes pie,
and eating sickly crow!
Enough of win and place and show.
Enough of endless woe!

Enough of suffering and vice!
I’ve said it once;
I’ll say it twice:
I shall be glad to go.

But why the hell should I be nice
when no one asked for my advice?
So grumpily I’ll go …
(most probably) below.

Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation

by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

“Be fruitful and multiply”—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, “WHEN!”

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.

by Michael R. Burch

When I am lain to rest
and my soul is no longer intact,
but dissolving, like a sunset
diminishing to the west …

and when at last
before His throne my past
is put to test
and the demons and the Beast

await to feast
on any morsel downward cast,
while the vapors of impermanence
cling, smelling of damask …

then let me go, and do not weep
if I am left to sleep,
to sleep and never dream, or dream, perhaps,
only a little longer and more deep.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly. This is a poem from my "Romantic Period" that was written in my late teens.

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.

A Vain Word
by Michael R. Burch

Oleanders at dawn preen extravagant whorls
as I read in leaves’ Sanskrit brief moments remaining
till sunset implodes, till the moon strands grey pearls
under moss-stubbled oaks, full of whispers, complaining
to the darkening autumn, how swiftly life goes—
as I fled before love
                                     Now, through leaves trodden black,
shivering, I wander as winter’s first throes
of cool listless snow drench my cheeks, back and neck.

I discerned in one season all eternities of grief,
the specter of death sprawled out under the rose,
the last consequence of faith in the flight of one leaf,
the incontinence of age, as life’s bright torrent slows.

O, where are you now?—I was timid, absurd.
I would find comfort again in a vain word.

Published by Chrysanthemum and Tucumcari Literary Review

by Michael R. Burch

These standing stones have stood the test of time
but who are you
                          and what are you
                                                      and why?
As brief as mist, as transient, as pale …
Inconsequential mayfly!

Perhaps the thought of love inspired hope?
Do midges love? Do stars bend down to see?
Do gods commend the kindnesses of ants
to aphids? Does one eel impress the sea?

Are mayflies missed by mountains? Do the stars
regret the glowworm’s stellar mimicry
the day it dies? Does not the world grind on
as if it’s no great matter, not to be?

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose.
And yet somehow you’re everything to me.

Originally published by Clementine Unbound

by Michael R. Burch

I did it out of pity.
I did it out of love.
I did it not to break the heart of a tender, wounded dove.

But gods without compassion
ordained: Frail things must break!
Now what can I do for her shattered psyche’s sake?

I did it not to push.
I did it not to shove.
I did it to assist the flight of indiscriminate Love.

But gods, all mad as hatters,
who legislate in such great matters,
ordained that everything irreplaceable shatters.

by Michael R. Burch

The rose of love's bright promise
lies torn by her own thorn;
her scent was sweet
but at her feet
the pallid aphids mourn.

The lilac of devotion
has felt the winter hoar
and shed her dress;
she shivers—nude, forlorn.

by michael r. burch

we have grown too far apart,
each heart
long numbed by time and pain.

we have grown too far apart;
the DARK
now calls us. why refrain?

we have grown too far apart;
what spark
could ignite our lives again

or persuade us to remain?

Be very careful what you pray for!
by Michael R. Burch

Now that his T’s been depleted
the Saint is upset, feeling cheated.
His once-fiery lust?
Just a chemical bust:
no “devil” cast out or defeated.

Ding Dong …
by Michael R. Burch

for Fliss

An impertinent bit of sunlight
defeated a goddess, NIGHT.
Hooray!, cried the clover,
Her reign is over!
But she certainly gave us a fright!

The Flu Fly Flew
by Michael R. Burch

A fly with the flu foully flew
up my nose—thought I’d die—had to sue!
Was the small villain fined?
An abrupt judge declined
my case, since I’d “failed to achoo!”

Door Mouse
by Michael R. Burch

I’m sure it’s not good for my heart—
the way it will jump-start
when the mouse scoots the floor
(I try to kill it with the door,
never fast enough, or
fling a haphazard shoe …
always too slow too)
in the strangest zig-zaggedy fashion
absurdly inconvenient for mashin’,
till our hearts, each maniacally revvin’,
make us both early candidates for heaven.

The Humpback
by Michael R. Burch

The humpback is a gullet
equipped with snarky fins.
It has a winning smile:
and when it SMILES, it wins
as miles and miles of herring
excite its fearsome grins.
So beware, unwary whalers,
lest you drown, sans feet and shins!

Hell-Bound Hounds
by Michael R. Burch

We have five dogs and every one’s a sinner!
I swear it’s true—they’ll steal each other’s dinner!

They’ll hump before they’re married. That’s unlawful!
They’ll even screw in public. Eek, so awful!

And when it’s time for treats (don’t gasp!), they’ll beg!
They have no pride! They’ll even hump your leg!

Our oldest Yorkie murdered dear, sweet Olive,
our helpless hamster! None will go to college

or work to pay their room and board, or vets!
When the Devil says, “Pee here!” they all yip, “Let’s!”

And yet they’re sweet and loyal, so I doubt
the Lord will dump them in hell’s dark redoubt …

which means there’s hope for you, perhaps for me.
But as for cats? I say, “Best wait and see.”

Menu Venue
by Michael R. Burch

At the passing of the shark
the dolphins cried Hark!;

cute cuttlefish sighed, Gee
there will be a serener sea
to its utmost periphery!

the dogfish barked,
so joyously!;

pink porpoises piped Whee!

But …

Will there be as much glee
when there’s no you and me?

Anti-Vegan Manifesto
by Michael R. Burch

Let us
avoid lettuce,
and also celery!

The Darker Nights
by Michael R. Burch

Nights when I held you,
nights when I saw
the gentlest of spirits,
yet, deeper, a flaw …

Nights when we settled
and yet never gelled.
Nights when you promised
what you later withheld …

Moon Poem
by Michael R. Burch

after Linda Gregg

I climb the mountain
to inquire of the moon …
the advantages of loftiness, absence, distance.
Is it true that it feels no pain,
or will she contradict me?

Originally published by Borderless Journal

The use of "it" and "she" is intentional, because the speaker doesn't know if the moon is impervious to pain or has consciousness.

Moore 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.

Rising Fall
by Michael R. Burch

after Keats

Seasons of mellow fruitfulness
collect at last into mist
some brisk wind will dismiss …

Where, indeed, are the showers of April?
Where, indeed, the bright flowers of May?
But feel no dismay …

It’s time to make hay!

I believe the closing line was influenced by this remark J. R. R. Tolkien made about the inspiration for his plucky hobbits: “I've always been impressed that we're here surviving because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds: jungles, volcanoes, wild beasts … they struggle on, almost blindly in a way.” Thus, whatever our apprehensions about the coming winter, when autumn falls and fall rises, it’s time to make hay.

Childhood's End
by Michael R. Burch

How well I remember
those fiery Septembers:
dry leaves, dying embers of summers aflame,
lay trampled before me
and fluttered, imploring
the bright, dancing rain to descend once again.

Now often I’ve thought on
the meaning of autumn,
how the rainbows' enchantments defeated dark clouds
while robins repeated
ancient songs sagely heeded
so wisely when winters before they’d flown south.

And still, in remembrance,
I’ve conjured a semblance
of childhood and how the world seemed to me then;
but early this morning,
when, rising and yawning,
I found a gray hair … it was all beyond my ken.

I believe I wrote this poem in my early twenties, probably around 1980.

How It Goes, Or Doesn’t
by Michael R. Burch

My face is getting craggier.
My pants are getting saggier.
My ear-hair’s getting shaggier.
My wife is getting naggier.
I’m getting old!

My memory’s plumb awful.
My eyesight is unlawful.
I eschew a tofu waffle.
My wife’s an Eiffel eyeful.
I’m getting old!

My temperature is colder.
My molars need more solder.
Soon I’ll need a boulder-holder.
My wife seized up. Unfold her!
I’m getting old!

A More Likely Plot for “Romeo and Juliet”
by Michael R. Burch

Wont to croon
by the light of the moon
on a rickety ladder,
mad as a hatter,
Romeo crashed to the earth in a swoon,
broke his leg,
had to beg,
repented of falling in love too soon.

A nurse, averse
to his seductive verse,
aware of his madness
and familial badness,
felt for the stiletto in her purse.

Meanwhile, Juliet
began to fret
that the roguish poet
(wouldn’t you know it?)
had pledged his “love” because of a bet!

A gang of young thugs
and loutish lugs
had their faces engraved on “wanted” mugs.
They were doomed to fail,
ended up in jail,
became young fascists and cried “Sieg Heil!”

