The HyperTexts

Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch



This is a page of epitaphs written by Michael R. Burch ...

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.

The poem above has become one of my most popular on the Internet. The last time I checked with Google it had been copied to 461 pages. I am personally horrified by what has happened to Palestinian children in Gaza, the West Bank, and refugee camps around the Middle East. My poem is a call for compassion, understanding and tolerance, and a warning about the kind of world we create for our own children when we allow other people's children to be so mistreated. I agree with Gandhi, who said that if we want to create a better world, we must start with the children.

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.

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

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

If there is nothing better "out there" than this planet, death and nothingness seem like salvation.

If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?
Michael R. Burch

If there is a heaven, how could anyone be happy there knowing other people are suffering in hell? The "hell" of orthodox Christianity is not worthy of any God or Angel. Nor is "hell" worthy of human belief. It would be an admission that God had no business creating anyone, if there is a Creator. I have created a logical proof that there never was a hell, according to the Bible: No Hell in the Bible. How can heaven be heaven if there is no compassion? Will mothers forget their children? Will Jesus, who preached the sermon of the Good Samaritan, fail to be a Good Samaritan himself, and cause or allow the saints of other religions to suffer for all eternity because they guessed wrong about which earthly religion to believe? The two epigrams above, small as they are, question the morality and sanity of orthodox Christianity.

Here and Hereafter

by Michael R. Burch

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

I will dedicate the epigram above to the Religious Right and Moral Majority.

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.

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.

Athenian Epitaphs
by Michael R. Burch

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

Blame not the gale, or the inhospitable sea-gulf, or friends’ tardiness,
mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

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

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

Passerby,
tell the Spartans we lie
here, dead at their word,
obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

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

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.

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

I don't remember exactly when I wrote this poem, perhaps around 1976 at age 18, but I do remember it being part of a longer poem originally titled "Death." The first four lines seemed better than the rest of the poem, so I opted for the better part of valor: discretion.

Something
―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba

by Michael R. Burch

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 finality has swept into a corner, where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

This was the first poem that I wrote that didn't rhyme. I believe I wrote it in 1977, which would have made me around 19 at the time. The poem came to me "from blue nothing" (to borrow a phrase from my friend the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier). Years later, I dedicated the poem to the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba.

Infinity
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.

This is one of the first poems that made me feel like a "real" poet. I remember reading the poem and asking myself, "Did I really write that?" Many years later, I'm still glad that I wrote it, and it still makes me feel like a real poet! This is another poem that was longer and got "pared down" to its best lines. I believe I wrote it around 1976, at age 18. It expresses sympathy and understanding for someone contemplating suicide.

Observance
by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old and rolling
carefully 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 . . .

This is the other early poem that made me feel like a real poet. I remember writing it in the break room of the McDonald's where I worked as a high school student. I believe that was in 1975, at age 17. Once again, I eventually pared a longer poem down to its best lines. 

The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch

The nature of Nature
is bitter survival
from Winter’s bleak fury
till Spring’s brief revival.

The weak implore Fate;
bold men ravish, dishevel her . . .
till both are cut down
by mere ticks of the Leveler.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20, in 1978 or thereabouts. It has since been published in The Lyric, Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and The Aurorean.

honeybee
by Michael R. Burch

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

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.

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.



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 5,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse 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

The HyperTexts