Michael R. Burch

1958
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Early Poems III

EARLY POEMS: JUVENALIA III by Michael R. Burch



Canticle: an Aubade
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Misty morning sunlight hails the dawning of new day;
dreams drift into drowsiness before they fade away.
Dew drops on the green grass echo splendors of the sun;
the silence lauds a songstress and the skillful song she's sung.
Among the weeping willows the mist clings to the leaves;
and, laughing in the early light among the lemon trees,

there goes a brace of bees!

Dancing in the depthless blue like small, bright bits of steel,
the butterflies flock to the west and wander through dawn's fields.
Above the thoughtless traffic of the world wending their way,
a flock of mallard geese in v's dash onward as they race.
And dozing in the daylight lies a new-born collie pup,
drinking in bright sunlight through small eyes still tightly shut.
And high above the meadows, blazing through the warming air,
a shaft of brilliant sunshine has started something there . . .

it looks like summer.

I distinctly remember writing this poem in Ms. Davenport’s class at Maplewood High School. I had read a canticle somewhere, liked the name and concept, and decided I needed to write one myself. I believe this was in 1974 at age 16, but I could be off by a year. This is another early poem that makes me think I had a good natural ear for meter and rhyme. It’s not a great poem, but the music seems pretty good for a beginner.



Red Dawn
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

The sun, like a spotlight,
is spinning round the trees
a web of light.

And with her amber radiance
she is
driving off the night.

Oh, how like a fire
she is
burning off the black.

And in her flaming wake
she has left a track
of puffy smoke.

I believe this is one of my very earliest poems, written around age 14, due to the fact that the original poem had three somewhat archaic apostrophes: ’round, ’way and ’luminance. I weaned myself of such things pretty quickly. According to my notes, I revised the poem in 1975. It was published in my high school journal, the Lantern, the following year.



Pilgrim Mountain
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

I have come to Pilgrim Mountain
to eat icicles and to bathe in the snow.
Do not ask me why I have done this,
for I do not know . . .
but I had a vision of the end of time
and I feared for my soul.

On Pilgrim Mountain the rivers shriek
as they rush toward the valleys, and the rocks
creak and groan in their misery,
for they comprehend they’re prey to
night and day,
and ten thousand other fallacies.

Sunlight shatters the stone,
but midnight mends it again
with darkness and a cooling flow.
This is no place for men,
and I know this, but I know
that that which has been must somehow be again.

Now here on Pilgrim Mountain
I shall gouge my eyes with stone
and tear out all my hair,
and though I die alone,
I shall not care . . .

for the night will still roll on
above my weary bones
and these sun-split, shattered stones
of late become their home
here, on Pilgrim Mountain.

I believe this poem was originally written around 1974 at age 16 or thereabouts. According to my notes, it was modified in 1978, then again in 1983. However, the poem remains very close to the original. I seem to remember writing this poem in Mr. Purcell’s history trailer.



Reflections on the Loss of Vision
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

The sparrow that cries from the shelter of an ancient oak tree and the squirrels
that dash in delight through the treetops as the first snow glistens and swirls,
remind me so much of my childhood and how the world seemed to me then,
that it seems if I tried
and just closed my eyes,
I could once again be nine or ten.

The rabbits that hide in the bushes where the snowflakes collect as they fall,
hunch there, I know, in the fast-piling snow, yet now I can't see them at all.
For time slowly weakened my vision; while the patterns seem almost as clear,
some things that I saw
when I was a boy,
are lost to me now in my “advancing” years.

The chipmunk who seeks out his burrow and the geese now preparing to leave
are there as they were, and yet they are not; and if it seems childish to grieve,
still, who would condemn a blind man for bemoaning the vision he lost?
Well, in a small way,
through the passage of days,
I have learned some of his loss.

As a keen-eyed young lad I endeavored to see things most adults could not—
the camouflaged nests of the hoot owls, the woodpecker’s favorite haunts.
But now I no longer can find them, nor understand how I once could,
and it seems such a waste
of those far-sighted days,
to end up near blind in this wood.



Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

There is a sequel, "Leave Taking II," at the bottom of this page. "Leave Taking" has been published by The Lyric, Borderless Journal (Singapore), Mindful of Poetry, Glass Facets of Poetry and Silver Stork Magazine. "Leave Taking" was originally a stanza in a longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," that I wrote around age 14 or 15.



Excerpt from "Jessamyn's Song"
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

By the window ledge where the candle begs
the night for light to live,
the deepening darkness gives
the heart good cause to shudder.
For there are curly, tousled heads
that know one use for bed
and not any other.
"Goodnight father."
"Goodnight mother."
"Goodnight sister."
"Goodnight brother."
"Tomorrow new adventures
we surely shall discover!"

"Jessamyn's Song" was a long poem I wrote in my early teens about a relationship that began when a boy and girl were very young and lasted into "old age." At the time I wrote the poem, forty seemed to be beyond superannuated, so I believe I killed off the hero at that ripe old age.



