The HyperTexts

Rejection Slips
by Michael R. Burch

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



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

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

Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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

I believe "Caveat Spender" is my most-rejected poem.

Distances
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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 It may be my favorite of all my unpublished poems.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

Sex Hex

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

Published by Asses of Parnassus, THT, PoemHunter

Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.

This is a heretical poem of mine that I ended up publishing myself. I think the poem is more honest than the entire Christian religion ... which probably isn't saying much. Having read the Bible from cover to cover as a young boy, I came to agree with William Blake, who called the biblical god "Nobodaddy" because no sane child would want him for a father.

Redefinitions

Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch
Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch
Trickle down economics: an especially pungent golden shower.—Michael R. Burch

I call these epigrams "redefinitions." There are more, but these are my favorite three.

Moments

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.

This is the sort of poem that is hard to get published these days. Thankfully this one was eventually published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and in a Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte.

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

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

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

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

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

The Better Man
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

I don't remember exactly when I wrote this poem, but I do remember it being part of a longer poem. It was 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. Years later I submitted the epigrammatic version of the poem to Harvey Stanbrough, the founder and editor of The Raintown Review, and he responded: "When I find a submission like yours in the stack of generally mind-numbing pages, I feel both thrilled and honored. I hope you'll let me see more of your work in the near future. The poems I accepted are the excellent epigraph, 'Death,' and 'Rant: The Harvest of Roses,' an excellent exercise in dactylic rhythm. I know how difficult it is to write well AND maintain a dactylic meter throughout, and you handled it well." I remember being somewhat perplexed, because I wrote poetry purely by ear and had no idea what "dactylic meter" was. (Still don't!)

Bubble
by Michael R. Burch

                Love—
          fragile,    elusive—
      if held         too closely
    cannot              withstand
  the inter                    ruption
of its                              bright,
  unmalleable              tension
    and breaks, disintegrates,
       at the           touch of
           an undiscerning
                   hand.

I believe this is my only "shape" or "shaped" poem.

The Harvest of Roses

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 Wonder Boys

(for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right)

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
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.

US Verse, after Auden

“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.)

Am I
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

This is a companion piece to "Am I." Both poems appeared in my high school project notebook (titled "Poems"), so I was probably around 14 or 15 when I wrote it.

These Hallowed Halls

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. Now the days
stretch out ahead, a bewildering maze!

***

A solitary clock chimes the hour from far above the campus,
but my peers, returning from their dances,
heed it not. And so it is that we seldom gauge Time’s speed
because he moves unobtrusively about his task.
Still, when at last we reckon his mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised at his thoroughness.

***

A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's dark 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.

Aflutter
by Michael R. Burch

This rainbow is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh.—Yahweh

You are gentle now, and in your failing hour
how like the child you were, you seem again,
and smile as sadly as the girl, back then,
who held the sparrow with the mangled wing
close to her heart. It marveled at your power
but would not mend. And so the world renews
old vows it seemed to make: false promises
spring whispers, as if nothing perishes
that does not resurrect to wilder hues
like rainbows’ eerie pacts we apprehend
but cannot fail to keep
. Now in your eyes
I see the end of life that only dies
and does not care for bright, translucent lies.
Are tears so precious? These few, let us spend
together, as before, then lay to rest
these sparrows’ hearts aflutter at each breast.

This is a poem about a couple committing suicide together. The “eerie pact” refers back to a Bible verse about the rainbow being a “covenant,” when the only covenant human beings can depend on is the original one that condemned us to suffer and die. That covenant is always kept perfectly.

I AM
by Michael R. Burch

I am not one of ten billion—I—
sunblackened Icarus, chary fly,
staring at God with a quizzical eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I.

I am not one life has left unsquashed—
scarred as Ulysses, goddess-debauched,
pale glowworm agleam with a tale of panache.

I am not one life has left unsquashed.

I am not one without spots of disease,
laugh lines and tan lines and thick-callused knees
from begging and praying and girls sighing “Please!”

I am not one without spots of disease.

I am not one of ten billion—I—
scion of Daedalus, blackwinged fly
staring at God with a sedulous eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I
AM!

This is another heretical poem that is apparently too hot for editors to handle. It sort of reverses my childhood poem "Am I."

