Michael R. Burch

1958
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Epigrams by Michael R. Burch (I)

This page contains epigrams, epitaphs, quotes, quips, jokes, puns, parodies, haiku, limericks and wordplay penned by Michael R. Burch along with a number of epitaphs, elegies, translations, interpretations and paraphrases ...

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS: PROSE EPIGRAMS

• Elevate your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

• No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.—Seneca the Younger, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

• You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.—Pablo Neruda, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Warmthless beauty attracts but does not engage us; it floats like hookless bait.—Capito, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

• Love distills the eyes’ desires, love bewitches the heart with its grace.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

• If we shoot for the stars but only end up on Mars, that's still quite a ride.—Michael R. Burch

• He who follows will never surpass.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Nothing enables authority like silence.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

• My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Time is sufficient for anyone who uses it wisely.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Blinding ignorance misleads us. Myopic mortals, open your eyes!—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

• It is easier to oppose evil from the beginning than at the end.—Leonardo da Vinci, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Fools call wisdom foolishness.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• A man may attempt to burnish pure gold, but who can think to improve on his mother?—Mahatma Gandhi, translation by Michael R. Burch

• A mother's heart is God's ultimate masterpiece.—St. Therese of Lisieux, loose translation/interpretation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch

• Truths are more likely discovered by one man than consortiums.—René Descartes, translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

• To live without philosophizing is to close one's eyes and never attempt to open them.—René Descartes, translation by Michael R. Burch

• One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Not to speak one’s mind is slavery.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Heaven and hell seem unreasonable to me: the actions of men do not deserve such extremes.—Jorge Luis Borges, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Reality is neither probable nor likely.—Jorge Luis Borges, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Improve yourself by others' writings, attaining freely what they purchased at the expense of experience.—Socrates, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

• Experience is the best teacher but a hard taskmaster.—Michael R. Burch

• Time will tell, as it always does in the end.—Michael R. Burch

• Time flies, until it's flown.—Michael R. Burch

• The most dangerous words ever uttered by human lips are “Thus saith the LORD.” — Michael R. Burch

• Can a true religion be based on lies? How can the Bible be "infallible" when from beginning to end it commands and condones but never condemns the satanic institution of slavery?—Michael R. Burch

• Atheists give God the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch

• The enemy is not without, but within our gates; it is with our own complacence, our own folly, our own cutthroats and criminals that we must contend. — Cicero, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

• Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.—Leo Tolstoy, translation by Michael R. Burch

• Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel, or a house when it's time to change residences, even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.―Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

There are more prose epigrams later on this page.



TRANSLATIONS OF POETIC EPIGRAMS

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love is a canvas created by nature
and completed by imagination.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy?
—Albert Einstein, poetic translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their whores for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To know what we do know,
and to know what we don't,
is true knowledge.
—Confucius, sometimes incorrectly attributed to Nicolaus Copernicus, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Without looking into our hearts,
how can we find Paradise?
—Kabir Das, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where our senses fail,
reason must prevail.
—Galileo Galilei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Athens, celestial city, crowned with violets, beloved of poets, bulwark of Greece!
—Pindar, fragment 64, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not, O my soul, aspire to immortality, but exhaust life.
—Pindar, Pythian Ode III, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There are more Pablo Neruda translations later on this page ...

Everyone chases the way happiness feels,
unaware how it nips at their heels.
—Bertolt Brecht, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The world of learning takes a crazy turn
when teachers are taught to think and discern!
—Bertolt Brecht, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hungry man, reach for the book:
it's a hook,
a harpoon.
—Bertolt Brecht, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



EPITAPHS, ELEGIES AND EULOGIES

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

. . . qui laetificat juventutem meam . . .
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
. . . requiescat in pace . . .
May she rest in peace.
. . . amen . . .
Amen.

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager, around age 16 or 17, and chose to incorporate into a poem. From what I now understand, “ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” means “to the God who gives joy to my youth,” but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Vulgate Latin Bible (circa 385 AD). I dedicated the poem to my mother, Christine Ena Burch, after her death, because she was always a little girl at heart, and pure of heart like a little girl.

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

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

Americans are rightly outraged when Ukrainians are victims of ethnic cleansing, but millions of "good Christians" turn their backs when the victims are Palestinians...

Ko Un was speechless at Auschwitz.
Someday, when it’s too late,
will we be speechless at Gaza?
—Michael R. Burch

After the Poetry Recital
by Michael R. Burch

Later there’ll be talk of saving whales
over racks of lamb and flambéed snails.