No tickets were sold,
no tickets were bought,
because, in the end, it all came to naught.

Exeunt stage left.

Apologies to España
by Michael R. Burch

the reign
in Trump’s brain
falls mainly as mansplain

No Star
by Michael R. Burch

Trump, you're no "star."
Putin made you an American Czar.
Now, if we continue down this dark path you've chosen,
pretty soon we'll be wearing lederhosen.

tRUMP is the butt of many jokes.—Michael R. Burch

An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the "common crowd,"
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most stylish and best-dressed;
it seems he’d never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerks loved the "Hanging Judge" and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, "They'll crucify him!" The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case
by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
"It is obscene,"
he screamed,
"to expose the naked heart!"
The recorder (bewildered Society)
greeted this statement with applause.

"This man is no poet.
Just look—his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar!
He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words
or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an imposter!
I ask that his sentence be
the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster."
The jury left in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair,
"Please, let me answer to my peers."
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times

A well-known poet/editor criticized this poem for being "journalistic." But then the poem is written from the point of view of a journalist who's covering the trial of a poet about to be burned at the stake by his peers. The poem was completed by the end of my sophomore year in college. It appears in my 1978 poetry contest folder. But I believe I wrote the original version a bit earlier, probably around age 18 or 19.

Ann Rutledge was apparently Abraham Lincoln’s first love interest. Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man when they met, then died with typhoid fever at age 22. According to a friend, Isaac Cogdal, when asked if he had loved her, Lincoln replied: “It is true—true indeed I did. I loved the woman dearly and soundly: She was a handsome girl—would have made a good, loving wife … I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Winter Thoughts of Ann Rutledge
by Michael R. Burch

Winter was not easy,
nor would the spring return.
I knew you by your absence,
as men are wont to burn
with strange indwelling fire —
such longings you inspire!

But winter was not easy,
nor would the sun relent
from sculpting virgin images
and how could I repent?
I left quaint offerings in the snow,
more maiden than I care to know.

Ann Rutledge’s Irregular Quilt
by Michael R. Burch

based on “Lincoln the Unknown” by Dale Carnegie

Her fingers “plied the needle” with “unusual swiftness and art”
till Abe knelt down beside her: then her demoralized heart
set Eros’s dart a-quiver; thus a crazy quilt emerged:
strange stitches all a-kilter, all patterns lost. (Her host
kept her vicarious laughter barely submerged.)

Years later she’d show off the quilt with its uncertain stitches
as evidence love undermines men’s plans and women’s strictures
(and a plethora of scriptures.)

But O the sacred tenderness Ann’s reckless stitch contains
and all the world’s felicities: rich cloth, for love’s fine gains,
for sweethearts’ tremulous fingers and their bright, uncertain vows
and all love’s blithe, erratic hopes (like now’s).

Years later on a pilgrimage, by tenderness obsessed,
Dale Carnegie, drawn to her grave, found weeds in her place of rest
and mowed them back, revealing the spot
of the Railsplitter’s joy and grief
(and his hope and his disbelief).

For such is the tenderness of love, and such are its disappointments.
Love is a book of rhapsodic poems. Love is an grab bag of ointments.
Love is the finger poised, the smile, the Question — perhaps the Answer?
Love is the pain of betrayal, the two left feet of the dancer.

There were ladies of ill repute in his past. Or so he thought. Was it true?
And yet he loved them, Ann (sweet Ann!), as tenderly as he loved you.

The Celtic Cross at Île Grosse
by Michael R. Burch

“I actually visited the island and walked across those mass graves [of 30,000 Irish men, women and children], and I played a little tune on me whistle. I found it very peaceful, and there was relief there.” – Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains

There was relief there,
and release,
on Île Grosse
in the spreading gorse
and the cry of the wild geese …

There was relief there,
without remorse,
when the tin whistle lifted its voice
in a tune of artless grief,
piping achingly high and longingly of an island veiled in myth.

And the Celtic cross that stands here tells us, not of their grief,
but of their faith and belief—
like the last soft breath of evening lifting a fallen leaf.

When ravenous famine set all her demons loose,
driving men to the seas like lemmings,
they sought here the clemency of a better life, or death,
and their belief in God was their only wealth.

They were proud folk, with only their lives to owe,
who sought the liberation of this strange new land.
Now they lie here, ragged row on ragged row,
with only the shadows of their loved ones close at hand.

And each cross, their ancient burden and their glory,
reflects the death of sunlight on their story.

And their tale is sad—but, O, their faith was grand!

The Century’s Wake
by Michael R. Burch

lines written at the close of the 20th century

Take me home. The party is over,
the century passed—no time for a lover.
And my heart grew heavy
as the fireworks hissed through the dark
over Central Park,
past high-towering spires to some backwoods levee,

hurtling banner-hung docks to the torchlit seas.
And my heart grew heavy;
I felt its disease—
its apathy,
wanting the bright, rhapsodic display
to last more than a single day.

If decay was its rite,
now it has learned to long
for something with more intensity,
more gaudy passion, more song—
like the huddled gay masses,
the wildly-cheering throng.

You ask me—
How can this be?
A little more flair,
or perhaps just a little more clarity.
I leave her tonight to the century’s wake;
she disappoints me.

The King of Beasts in the Museum of the Extinct
by Michael R. Burch

The king of beasts, my child,
was terrible, and wild.

His roaring shook the earth
till the feeble cursed his birth.

For all things feared his might:
even the rhinos fled, in fright.

Now here these bones attest
to what the brute did best

and the pain he caused his prey
when he hunted in his day.

For he slew them just for sport
till his own pride was cut short

with a mushrooming cloud and wild thunder;
Exhibit "B" will reveal his blunder.

The next poem is the longest and most ambitious of my early poems, started around age 14. "Jessamyn's Song" was inspired by Claude Monet’s oil painting "The Walk, Woman with a Parasol," which I interpreted as a walk in a meadow or heather. The woman’s dress and captivating loveliness made me think of an impending wedding, with dances and festivities. The boy made me think of a family. I gave the woman a name, Jessamyn, and wrote her story, thinking along these lines, while in high school. The opening lines were influenced by "Fern Hill" by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, one of my boyhood favorites and still a favorite today. "Jessamyn's Song" was substantially complete by around age 16, my first long poem, although I was not happy with the longer poem, overall, and eventually published the closing stanza as an independent poem, "Leave Taking." I have touched up the longer poem here and there over the last half century, but it remains substantially the same as the original poem. 

Jessamyn's Song
by Michael R. Burch

There are meadows heathered with thoughts of you,
where the honeysuckle winds
in fragrant, tangled vines
down to the water's edge.

Through the wind-bent grass I watch time pass
slow with the dying day
on its lolling, rolling way ...
And I know you’ll soon be mine.

There are oak trees haggard and gnarled by Time
where the shrewd squirrel makes his lair,
sleeping through winters unaware
of the white commotion below.

By the waning sun I keep watch upon
the earth as she spins—so slow!
and I know within
they're absolved from sin
who sleep beneath the snow.

They have no sin, and we sin not
although we sleep and dream in bliss
while others rage, and charge ... and die,
and all our nights’ elations miss.

For life is ours, and through our veins
it pulses with a tranquil flow,
though in others’ it may surge and froth
and carry passions to and fro.

By murmuring streams I sometimes dream
of whirling reels, of taut bows lancing,
when my partner’s the prettiest dancing,
and she is always you.

So let the meadows rest in peace,
and let the woodlands lie ...
Life’s the pulse in your heart and in mine—
let us not let it die.

By the windmill we have often kissed
as your clothing slipped,
exposing pale breasts and paler hips
to the naked glory of the sun.

Yes, my darling, I do love you
with all my wicked heart.
Promise that you'll be my bride
and these lips will never part
for any other’s.

There are daisies plaited through the fields
that make the valleys shine
(though the darker hawthorns wind
up to the highest ledge).

As the rising sun
                  blinks lazily on
the horizon’s eastern edge,
I watch the tangerine dawn
congeal to a brighter lime.

Oh, the season I love best is fall—
the trees coyly shedding their leaves, and all
creation watching, in thrall.

And you in your wedding dress, so calm,
seem less of this earth than the sky.

I expect you at any moment to
ascend through the brightening dimensionless blue
to softly go floating by—
a cloud or a pure-white butterfly.

There are rivers sparkling bright as spring
and others somber as the Nile,
but whether they may frown or smile,
none can match this brilliant stream
beside whose banks I lie and dream;
her waters, flowing swift, yet mild,
lull to sleep my new-born child!

There are mountains purple and pocked with Time,
home to goats and misfit trees ...
in lofty grandeur above vexed seas
they lift their haughty heads.

