The HyperTexts

Michael R. Burch Epigrams and Quotes

This page contains epigrams, quotes, quips, puns, haiku, limericks and wordplay penned by Michael R. Burch along with a number of translations, interpretations and paraphrases ...



Brief Encounters: Prose Epigrams

• Raise 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 ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch
• You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.—Pablo Neruda, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Improve yourself by other men's writings, attaining less painfully what they gained through great difficulty.—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.—Leo Tolstoy, translation by Michael R. Burch
• Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel, or a house when it's time to change residences, even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.―Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch



Translations of Poetic Epigrams


An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their whores for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Chiasmus and Spoonerisms


To avoid being a hack writer, hack away at your writing.—Michael R. Burch
To fall an inch short of infinity is to fall infinitely short.—Michael R. Burch

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


Love's full of cute paradoxes
and highly acute poxes.
—Michael R. Burch


When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
White Elk, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is an extended chiasmus, "Old Panty Loons," at the bottom of this page.



Epigrams Proper & Improper

Apologies to Shakespeare

a tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet!
@mikerburch

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

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

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

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

don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

don’t forget to remember
that Space is curved
(like your Heart)
and that even Light is bent
by your Gravity.

I dedicated this poem to the love of my life, but you are welcome to dedicate it to the love of yours, if you like it. The opening lines were inspired by a famous love poem by e. e. cummings.

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too!

This is another poem I wrote for my wife, but you're welcome to share it with that special someone, if you like it.

Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

Here and Hereafter

by Michael R. Burch

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

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.

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

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

Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason’s treason!
cries the Heart.

Love’s insane,
replies the Brain.

Intimations
by Michael R. Burch

Show me your most intimate items of apparel;
begin with the hem of your quicksilver slip ...

Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

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

Published by Asses of Parnassus (the first poem in the April 2017 issue)

Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You’re too perfect for words—
a problem for a poet.

Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your breasts are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!

Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

Love is an ache hearts willingly secure
then break the bank to cure.

Liquid Assets
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you,
and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, credited pain . . .
My assets remaining are liquid again.

Civility
by Michael R. Burch

Civility
is the ability
to disagree
agreeably.

Dark Cloud, Silver Lining
by Michael R. Burch

Despite my stormy demeanor,
my hands have never been cleaner!

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!”

Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

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.

honeybee
by Michael R. Burch

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

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 joy is an illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

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

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

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

Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

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

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!”
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

Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

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

Flight
by Michael R. Burch

It is the nature of loveliness to vanish
as butterfly wings, batting against nothingness
seek transcendence ...

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)



Epigrams about Epigrams

If every witty thing that’s said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!
—Michael R. Burch

Brief Fling I
by Michael R. Burch

"Epigram"
means cram,
then scram.

Brief Fling II
by Michael R. Burch

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

The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

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

The Po' Biz Explained
by Michael R. Burch

The Editor

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The Critic

The editor’s work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

The Audience

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

The Anthologist

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.



Athenian Epitaphs

Passerby,
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, braved the overwhelming darkness.
Now we extol their excellence: bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas


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

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

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

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

There are more Athenian Epitaphs later on this page.

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.

Sappho, fragment 130

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

May the gods prolong the night
  —yes, let it last forever!—
as long as you sleep in my sight.

Sappho, fragment 155
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A short transparent frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!



Haiku and Tanka Translations

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

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

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

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

Deepening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue? ...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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



Original Haiku by Michael R. Burch

Dark-bosomed clouds
pregnant with heavy thunder ...
the water breaks
Michael R. Burch

Night
and the stars
conspire against me
Michael R. Burch



Rhyming Haiku by Michael R. Burch

Dry leaf flung awry:
bright butterfly,
goodbye!
Michael R. Burch

A snake in the grass
lies, hissing
Trespass!
Michael R. Burch

Honeysuckle
blesses my knuckle
with affectionate dew
Michael R. Burch

My nose nuzzles
honeysuckle’s
sweet nothings
Michael R. Burch

Late
   fall
all
the golden leaves turn black underfoot:
soot
Michael R. Burch

My mother’s eyes
acknowledging my imperfection:
dejection
Michael R. Burch



Limericks

Ass-tronomical

by Michael R. Burch

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

Dot Spotted

by Michael R. Burch

There once was a leopardess, Dot,
who indignantly answered: "I’ll not!
The gents are impressed
with the way that I’m dressed.
I wouldn’t change even one spot."