THE CHIASMUS AND SPOONERISM

To avoid being a hack writer, hack away at your writing.—Michael R. Burch

To fall an inch short of infinity is to fall infinitely short.—Michael R. Burch

Love is either wholly folly
or fully holy.
—Michael R. Burch

Love's full of cute paradoxes
and highly acute poxes.
—Michael R. Burch

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
—White Elk, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s time to impeach
the peach imp.
—Michael R. Burch

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

Trump's supporters go on and on about the "deep state," but they're in a deep state of denial. — Michael R. Burch

Trump's goal is not to be a good president, but to be president for good, like his hero Putin. — Michael R. Burch

Donald Trump is a chip off the old blockhead. — Michael R. Burch

The Trumps, who got their start ripping off the government and tenants by building federal housing, will now become trumped tenants of the government they ripped off. — Michael R. Burch

Milli Vanilli seemed like two singers who could have been models, but they turned out to be two models pretending to be singers. — Michael R. Burch

We all have our limits: I will go to great lengths to avoid the word "chiasmi." — Michael R. Burch

Old Pantaloons, an Extended Chiasmus
by Michael R. Burch

Old pantaloons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to feel
that which they long most to steal.

Old panty loons are soft and white,
prudent days, imprudent nights
when fingers slip through drawers to steal
that which they long most to feel.



EPIGRAMS PROPER & IMPROPER

Fleet Tweet: Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

a tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet!
—@mikerburch

Fleet Tweet II: Further Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

Remember, doggonit,
heroic verse crowns the Shakespearean sonnet!
So if you intend to write a couplet,
please do it on the doublet!
—@mikerburch

Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.

Attention Span Gap
by Michael R. Burch

What if a poet, Shakespeare,
were still living to tweet to us here?
He couldn't write sonnets,
just couplets, doggonit,
and we wouldn't have Hamlet or Lear!

Yes, a sonnet may end in a couplet,
which we moderns can write in a doublet,
in a flash, like a tweet.
Does that make it complete?
Should a poem be reduced to a stublet?

Bring back that Grand Era when men
had attention spans long as their pens,
or rather the quills
of the monsieurs and fils
who gave us the Dress, not its hem!

Please click here for more poems by Michael R. Burch about Shakespeare.

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

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

Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

don’t forget ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

don’t forget to remember
that Space is curved
(like your Heart)
and that even Light is bent
by your Gravity.

I dedicated this poem to the love of my life, but you are welcome to dedicate it to the love of yours, if you like it. The opening lines were inspired by a famous love poem by e. e. cummings.

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
the bees rise
in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too!

This is another poem I wrote for my wife, but you're welcome to share it with that special someone, if you like it.

Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

after Richard Thomas Moore

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

Here and Hereafter
by Michael R. Burch

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

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

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

Laughter’s Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.

Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason’s treason!
cries the Heart.

Love’s insane,
replies the Brain.

Intimations
by Michael R. Burch

Show me your most intimate items of apparel;
begin with the hem of your quicksilver slip ...

Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You’re too perfect for words—
a problem for a poet.

Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your breasts are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!

The Reason for the Rain
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.

The Reason for the Rain (II)
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was blue
until you appeared
and it wept at your beauty.

Liquid Assets
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you,
and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, credited pain . . .
My assets remaining are liquid again.

Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

“Be fruitful and multiply”—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, “WHEN!”

honeybee
by michael r. burch

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

honeydew, honeydont
by michael r. burch

I sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle!

Dry Hump
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.

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life’s not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It’s just the bon voyage is hard
and the objections loud.

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

All things become one
Through death’s long division
And perfect precision.

Untitled

Hellen Keller saw more than the stellar-
visioned and the televisioned.
—Michael R. Burch

Irony lies
beyond the surmise
and surprise
of the blind and unwise.
—Michael R. Burch

Ring-a-Ling Bling
by Michael R. Burch

The ring
thing
is mostly bling.

Determining an individual athlete's greatness by championship rings (i.e., team success) makes no sense to me and seems disrespectful to all-time greats like Ernie Banks, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Dick Butkus, Ty Cobb, Michelle Kwan, Karl Malone, Dan Marino, Marta (who may be the greatest female soccer player of all time), Barry Sanders, John Stockton, Fran Tarkenton and Ted Williams. Perhaps the best example is the player most cited for rings these days: Michael Jordan. In reality, Jordan didn't win a ring his first six years and was 0-6 against Larry Bird and the Celtics in the playoffs. Does that make Larry Bird the NBA GOAT, or did he simply have better teammates? The answer seems obvious. Jordan only began to win rings after he was joined by outstanding players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, et al. Thus individuals can be all-time greats without having team success.