Sarjann
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

What did I ever do
to make you hate me so?
I was only nine years old,
lonely and afraid,
a small stranger in a large land.
Why did you abuse me
and taunt me?
Even now, so many years later,
the question still haunts me:
what did I ever do?

Why did you despise me and reject me,
pushing and shoving me around
when there was no one to protect me?
Why did you draw a line
in the bone-dry autumn dust,
daring me to cross it?
Did you want to see me cry?
Well, if you did, you did.

... oh, leave me alone,
for the sky opens wide
in a land of no rain,
and who are you
to bring me such pain? ...

This is a "true poem" in the sense of being about the "real me." I had a bad experience with an older girl named Sarjann (or something like that), who used to taunt me and push me around at a bus stop in Roseville, California (the "large land" of "no rain" where I was a "small stranger" because I only lived there for a few months). I believe this poem was written around age 16, but could have been written earlier. There was more to the poem, but I decided to shorten it.



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over ...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each casual lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their forced laughter’s the wine ...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion ...

and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again “soon” ...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon ...

and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune ...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.

And we know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the dark hand of Fate // carved out to stand like strange totems in sand
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined ...

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it were something you loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, brimming with the soft light
of the stars winking sagely above ...

Then you whisper, "It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while."
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, "Yes, I would," to your small, troubled smile.

I vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with a lot of office parties). This was after my sophomore year in college, making me around 19 years old. The poem is “true” except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time. I was still in “pool shark” mode, playing money games all night and into the wee hours of the morning.



Every Man Has a Dream
by Michael R. Burch, age 24

lines composed at Elliston Square

Every man has a dream that he cannot quite touch ...
a dream of contentment, of soft, starlit rain,
of a breeze in the evening that, rising again,
reminds him of something that cannot have been,
and he calls this dream love.

And each man has a dream that he fears to let live,
for he knows: to succumb is to throw away all.
So he curses, denies it and locks it within
the cells of his heart and he calls it a sin,
this madness, this love.

But each man in his living falls prey to his dreams,
and he struggles, but so he ensures that he falls,
and he finds in the end that he cannot deny
the joy that he feels or the tears that he cries
in the darkness of night for this light he calls love.



Childhood's End
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

How well I remember
those fiery Septembers:
dry leaves, dying embers of summers aflame,
lay trampled before me
and fluttered, imploring
the bright, dancing rain to descend once again.

Now often I’ve thought on
the meaning of autumn,
how the rainbows’ enchantments defeated dark clouds
while robins repeated
ancient songs sagely heeded
so wisely when winters before they’d flown south ...

And still, in remembrance,
I’ve conjured a semblance
of childhood and how the world seemed to me then;
but early this morning,
when, rising and yawning,
I found a gray hair ... it was all beyond my ken.

I believe I wrote this poem in my early twenties, probably around 1980. This is another early poem with an usual form.



These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

I.

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,
and the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.

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.

III.

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 so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.

Ungentle maiden—
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.

A measureless rhythm rules the night—
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.

So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills
that groan as I do, yet somehow sleep
through the nightjar's cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any...
how can I, when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed in whorls of fretted lace,
and a tear upon your pillowcase?

VII.

If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled foreign lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today—
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude—
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone by himself, to think.

VIII.

And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.

Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.

X.

A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.

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.

I wrote this poem in my freshman dorm at age 18.



there is peace where i am going...
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

there is peace where i am going,
for i hasten to a land
that has never known the motion
of one windborne grain of sand;
that has never felt a tidal wave
nor seen a thunderstorm;
a land whose endless seasons
in their sameness are one.

there i will lay my burdens down
and feel their weight no more,
and sleep beneath the unstirred sands
of a soundless ocean's shore,
where Time lies motionless in pools
of lost experience
and those who sleep, sleep unaware
of the future, past and present

(and where Love itself lies dormant,
unmoved by a silver crescent) .

and when i lie asleep there,
with Death's footprints at my feet,
not a thing shall touch me,
save bland sand, lain like a sheet
to wrap me for my rest there
and to bind me, lest i dream,
mere clay again,
of strange domains
where cruel birth drew such harrowing screams.

yes, there is peace where i am going,
for i am bound to be
safe here, within the dull embrace
of this dim, unchanging sea...
before too long; i sense it now,
and wait, expectantly,
to feel the listless touch
of Immortality.

This is one of my early poems, written around age 15 after watching a documentary about Woodstock.



absinthe sea
by michael r. burch, circa age 18-19

i hold in my hand a goblet of absinthe

the bitter green liqueur
reflects the dying sunset over the sea

and the darkling liquid froths
up over the rim of my cup
to splash into the free,
churning waters of the sea

i do not drink

i do not drink the liqueur,
for I sail on an absinthe sea
that stretches out unendingly
into the gathering night

its waters are no less green
and no less bitter,
nor does the sun strike them with a kinder light

they both harbor night,
and neither shall shelter me

neither shall shelter me
from the anger of the wind
or the cruelty of the sun

for I sail in the goblet of some Great God
who gazes out over a greater sea,
and when my life is done,
perhaps it will be because
He lifted His goblet and sipped my sea.