When the sun explodes over tonsured domes
and bright fountains splash in youthful ruin
against strange bizarre antediluvian runes
of tales to this day untold ...

I taste with my eyes the dawn's harsh gold
and breathe the frigid mountain air,
drinking deeply, wondering where
the magic days of youth have flown.

There are forests aged and ripe with rain
that loom at the brink of the trout's blue home.
There deer go to feast of the frothy foam,
to lap the gurgling water.

In murky shallows, swamped with slime,
the largemouth bass now sleeps,
his muddy memories dark and deep,
safe 'neath the sodden loam.

And often I have wondered
how it must feel to sleep
for timeless ages, fathoms deep
within a winter dream.

By the window ledge where the candle begs
the night for light to live,
the deepening darkness gives
the heart good cause to shudder.
For there are curly, tousled heads
that know one use for bed
and not any other ...

“Goodnight father.”
“Goodnight mother.”
“Goodnight sister.”
“Goodnight brother.”
“Tomorrow new adventures
we surely shall discover!”

Brilliant leaves abandon battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees,
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves' high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may
have learned what it means to say


by Michael R. Burch

“I don’t believe in psychics,” he said, “so convince me.”

When you were a child, the earth was a joy,
the sun a bright plaything, the moon a lit toy.
Now life’s small distractions irk, frazzle, annoy.
When the crooked finger beckons, scythe-talons destroy.

“You’ll have to do better than that, to convince me.”

As you grew older, bright things lost their meaning.
You invested your hours in commodities, leaning
to things easily fleeced, to the convenient gleaning.
I see a pittance of dirt—untended, demeaning.

“Everyone knows that!” he said, “so convince me.”

Your first and last wives traded in golden bands
to escape the abuses of your cruel hands.
Where unwatered blooms line a small plot of land,
the two come together, waving fans.

“Everyone knows that. Convince me.”

As your father left you, you left those you brought
to the doorstep of life as an afterthought.
Two sons and a daughter tap shoes, undistraught.
Their tears are contrived, their condolences bought.

“Everyone knows that. CONVINCE me.”

A moment, an instant … a life flashes by,
a tunnel appears, but not to the sky.
There is brightness, such brightness it sears the eye.
When a life grows too dull, it seems better to die.

“I could have told you that!” he shrieked, “I think I’ll kill myself!”

Originally published by Penny Dreadful

by Michael R. Burch

Here are the effects of a life
and they might tell us a tale
(if only we had time to listen)
of how each imperiled tear would glisten,
remembered as brightness in her eyes,
and how each dawn’s dramatic skies
could never match such pale azure.

Like dreams of her, these ghosts endure
and they tell us a tale of impatient glory …
till a line appears—a trace of worry?—
or the wayward track of a wandering smile
which even now can charm, beguile?

We might find good cause to wonder
as we see her pause (to frown?, to ponder?):
what vexed her in her loveliness …
what weight, what crushing heaviness
turned her auburn hair a frazzled gray,
and stole her youth before her day?

We might ask ourselves: did Time devour
the passion with the ravaged flower?
But here and there a smile will bloom
to light the leaden, shadowed gloom
that always seems to linger near …

And here we find a single tear:
it shimmers like translucent dew
and tells us Anguish touched her too,
and did not spare her for her hair's
burnt copper, or her eyes' soft hue.

Published in Tucumcari Literary Review (the first poem in its issue)

by Michael R. Burch

Death is the ultimate finality
and banality
of reality.

Paradoxical Ode to Antinatalism
by Michael R. Burch

"God is Love."

A stay on love
would end death’s hateful sway,

A stay on love
would thus be love,
I say.

Be true to love
and thus end death’s
fell sway!

The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp, longtime editor of The Lyric

The stars were always there, too-bright clichés:
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 in to 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

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).

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.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll

by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a "Christian" poet who believes in "hell"

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.

More Athenian Epitaphs

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men who drew valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here in this charnel-house full of bleaching bones,
like yesteryear’s
fading souvenirs,
I see the skulls arranged in strange ordered rows.

Who knows whose owners might have beheaded peers,
packed tightly here
despite once repellent hate?
Here weaponless, they stand, in this gentled state.

These arms and hands, they once were so delicate!
How articulately
they moved! Ah me!
What athletes once placed such pressure upon these feet?

Still there’s no hope of rest for you, lost souls!
Deprived of graves,
forced here like slaves
to occupy this overworld, sad ghouls!

Now who’s to know who loved this brittle skull?
Except for me;
reader, hear my plea:
I know the grandeur of the mind it held!

Yes, and I know the impulse love would stir
here, where I stand
in this alien land
surrounded by these husks, like a treasurer!

Even in this cold,
in this dust and mould
I am startled by an ancient reverie,
as if this shrine to death could quicken me!

One shape out of the past keeps calling me
with its mystery!
Still retaining its former angelic grace!
And at that ecstatic sight, I am back at sea …

Swept by that current to where immortals race.
O secret vessel, you
gave Life its truth.
It falls on me now to recall your expressive face.

I turn away, abashed here by what I see:
this mould was worth
more than all the earth.
Let me breathe fresh air and let my wild thoughts run free!

What is there better in this dark Life than he
who gives us a sense of man’s divinity,
of his place in the universe?
A man who’s both flesh and spirit—living verse!

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?

Originally published by Trinacria

by Michael R. Burch

A cockroach could live nine months on the dried mucus you scrounge from your nose
then fling like seedplants to the slowly greening floor …

You claim to be the advanced life form, but, mon frere,
sometimes as you snatch encrusted kinks of hair from your Leviathan ass
and muse softly on zits, icebergs snap off the Antarctic.

You’re an evolutionary quandary, in need of a sacral ganglion
to control your enlarged, contradictory hindquarters:
surely the brain should migrate closer to its primary source of information,
in order to ensure the survival of the species.

Cockroaches thrive on eyeboogers and feces;
their exoskeletons expand and gleam like burnished armor in the presence of uranium.
But your cranium
                             is not nearly so adaptable.

by Michael R. Burch

Will we be children as puzzled tomorrow—
our lessons still not learned?
Will we surrender over to sorrow?
How many times must our fingers be burned?

Will we be children sat in the corner,
paddled again and again?
How long must we linger, playing Jack Horner?
Will we ever learn, and when?

Will we be children wearing the dunce cap,
giggling and playing the fool,
rehashing our lessons forever and ever,
always failing the golden rule?

War, the God
by Michael R. Burch

War lifts His massive head and turns …
The world upon its axis spins.
… His head held low from weight of horns,
His hackles high. The sun He scorns
and seeks the rose not, but its thorns.
The sun must set, as night begins,
while, unrepentant of our sins,
we play His game, until He wins.

For War, our God, our bellicose Mars
still dominates our heavens, determines our Stars.

Note to a Chick on a Religious Kick
by Michael R. Burch

when you smile, my life gets sunny;
you make me want to spend my damned money;
but honey,
you can be a bit … um … hazy,
perhaps mentally lazy?,
okay, downright crazy,
praying to the Easter Bunny!

by Michael R. Burch

When the heart of a child,
fragile, like a flower, unfolds;

when his soul emerges from its last concealment,
nestled in the womb’s muscular whorls, its secret chambers;

when he kicks and screams,
flung from the watery darkness into the harsh light’s glare,
feeling its restive anger, its accusatory stare;

when he feels the heart his emergent heart remembers
fluttering against his cheek,
then falls into the lilac arms of heavy-lidded sleep;

when he reopens his eyes to the bellows’ thunder
(which he has never heard before, save as a drowned echo)
and feels its wild surmise, and sees—with wonder
the tenderness in another’s eyes
reflecting his startled wonder back at him,

as his heart picks up the beat of his mother’s grieving hymn for the world’s intolerable slander;

when he understands, with a babe’s discernment—
the breasts, the hands, that now, throughout the years,
will bless him with their comforts, console him with caresses,
the gentle eyes, which, with their knowing tears,
will weep him away from the world’s slick, writhing dangers
through all his restlessly-flowering years;

as his helplessly-frail fingers curl around the nose now leaning to catch his powdery talcum scent …

Remember—it is the world’s syndrome, its handicap, not his,
that will insulate assumers from the gentle pollinations of his loveliness,
from his gift of enchantment, from his all-encompassing acceptance,
from these angelic charms now tenderly lifting those earthlings who gladly embrace him.

Published by the National Association for Down Syndrome

I believe I wrote this poem at our subdivision’s pool in 1998, while watching a Down syndrome child with his lovely, loving mother.

by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore!
shall the haunts of the sea
—the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore—
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her breasts and hips,
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never rape her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure …
She sleeps, forevermore!