Tote the Note
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can’t sing,
but now, here’s the thing—
just think of the tunes you can carry!"

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

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

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

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

Of Tetley's and V-2's
by Michael R. Burch

The English are very hospitable,
but tea-less, alas, they grow pitiable ...
or pitiless, rather,
and quite in a lather!
O bother, they're more than formidable.
—"Of Tetley’s and V-2's," or, "Why Not to Bomb the Brits" by Michael R. Burch

Honeymoon Not-So-Sweet
by Michael R. Burch

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

Time In

by Michael R. Burch

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

Time Out
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Originally published by Grand Little Things

Early Warning System
by Michael R. Burch

A hairy thick troglodyte, Mary,
squinched dingles excessively airy.
To her family’s deep shame,
their condo became
the first cave to employ a canary!

Low-T Hell
by Michael R. Burch

I’m living in low-T hell ...
My get-up has gone: Farewell!
I need to write checks
if I want to have sex,
and my love life depends on a gel!

Baked Alaskan
by Michael R. Burch

There is a strange yokel so flirty
she makes whores seem icons of purity.
With all her winkin' and blinkin'
Palin seems to be "thinkin'"—
"Ah culd save th' free world 'cause ah'm purty!"

Going Rogue in Rouge
by Michael R. Burch

It'll be hard to polish that apple
enough to make her seem palatable.
Though she's sweeter than Snapple
how can my mind grapple
with stupidity so nearly infallible?


Pls refudiate
by Michael R. Burch

"Refudiate" this,
miffed, misunderstood Ms!—
Shakespeare, you're not
(more like Yoda, but hot).
Your grammar's atrocious;
Great Poets would know this.

You lack any plan
save to flatten Iran
like some cute Mini-Me
cloned from G. W. B.

Admit it, Ms. Palin!
Stop your winkin' and wailin'—
only "heroes" like Nero
fiddle sparks at Ground Zero.



The Church Gets the Burch Rod

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.
—Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
—Michael R. Burch


If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
—Michael R. Burch

I have my doubts about your God and his “love”:
If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?
—Michael R. Burch

Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch


God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
Michael R. Burch

since GOD created u so gullible
how did u conclude HE's so lovable?
Michael R. Burch

Clodhoppers
by Michael R. Burch

If you trust the Christian “god”
you’re—like Adumb—a clod.

• The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch
• Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch
• Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch
• How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned?—Michael R. Burch
• Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch
• In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.—Robert Frost
• In six words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on, until it doesn't.—Michael R. Burch
• An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch
• The problem with bigots is that they know they're not bigots, just "better."—Michael R. Burch
• If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?—Michael R. Burch
• Most Christians make their God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch

Why I Left the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

He's got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of his shirt
and he upholds the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

The Least of These ...

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch

Hell has been hellishly overdone!
Why blame such horrors on God's only Son
when Jehovah and his prophets never mentioned it once?
Michael R. Burch

(Bible scholars agree: the word "hell" has been removed from the Old Testaments of the more accurate modern Bible translations. And the few New Testament verses that mention "hell" are obvious mistranslations.)

Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Why I Left the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

He's got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of his shirt
and he upholds the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

Double Cross
by Michael R. Burch

Come to the cross;
contemplate all loss
and how little was gained
by those who remained
uncrucified.



Redefinitions

Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch
Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch
Death: This dream of nothingness we so fear is salvation clear.—Michael R. Burch 
Trickle down economics: an especially pungent golden shower.—Michael R. Burch
Baseball: lots of spittin’ mixed with some hittin’.—Michael R. Burch
Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Michael R. Burch

There are more redefinitions later on this page.



Poetic Definitions

Sex Hex
by Michael R. Burch

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

Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love is either wholly folly,
or fully holy.

Death
by Michael R. Burch

Death is the ultimate finality
of reality.



Miscellanea

Fascists of a feather
flock together.
Michael R. Burch

Love has the value
of gold, if it’s true;
if not, of rue.
—Michael R. Burch

Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

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

Delicacy
by Michael R. Burch

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring—
“Fly! Fly! Fly!”
Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.

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.

Medusa
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.

The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
                              fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.

Sumer is icumen in
a modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing achu!
Groweth sed
And bloweth hed
And buyeth med?
Cuccu!

Piecemeal
by Michael R. Burch

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.
(A pale Piggy-Wiggy
will discount your demise as no biggie.)

Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

Playmates
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.

These are the opening lines of the second poem I remember writing, around age 13 or 14.



More Translations

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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



Martial Translations

You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll "recite" them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem, 
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his fucking.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelainyou alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages—you alone!
Discrimination, taste and wityou alone!
You have it allwho can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife
she is never alone!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Pablo Neruda Translations


You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.—Pablo Neruda, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Every Day You Play (Excerpt)
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Every day you play with Infinity’s rays.
Exquisite visitor, you arrive with the flowers and the water!
You are vastly more than this immaculate head I clasp lovingly
like a cornucopia, every day, with ecstatic hands ...

As if you were set on fire from within,
the moon whitens your skin.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


The Book of Questions
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Is the rose nude
or is that just how she dresses?

Why do trees conceal
their spectacular roots?

Who hears the confession
of the getaway car?

Is there anything sadder
than a train standing motionless in the rain?

Please understand that when I awakened crying
it's because I dreamed I was a lost child
searching through night leaves for your hands.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love Sonnet XI
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
I stalk the streets, silent and starving.
Bread does not satisfy me; dawn does not divert me
from my relentless pursuit of your fluid spoor.

While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you like coral or topaz,
or the blazing hearth’s incandescent white flame;
I love you as obscure things are embraced in the dark ...
secretly, in shadows, unrevealed & unnamed.

Tonight I will write the saddest lines
by Pablo Neruda
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I will write the saddest lines.
I will write, for example, “The night is less bright
and a few stars shiver in the distance
as I remember her unwarranted light ...”



Paraphrases

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
—Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch



Miscellanea


Descent
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this morning
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.

Reading between the lines
by Michael R. Burch

Who could have read so much, as we?
Having the time, but not the inclination,
TV has become our philosophy,
sheer boredom, our recreation.



One-Liners

• If the US consulted a competent headshrinker, it might boil down to nothing more than hot air and delusions.—Michael R. Burch
• Thanks to politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, we now have a duh-mock-racy.Michael R. Burch
• Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick; Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.—Michael R. Burch
• Hell hath no Fury like our furry Führer.—Michael R. Burch
• How can we predict the future when tomorrow is as uncertain as Trump’s next tweet?—Michael R. Burch
• Sarah Palin is truly unique: she alone can make us appreciate Bush Junior's vastly superior intellect.—Michael R. Burch
• I believe God is using Michelle Bachmann to conclusively prove that man did not evolve.—Michael R. Burch
• Mitt Romney could suck the joy out of a lucky Irish rainbow, and the pot of gold at the end.—Michael R. Burch



Two-Liners

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

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

Love should be more than the sum of its parts—
of its potions and pills and subterranean arts.
Michael R. Burch

I sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle.
Michael R. Burch



Three-Liners

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

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.
Michael R. Burch

Fleet Tweet: Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

a tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet!
@mikerburch

Fleet Tweet II: Further Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

Remember, doggonit,
heroic verse crowns the Shakespearean sonnet!
So if you intend to write a couplet,
please do it on the doublet!
@mikerburch



The Complete Redefinitions


Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch
Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch
Skepticism: The murderer of Eve / cannot be believed.—Michael R. Burch
Death: This dream of nothingness we so fear is salvation clear.—Michael R. Burch 
Salvation: falling for allure—hook, line and stinker.—Michael R. Burch
Insuresurrection: The dead are always with us, and yet they are naught!—Michael R. Burch
Lust: a chemical affair.—Michael R. Burch
Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Michael R. Burch
Believer: A speck of dust / animated by lust / brief as a mayfly / and yet so full of trust!—Michael R. Burch
Trickle down economics: an especially pungent golden shower.—Michael R. Burch
Canned political applause: clap track for the claptrap.—Michael R. Burch
A straight flush is a winning hand. A straight-faced flush is when you don't give it away.—Michael R. Burch
Marriage: a seldom-observed truce / during wars over money / and a red-faced papoose.—Michael R. Burch
Natural affection: Is “natural affection” affliction? / Is “love” nature’s sleight-of-hand trick / to get us to reproduce / whenever she feels the itch?—Michael R. Burch
Theologian: someone who wants life to “make sense” by believing in a “savior” immeasurably dense.—Michael R. Burch



Puns and Wordplay


• A tweet by any other name would be as fleet.—Michael R. Burch
• "Epigram" means cram, then scram.—Michael R. Burch