I seem to remember writing this poem in college just because I liked the sound of the word “absinthe.” I had no idea, really, what it was or what it looked or tasted like, beyond something I had read in passing somewhere.



Ode to the Sun
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Follow still your silent course.
Follow your unyielding course.
On, swift sun.

Leave no trace of where you've been;
give no hint of what you've seen.
But, ever as you onward flee,
touch me, O sun,
touch me.

Now day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Go touch my love about her face
and warm her now for my embrace;
for though she sleeps so far away,
where she is not, I shall not stay.
Go tell her now I, too, shall come.
Go on, swift sun,
go on.

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review

I seem to remember writing this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18.



It's Halloween!
by Michael R. Burch, age 20

If evening falls
on graveyard walls
far softer than a sigh;
if shadows fly
moon-sickled skies,
while children toss their heads
uneasy in their beds,
beware the witch's eye!

If goblins loom
within the gloom
till playful pups grow terse;
if birds give up their verse
to comfort chicks they nurse,
while children dream weird dreams
of ugly, wiggly things,
beware the serpent's curse!

If spirits scream
in haunted dreams
while ancient sibyls rise
to plague nightmarish skies
one night without disguise,
as children toss about
uneasy, full of doubt,
beware the Devil's lies . . .

it's Halloween!

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20.



Laughter from Another Room
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel;
as I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

Only you and I are real.
Only you and I exist.
Only burns that blister heal.
Only dreams denied persist.

Only dreams denied persist.
Only hope that lingers dies.
Only love that lessens lives.
Only lovers ever cry.

Only lovers ever cry.
Only sinners ever pray.
Only saints are crucified.
The crucified are always saints.

The crucified are always saints.
The maddest men control the world.
The dumb man knows what he would say;
the poet never finds the words.

The poet never finds the words.
The minstrel never hits the notes.
The minister would love to curse.
The warrior longs to spare his foe.

The warrior longs to spare his foe.
The scholar never learns the truth.
The actors never see the show.
The hangman longs to feel the noose.

The hangman longs to feel the noose.
The artist longs to feel the flame.
The proudest men are not aloof;
the guiltiest are not to blame.

The guiltiest are not to blame.
The merriest are prone to brood.
If we go outside, it rains.
If we stay inside, it floods.

If we stay inside, it floods.
If we dare to love, we fear.
Blind men never see the sun;
other men observe through tears.

Other men observe through tears
the passage of these days of doom;
now I listen and I hear
laughter from another room.

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel.
As I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem as a college freshman or sophomore, around age 18 or 19. It remains largely the same as the original poem.



The Insurrection of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch, age 22

She was my Shilo, my Gethsemane;
she nestled my head to her immaculate breast
as she breathed into my insensate lips
the soft benedictions of her ecstatic sighs . . .

But those veiled allegations of her disconsolate tears!

Years I abided the agile assaults of her flesh . . .
She loved me the most when I was most sorely pressed;
she undressed with delight for her ministrations
when all I needed was a moment’s rest . . .

She anointed my lips with strange dews at her perilous breast;
the insurrection of sighs left me fallen, distressed, at her elegant heel.
I felt the hard iron, the cold steel, in her words and I knew:
the terrible arrow showed through my conscripted flesh.

The sun in retreat left her Victor, then all was Night.
Late ap-peals of surrender went sinking and dying—unheard.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem at age 22 in 1980, must have forgotten about it, then revised it on January 31, 1999. But I wasn’t happy with the first stanza and revised the poem again on September 22, 2023, a mere 43 years after I wrote the original version! The "ap-peals" wordplay was a 2023 revision. The only "ap" I had in high school was Pong.



Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen.
By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days'
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.
Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.
I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset's scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no man has sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's "immortal" souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing...

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
and I bow my head to pray...

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs that I used to climb
when the wind was tart with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner's dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright.

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow's desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam...
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then... what then?
I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach...
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams...
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
and dream
and dream.



As the Flame Flowers
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

As the flame flowers, a flower, aflame,
arches leaves skyward, aching for rain,
but all it encounters are anguish and pain
as the flame sputters sparks that ignite at its stem.

Yet how this frail flower aflame at the stem
reaches through night, through the staggering pain,
for a sliver of silver that sparkles like rain,
as it flutters in fear of the flowering flame.

Mesmerized by a wavering crescent-shaped gem
that glistens like water though drier than sand,
the flower extends itself, trembles, and then
dies as scorched leaves burst aflame in the wind.



Ashes
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

A fire is dying;
ashes remain . . .
ashes and anguish,
ashes and pain.

A fire is fading
though once it burned bright . . .
ashes once embers
are ashes tonight.