She sleeps forevermore,
a virgin save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way …
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea …

their skeletal love—impossibility!

"Nevermore!" is a poem I wrote as a teenager, around age 18 or 19, under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe.

by Michael R. Burch

WHEN you were my playmate and I was yours,
we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and the sorrows and cares of our indentured days
were uncomprehended … far, far away …
for the temptations and trials we had yet to face
were lost in the shadows of an unventured maze.

Then simple pleasures were easy to find
and if they cost us a little, we didn't mind;
for even a penny in a pocket back then
was one penny too many, a penny to spend.

Then feelings were feelings and love was just love,
not a strange, complex mystery to be understood;
while "sin" and "damnation" meant little to us,
since forbidden cookies were our only lusts!

Then we never worried about what we had,
and we were both sure—what was good, what was bad.
And we sometimes quarreled, but we didn't hate;
we seldom gave thought to the uncertainties of fate.

Hell, we seldom thought about the next day,
when tomorrow seemed hidden—adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past,
and wondered, at times, why things couldn't last.

Still, we never worried about getting by,
and we didn't know that we were to die …
when we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and I was your playmate, and we were boys.

This is probably the poem that "made" me, because my high school English teacher called it "beautiful" and I took that to mean I was surely the Second Coming of Percy Bysshe Shelley! "Playmates" is the second poem I remember writing; I believe I was around 13 or 14 at the time. It was originally published by The Lyric.

My Epitaph
by Michael R. Burch

Do not weep for me, when I am gone.
I lived, and ate my fill, and gorged on life.
You will not find beneath this glossy stone
the man who sowed and reaped and gathered days
like flowers, well aware they would not keep.
Go lightly then, and leave me to my sleep.

The first line of my elegy was inspired by Christina Rossetti's famous elegy.

Related Pages by Michael R. Burch: Holocaust Poems, Trail of Tears Poems, Darfur Poems, Gaza Poems, Nakba Poems, Haiti Poems, Hiroshima Poems, 911 Poems, Parkland Poems, Sandy Hook Poems, Aurora Poems, Columbine Poems, What is Poetry?, Early Poems, Epigrams and Quotes, The Best Rock Lyrics, Rock Jukebox, "Ordinary Love" Analysis and Meaning, "Something" Analysis and Meaning, "Neglect" Analysis and Meaning, "Passionate One" Analysis and Meaning, "Epitaph" Analysis and Meaning, Libelous Blasphemies of the Lord of Hosts (unless they're true), Heretical Poetry

The poems that follow are dedicated to my wife Beth, my son Jeremy, and my mother, Christine Ena Burch. The final poem is dedicated to my Muse.

She Gathered Lilacs

for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Warming Her Pearls

for Beth

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

Originally published by Erosha

Are You the Thief

for Beth
When I touch you now,
O sweet lover,
full of fire,
melting like ice
in my embrace,
when I part the delicate white lace,
baring pale flesh,
and your face
is so close
that I breathe your breath
and your hair surrounds me like a wreath …
tell me now,
O sweet, sweet lover,
in good faith:
are you the thief
who has stolen my heart?
Originally published as "Baring Pale Flesh" by Poetic License/Monumental Moments

She Spoke

for Beth

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

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

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

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Let Me Give Her Diamonds

for Beth
Let me give her diamonds
for my heart’s
sharp edges.
Let me give her roses
for my soul’s
Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.
Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter
Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.
Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.
Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts
the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.


for Beth

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric

At Once

for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric

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.

The opening lines of my poem were inspired by a famous love poem by e. e. cummings.

She is brighter than dawn

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

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

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

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

Mother’s Smile

for  my mother, Christine Ena Burch, and my wife, Elizabeth Harris Burch

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

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

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

Originally published by TALESetc

The Desk

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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

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

One thing, though—

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

Originally published by TALESetc

A True Story

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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

Originally published by TALESetc

Sappho’s Lullaby

for Jeremy

Hushed yet melodic, the hills and the valleys
sleep unaware of the nightingale's call
while the dew-laden lilies lie
… this is their night, the first night of fall.

Son, tonight, a woman awaits you;
she is more vibrant, more lovely than spring.
She'll meet you in moonlight,
soft and warm,
all alone …
then you'll know why the nightingale sings.

Just yesterday the stars were afire;
then how desire flashed through my veins!
But now I am older;
night has come,
I’m alone …
for you I will sing as the nightingale sings.

Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

They will teach you to scoff at love
from the highest, windiest precipice of reason.

Do not believe them.

There is no place safe for you to fall
save into the arms of love.

Picturebook Princess

for Keira

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

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

The Aery Faery Princess

for Keira

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

Tallen the Mighty Thrower

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

Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch

for George Edwin Hurt Sr.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Bernini.

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 resplendent glories at their feet.
Thou art the grass;

make them complete.

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 savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze …
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

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

In the Whispering Night (II)
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 savage 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.

In the whispering night, when the mockingbird calls
while denuded vines barely cling to stone walls,
as the red-rocked rivers rush on to the sea,
 like a bright Goddess calling
a meteor falling
may flare like desire through skeletal trees.

If you look to the east, you will see a reminder
of days that broke warmer and nights that fell kinder;
but you and I were not meant for this life,
a life of illusions
and painful delusions:
a life without meaning—unless it is life.

So turn from the east and look to the west,
to the stars—argent fire ablaze at God's breast—
but there you'll find nothing but dreams of lost days:
days lost forever,
departed, and never,
oh never, oh never shall they be regained.

So turn from those heavens—night’s pale host of stars—
to these scarred pitted mountains, these wild grotesque tors
which—looming in darkness—obscure lustrous seas …
We are men, we must sing
till enchanted vales ring;
we are men; though we wither, our spirits soar free.

This is the original version of "In the Whispering Night" and one of my most Romantic poems, if not the most Romantic.

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age …


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 …

for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.


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 vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.


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 fail to 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.


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.


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.


So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills'
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar’s shrill, cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any …
how can I—when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
framed by your perfect pillowcase?


If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled savage 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.


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.


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


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


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.

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

Athena takes me
sometimes by the hand

and we go levitating
through strange Dreamlands

where Apollo sleeps
in his dark forgetting

and Passion seems
like a wise bloodletting

and all I remember
,upon awaking,

is: to Love sometimes
is like forsaking

one’s Being—to glide
heroically beyond thought,

forsaking the here
for the There and the Not.


O, finally to Burn,
gravity beyond escaping!

To plummet is Bliss
when the blisters breaking

rain down red scabs
on the earth’s mudpuddle …

Feathers and wax
and the watchers huddle …

Flocculent sheep,
O, and innocent lambs!,

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


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

for the Night has Wings
gentler than Moonbeams—

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

fluttering off
to quarry the Sphinx.



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.



throw out the Welcome Mat.

Somewhither, somewhither
aglitter and strange,

we must moult off all knowledge
or perish caged.


I am reconciled to Life
somewhere beyond thought—

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

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

so fatten the oxen;
make a nice baste.

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

though we injure noone,
ourselves wildaglow.

by Michael R. Burch

Poetry, I found you
where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you
to torture and confound you,
I found you—shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair
and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh's skies,
had leapt at dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care;
there savage whips had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars;
your bones were broken with the force
with which they'd lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all.
So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call
from where dawn’s milling showers fall—
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth
to temper for a lover’s touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove
each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand
and led my steps from child to man;
now I look back, remember when
you shone, and cannot understand
why now, tonight, you bear their brand.


I will take and cradle you in my arms,
remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight
back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core
of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears
for all those blissful years …
my love, whom I adore.

Originally published by The Lyric

NOTE: I consider "Poetry" to be my Ars Poetica along with "In the Whispering Night," "Finally to Burn" and "These Hallowed Halls." However, the poem has been misinterpreted to mean that the poet is claiming to be the "savior" of Poetry. The poem never claims that the poet is a savior or hero. The poem only says that when Poetry is finally freed, in some unspecified way, the poet will be there to take her hand and watch her glory be revealed once again to the world. The poet expresses love for Poetry, and gratitude, but never claims to have done anything himself. This is a poem of love, compassion and reverence. Poetry is the Messiah, not the poet. The poet washes her feet with his tears, like Mary Magdalene.

For an analysis of the poem, please click here: "Poetry" Analysis.

These are newer poems…


Valentine Haiku #1
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

A leaf brushes my cheek:
a subtle lover’s
gentlest caress.

for Beth

Valentine Haiku #2
by Michael R. Burch

Teach me to love:
to fly beyond sterile Mars
to percolating Venus.

Be Merciful, O Terrible Angel!
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Egos are fragile,
psyches break.
Be merciful,
for chrissake!

