The HyperTexts

Sonnets by Michael R. Burch



This is a collection of sonnets written by Michael R. Burch, an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth, their son Jeremy, and three outrageously spoiled puppies. His sonnets and other poems have appeared in The Chariton Review, The Lyric, Measure, Poet Lore, Romantics Quarterly, Sonnet Scroll, Southwest Review, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, and hundreds of other literary journals, websites and blogs.

These are sonnets according to the original definition of sonnet as a "little song" of indeterminate length and form.

If you are a student or teacher or poetry lover who would like permission to use one or more of his poems, you can email Mike Burch at mikerburch@gmail.com (and please be sure not to miss the "r" between his first and last names).



Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

 

For All That I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Raintown Review



See
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Southwest Review



Love Has a Southern Flavor
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



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

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

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently―
yet everywhere, no odor but bitter rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again―
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.



Redolence
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



Isolde's Song
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Originally published by The Raintown Review



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



In this Ordinary Swoon
by Michael R. Burch

In this ordinary swoon
as I pass from life to death,
I feel no heat from the cold, pale moon;
I feel no sympathy for breath.

Who I am and why I came,
I do not know; nor does it matter.
The end of every man’s the same
and every god’s as mad as a hatter.

I do not fear the letting go;
I only fear the clinging on
to hope when there’s no hope, although
I lift my face to the blazing sun

and feel the greater intensity
of the wilder inferno within me.



Huntress
by Michael R. Burch

after Baudelaire

Lynx-eyed, cat-like and cruel, you creep
across a crevice dropping deep
into a dark and doomed domain.
Your claws are sheathed. You smile, insane.
Rain falls upon your path, and pain
pours down. Your paws are pierced. You pause
and heed the oft-lamented laws
which bid you not begin again
till night returns. You wail like wind,
the sighing of a soul for sin,
and give up hunting for a heart.
Till sunset falls again, depart,
though hate and hunger urge you—"On!"
Heed, hearts, your hope—the break of dawn.

Originally published by Sonnetto Poesia



Water and Gold
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy's a wan illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



Fountainhead
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly




The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Pan
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



The City Is a Garment
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

The meter I had sought to find, perplexed,
was ripped from books of "verse" that read like prose.
I found it in sheet music, in long rows
of hologramic CDs, in sad wrecks
of long-forgotten volumes undisturbed
half-centuries by archivists, unscanned.
I read their fading numbers, frowned, perturbed—
why should such tattered artistry be banned?

I heard the sleigh bells’ jingles, vampish ads,
the supermodels’ babble, Seuss’s books
extolled in major movies, blurbs for abs ...
A few poor thinnish journals crammed in nooks
are all I’ve found this late to sell to those
who’d classify free verse "expensive prose."

Originally published by The Chariton Review



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by The Raintown Review



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.



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 (age ten?)
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 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.



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

This is one of my early poems but I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it. Due to the romantic style, I believe it was probably written during my first two years in college, making me 18 or 19 at the time.



Erin
by Michael R. Burch

All that’s left of Ireland is her hair—
bright carrot—and her milkmaid-pallid skin,
her brilliant air of cavalier despair,
her train of children—some conceived in sin,
the others to avoid it. For nowhere
is evidence of thought. Devout, pale, thin,
gay, nonchalant, all radiance. So fair!

How can men look upon her and not spin
like wobbly buoys churned by her skirt’s brisk air?
They buy. They grope to pat her nyloned shin,
to share her elevated, pale Despair ...
to find at last two spirits ease no one’s.

All that’s left of Ireland is the Care,
her impish grin, green eyes like leprechauns’.



The Endeavors of Lips
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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



Flight 93
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



To Flower
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea




Abide
by Michael R. Burch

after Philip Larkin's "Aubade"

It is hard to understand or accept mortality—
such an alien concept: not to be.
Perhaps unsettling enough to spawn religion,
or to scare mutant fish out of a primordial sea

boiling like goopy green tea in a kettle.
Perhaps a man should exhibit more mettle
than to admit such fear, denying Nirvana exists
simply because we are stuck here in such a fine fettle.

And so we abide . . .
even in life, staring out across that dark brink.
And if the thought of death makes your questioning heart sink,
it is best not to drink
(or, drinking, certainly not to think).

Originally published by Light Quarterly



The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

To at last be indestructible, a poem
must first glow, almost flammable, upon
a thing inert, as gray, as dull as stone,

then bend this way and that, and slowly cool
at arms-length, something irreducible
drawn out with caution, toughened in a pool

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it—water instantly a mist.
It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness ...