More Prose Epigrams


• Once fanaticism has gangrened brains the malady is usually incurable.—Voltaire, translation by Michael R. Burch
• We can't change the past, but we can learn from it.—Michael R. Burch
• When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch
• The most common cliché in contemporary poetry is: "Show, don't tell / no ideas but in things / fear abstractions." Someone forgot to inform Shakespeare and Milton, who were masters of abstract ideas in their great soliloquies.
• The craziest fantasy of all is that human beings will ever act in their own and the planet's best interests.—Michael R. Burch
• Poetry is the art of finding the right word at the right time.—Michael R. Burch
• Love is exquisite torture.—Michael R. Burch (written after reading "It's Only My Heart" by Mirza Ghalib)
• Poetry moves the heart as well as the reason.—Michael R. Burch
• Poetry is the marriage of ideas and emotions, begetting music.—Michael R. Burch
• The best epigrams delight us into wisdom.—Michael R. Burch



Epitaphs


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, undismayed they would not keep.
Go lightly then, and leave me to my sleep.

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?

This dream of nothingness we so fear
is salvation clear.
Michael R. Burch

I have my doubts about your God and his “love”:
If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?
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.

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

Here and Hereafter

by Michael R. Burch

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

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.

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

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.

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

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

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

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

Grave Oversight
by Michael R. Burch

The dead are always with us,
and yet they are naught!

                The Locker      
         by Michael R. Burch

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



More Athenian Epitaphs

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men of 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

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

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

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart’s baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!

Biblical Knowledge or “Knowing Coming and Going”
by Michael R. Burch

The wisest man the world has ever seen
had fourscore concubines and threescore queens?
This gives us pause, and so we venture hence—
he “knew” them, wisely, in the other sense.

Snap Shots
by Michael R. Burch

Our daughters must be celibate,
die virgins. We triangulate
their early paths to heaven (for
the martyrs they’ll soon conjugate).

We like to hook a little tail.
We hope there’s decent ass in jail.
Don’t fool with us; our bombs are smart!
(We’ll send the plans, ASAP, e-mail.)

The soul is all that matters; why
hoard gold if it offends the eye?
A pension plan? Don’t make us laugh!
We have your plan for sainthood. (Die.)



Political Epigrams

Nonsense Verse for a Nonsensical White House Resident

Roses are red,
Daffodils are yellow,
But not half as daffy
As that taffy-colored fellow!
Michael R. Burch

The Hair Flap
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

The hair flap was truly a scare:
Trump’s bald as a billiard back there!
The whole nation laughed
At the state of his graft;
Now the man’s wigging out, so beware!

15 Seconds
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Our president’s sex life—atrocious!
His "briefings"—bizarre hocus-pocus!
Politics—a shell game!
My brief moment of fame
flashed by before Oprah could notice!

Not-So-Heroic Couplets
by Donald Trump
care of Michael R. Burch

To outfox the pox:
kill yourself first, with Clorox!

And since death is the goal,
mainline Lysol!

No vaccine? Just chug Mr. Clean!
Is a cure out of reach? Fumigate your lungs, with bleach!

To immunize your thorax,
destroy it with Borax!

To immunize your bride, drown her in Opti-cide!
To end all future gridlocks, gargle with Vaprox!

Now, quick, down the Drain-o
with old Insane-o NoBrain-o!

The Loyal Opposition

Trump says he “loves” his supporters. How much does he “love” them? Apparently, to death because he plans to pack them together like sardines in the middle of a pandemic!—Michael R. Burch aka “the Loyal Opposition”



Extended Chiasmus


Old Pantaloons, a Chiasmus
by Michael R. Burch

Old pantaloons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to feel
that which they long most to steal.

Old panty loons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to steal
that which they long most to feel.



Bio: Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories and letters have appeared more than 5,600 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper, a former editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks, and a translator of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books, Violets for Beth (White Violet Press, 2012) and O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013). A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed. Burch's poetry has been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by the composers Mark Buller, Alexander Comitas and Seth Wright. 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.

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

Michael R. Burch related pages: Early Poems, Rejection Slips, Epigrams and Quotes, Epitaphs, Romantic Poems, Sonnets, Free Verse, Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch, Poetry by Michael R. Burch, The Cosmological Constant: Limericks by Michael R. Burch

The HyperTexts