Tell me I’m handsome,
tell me I’m cool,
that I’m the brightest fish
in this shallow pool

Preposterous Eros
by Michael R. Burch

“Preposterous Eros” – Patricia Falanga

Preposterous Eros shot me in
the buttocks, with a Devilish grin,
spent all my money in a rush
then left my heart effete pink mush.

The Watch
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

I have come to watch my young son,
his blonde ringlets damp with sleep…
and what I know is that he loves me
beyond all earthly understanding,
that his life is like clay in my unskilled hands.

And I marvel this bright ore does not keep—
unrestricted in form, more content than shape,
but seeking a form to become, to express
something of itself to this wilderness
of eyes watching and waiting.

What do I know of his wonder, his awe?
To his future I will matter less and less,
but in this moment, as he is my world, I am his,
and I stand, not understanding, but knowing—
in this vast pageant of stars, he is more than unique.

There will never be another moment like this.
Studiously quiet, I stroke his fine hair
which will darken and coarsen and straighten with time.
He is all I bequeath of myself to this earth.
His fingers curl around mine in his sleep…

I leave him to dreams—calm, untroubled and deep.

"The Onslaught" was written after a surprising comment from my son, Jeremy.

The Onslaught
by Michael R. Burch

“Daddy, I can’t give you a hug today
because my hair is wet.”

No wet-haired hugs for me today;
no lollipopped lips to kiss and say,
Daddy, I love you! with such regard
after baseball hijinks all over the yard.

The sun hails and climbs
over the heartbreak of puppies and daffodils
and days lost forever to windowsills,
over fortunes and horrors and starry climes;

and it seems to me that a child’s brief years
are springtimes and summers beyond regard
mingled with laughter and passionate tears,
beyond autumns and winters now veiled and barred,
as elusive as snowflakes here, white and bejeweled,
gaily whirling and sweeping across the yard.

To My Child, Unborn
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

How many were the nights, enchanted
with despair and longing, when dreams recanted
returned with a restless yearning,
and the pale stars, burning,
cried out at me to remember
one night … long ere the September
night when you were conceived.

Oh, then, if only I might have believed
that the future held such mystery
as you, my child, come unbidden to me
and to your mother,
come to us out of a realm of wonder,
come to us out of a faery clime …

If only then, in that distant time,
I had somehow known that this day was coming,
I might not have despaired at the raindrops drumming
sad anthems of loneliness against shuttered panes;
I might not have considered my doubts and my pains
so carefully, so cheerlessly, as though they were never-ending.
If only then, with the starlight mending
the shadows that formed
in the bowels of those nights, in the gussets of storms
that threatened till dawn as though never leaving,
I might not have spent those long nights grieving,
lamenting my loneliness, cursing the sun
for its late arrival. Now, a coming dawn
brings you unto us, and you shall be ours,
as welcome as ever the moon or the stars
or the glorious sun when the nighttime is through
and the earth is enchanted by skies turning blue.

by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

With his cocklebur hugs
and his wet, clinging kisses
like a damp, trembling thistle
catching, thwarting my legs—

he reminds me that life begins with the possibility of rapture.

Was time this deceptive
when my own childhood begged
one last moment of frolic
before bedtime’s firm kisses—

when sleep was enforced, and the dark window ledge

waited, impatient, to lure
or to capture
the bright edge of morning
within a clear pane?

Was the sun then my ally—bright dawn’s greedy fledgling?

With his joy he reminds me
of joys long forgotten,
of play’s endless hours
till the haggard sun sagged

and everything changed.

I gather him up and we trudge off to bed.

What does it mean?
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

His little hand, held fast in mine.
What does it mean? What does it mean?

If he were not here, the sun would not shine,
nor the grass grow half as green.

What does it mean?

His arms around my neck, his cheek
snuggling so warm against my own…

What does it mean?

If life's a garden, he's the fairest
flower ever sown,
the sweetest ever seen.

What does it mean?

And when he whispers sweet and low,
"What does it mean?"
It means, my son, I love you so.
Sometimes that's all we need to know.

The Gift
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth and Jeremy

For you and our child, unborn, though named
(for we live in a strange, fantastic age,
and tomorrow, when our son's a man,
perhaps this earth will be a cage

from which men fly like flocks of birds,
the distant stars their helpless prey),
for you, my love, and you, my child,
what can I give you, each, this day?

First, take my heart, it’s mine alone;
no ties upon it, mine to give,
more precious than a lifetime’s objects,
and, once possessed, more free to live.

Then take these poems, of little worth,
but to tell you: that which you receive
holds precious its two dear possessors,
and makes each lien a sweet reprieve.

Tall Tails
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

is the base perception
alchemized by deeper reflection,
the paradox
of the wagging tails of dog-ma
torched by sly Reynard the Fox.

But irony lies
beyond the surmise
of the blind and unwise.

These are lines written as my son Jeremy was about to star as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at his ultra-conservative high school, Nashville Christian. Benedick is rather obvious wordplay but it apparently flew over the heads of the Puritan headmasters. Samson lit the tails of foxes and set them loose amid the Philistines. Reynard the Fox was a medieval trickster who bedeviled the less wily. “Irony lies / in a realm beyond the unseeing, / the unwise.”


Du im Voraus (“You who never arrived”)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who never arrived in my arms, my Belovéd,
lost before we began…

How can I possibly know which songs might please you?

I have given up trying to envision you
in portentous moments before the next wave impacts…
when all the vastness and immenseness within me,
all the far-off undiscovered lands and landscapes,
all the cities, towers and bridges,
all the unanticipated twists and turns in the road,
and all those terrible terrains once traversed by strange gods—
engender new meaning in me:
your meaning, my enigmatic darling…

You, who continually elude me.

You, my Belovéd,
who are every garden I ever gazed upon,
longingly, through some country manor’s open window,
so that you almost stepped out, pensively, to meet me;
who are every sidestreet I ever chanced upon,
even though you’d just traipsed tantalizingly away, and vanished,
while the disconcerted shopkeepers’ mirrors
still dizzily reflected your image, flashing you back at me,
startled by my unwarranted image!

Who knows, but perhaps the same songbird’s cry
echoed through us both,
yesterday, separate as we were, that evening?

Sonnet 26
by Giacomo da Lentini
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I've seen it rain on sunny days;
I’ve seen the darkness split by light;
I’ve seen white lightning fade to haze;
Seen frozen snow turn water-bright.

Some sweets have bitter aftertastes
While bitter things can taste quite sweet:
So enemies become best mates
While former friends no longer meet.

Yet the strangest thing I've seen is Love,
Who healed my wounds by wounding me.
Love quenched the fire he lit before;
The life he gave was death, therefore.
How to warm my heart? It eluded me.
Yet extinguished, Love sears all the more.

Giacomo da Lentini, also known as Jacopo da Lentini or by the appellative Il Notaro (“The Notary”), was an Italian poet of the 13th century who has been credited with creating the sonnet.

Hurrian Hymn No. 6
ancient Akkadian hymn
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"Hurrian Hymn No. 6" was discovered in the ruins of Ugarit, near the modern town of Ras Shamra in Syria. It is the oldest surviving substantially complete work of notated music, dating to around 1400 BCE. The hymn is addressed to the goddess Nikkal (aka Ningal), the wife of the moon god Sin in ancient Mesopotamian mythology. "Hurrian Hymn No. 6" is one of 36 ancient Akkadian hymns called the "Hurrian Hymns" that were preserved in cuneiform, although the rest of the hymns are not as well-preserved.

Having endeared myself to the Deity, she will embrace me.
May this offering of bread I bring wholly cover my sins.
May the sesame oil purify me as I bow low before your divine throne in awe.
Nikkal will make the sterile fertile, cause the barren to be fruitful:
They will bring forth children like grain.
The wife will bear her husband’s children.
May she who has not yet borne children now conceive them!

For those who receive my offerings,
I place two loaves in their bowls as I perform the rites.

The couple have raised sacrifices to the heavens for their health and good fortune!

I have placed the loaves before your Divine Throne.

I will purify their sins, without denying them.

I will bring the lovers to you, that you may find them agreeable, for you love those who come forward to be reconciled.

I have brought their sins before you, to be removed through the reconciliation ritual.

I will honor you at your footstool.

Nikkal will strengthen them.
She allows married couples have children.
She allows children to be conceived by their fathers.

But the unreconciled will weep: "Why have I not yet born my husband children?"

The evening light is broad and yellow
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The evening light is broad and yellow;
it glides in on an April rain.
You arrived years late,
yet I’m glad you came.