LESS HEROIC COUPLETS

Less Heroic Couplets: Murder Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

“Murder most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner.

As you fall on my sword,
Take it up with the Lord!”

the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Please note that the wise old owl exonerated William Blake's tyger and placed the blame where it is properly due, with the Creator of owls and tygers.

Less Heroic Couplets: Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

Love is a splendid ideal
(at least till it costs us a meal).

Less Heroic Couplets: Civility
by Michael R. Burch

Civility
is the ability
to disagree
agreeably.

Less Heroic Couplets: Sweet Tarts
by Michael R. Burch

Love, beautiful but fatal to many bewildered hearts,
commands us to be faithful, then tempts us with sweets and tarts.
(If I were younger, I might mention
you’re such a temptation.)

NOTE: In an attempt to demonstrate that not all couplets are heroic, I have created a series of poems called “Less Heroic Couplets.” I believe even poets should abide by truth-in-advertising laws! — Michael R. Burch

Less Heroic Couplets: Marketing 101
by Michael R. Burch

Building her brand, she disrobes,
naked, except for her earlobes.

Less Heroic Couplets: Miss Bliss
by Michael R. Burch

Domestic “bliss”?
Best to swing and miss!

Less Heroic Couplets: Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

Let’s not pretend we “understand” other elves
As long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.

Less Heroic Couplets: Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

Love is an ache hearts willingly secure
then break the bank to cure.

Less Heroic Couplets: Word to the Unwise
by Michael R. Burch

I wanted to be good as gold,
but being good, as I’ve been told,
requires something, discipline,
I simply have no interest in!

Less Heroic Couplets: Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what’s good, or do you merely flaunt?

Published by Asses of Parnassus (the first poem in the April 2017 issue)

Less Heroic Couplets: Shreditors
by Michael R. Burch

Editors? Shreditors!
Those out-of-their-head-itors!
They offer—how dare they?—
to test, measure, weigh
my pluperfect ART!
When does PUBLICATION start?

Less Heroic Couplets: Rejection Slip
by Michael R. Burch

pour Melissa Balmain

Whenever my writing gets rejected,
I always wonder how the rejecter got elected.
Are we exchanging at the same Bourse?
(Excepting present company, of course!)

I consider the term “rejection slip” to be a double entendre. When editors reject my poems, did I slip up, or did they? Is their slip showing, or is mine?

Less Heroic Couplets: People From Porlock
by Michael R. Burch

These people from Porlock are at it again—
I strive to create; they insist, “Be my friend!”

That last gabby vendor was a troublesome bloke—
thus my latest masterpiece just went up in smoke!

Less Heroic Couplets: Less than Impressed
by Michael R. Burch

for T. M., regarding certain dispensers of hot lukewarm stale air

Their volume’s impressive, it’s true ...
but somehow it all seems “much ado.”

Less Heroic Couplets: Dear Pleader
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Is our Dear Pleader, as he claims, heroic?
I prefer my presidents a bit more stoic.

Less Heroic Couplets: Then and Now
by Michael R. Burch

BEFORE: Thanks to Brexit, our lives will be plush! ...
AFTER: Crap, we’re going broke! What the hell is the rush?

Less Heroic Couplets: Relative Masses
by Michael R. Burch

Mr. Einstein was wrong about relative masses:
my kinfolk lose E while increasing their asses!

Less Heroic Couplets: Poetry I
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the heart’s caged rhythm,
the soul’s frantic tappings at the panes of mortality.

Less Heroic Couplets: Poetry II
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the trapped soul’s frantic tappings
at the panes of mortality.

Less Heroic Couplets: Seesaw
by Michael R. Burch

A poem is the mind teetering between fact and fiction,
momentarily elevated.

Less Heroic Couplets: Passions
by Michael R. Burch

Passions are the heart’s qualms, the soul’s squalls,
the brain’s storms.

Less Heroic Couplets: Gilded Silence
by Michael R. Burch

Golden silence reigned supreme
in her nightmare and my dream.

Flight
by Michael R. Burch

It is the nature of loveliness to vanish
as butterfly wings, batting against nothingness
seek transcendence ...

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)

Bed Head I
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

“Early to bed, early to rise”
makes a man wish some men weren’t so wise
(or least had the decency to tell pleasing lies).

Bed Head II
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

“Early to bed, early to rise”
makes a man wish
wise old Ben told sweet lies.