A midnight shade of blue
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

You thought you saw a shadow moving somewhere in the night—
a lost and lonely stranger searching for a little light—
so you told me to approach him, ask him if he'd like a room . . .
how sweet of you to think of someone wandering in the gloom,
but he was only
a midnight shade of blue.

I thought I saw an answer shining somewhere in the night—
a spark of truth irradiating wisdom sweet and bright—
but when I sought to seize it, to bring it home to you . . .
it fluttered through my fingers like a wispy curlicue,
for it was only
a midnight shade of blue.

We thought that we had found true love together in the night—
a love as fine and elegant as wine by candlelight—
but when we woke this morning, we knew it wasn't true . . .
the "love" we'd shared was less than love; I guess we owe it to
emotion,
and a midnight shade of blue.

I seem to remember writing this one during my early songwriting phase. That would be around 1974, give or take. While I don’t claim it’s a great poem, I think I did show a pretty good touch with meter in my youth.



Gentry
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

The men shined their shoes
and the ladies chose their clothes;
the rifle stocks were varnished
till they were untarnished
by a speck of dust.

The men trimmed their beards;
the ladies rouged their lips;
the horses were groomed
until the time loomed
for them to ride.

The men mounted their horses,
the ladies did the same;
then in search of game they went,
a pleasant time they spent,
and killed the fox.

This poem was published in my college literary journal, Homespun, and was probably written around age 18 in high school.



Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch, age 17-18

Yesterday
the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.

I wrote this poem around age 17 or 18.



Damp Days
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

These are damp days,
and the earth is slick and vile
with the smell of month-old mud.

And yet it seldom rains;
a never-ending drizzle
drenches spring's bright buds
till they droop as though in death.

Now Time
drags out His endless hours
as though to bore to tears
His fretting, edgy servants
through the sheer length of His days
and slow passage of His years.

Damp days are His domain.

Irritation
grinds the ravaged nerves
and grips tight the gorging brain
which fills itself, through sense,
with vast morasses of clumped clay
while the temples throb in pain
at the thought of more damp days.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem sometime between 1974 and 1976, then revised it around 1978.



Easter, in Jerusalem
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

The streets are hushed from fervent song,
for strange lights fill the sky tonight.
A slow mist creeps
up and down the streets
and a star has vanished that once burned bright.
Oh Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
who tends your flocks tonight?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
a Shepherd calls
through the markets and the cattle stalls,
but a fiery sentinel has passed from sight.

Golgotha shudders uneasily,
then wearily settles to sleep again,
and I wonder how they dream
who beat him till he screamed,
"Father, forgive them!"
Ah Nazareth, Nazareth,
now sunken deep into dark sleep,
do you heed His plea
as demons flee,
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep . . ."

The temple trembles violently,
a veil lies ripped in two,
and a good man lies
on a mountainside
whose heart was shattered too.
Galilee, oh Galilee,
do your waters pulse and froth?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
the waters creep
to form a starlit cross.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem around age 15-16.



An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the "common crowd,"
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most artful (and best-dressed);
it seems he’d never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerics loved the "Hanging Judge" and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, "They'll crucify him!" The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
"It is obscene," he screamed, "to expose the naked heart!"
The recorder (bewildered Society), well aware of his notoriety,
greeted this statement with applause.

"This man is no poet. Just look—his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar! He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an impostor!
I ask that his sentence be . . . the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster!"

The jury left, in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair, "Might I not answer to my peers?"
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times



El Dorado
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.

Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.

Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.

The young men with outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a pot of gold
near El Dorado.

And the painted “actress” who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of “defeats”
and “triumphs” on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.

Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.

But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.

We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it "just once more."
For this is the big, big apple,
though it’s rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.

This is an early poem of mine. I believe I wrote the first version during my “Romantic phase” around age 16 or perhaps a bit later. It was definitely written in my teens because it appears in a poetry contest folder that I put together and submitted during my sophomore year in college.



Blue Cowboy
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

He slumps against the pommel,
a lonely, heartsick boy—
his horse his sole companion,
his gun his only toy
—and bitterly regretting
he ever came so far,
forsaking all home's comforts
to sleep beneath the stars,
he sighs.

He thinks about the lover
who awaits his kiss no more
till a tear anoints his lashes,
lit by the heartless stars.
He reaches to his aching breast,
withdraws a golden lock,
and kisses it in silence
as empty as his thoughts
while the wind sighs.

Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
between the earth and distant stars.
Do not fall; the fiends of hell
would leap to feast upon your heart.

Blue cowboy, sift the burnt-out sand
for a drop of water warm and brown.
Dream of streams like silver seams
even as you gulp it down.

Blue cowboy, sing defiant songs
to hide the weakness in your soul.
Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
and wish that you were going home
as the stars sigh.

I believe I wrote “Blue Cowboy” during my songwriting phase, around age 15-16.



Cowpoke
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

Sleep, old man ...
your day has long since passed.
The endless plains,
cool midnight rains
and changeless ragged cows
alone remain
of what once was.