Please sit down here, beside me,
receive me with welcoming eyes.
Here is my blue notebook
with my childhood poems inside.

Forgive me if I lived in sorrow,
spent too little time rejoicing in the sun.
Forgive, forgive, me, if I mistook
others for you, when you were the One.


Surrender to sleep at last! What an ordeal, keeping watch all night, wide awake. Soon you’ll succumb to sleep and escape all your troubles. Sleep. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Any moment might be our last. Earth’s magnificence? Magnified because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than at this moment. We will never pass this way again. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let’s hope the gods are willing. They rule the vaulting skies. They’re stronger than men to plan, execute and realize their ambitions.—Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Passage home? Impossible! Surely you have something else in mind, Goddess, urging me to cross the ocean’s endless expanse in a raft. So vast, so full of danger! Hell, sometimes not even the sea-worthiest ships can prevail, aided as they are by Zeus’s mighty breath! I’ll never set foot on a raft, Goddess, until you swear by all that’s holy you’re not plotting some new intrigue! — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Few sons surpass their fathers; most fall short, all too few overachieve. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Beauty! Ah, Terrible Beauty! A deathless Goddess, she startles our eyes! — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Many dread seas and many dark mountain ranges lie between us. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The lives of mortal men? Like the leaves’ generations. Now the old leaves fall, blown and scattered by the wind. Soon the living timber bursts forth green buds as spring returns. Even so with men: as one generation is born, another expires. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I’m attempting to temper my anger, it does not behoove me to rage unrelentingly on. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Overpowering memories subsided to grief. Priam wept freely for Hector, who had died crouching at Achilles’ feet, while Achilles wept himself, first for his father, then for Patroclus, as their mutual sobbing filled the house. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“Genius is discovered in adversity, not prosperity.” — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ruin, the eldest daughter of Zeus, blinds us all with her fatal madness. With those delicate feet of hers, never touching the earth, she glides over our heads, trapping us all. First she entangles you, then me, in her lethal net. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death and Fate await us all. Soon comes a dawn or noon or sunset when someone takes my life in battle, with a well-flung spear or by whipping a deadly arrow from his bow. — Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death is the Great Leveler, not even the immortal gods can defend the man they love most when the dread day dawns for him to take his place in the dust.—Homer, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

//HUMOROUS POEMS//LIGHT VERSE//bookmark//xxx//yyy//zzz//

by Michael R. Burch

When man is gone
won’t the sun still rise?

Will anyone care
that he isn’t there?

Will the porpoises
lack purpose,

the marigolds

Will the doves and the deer
shed fond tears?

Or will life continue,
glad to be off his menu?

On the Horns of a Dilemma (I)
by Michael R. Burch

Love has become preposterous
for the over-endowed rhinoceros:
when he meets the right miss
how the hell can he kiss
when his horn so deforms her esophagus?

On the Horns of a Dilemma (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Love has become preposterous
for the over-endowed rhinoceros:
when he meets the right miss
how the hell can he kiss
when his horn is so horny it lofts her thus?

I need a cartoon to go with the poem above. Any takers?

On the Horns of a Dilemma (III)
by Michael R. Burch

A wino rhino said, “I know!
I have a horn I cannot blow!
And so,
I’ll watch the lovely spigot flow!

The Horns of a Dilemma Solved, if not Solvent
by Michael R. Burch

A wine-addled rhino debated
the prospect of living unmated
but due to the scorn
gals showed for his horn,
he lost it to poachers, sedated.

Less Heroic Couplets: Word to the Unwise
by Michael R. Burch

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

Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan’s gnawing.
Saint Brendan’s curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.

I’m on parole from Hell today!
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
You’ve fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!

Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever you can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!

In Dante’s Inferno, Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot’s head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.

Time Out
by Michael R. Burch

Time is running out,
no doubt.
Time is running out.

I don’t know what the LORD’s about,
since Time is running out, the Lout!,
and leaving me with gas and gout.

I don’t know what the LORD’s about,
still, it does no good to grouse or pout,
since Time is merely running out,
like quail before a native scout.

’Twill do no good to shout or flout:
Time’s running out,
I have no doubt,
though who knows what the LORD’s about?

No need for faith or even doubt,
since Time is merely running out,
like water from a rusty spout
or mucous from a leaky snout.

Yes, Time is merely running out,
and yet I feel inclined to pout
and truth be told, sometimes to doubt
just what the hell the LORD’s about.

Less Heroic Couplets: Clover
by Michael R. Burch

It’ll soon be over

Less Heroic Couplets: Attention Span Gap
by Michael R. Burch

Better not to live, than live too long:
The world prefers a brief poem, a short song.

Invitation to a Spoon
by Michael R. Burch

My kingdom for a spoon!
My kingdom for a spoon!
I love to spoon
as I love to croon
in early June
by the light of the moon
when it's getting as hot as a horse’s shoon
while he's shoein' 'n' shooin'!
But why tempt fate,
or procrastinate?
Let’s spoon real soon!

Norm's Abnormal Norm
by Michael R. Burch

Norm MacDonald had a farm
And on his farm there was no norm
Except to laugh, ho-ho!
With a sly joke here
And a sly joke there
Here a joke, there a joke
Everywhere a crude joke
Norm MacDonald had a farm

Canada's Response
by Michael R. Burch

Michael Juster
is all bluster.

First release
the geese,
THEN sue for peace!

by Michael R. Burch

Ain’t it funny how trendy
becomes so dead-endy?

Lava lamps and bell bottoms
soon became “never bought ‘ems.”

While that teenage tattoo
soon’ll have wrinkles too.


Time Out!
by Michael R. Burch

Time is at war with my body!
am i Time’s most diligent hobby?
for there’s never Time out
from my low-t and gout
and my once-brilliant mind has grown stodgy!

Waiting Game
by Michael R. Burch

Nothing much to live for,
yet no good reason to die:
life became
a waiting game…
Chill rain from a clear blue sky.

Nipples' Ripples
by Michael R. Burch

Men are scared of nipples:
that’s why they can’t be seen.
For if they were,
we’d go to war
as in the days of Troy, I ween.

by Michael R. Burch

The world’s first antinatalist limerick?

Life comes with a terrible catch:
It’s like starting a fire with a match.
Though the flames may delight
In the dark of the night,
In the end what remains from the scratch?


An Aging Trump’s Saddest Tweet to Date
by Michael R. Burch

I’ve gotten all out of kilter.
My erstwhile yuge tool is a wilter!
I now sleep in bed.
Few hairs on my head.
Inhibitions? I now have no filter!

Grand Ole Poobahs
by Michael R. Burch

The Nazis now think things’re grand.
The KKK’s hirin’ a band.
Putin’s computin’
Less Ukrainians shootin’.
They’re hootin’ ’n’ tootin’ ’cause Trump’s win is planned.

Trump's Catches
by Michael R. Burch

Trump comes with a few grotesque catches:
He likes to grope unoffered snatches;
He loves to ICE kids;
His brain’s on the skids;
And then there’s the coups the fiend hatches.

the best of all possible whirls, for MAGA
by Michael R. Burch

ive made a mistake or two.
okay, maybe quite more than a few:
mistakes by the millions,
the billions and zillions,
but remember: ur LORD made u!

where were u?
by Michael R. Burch

where were u when HEE passed out brains?
or did u politely abstain?
u call GAUD “infallible”
when HEE made u so gullible
u cant come inside when Trump reigns.

Double Dactyl: Jesus Christ!
by Michael R. Burch

Jesus Christ’s enterprise
leaves me in awe of
the rich men he loathed!

But why should a Sadducee
settle for trifles?
His disciples now rip off
the Lord they betrothed.

Donald Double Dactyl #1
by Michael R. Burch

Ronald McDonald
cursed Donald Trump, his
least favorite clown:

"Why should I try to be
funny as Donald? He
gets all the laughs,
claiming upside is down!"

Donald Double Dactyl #2
by Michael R. Burch

Wond’ringly, blund’ringly
Ronald McDonald
asked, “Who the hell
is this strange orange clown?”

“Why should I try to be
funny as Donald? He
gets all the laughs,
claiming upside is down!”

Donald Double Dactyl #3
by Michael R. Burch

45th president,
or erstwhile manse resident,
perched on a throne

of gold-plated porcelain
matching his orange “tan,”
bombing Iran
from his twittery phone?

Squid on the Skids
by Michael R. Burch

Sidney Powell howled in 2020:
“The Kraken will roar through the land of plenty!”

But she recalled the Terror in 2023
with a slippery, slimy, squid-like plea.

The Kraken Cracked
by Michael R. Burch

She’s singing like a canary.
Who says krakens are scary?

Squidney said the election was hacked,
but when her lies were unpacked,
the crackpot kraken cracked.

