The HyperTexts

Poems for Children
by Michael R. Burch




This page contains poems for children of all ages by Michael R. Burch ...



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 our 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



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
by Michael R. Burch

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!



Will There Be Starlight

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
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
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
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?

Originally published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK)



Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Cherubic laugh; sly, impish grin;
Angelic face; wild chimp within.

It does not matter; sleep awhile
As soft mirth tickles forth a smile.

Gray moths will hum a lullaby
Of feathery wings, then you and I

Will wake together, by and by.

Life’s not long; those days are best
Spent snuggled to a loving breast.

The earth will wait; a sun-filled sky
Will bronze lean muscle, by and by.

Soon you will sing, and I will sigh,
But sleep here, now, for you and I

Know nothing but this lullaby.



Limericks

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."
—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!"
—Michael R. Burch



Generation Gap
by Michael R. Burch

A quahog clam,
age 405,
said, “Hey, it’s great
to be alive!”

I disagreed,
not feeling nifty,
babe though I am,
just pushing fifty.

Note: A quahog clam found off the coast of Ireland is the longest-lived animal on record, at an estimated age of 405 years.



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Success
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

We need our children to keep us humble
between toast and marmalade;

there is no time for a ticker-tape parade
before bed, no award, no bright statuette

to be delivered for mending skinned knees,
no wild bursts of approval for shoveling snow.

A kiss is the only approval they show;
to leave us—the first great success they achieve.



Keep Up
by Michael R. Burch

Keep Up!
Daddy, I’m walking as fast as I can;
I’ll move much faster when I’m a man . . .


Time unwinds
as the heart reels,
as cares and loss and grief plummet,
as faith unfailing ascends the summit
and heartache wheels
like a leaf in the wind.

Like a rickety cart wheel
time revolves through the yellow dust,
its creakiness revoking trust,
its years emblazoned in cold hard steel.

Keep Up!
Son, I’m walking as fast as I can;
take it easy on an old man.



Haiku

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

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

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



Poems for Older Children



Reflex
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Some intuition of her despair
for her lost brood,
as though a lost fragment of song
torn from her flat breast,
touched me there . . .

I felt, unable to hear
through the bright glass,
the being within her melt
as her unseemly tirade
left a feather or two
adrift on the wind-ruffled air.

Where she will go,
how we all err,
why we all fear
for the lives of our children,
I cannot pretend to know.

But, O!,
how the unappeased glare
of omnivorous sun
over crimson-flecked snow
makes me wish you were here.



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.



Limericks

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.
—Michael R. Burch



Autumn Conundrum

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



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child

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



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,
talking about poke salat—
how easy it was to find if you knew where to look for it ...
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.”



Of Civilization and Disenchantment
by Michael R. Burch

Suddenly uncomfortable
to stay at my grandfather’s house—
actually his third new wife’s,
in her daughter’s bedroom
—one interminable summer
with nothing to do,
all the meals served cold,
even beans and peas . . .

Lacking the words to describe
ah!, those pearl-luminous estuaries—
strange omens, incoherent nights.

Seeing the flares of the river barges
illuminating Memphis,
city of bluffs and dying splendors.

Drifting toward Alexandria,
Pharos, Rhakotis, Djoser’s fertile delta,
lands at the beginning of a new time and “civilization.”

Leaving behind sixty miles of unbroken cemetery,
Alexander’s corpse floating seaward,
bobbing, milkwhite, in a jar of honey.

Memphis shall be waste and desolate,
without an inhabitant.
Or so the people dreamed, in chains.



Neglect
by Michael R. Burch

What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?

What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action?
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?

Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?

I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing ...
mournful, and distant.

How pitiful our “effort,”
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.



Passages on Fatherhood

for Jeremy

He is my treasure,
and by his happiness I measure
my own worth.

Four years old,
with diamonds and gold
bejeweled in his soul.

His cherubic beauty
is felicity
to simplicity and passion—

for a baseball thrown
or an ice-cream cone
or eggshell-blue skies.

***

It’s hard to be “wise”
when the years
career through our lives

and bees in their hives
test faith
and belief

while Time, the great thief,
with each falling leaf
foreshadows grief.

***

The wisdom of the ages
and prophets and mages
and doddering sages

is useless
unless
it encompasses this:

his kiss.