You cannot know
just how the Change
will rape the windswept plains
that you so loved ...
and so sleep now,
O yes, sleep now ...
before you see just how
the Change will come.

Sleep, old man ...
your dreams are not our dreams.
The Rio Grande,
stark silver sand
and every obscure brand
of steed and cow
are sure to pass away
as you do now.

I believe this poem was written around the same time as “Blue Cowboy,” perhaps on the same day. That was probably around age 15-16.



Dance With Me
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Dance with me
to the fiddles’ plaintive harmonies.
Enchantingly,
each highstrung string,
each yearning key,
each a thread within the threnody,
bids us, "Waltz!"
then sets us free
to wander, dancing aimlessly.

Let us kiss
beneath the stars
as we slowly meet ...
we'll part
laughing gaily as we go
to measure love’s arpeggios.

Yes, dance with me,
enticingly;
press your lips to mine,
then flee.

The night is young,
the stars are wild;
embrace me now,
my sweet, beguiled,
and dance with me.

The curtains are drawn,
the stage is set
—patterned all in grey and jet—
where couples in like darkness met
—careless airy silhouettes—
to try love's timeless pirouettes.

They, too, spun across the lawn
to die in shadowy dark verdant.

But dance with me.

Sweet Merrilee,
don't cry, I see
the ironies of all the years
within the moonlight on your tears,
and every virgin has her fears ...

So laugh with me
unheedingly;
love's gaiety is not for those
who fail to heed the music`s flow,
but it is ours.

Now fade away
like summer rain,
then pirouette ...
the dance of stars
that waltz among night's meteors
must be the dance we dance tonight.

Then come again—
like a sultry wind.

Your slender body as you sway
belies the ripeness of your age,
for a woman's body burns tonight
beneath your gown of virgin white—
a woman's breasts now rise and fall
in answer to an ancient call,
and a woman's hips—soft, yet full—
now gently at your garments pull.

So dance with me,
sweet Merrilee ...
the music bids us,
"Waltz!"

Don't flee;
let us kiss
beneath the stars.
Love's passing pains will leave no scars
as we whirl beneath false moons
and heed the fiddle’s plaintive tunes ...

Oh, Merrilee,
the curtains are drawn,
the stage is set,
we, too, are stars beyond night's depths.
So dance with me.

I distinctly remember writing this poem my freshman year in college, circa 1976-1977, after meeting George King, who taught the creative writing classes. I would have been 18-19 when I started the poem, but it didn’t always cooperate and I seem to remember working on it the following year as well.



Dance With Me (II)
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

While the music plays
remembrance strays
toward a grander time . . .

Let's dance.

Shadows rising, mute and grey,
obscure those fervent yesterdays
of youth and gay romance,
but time is slipping by, and now
those days just don't seem real, somehow . . .

Why don't we dance?

This music is a memory,
for it's of another time . . .
a slower, stranger time.

We danced—remember how we danced?—
uncaring, merry, wild and free.
Remember how you danced with me?

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast,
your nipples hard against my chest,
we danced
and danced
and danced.

We cannot dance that way again,
for the years have borne away the flame
and left us only ashes,
but think of all those dances,

and dance with me.

I believe I wrote this poem around the same time as the original “Dance With Me,” this time from the perspective of the lovers many years later. So this poem would have been written sometime between 1976 and 1977, around age 18-19.



Impressions of Darkness in the Aspects of Light
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

The afternoon hours pass slowly,
moment blending into golden moment as Time flows tranquilly by,
and only the deepening shadows portend the Evening’s coming,
for within their mystic twilight she sleeps, a Goddess immune to light.

Meanwhile the dreaming maidens—half dark as the Darkness itself—
bask in the amber radiance, oblivious to all save Time,
for they sense the fragrance of dying flowers ...

Fascinating aromas of poppy and hemp once cured by the Sun arise with the Wind,
caressing the senses while numbing the spirit,
inducing vague dreams and a willingness to sleep ... perhaps forevermore.

For cruel Death awaits her hour and the lilies surely shall die.

All the while Death’s dread Sister lurks in the shadows murmuring songs of a ghostly Moon haunting purple skies.

Listen! I can hear the refrain far-off on the naked wind—
rising, then falling, strengthening, then dying...
calling me “home” once again.

And even now Darkness stalks earth’s unsuspecting flocks with feline nonchalance,
as the willows bow and their limbs scrape the earth seemingly in regret.

And even now the skylark’s luting song harbors an elusive melancholy...

And even now the spiraling hawk pauses momentarily to cast a sorrowful eye earthward,
then rises slowly, as if unwilling to dare the utmost heights...

And even now the Moon-drawn sea pauses from its rocking to lift a wave or two toward the engorging Darkness,
imploring, despairing, an innocent child in the hands of a savage Master.