And then the driven hammer falls and falls.
The horses prick their ears in nearby stalls.
A soldier on his cot leans back and smiles.

A sound of ancient import, with the ring
of honest labor, sings of fashioning.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

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?

Published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK)



A Surfeit of Light
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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



Imperfect Sonnet
by Michael R. Burch

A word before the light is doused: the night
is something wriggling through an unclean mind,
as rats creep through a tenement. And loss
is written cheaply with the moon’s cracked gloss
like lipstick through the infinite, to show
love’s pale yet sordid imprint on us. Go.

We have not learned love yet, except to cleave.
I saw the moon rise once ... but to believe ...
was of another century ... and now ...
I have the urge to love, but not the strength.

Despair, once stretched out to its utmost length,
lies couched in squalor, watching as the screen
reveals "love's" damaged images: its dreams ...
and masturbating limply, screams and screams.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



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.

NOTE: In the first stanza the "halcyon star" is the sun, which has dropped below the horizon and is thus "drowning in night." But its light strikes the moon, creating moonbeams which are reflected by the water. Sometimes memories seem that distant, that faint, that elusive. Footprints are being washed away, a heart is missing from its ribcage, and even things close at hand can seem infinitely beyond our reach.



The Composition of Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

“I made it out of a mouthful of air.”—W. B. Yeats

We breathe and so we write; the night
hums softly its accompaniment.
Pale phosphors burn; the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants’
strange golden weight, each plosive’s shape—
curved like the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds’ shadows mass beneath bright glass
like singing voles curled in a maze
of blank white space. We touch a face—
long-frozen words trapped in a glaze

that insulates our hearts. Nowhere
can love be found. Just shrieking air.



The Composition of Shadows (II)
by Michael R. Burch

We breathe and so we write;
the night
hums softly its accompaniment.

Pale phosphors burn;
the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean
we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants’

strange golden weight,
the blood’s debate
within the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds’ shadows mass
against bright glass,
within the white Labyrinthian maze.

Through simple grace,
I touch your face,
ah words! And I would gaze

the night’s dark length
in waning strength
to find the words to feel

such light again.
O, for a pen
to spell love so ethereal.



To Please The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

To please the poet, words must dance—
staccato, brisk, a two-step:
so!
Or waltz in elegance to time
of music—mild,
adagio.

To please the poet, words must chance
emotion in catharsis—
flame.
Or splash into salt seas, descend
in sheets of silver-shining
rain.

To please the poet, words must prance
and gallop, gambol, revel,
rail.
Or muse upon a moment—mute,
obscure, unsure, imperfect,
pale.

To please the poet, words must sing,
or croak, wart-tongued, imagining.



The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

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

now that I cannot forget.

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

our soft cries, like regret,

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

now that I have forgotten her face.

Originally published by Poetry Magazine



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.



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



Ghost
by Michael R. Burch

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

Tell Regret it is not so rare.

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

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



Moments
by Michael R. Burch

There were moments full of promise,
like the petal-scented rainfall of early spring,
when to hold you in my arms and to kiss your willing lips
seemed everything.

There are moments strangely empty
full of pale unearthly twilight—how the cold stars stare!
when to be without you is a dark enchantment
the night and I share.



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

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

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

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



Step Into Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



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

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

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

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



Observance
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Chloe
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

for Norman Kraeft in memory of his beloved wife June Kysilko Kraeft

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him—obscene illusion!—
made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness—
her ghost beyond perfection—for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.



These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber of these ancient halls.

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time alone, not untouched,
and I am as they were—unsure, as the days
stretch out ahead, a bewildering maze.

Ah, faithless lover—that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.
For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has leapt from the pinnacle of Love,
and the result of every infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.



Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom

Come down, O, come down
from your high mountain tower.
How coldly the wind blows,
how late this chill hour ...

and I cannot wait
for a meteor shower
to show you the time
must be now, or not ever.

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
now brittle and brown
as fierce northern gales sever.

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

NOTE: I dedicated this poem to Harold Bloom after reading his introduction to the Best American Poetry anthology he edited. Bloom seemed intent on claiming poetry as the province of the uber-reader (i.e., himself), but I remember reading poems by Blake, Burns, cummings, Dickinson, Frost, Housman, Eliot, Pound, Shakespeare, Whitman, Yeats, et al, and grokking them as a boy, without any “advanced” instruction from anyone.



Oasis
by Michael R. Burch

I want tears to form again
in the shriveled glands of these eyes
dried all these long years
by too much heated knowing.