Willy Nilly

for the Demiurge aka Yahweh/Jehovah

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

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

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

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

Kindred (II)

Rise, pale disastrous moon!
What is love, but a heightened effect
of time, light and distance?

Did you burn once,
before you became
so remote, so detached,

so coldly, inhumanly lustrous,
before you were able to assume
the very pallor of love itself?

What is the dawn now, to you or to me?
We are as one,
out of favor with the sun.

We would exhume
the white corpse of love
for a last dance,

and yet we will not.
We will let her be,
let her abide,

for she is nothing now,
to you
or to me.

You Never Listened

You never listened,
though each night the rain
wove its patterns again
and trembled and glistened . . .

You were not watching,
though each night the stars
shone, brightening the tears
in her eyes palely fetching . . .

You paid love no notice,
though she lay in my arms
as the stars rose in swarms
like a legion of poets,

as the lightning recited
its opus before us,
and the hills boomed the chorus,
all strangely delighted . . .

Brief
 

“Epigram”
means cram,
then scram!

Midnight Stairclimber

Procreation
is at first great sweaty recreation,
then—long, long after the sex dies—
the source of endless exercise.

and then i was made whole

... and then i was made whole,
but not a thing entire,
glued to a perch
in a gilded church,
strung through with a silver wire ...

singing a little of this and of that,
warbling higher and higher:
a thing wholly dead
till I lifted my head
and spat at the Lord and his choir.

I seem to specialize in heretical poems that most editors wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole!

Modern Appetite

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

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

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

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

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

I have my hit of calcium today?

This is one of my stranger poems, but perhaps not so far from how many modern Americans live their lives.

Excerpts from the Journal of Dorian Gray

It was not so much dream, as error;
I lay and felt the creeping terror
of what I had become take hold . . .

The moon watched, silent, palest gold;
the picture by the mantle watched;
the clock upon the mantle talked,
in halting voice, of minute things . . .

Twelve strokes like lashes and their stings
scored anthems to my loneliness,
but I have dreamed of what is best,
and I have promised to be good . . .

Dismembered limbs in vats of wood,
foul acids, and a strangled cry!
I did not care, I watched him die . . .

Each lovely rose has thorns we miss;
they prick our lips, should we once kiss
their mangled limbs, or think to clasp
their violent beauty. Dream, aghast,
the flower of my loveliness,
this ageless face (for who could guess?),
and I will kiss you when I rise . . .

The patterns of our lives comprise
strange portraits. Mine, I fear,
proved dear indeed . . . Adieu!
The knife’s for you.

Another strange one, written after reading Wilde's macabre novella.

Your e-Verse

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

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

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

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

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

The Century’s Wake

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 only a little more clarity.
I leave her tonight to the century’s wake;
she disappoints me.

First and Last

for Beth

You are the last arcane rose
of my aching,
my longing,
or the first yellowed leaves—
vagrant spirals of gold
forming huddled bright sheaves;
you are passion forsaking
dark skies, as though sunsets no winds might enclose.

And still in my arms
you are gentle and fragrant—
demesne of my vigor,
spent rigor,
lost power,
fallen musculature of youth,
leaves clinging and hanging,
nameless joys of my youth to this last lingering hour.

Relative Theories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Up

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.

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


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

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

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

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

Bio: Michael R. Burch is an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His poems, epigrams, translations, essays, articles, reviews, short stories and letters have appeared more than 4,000 times in publications which include TIME, USA Today, The Hindu, BBC Radio 3, CNN.com, Daily Kos, The Washington Post, Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Unlikely Stories and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs. Mike Burch is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The HyperTexts, a former columnist for the Nashville City Paper and, according to Google, a relevant online publisher of poems about the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears, Darfur, Haiti, Gaza and the Palestinian Nakba. He has two published books, Violets for Beth (White Violet Press, 2012) and O, Terrible Angel (Ancient Cypress Press, 2013). A third book, Auschwitz Rose, is still in the chute but long delayed. Burch's poetry has been translated into eleven languages and set to music by the composers Mark Buller, Alexander Comitas and Seth Wright. One of his poems, "First They Came for the Muslims," has been adopted by Amnesty International for its Words That Burn anthology, a free online resource for students and educators. He has also served as editor of International Poetry and Translations for the literary journal Better Than Starbucks.

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

Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Early Poems, Rejection Slips, Epigrams and Quotes

The HyperTexts