“Oh Lord!” the anguished waves cry out, in the agony of despair,
“Give us a little time ... a little time!”
But their cries die out deep into the descending Nothingness.

Who knows that it lurks there, now, but the sorrowing sea and I?

Who else reckons the assuredness of its arrival or the insincerity of its departure?

Not the flashy cardinal—he cares not but to fly.

Never the solemn-eyed hoot owl, for he loves the Nighttime better than the day.

Only, perhaps, the dying sun understands the arcane reasons
for the coming on of Night and the changing of the seasons.

For at her back she must always hear the chariots of Night drawing closer and closer,
the hooves of coal-black stallions shattering the serenity of the heavens,
creating the fiery sparks we call stars.

But I am not alone in my unceasing vigil: the sun and the sea, my constant companions, console me, as does the enigmatic nightingale.

And they shall comfort me tonight when the curtains of the Night are drawn and clouds obscure the stars.

Together we shall count the hours until Dawn’s deliverance, when she comes to free us, bearing God’s bright banner, enlisting the glowering mountains and angry heavens.

/Z/

A pledge for ignorance

In these changing times,
when truth and conjecture
are no longer distinguished
by the common man,
who accepts all things
as part of some ultimate plan,
believing, perhaps rightly so,
that any gods existing now
shall soon be overthrown,
I have closed my eyes and seen
the dissolution of my beliefs.

Once I thought myself secure
belonging to a race of logic and science,
infallible, perhaps capable
of conquering the universe . . .
but as I have seen the plight
of my people growing worse and worse,
today I attempt not to think at all,
nor do I scale the heights that I once did;
having experienced one harrowing fall,
I will not risk another
even to save a brother.

For thought is like the flight of birds
that rise to heights unknown to men,
till, grazing the orbits of fiery stars,
they fall to earth, their feathers singed.
So I will not venture those starry paths
by moons unseen and planets ringed,
but I will live my life below,
secure in blissful ignorance,
never approaching thought's orbs aglow . . .
and though I may be wrong in this,
what I have not seen, I have not missed.



I Am Lonely
by Michael R. Burch, age 15-16

God, I am lonely;
I am weak and sore afraid.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when my heart is torn in two?

God, I am lonely
and I cannot find a mate.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when the best friend that I’ve made

remains myself?

This poem appeared in my high school journal the Lantern, so it was written no later than 1976. But I believe it was written around age 15-16.



I held a heart in my outstretched hand
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

I held a heart in my outstretched hand;
it was bloody and red and raw.
I ripped it and tore it;
I gnashed it and gnawed it;
I gored it with fingers like claws,
but it never missed a beat
of the heartfelt song it sang.

There my bruised heart wept in my open palm
and the gore dripped down my wrist;
I reviled it,
defiled it;
I gave it a twist
and wrung it dry of blood;
still it beat with a hearty thud,
and its movement was warm with love.

But I flung it into the ditch and walked
angrily, cruelly away . . .
There it lay in the dust
with a bloody crust
caking the crimson stain
that my claw-like fingers had made,
and its flesh was grey with death.

Oh, I cannot say why,
but I turned and I cried,
and I lifted it once again,
holding it to my cheek,
where it began to beat,
but to a tiny, tragic measure
devoid of trust or pleasure.

Then it kissed my fingers and sighed,
begging forgiveness even as it died.

Now that was many years ago,
and I am wiser, for I know
that a heart can last out any pain,
but cannot bear to be alone.

And my lifeless heart is wiser too,
having seen the way a careless man
can take his being into his hands
and crush it into a worthless ooze.



Gainsboro(ugh)
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

Times forgotten, times reviled
were all you gave a child, beguiled,
besides one ghostly memory
to haunt him down Life’s winding wild.
And though his character was formed
somewhere within your lightless shade,
not a fragment of the man
that he became today remains
anywhere within the gloom
cast by your dark insidious trees ...
for fleeting dreams and memories
are only dreams and memories.



Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

That eerie night I met you, the moon bathed all the land
in strange, enchanting patterns which stirred in my chilled mind
forgotten dreams of fiery youth and hopes of things to come
that I had seen destroyed or lost to cold, uncaring Time.

The goblet of wine I held gleamed with a wildly-flickering light
and the pool of fragrant liquid seemed a shade too close to blood;
there, in its mirror-like surface, I saw you passing by,
and suddenly, shockingly, I felt the pang of Love . . .

You wore a long white gown and when the moonlight caught your hair
you seemed a slender taper lit by a silver flame;
and . .. though we had never met before . . .
. . . somehow . . . I knew your name . . .

I sought to speak, but I could not,
for the demon wine had numbed my tongue . . .
Oh, I turned to follow you through the door,
looking about, but you were gone . . .

"Remembrance" was written in my late teens, circa 1977-1978, and appears in my 1978 poetry contest folder.


Morning
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

And everywhere the flowers
were turning to the sun,
just as the night before
I had turned to the one
for whom my heart yearned.