I want tears to course down
these parched cheeks,
to star these cracked lips
like an improbable dew

in the heart of a desert.
I want words to burble up
like happiness, like the thought of love,
like the overwhelming, shimmering thought of you

to a nomad who
has only known drought.


Melting
by Michael R. Burch

Entirely, as spring consumes the snow,
the thought of you consumes me: I am found
in rivulets, dissolved to what I know
of former winters’ passions. Underground,
perhaps one slender icicle remains
of what I was before, in some dark cave—
a stalactite, long calcified, now drains
to sodden pools, whose milky liquid laves
the colder rock, thus washing something clean
that never saw the light, that never knew
the crust could break above, that light could stream:
so luminous, so bright, so beautiful ...
I lie revealed, and so I stand transformed,
and all because you smiled on me, and warmed.


Afterglow
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

The night is full of stars. Which still exist?
Before time ends, perhaps one day we’ll know.
For now I hold your fingers to my lips
and feel their pulse ... warm, palpable and slow ...

once slow to match this reckless spark in me,
this moon in ceaseless orbit I became,
compelled by wilder gravity to flee
night’s universe of suns, for one pale flame ...

for one pale flame that seemed to signify
the Zodiac of all, the meaning of
love’s wandering flight past Neptune. Now to lie
in dawning recognition is enough ...

enough each night to bask in you, to know
the face of love ... eyes closed ... its afterglow.



All Afterglow
by Michael R. Burch

Something remarkable, perhaps ...
the color of her eyes ... though I forget
the color of her eyes ... perhaps her hair
the way it blew about
... I do not know
just what it was about her that has kept
her thought lodged deep in mine ... unmelted snow
that lasted till July would be less rare,
clasped in some frozen cavern where the wind
sculpts bright grotesqueries, ignoring springs’
and summers’ higher laws ... there thawing slow
and strange by strange degrees, one tick beyond
the freezing point which keeps all things the same
... till what remains is fragile and unlike
the world above, where melted snows and rains
form rivulets that, inundate with sun,
evaporate, and in life’s cyclic stream
remake the world again
... I do not know
that we can be remade—all afterglow.

[Note: “inundate with snow” is not a typo.]



Wonderland
by Michael R. Burch

We stood, kids of the Lamb, to put to test
the beatific anthems of the blessed,
the sentence of the martyr, and the pen’s
sincere religion. Magnified, the lens
shot back absurd reflections of each face—
a carnival-like mirror. In the space
between the silver backing and the glass,
we caught a glimpse of Joan, a frumpy lass
who never brushed her hair or teeth, and failed
to pass on GO, and frequently was jailed
for awe’s beliefs. Like Alice, she grew wee
to fit the door, then couldn’t lift the key.
We failed the test, and so the jury’s hung.
In Oz, “The Witch is Dead” ranks number one.



To the Post-Modern Muse, Floundering
by Michael R. Burch

The anachronism in your poetry
is that it lacks a future history.
The line that rings, the forward-sounding bell,
tolls death for you, for drowning victims tell
of insignificance, of eerie shoals,
of voices underwater. Lichen grows
to mute the lips of those men paid no heed,
and though you cling by fingertips, and bleed,
there is no lifeline now, for what has slipped
lies far beyond your grasp. Iron fittings, stripped,
have left the hull unsound, bright cargo lost.
The argosy of all your toil is rust.

The anchor that you flung did not take hold
in any harbor where repair is sold.

Originally published by Ironwood



A Vain Word
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

Published by Chrysanthemum and Tucumcari Literary Review



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

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

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

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

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



Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

taking my place.

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review



Willy Nilly
by Michael R. Burch

for the Demiurge aka Yahweh/Jehovah

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

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

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



What Would Santa Claus Say
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



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

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

Originally published by Measure



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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea



The Watch
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



Violets
by Michael R. Burch

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

and you laughed,
abruptly demure,
outblushing shocked violets:

suddenly,
I knew:
everything had changed

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

the dragonflies’
last darting feints
dissolving mid-air,

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

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

then haunt our small remainder of hours.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



At Wilfred Owen's Grave
by Michael R. Burch

A week before the Armistice, you died.
They did not keep your heart like Livingstone's,
then plant your bones near Shakespeare's. So you lie
between two privates, sacrificed like Christ
to politics, your poetry unknown
except for one brief flurry: thirteen months
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death
.

Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of "ergotherapists" that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful's merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath's transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine—scalding eyes,
and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Indestructible, for Johnny Cash
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Strong Verse



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

for the Religious Right

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

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

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

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



The Peripheries of Love
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

"What will you conceive in me?"
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

"Naked, I bore your child
when the wolf wind howled,
when the cold moon scowled . . .

naked, and gladly."
"What will become of me?"
I asked her, as she

absently stroked my hand.
Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered, "I Am."