Now, with a small, timid, high-pitched squeal,
The kraken has cut a deal.

Oh, tell it with jubilation:
the kraken is on probation!

Trump’s Retribution Resolution
by Michael R. Burch

My New Year’s resolution?
I require your money and votes,
for you are my retribution.

May I offer you dark-skinned scapegoats
and bigger and deeper moats
as part of my sweet resolution?

Please consider a YUGE contribution,
a mountain of lovely C-notes,
for you are my retribution.

Revenge is our only solution,
since my critics are weasels and stoats.
Come, second my sweet resolution!

The New Year’s no time for dilution
of the anger of victimized GOATs,
when you are my retribution.

Forget the damned Constitution!
To dictators “ideals” are footnotes.
My New Year’s resolution?
You are my retribution.

My Sin-cere Endorsement of a Trump Cultist
by Michael R. Burch

If you choose to be an idiot, who can prevent you?
If you love to do evil, why then, by all means,
serve the con who sent you.

The Reason for My Silence
by Michael R. Burch

Friends, I admit that I’m often tempted
to say what I think about Trump,
but all such thought’s been preempted
by the sight of that Yuge Orange Rump!

Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

The editorial board of the Washington Post is “very worried that American women don’t want to marry Trump supporters.”

Supporting Trump puts a crimp in dating
(not to mention mating).

So, horny dudes, if you’d like to bed
intelligent gals, and possibly wed,

it’s time to jettison that red MAGA cap
and tweet “farewell” to an orange sap.

Trump Rhymes
by Michael R. Burch

Trump rhymes with chump
garbage dump
and yuge beautiful wonderful tremendous diaper-clad rump.

by Michael R. Burch

Do not disturb him in his inner sanctum
Or he’ll have another Trumper Tantrum.

Double Dipping
by Michael R. Burch

They’re dropping like flies:
Putin’s “allies.”

Ah, but who gets their funny

Two birds with one stone:
kill dissent, buy a drone.

For tyrants the darkest day’s sunny!


Bird’s Eye View
by Michael R. Burch

So many fantasical inventions,
but what are man’s intentions?

I don’t trust their scooty cars.
And what are their plans for Mars?

Their landfills’ high retentions?
The dodos they fail to mention?

I don’t trust Trump’s “clean coal” cars,
and what the hell are his plans for Mars?


It turns out the term was prophetic, since "conservatives" now serve a con. — Michael R. Burch

To live among you — ah! — as among vipers, coldblooded creatures not knowing right from wrong, adoring Trump, hissing and spitting venom.


Modern editors know too much about poetry to recognize it when they read it.


pretty pickle
by Michael R. Burch

u’d blaspheme if u could
because ur God’s no good,
but of course u cant:
ur a lowly ant
(or so u were told by a Hierophant).

u-turn: another way to look at religion
by Michael R. Burch

… u were born(e) orphaned from Ecstasy
into this lower realm: just one of the inching worms
dreaming of Beatification;
u'd love to make a u-turn back to Divinity, but
having misplaced ur chrysalis,
can only chant magical phrases,
like Circe luring ulysses back into the pigsty …

wee beliefs of the POTTER's chillun
by michael r. burch

wee believe in a MYTHICAL MONSTER
who wont give wee time of the day;
HE hates wee because w(err)e queer;
HE hates wee because w(err)e fey;
or likewise if weeuns ur straight
and yet with our weeselves wee play;
HE abominates seeing w(err)e happy
and all other sad things of clay
HE molded to be this way.

by michael r. burch

wee are descended from GAUDS, wee suppose,
though some like JEHOVAH may turn up THEIR nos(e)
after pausing from murdering kids, to declare
men inhuman beasts & unlikely to care
for the poor & the sickly & the prostitutes
THEY’ll sentence to hell with THEIR priests in cahoots
for not guessing right 'bout which GAUDs to believe.

such far-right-eous GAUDs could never deceive
and thus we are left with mere billions in hell:
the bad guessers and gays the GAUDs made not s(o) well.

yes, wee are descended from GAUDS, wee suppose,
impressed by THEIR whiz-dumb and g(l)oriest love,
but if one screams below, what the hell is “above”?


Ars Brevis
by Michael R. Burch

Better not to live, than live too long:
this is my theme, my purpose and desire.
The world prefers a brief three-minute song.

My will to live was never all that strong.
Eternal life? Find some poor fool to hire!
Better not to live, than live too long.

Granny panties or a flosslike thong?
The latter rock, the former feed the fire.
The world prefers a brief three-minute song.

Let briefs be brief: the short can do no wrong,
since David slew Goliath, who stood higher.
Better not to live, than live too long.

A long recital gets a sudden gong.
Quick death’s preferred to drowning in the mire.
The world prefers a brief three-minute song.

A wee bikini or a long sarong?
French Riviera or some dull old Shire?
Better not to live, than live too long:
The world prefers a brief three-minute song.

The vanilla-nelle
by Michael R. Burch

The vanilla-nelle is rather dark to write
In a chocolate world where purity is slight,
When every rhyming word must rhyme with white!

As sure as night is day and day is night,
And walruses write songs, such is my plight:
The vanilla-nelle is rather dark to write.

I’m running out of rhymes and it’s a fright
because the end’s not nearly (yet) in sight,
When every rhyming word must rhyme with white!

It’s tougher when the poet’s not too bright
And strains his brain, which only turns up “blight.”
Yes, the vanilla-nelle is rather dark to write.

I strive to seem aloof and recondite
while avoiding ancient words like “knyghte” and “flyte”
But every rhyming word must rhyme with white!

I think I’ve failed: I’m down to “zinnwaldite.”
I fear my Muse is torturing me, for spite!
For the vanilla-nelle is rather dark to write
When every rhyming word must rhyme with white!
I may have accidentally invented a new poetic form, the “trinelle” or “triplenelle.”

Why I Left the Right
by Michael R. Burch

I was a Reagan Republican in my youth but quickly “left” the GOP when I grokked its inherent racism, intolerance and retreat into the Dark Ages.

I fell in with the troops, but it didn’t last long:
I’m not one to march to a klanging gong.
“Right is wrong” became my song.

I’m not one to march to a klanging gong
with parrots all singing the same strange song.
I fell in with the bloops, but it didn’t last long.

These parrots all singing the same strange song
with no discernment at all between right and wrong?
“Right is wrong” became my song.

With no discernment between right and wrong,
the klan marched on in a white-robed throng.
I fell in with the rubes, but it didn’t last long.

The klan marched on in a white-robed throng,
enraged by the sight of boys in sarongs.
“Right is wrong” became my song.

Enraged by the sight of boys in sarongs
and girls with butch hairdos, the clan klanged its gongs.
I fell in with the dupes, but it didn’t last long.
“Right is wrong” became my song.

What happened to the songs of yesterdays?
by Michael R. Burch

Is poetry mere turning of a phrase?
Has prose become its height and depth and sum?
What happened to the songs of yesterdays?

Does prose leave all nine Muses vexed and glum,
with fingers stuck in ears, till hearing’s numbed?
Is poetry mere turning of a phrase?

Should we cut loose, drink, guzzle jugs of rum,
write prose nonstop, till Hell or Kingdom Come?
What happened to the songs of yesterdays?

Are there no beats to which tense thumbs might thrum?
Did we outsmart ourselves and end up dumb?
Is poetry mere turning of a phrase?

How did a feast become this measly crumb,
such noble princes end up in a slum?
What happened to the songs of yesterdays?

I’m running out of rhymes! Please be a chum
and tell me if some Muse might spank my bum
for choosing rhyme above the painted phrase?
What happened to the songs of yesterdays?

Trump’s Retribution Resolution
by Michael R. Burch

My New Year’s resolution?
I require your money and votes,
for you are my retribution.

May I offer you dark-skinned scapegoats
and bigger and deeper moats
as part of my sweet resolution?

Please consider a YUGE contribution,
a mountain of lovely C-notes,
for you are my retribution.

Revenge is our only solution,
since my critics are weasels and stoats.
Come, second my sweet resolution!

The New Year’s no time for dilution
of the anger of victimized GOATs,
when you are my retribution.

Forget the damned Constitution!
To dictators “ideals” are footnotes.
My New Year’s resolution?
You are my retribution.


That Not-So-Mellow Fellow, Othello
by Michael R. Burch

Not sure ’bout that fellow, Othello,
was he a “hero” or merely piss yellow?
He killed his poor wife
over a handkerchief!
Thus Iago proved his heart Jello.

I would normally have used a semicolon after “Othello” but I preferred the look with a second comma.