It was morning
and the sun shone in the sky
like smoldering embers in the eyes of my lover—
another night gone by.

And everywhere the terraces
were refreshed by bright assurances
of the early-fallen rain
which had doused the earth
and morning’s birth
with their sweet refrain.

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 14, then according to my notes revised it around age 17. In any case, it was published in my high school literary journal.



Jack
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

I remember playing in the mud
Septembers long ago
when you and I were young
with dreams of things to come
and hopes for feet of snow.

And at eight years old the days were long
—long enough to last—
and when it snowed
the smiles would show
behind each pane of glass.

At ten years old, the fights were few,
the future—far away,
and when the snow showed on the streets
there was always time to play . . .
almost always time to play.

And when you smiled your eyes were green,
but when you cried they seemed ice blue;
do you remember how we cried
as little boys will do—
trying hard not to, because we wanted to be "cool"?

At twelve years old, the world was warm
and hate had never crossed our minds,
and in twelve short years we had not learned
to hear the fearsome breath of Time
behind.

So, while the others all looked back,
you and I would look ahead.
It's such a shame that the world turned out
to be what everyone said
it would.

And junior high was like a dream—
the girls were mesmerized by you,
sighing, smiling bright and sweet,
as we passed them on the street
on our way to school.

And we did well; we never tried
to make straight "A's,"
but always did.
And just for kicks, when we saw cops,
we ran away and hid.

We seldom quarreled, never fought,
for in our way,
we loved each other;
and had the choice been ours to make,
you would have been my elder brother.

But as it was, it always is—
one's life is lost
before it's lived.
And when our mothers called our names,
we ran away and hid.

At fifteen we were back-court stars,
freshman starters on the team;
and every time we drove and scored
the cheerleaders would scream
our names.

You played tennis; I played golf;
you debated; I ran track;
and whenever grades came out,
you and I would lead the pack.
I guess that we just had the knack.

Whatever happened to us, Jack?



All My Children
by Michael R. Burch, age 14-15

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the blousy flowers
of this backyard cemet'ry,
upon my children as they sleep.

Oh, there is Hank in the daisies now,
with a mound of earth for a pillow;
his face as harsh as his monument,
but his voice as soft as the wind through the willows.

And there is Meg beside the spring
that sings her endless sleep.
Though it’s often said of stiller waters,
sometimes quicksilver streams run deep.

And there is Frankie, little Frankie,
tucked in safe at last,
a child who weakened and died too soon,
but whose heart was always steadfast.

And there is Mary by the bushes
where she hid so well,
her face as dark as their berries,
yet her eyes far darker still.

And Andy . . . there is Andy,
sleeping in the clover,
a child who never saw the sun
so soon his life was over.

And Em'ly, oh my Em'ly!,
the prettiest of all . . .
now she's put aside her dreams
of beaus kind, dark and tall
for dreams dreamed not at all.

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon this backyard garden,
on the graves of all my children . . .

God, keep them safe until
I join them, as I will.
God, guard their tender dust
until I meet them, as I must.

[But they never did depart;
They still live within my heart.]

This is one of my earliest poems, written around 1973 circa age 15, about the same time as “Jessamyn’s Song” although I think this one is a bit older, based on its language and style.



Parting
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

I was his friend, and he was mine; I knew him just a while.
We laughed and talked and sang a song; he went on with a smile.
He roams this land in search of life, intent on being “free.”
I stay at home and write my poems and work on my degree.
I hope to be a writer soon, and dream of wild acclaim.
He doesn't know what he will do; he only knows he loves the wind and rain.

I didn't say goodbye to him; I know he'll understand.
I'll never write a word to him; I don't know that I can.
I knew he couldn't stay, and so . . . I didn't even ask.
We both knew that he had to go; I tried to ease his task.
We both know life's a winding road with potholes every mile,
and if we hit a detour, well, it only brings vague sadness to our smiles.

One day he's bound to stop somewhere; perhaps he'll take a wife,
but for now he has to travel on to seek a more “natural” life.
He knows such a life's elusive, but still he has to try,
just as I must write my poems although none please my eye.
For poetry, like life itself, is something most men rue;
still, we meet disappointments with a smile, and smile until the time that they are through.

He left me as I left a friend so many years ago;
I promised I would call him, but I never did; you know,
it's not that I didn't love him; it's just that gone is gone.
It makes no sense to prolong the end; you cannot stop the sun.
And I hope to find a lover soon, and I hope she'll love me too;
but perhaps I'll find disappointment; I know that it’s a rare girl who is true.

I've been to many foreign lands, but now my feet are fast,
still, I hope to travel once again when my college days are past.
Our paths are very different, but we both do what we can,
and though we don't know what it means, we try to "act like men."
We were friends, and nothing more; what more is there to be?
We were friends for just a while . . . he went on to be free.



Oh, say that you are mine
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Your lips are sweeter than apricot brandy;
your breath invites with a pleasant warmth;
you sweep through the darkest corridors of my soul—
a waltzing maiden born of a dream;
you brush the frailest fibre of my hopes
and I sink to my knees—
a quivering beggar.