Boundless
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Every day we whittle away at the essential solidity of him,
and every day a new sharp feature emerges:
a feature we’ll spend creative years: planing, smoothing, refining,

trying to find some new Archaic Torso of Apollo, or Thinker . . .

And if each new day a little of the boisterous air of youth is deflated
in him, if the hours of small pleasures spent chasing daffodils
in the outfield as the singles become doubles, become triples,
become unconscionable errors, become victories lost,

become lives wasted beyond all possible hope of repair . . .

if what he was becomes increasingly vague—like a white balloon careening
into clouds; like a child striding away aggressively toward manhood,
hitching an impressive rucksack over sagging, sloping shoulders,
shifting its vaudevillian burden back and forth,

then pausing to look back at us with an almost comical longing . . .

if what he wants is only to be held a little longer against a forgiving bosom;
to chase after daffodils in the outfield regardless of scores;
to sail away like a balloon
on a firm string, always sure to return when the line tautens,

till he looks down upon us from some removed height we cannot quite see,

bursting into tears over us:
what, then, of our aspirations for him, if he cannot breathe,
cannot rise enough to contemplate the earth with his own vision,
unencumbered, but never untethered, forsaken . . .

cannot grow brightly, steadily, into himself—flying beyond us?



Pan

... 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 of the wolves’ tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams’ soft, windy vowels ...

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



Leaf Fall

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



The Folly of Wisdom

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



Just Smile

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



Child of 9-11

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



For a Sandy Hook Child, with Butterflies

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?



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

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

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

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



This is, I believe, the second poem I wrote. Or at least it’s the second one that I can remember. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it. 

Playmates

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 batter was our only lust!

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 injustice, or fate.

Then we never thought about the next day,
for tomorrow seemed hidden—adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past,
and wondered, at times, why things didn'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.



Children
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
suspended in time like a swelling drop of dew about to fall,
impendent, pregnant with possibility ...

when we might have made ...
anything,
anything we dreamed,
almost anything at all,
coalescing dreams into reality.

Oh, the love we might have fashioned
out of a fine mist and the nightly sparkle of the cosmos
and the rhythms of evening!

But we were young,
and what might have been is now a dark abyss of loss
and what is left is not worth saving.

But, oh, you were lovely,
child of the wild moonlight, attendant tides and doting stars,
and for a day,

what little we partook
of all that lay before us seemed so much,
and passion but a force
with which to play.



Kindergarten
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
over and over again?
How long will we linger, playing Jack Horner?
Or will we learn, and when?

Will we be children wearing the dunce cap,
giggling and playing the fool,
re-learning our lessons forever and ever,
never learning the golden rule?



Life Sentence or Fall Well

. . . I swim, my Daddy’s princess, newly crowned,
toward a gurgly Maelstrom . . . if I drown
will Mommy stick the Toilet Plunger down

to suck me up? . . . She sits upon Her Throne,
Imperious (denying we were one),
and gazes down and whispers “precious son” . . .

. . . the Plunger worked; i’m two, and, if not blessed,
still Mommy got the Worst Stuff off Her Chest;
a Vacuum Pump, They say, will do the rest . . .

. . . i’m three; yay! whee! oh good! it’s time to play!
(oh no, I think there’s Others on the way;
i’d better pray) . . .

. . . i’m four; at night I hear the Banging Door;
She screams; sometimes there’s Puddles on the Floor;
She wants to kill us, or, She wants some More . . .

. . . it’s great to be alive if you are five (unless you’re me);
my Mommy says: “you’re WRONG! don’t disagree!
don’t make this HURT ME!” . . .

. . . i’m six; They say i’m tall, yet Time grows Short;
we have a thriving Family; Abort!;
a tadpole’s ripping Mommy’s Room apart . . .

. . . i’m seven; i’m in heaven; it feels strange;
I saw my life go gurgling down the Drain;
another Noah built a Mighty Ark;
God smiled, appeased, a Rainbow split the Dark;

. . . I saw Bright Colors also, when She slammed
my head against the Tub, and then I swam
toward the magic tunnel . . . last, I heard . . .

is that She feels Weird.



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, Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch, Romantic Poems by Michael R. Burch

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