A cowboy exclaimed, “Fiddle-faddle!
Who cares if I ‘date’ my own cattle?”
But his wife cried, “You chump!”
Kicked him hard in the rump,
And now he can’t sit in the saddle.

A cowboy confessed to his brother
That he’d taken his horse as his lover.
But the mare neighed, of course.
It was rape, and by force.
Then the prick was killed by the nag’s mother.

A cowboy confessed to his priest
That he’d screwed twenty cattle, at least.
“Father, am I forgiven?”
But the dude died unshriven,
Since the thunderbolt left him deceased.


Bowl-less Fans’ Dilemma

So much talent,
yet so many losses!
Do we blame the damned players
or fire their bosses?


The New Year approaches, with goals
Prancing about like wild foals;
But they dodge the damn harness,
Retreat into farness …
Now I’ll have to walk home, I suppose.

by Michael R. Burch

Will Ohtani hit 65 homers,
win the Cy Young by striking out Gomers,
make it cute and okay
to write KKK
while inspiring rhyme-challenged poemers?

Will Ohtani hit 65homers,
win the Cy Young by striking out Gomers,
prove the nemesis
of white supremacists
while inspiring rhyme-challenged poemers?

Will Ohtani hit 65 homers,
win the Cy Young by striking out Gomers,
cause supremacists
to cease and desist
while inspiring rhyme-challenged poemers?


Skip, scop, skip to My loo
by Immanuel A. Michael

Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Beware lest you err, my darlings!

The Evil One is in your midst.
Trump knows no God, Christ’s been eclipsed.
His sheeplike flock bows down, transfixed.
Skip to My loo, my darlings!

Daniel named him: “little horn.”
Salemi treats God’s Word with scorn —
a “pious fraud” — as angels mourn.
Skip to My loo, my darlings!

The Good Book prophesies and warns
of a Trump of Doom; shall little horns
blare in the end, those roseless thorns?
Skip to My loo, my darlings!

Repent! Repent! Sackcloth and ashes!
Support the Beast? God’s wrath amasses!
You’re supposed to oppose him, lads and lasses!
Skip to My loo, my darlings!

Fire and brimstone — the prophesied fate
of those who support the horny Ingrate.
The Good Book warns, the time grows late.
Skip to My loo, my darlings!

Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Beware lest you err, my darlings!

The book of Daniel prophesies a “little horn” who will make a make a great commotion. A trump is a little horn that makes a great commotion and is used for purposes of pomp and pageantry. Daniel said this boastful “little horn” would fling truth to the ground and no one in human history has lied more than Trump.

Trump, more than anyone ever before, is “a mouth speaking pompous words.” (Daniel 7:8)

Trump “thinks to change times and laws” and has already tried to stay in power illegally by subverting the Constitution and the peaceful exchange of power. And Trump has promised to do so again if re-elected president.

Trump’s goal is not to be a good president, but to be president for good, like his hero Putin.

Trump has formed an unholy alliance with Christians. More than 80% of evangelical Christians voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Without their support Trump would not have come close to winning.

“What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

In this case the only gain is Trump’s and his followers are risking their souls for nothing but endless misery, according to the Bible. Deluded Christians now seem to think they can support the Antichrist and hasten Christ’s return, but the Bible makes it clear that supporting the man of sin will incur the wrath of God Almighty. The Bible says the blind will lead the blind into the ditch and we now see it happening before our eyes.

Skip, scop, skip to My loo
by Immanuel A. Michael

Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Beware lest you err, my darlings!

The king is in his counting house, counting out his funny money;
the Antichrist is on his throne; scops claim the days are breezy, sunny.

Skip to My loo, my darlings!

The earth is flat!
Lick up Trump’s scat!
Praise evil men, the LORD likes that!

Skip to My loo, my darlings!

The Bible’s “pious fraud,” Joe claims,
but knows the perfect prelates’ names.

Skip to My loo, my darlings!

The Day of Judgement swiftly nears;
who’ll be the goats when Christ appears?
Pale lemmings led by purblind seers?

Skip to My loo, my darlings!

Double, double, toil and trouble!
Eye of Newt; Trump’s jackal stubble
create a lovely witches’ brew,
but never fear, the Beast loves you
and God is pleased by triple sixes!
Friends, carry on with your Society mixes!

Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Skip, scop, skip to My loo.
Beware lest you err, my darlings!

Song of the Three Witches
by Kim Cherub

Double, double toil and trouble;
scops in flames, trolls’ caldrons bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake?
Toss it in, since scops half bake,
have never finished, yet, a verse,
unless they planned to make it worse.
Around the witchy lads and lasses
a cloud of foul ass-gas amasses.

Double, double toil and trouble;
scops fart flames, hence caldrons bubble.

Eye of newt and toe of frog
suit the scops and their mind-bog
as their stern Sicilian master
calls their Bible a disaster,
a “pious fraud” — they’ve been deceived! —
but perfect Popes must be believed!

Double, double toil and trouble;
scops fart flames, hell’s caldrons bubble.

Wool of bat and tongue of dog
go well with Antic Mantyk’s grog:
strange ale to drink, but then his “verse”
needs vomit to be made much worse.

Double, double toil and trouble;
scops’ wretched verse, foul caldrons bubble.

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
lizard's leg and howlet's wing:
for a charm of powerful trouble,
the scops’ hell-broth must boil and bubble.
(Perhaps some heir of Anita Bryant
will crucify kids with a hellish rant.)

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with transgender blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

There once was a numbskull Scop
who had hoped to come out on top
in a battle of wits
with a cat named Fritz,
but, alas, she was fated to flop.

Sue was quite the Holy Terror,
but Fritz pointed out each error.
Sue grew madder and madder
as Fritz grew sadder:
When Sue's on the fritz, make her stop!

Lemming Cliff

for the Keystone Scops

Science is a scam!
We trust the Great I Am
who never once led us wrong.
(Such is our simple song.)

God told us, “Stone your kids!”
Our brains can’t handle the skids.
We’re nearing the cliff, sakes alive!
(Why not shift into overdrive?)

With Jesus, our hero, Rambo,
and Yahweh, our Papa Shambo,
the dull put their faith in voodoo.
(And so, of course, that’s what we do.)

Covid was a scam!
We trust the Great I Am
who murdered our mother Eve!
(And so, of course, we believe.)

Doctors are out to get us!
Shambo’s the one we trust:
who commanded us, “Stone girls and boys!”
(The source of our Christian joys.)

Their Father’s Saying

The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.
“We know Eve petted dinosaurs. It’s true!”
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.

Although the Bible’s “truths” are hopelessly fraying
they embrace bald lies because that’s what cults do.
The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.

They’ll stick to poeticizing and essaying
because to think would sink both ship and crew.
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.

They bow to evil “gods” and keep on praying
because they fear hell’s fairytale rack and screw.
The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.

When science speaks they parrot dull naysaying:
“The earth is flat! The Bible proves it’s true!”
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.

When it comes to ignorance there’s no belaying:
they insist on being wrong, without a clue.
The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.

They’re proud of the ignorance they’re not belaying. They’re proud of Trump: his treason and betraying
They worship the Little Horn good Christians rue.
The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.


The Keystone Scops keep braying, braying, braying.
They can’t go beyond their Father’s saying.

I have revised many of my poems over the years, after initial publication, and the versions on this page are the most current, final, authoritative versions.

Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Viral Poems, Early Poems, Early Poems Timeline, Bemused by Muses, Children's Poems, Family Poems, Best Translations, Poems for Poets, Nature and Animal Poems, Light Verse, Doggerel, Less Heroic Couplets, Dabble Dactyls, Epigrams and Quotes, Epitaphs, Haiku, Limericks, Sonnets, Villanelles, Romantic Poems, Love Poems, Erotic Poems, Free Verse, Prose Poems, Experimental Poems, Parodies, Satires, Rejection Slips, Song Lyrics, Sports, Time and Death, Critical Writings, Literary Criticism, Poetry by Michael R. Burch, Auschwitz Rose Preview, Did Lord Bryon inspire the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?, Dante Translations, The "ur" poems, Why I Am Not A Christian by Michael R. Burch

You can find Burch's self-analysis of his poems here: "Auschwitz Rose" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Something" Analysis, "Will There Be Starlight" Analysis, "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Poetry" Analysis, "Self Reflection" Analysis, "Pale Though Her Eyes" Analysis, "Thin Kin" Analysis, Understatement Examples from Shakespeare and Elsewhere

Michael R. Burch poems about: Icarus, EROS and CUPID, Ireland, Ancient Egyptian Harper's Songs, Time, Aging, Loss and Death

The Best Translations of Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch: Porn Poet? Sorry Mom!

The HyperTexts