Originally published by Unlikely Stories




Kin
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gulls,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss—
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here ...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back—
one long, descending glide ...

3.
Disgruntledly you grope dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells’ bright forts ...
You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts—
this way and that ...
Contentious, shrewd, you scan—
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.

Originally published by Able Muse



Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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



in-flight convergence
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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



Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the trees stand stark-naked in the sun.

Now it is always summer
and the bees buzz in cesspools,
adapted to a new life.

There are no flowers,
but the weeds, being hardier,
have survived.

The small town has become
a city of millions;
there is no longer a sea,
only a huge sewer,
but the children don't mind.

They still study
rocks and stars,
but biology is a forgotten science ...
after all, what is life?

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the children murmur through vein-streaked gills
whispered wonders of long-ago.



Enough!
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



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.


The poems that follow are dedicated to my wife Beth, my son Jeremy, and my mother, Christine Ena Burch. The final poem is dedicated to my first true love and mistress to this day, Poetry.

She Gathered Lilacs

for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea


Are You the Thief

for Beth

When I touch you now,
O sweet lover,
full of fire,
melting like ice
in my embrace,

when I part the delicate white lace,
baring pale flesh,
and your face
is so close
that I breathe your breath
and your hair surrounds me like a wreath . . .

tell me now,
O sweet, sweet lover,
in good faith:
are you the thief
who has stolen my heart?

Originally published as "Baring Pale Flesh" by Poetic License/Monumental Moments



She Spoke

for Beth

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

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

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

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Let Me Give Her Diamonds

for Beth

Let me give her diamonds
for my heart’s
sharp edges.

Let me give her roses
for my soul’s
thorn.

Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.

Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter
season.

Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.

Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.

Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts
require

the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.



Once

for Beth

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



At Once

for Beth

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



Mother’s Smile

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

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

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

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

Originally published by TALESetc



The Desk

for Jeremy

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


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

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

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

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

One thing, though—

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

Originally published by TALESetc



A True Story

for Jeremy

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

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

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

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

Originally published by TALESetc



Picturebook Princess

for Keira

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

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



The Aery Faery Princess

for Keira

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



Tallen the Mighty Thrower

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



Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch

for George Edwin Hurt Sr.

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

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

And, O!, I believed
for your words were my truth, and I tried to be brave
though the years slipped away
with so little to save
of that talk.

Now I'm a man—
a man ... and yet Grandpa ... I'm still the same child
who sat at your feet
and learned as you smiled.
Be that rock.

I don't remember when I wrote this poem, but I will guess around age 18 in 1976. The verse quoted is from an old, well-worn King James Bible my grandfather gave me after his only visit to the United States, as he prepared to return to England with my grandmother. I was around eight at the time and didn't know if I would ever see my grandparents again, so I was heartbroken—destitute, really. Fortunately my father was later stationed at an Air Force base in Germany and we were able to spend four entire summer vacations with my grandparents. I was also able to visit them in England several times as an adult. But the years of separation were very difficult for me and I came to detest things that separated me from my family and friends: the departure platforms of train stations, airport runways, even the white dividing lines on lonely highways and interstates as they disappeared behind my car. My idea of heaven became a place where we are never again separated from our loved ones. And that puts hell here on earth.



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky,
and the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some violent ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze:
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the world of resplendence from which we were seized.

Published in Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly and Poetry Life & Times. This is a poem I wrote for my favorite college English teacher, George King, about poetic kinship, brotherhood and romantic flights of fancy.



Poetry

Poetry, I found you
where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you
to torture and confound you,
I found you—shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair
and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh's skies,
had leapt at dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care;
there savage whips had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars;
your bones were broken with the force
with which they'd lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all.
So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call
from where dawn’s milling showers fall—
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth
to temper for a lover’s touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove
each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand
and led my steps from child to man;
now I look back, remember when
you shone, and cannot understand
why now, tonight, you bear their brand.

***

I will take and cradle you in my arms,
remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight
back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core
of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears
for all those blissful years . . .
my love, whom I adore.

Originally published by The Lyric



Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Early Poems, Rejection Slips, Epigrams and Quotes, Free Love Poems, Free Verse, Sonnets by Michael R. Burch, Romantic Poems by Michael R. Burch, Poems for Children by Michael R. Burch, Limericks by Michael R. Burch, Did Lord Bryon inspire the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?

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