Ars Brevis, Proofreading Longa
by Michael R. Burch

Poets may labor from sun to sun,
but their editor's work is never done.

Arse Brevis, Emendacio Longa
by Michael R. Burch

The Donald may tweet from sun to sun,
but his spellchecker’s work is never done.

Less Heroic Couplets: Clover
by Michael R. Burch

It’ll soon be over
(clover?)

Less Heroic Couplets: Attention Span Gap
by Michael R. Burch

Better not to live, than live too long:
The world prefers a brief poem, a short song.



Epigrams about Epigrams

Nod to the Master
by Michael R. Burch

If every witty thing that’s said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!

Brief Fling I
by Michael R. Burch

"Epigram"
means cram,
then scram.

Brief Fling II
by Michael R. Burch

To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram!

Brief Fling III
by Michael R. Burch

No one gives a damn about my epigram?
And yet they’ll spend billions on Boy George and Wham!
Do they have any idea just how hard I cram?

The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

The Po' Biz Explained
by Michael R. Burch

Poets may labor from sun to sun,
but their editors' work is never done.

The editor’s work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.

This poem was written in response to the question: “What’s your favorite rhyme to rhyme?”

Time to Rhyme
by Michael R. Burch

Rhyme is a function of sound over time,
so I like to rhyme “time” with “rhyme.”



Parodies by Michael R. Burch

Me?
Whee!
(I stole this poem
From Muhammad Ali.)
—Michael R. Burch

The poem above was written in response to the Quora question: “Can you write a poem titled “Me”?

Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

(Apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash!)

Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

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



The Not-So-Heroic Stoic, or, A la Cartesian

i think,
therefore i question
if, who and what i am.
—michael r. burch

i think,
therefore i guess
who the hell i am
on this hellish quest.
—michael r. burch

i think,
therefore i postulate:
Fate
ain’t so great.
—michael r. burch

i think,
therefore i am
confused
and unenthused.
—michael r. burch

i think,
therefore i am
not a fan
of THE MAN.
—michael r. burch

i think,
therefore i am
puzzled
addled
frazzled
befuddled
—michael r. burch

i thunk
THEREFORE
i am sunk
...
like a frog
in a bog,
KERPLUNK!
—michael r. burch

The greatest philosophers are better known for their questions, doubts and mistakes than for what they actually knew. Thus lesser thinkers may want to avoid the hubris of certainty. — Michael R. Burch



Athenian Epitaphs

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

They observed our fearful fetters, marched against encroaching darkness.
Now we gratefully commemorate their excellence: Bravely, they died for us.
―Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

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

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

We who left behind the Aegean’s bellowings
Now sleep peacefully here on the mid-plains of Ecbatan:
Farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
Farewell, dear sea!
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

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

Since I'm dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that suckled me and reared me;
Once again I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

There are more Athenian Epitaphs later on this page.

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.

Sappho, fragment 130
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

May the gods prolong the night
—yes, let it last forever!—
as long as you sleep in my sight.

Sappho, fragment 155
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A short transparent frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho,
wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Sophocles Translations

One of the first great voices to directly question whether human being should give birth was that of Sophocles, around 2,500 years ago ...

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How happy the soul who speeds back to the Source,
but crowned with peace is the one who never came.
—a Sophoclean passage from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Never to be born may be the biggest boon of all.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Oblivion: What a boon, to lie unbound by pain!—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The happiest life is one empty of thought.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Consider no man happy till he lies dead, free of pain at last.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
What is worse than death? When death is desired but denied.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Children anchor their mothers to life.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
How terrible, to see the truth when the truth brings only pain to the seer!—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Wisdom outweighs all the world's wealth.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Fortune never favors the faint-hearted.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Wait for evening to appreciate the day's splendor.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
We need evening to appreciate the day's attractions.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Evening helps us appreciate the day's attractions.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
When a man endures nothing but endless miseries, what is the use of hanging on day after day, always edging closer and closer toward death? Anyone who warms his heart with the false glow of flickering hope is a wretch! The noble man should live with honor and die with honor. That's all that can be said.—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

According to Aristotle, it had become so common in ancient Greece to say "It is best not to be born" that it was considered a cliché!