Your eyes are bluer than aquamarine
set ablaze by the sun;
your lips as inviting as cool streams
to a wanderer of desert lands;
I sleep in your hand,
safe in the warmth of your tender palm,
lost in the fragrance of your soft skin.

We make love as deep as purple pine forests,
your laughter richer and sweeter than honey
poured in a pitcher of peaches and cream,
your malice more elusive than the memory of a dream,
your cheeks tenderer than eiderdown
and cooler than snow-fed streams;
you touch my lips with the lightest of kisses
and my soul sings.



Liar
by Michael R. Burch, age 16

Chiller than a winter day,
quieter than the murmur of the sea in her dreams,
eyes softer than the diaphanous spray
of mist-shrouded streams,
you fill my dying thoughts.

In moments drugged with sleep
I have heard your earnest voice
leaving me no choice
save heed your hushed demands
and meet you in the sands
of an ageless arctic world.

There I kiss your lifeless lips
as we quiver in the shoals
of a sea that, endless, rolls
to meet the shattered shore.
Wild waves weep, "Nevermore,"
as you bend to stroke my hair.

That land is harsh and drear,
and that sea is bleak and wild;
only your lips are mild
as you kiss my weary eyes,
whispering lovely lies
of what awaits us there

in a land so stark and bare,
beyond all hope . . . and care.

This is one of my early poems, written as a high school sophomore or junior.



Paradise
by Michael R. Burch, age 15

There’s a sparkling stream
And clear blue lake
A home to beaver,
Duck and drake

Where the waters flow
And the winds are soft
And the sky is full
Of birds aloft

Where the long grass waves
In the gentle breeze
And the setting sun
Is a pure cerise

Where the gentle deer
Though timid and shy
Are not afraid
As we pass them by

Where the morning dew
Sparkles in the grass
And the lake’s as clear
As a looking glass

Where the trees grow straight
And tall and green
Where the air is pure
And fresh and clean

Where the bluebird trills
Her merry song
As robins and skylarks
Sing along

A place where nature
Is at her best
A place of solitude
Of quiet and rest

This is one of my very earliest poems, written as a song. It was “published” in a high school assignment poetry notebook.


SEQUELS


Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch, age 14

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

This early poem dates to around age 14 and was part of a longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song."

Leave Taking (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Although the earth renews itself, and spring
is lovelier for all the rot of fall,
I think of yellow leaves that cling and hang
by fingertips to life, let go . . . and all
men see is one bright instance of departure,
the flame that, at least height, warms nothing. I,

have never liked to think the ants that march here
will deem them useless, grimly tramping by,
and so I gather leaves’ dry hopeless brilliance,
to feel their prickly edges, like my own,
to understand their incurled worn resilience—
youth’s tenderness long, callously, outgrown.

I even feel the pleasure of their sting,
the stab of life. I do not think —at all—
to be renewed, as earth is every spring.
I do not hope words cluster where they fall.
I only hope one leaf, wild-spiraling,
illuminates the void, till glad hearts sing.

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

Originally published by Silver Stork



Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch, age 18

Starlit recorder of summer nights,
what magic spell bewitches you?
They say that all lovers love first in the dark . . .
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true?

Uncanny seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared . . .
what sights have you seen,
what dreams have you dreamed,
what rhetoric have you heard?

Is love an oration or is it a word?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?

Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch, age 18-19

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
alone, ever lonely . . .
yes, go down to die.
And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
Go down to the valley;
go down to Tomb Lake.
Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours —
mad souls without meaning,
frail souls without force.
Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
They lie in her shallows
and sleep in her bed.



Playmates
by Michael R. Burch, age 13-14

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.

This is, I believe, my second "real" poem. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.

Playthings
by Michael R. Burch, age 19

a sequel to “Playmates”

There was a time, as though a long-forgotten dream remembered,
when you and I were playmates and the days were long;
then we were pirates stealing plaits of daisies
from trembling maidens fearing men so strong . . .

Our world was like an unplucked Rose unfolding,
and you and I were busy, then, as bees;
the nectar that we drank, it made us giddy;
each petal within reach seemed ours to seize . . .

But you were more the doer, I the dreamer,
so I wrote poems and dreamed a noble cause;
while you were linking logs, I met old Merlin
and took a dizzy ride to faery Oz . . .

But then you put aside all “silly” playthings;
with sunburned hands you built, from bricks and stone,
tall buildings, then a life, and then you married.
Now my fantasies, again, are all my own.

This is a companion poem to “Playmates,” the second poem I remember writing, around age 13 or 14. However, I believe “Playthings” was written several years later, in my late teens, around 1977. According to my notes, I revised the poem in 1991, then again in 2020.


Keywords/Tags: Early, Juvenalia, Young, Youth, Teen, Child, Childhood, Boy, Boyhood, Romantic
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