Haiku and Tanka Translations

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

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
It is not like a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of us in its wake?
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Deepening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue? ...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
In the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Original Haiku by Michael R. Burch

Dark-bosomed clouds
pregnant with heavy thunder ...
the water breaks
—Michael R. Burch

She bathes in silver,
afloat
on her reflections ...
—Michael R. Burch

Night
and the stars
conspire against me
—Michael R. Burch



The Unforgivable Sin: Rhyming Haiku by Michael R. Burch

Dry leaf flung awry:
bright butterfly,
goodbye!
—Michael R. Burch

A snake in the grass
lies, hissing
Trespass!
—Michael R. Burch

Honeysuckle
blesses my knuckle
with affectionate dew
—Michael R. Burch

My nose nuzzles
honeysuckle’s
sweet nothings
—Michael R. Burch

Late
fall
all
the golden leaves turn black underfoot:
soot
—Michael R. Burch

My mother’s eyes
acknowledging my imperfection:
dejection
—Michael R. Burch



Iffy Coronavirus Haiku

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #1
by michael r. burch

plagued by the Plague
i plague the goldfish
with my verse

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #2
by michael r. burch

sunflowers
hang their heads
embarrassed by their coronas

I wrote this poem after having a sunflower arrangement delivered to my mother, who is in an assisted living center and can’t have visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. I have been informed the poem breaks haiku rules about personification, etc.

homework: yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #3
by michael r. burch

dim bulb overhead,
my silent companion:
still imitating the noonday sun?

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #4
by michael r. burch

Spring fling—
children string flowers
into their face masks

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #5
by michael r. burch

the Thought counts:
our lips and fingers
insulated by plexiglass ...

yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #6
by michael r. burch

masks, masks
everywhere
and not a straw to drink ...

Dark Cloud, Silver Lining
by Michael R. Burch

Every corona has a silver lining:
I’m too far away to hear your whining,
and despite my stormy demeanor,
my hands have never been cleaner!

New World Order (last in a series and perhaps of a species)
by Michael R. Burch

The days of the dandelions dawn ...
soon man will be gone:
fertilizer.



Limericks

Ass-tronomical
by Michael R. Burch

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

Dot Spotted
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a leopardess, Dot,
who indignantly answered: "I’ll not!
The gents are impressed
with the way that I’m dressed.
I wouldn’t change even one spot."

Tote the Note
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can’t sing,
but now, here’s the thing—
just think of the tunes you can carry!"

Clyde Lied, or, Honeymoon Not-So-Sweet
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.

The Trouble with Elephants: a Word to the Wise
by Michael R. Burch

An elephant never forgets
which is why they don’t make the best pets:
Jumbo may well out-live you,
but he’ll never forgive you,
no matter how sincere your regrets!

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

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

A much-needed screed against licentious insects
by Michael R. Burch

after and apologies to Robert Schechter

Army ants? ARMY ants?
Yet so undisciplined to not wear pants?
How terribly rude
to wage war in the nude!
We moralists call them SMARMY ants!

Of Tetley's and V-2's
by Michael R. Burch

The English are very hospitable,
but tea-less, alas, they grow pitiable ...
or pitiless, rather,
and quite in a lather!
O bother, they're more than formidable.
—"Of Tetley’s and V-2's," or, "Why Not to Bomb the Brits" by Michael R. Burch

Honeymoon Not-So-Sweet
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a mockingbird, Clyde,
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed,
"When again, gentle bride?"
"Nevermore!" bright-eyed Raven replied.

Time In
by Michael R. Burch

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

Time Out
by Michael R. Burch

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

The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On ...)
by Michael R. Burch

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at “meter,” I crossly concluded
I’d use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I’m under-quaaluded.

Originally published by Grand Little Things

Early Warning System (I)
by Michael R. Burch

A hairy thick troglodyte, Mary,
squinched dingles excessively airy.
To her family’s deep shame,
their condo became
the first cave to employ a canary!

Early Warning System (II)
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a troglodyte, Mary,
whose poots were impressive, but scary.
To her family’s deep shame,
their condo became
the first cave to employ a canary!

Low-T Hell
by Michael R. Burch

I’m living in low-T hell ...
My get-up has gone: Oh, swell!
I need to write checks
if I want to have sex,
and my love life depends on a gel!

Baked Alaskan
by Michael R. Burch

There is a strange yokel so flirty
she makes whores seem icons of purity.
With all her winkin' and blinkin'
Palin seems to be "thinkin'"—
"Ah culd save th' free world 'cause ah'm purty!"

Going Rogue in Rouge
by Michael R. Burch

It'll be hard to polish that apple
enough to make her seem palatable.
Though she's sweeter than Snapple
how can my mind grapple
with stupidity so nearly infallible?

Pls refudiate
by Michael R. Burch

"Refudiate" this,
miffed, misunderstood Ms!—
Shakespeare, you're not
(more like Yoda, but hot).
Your grammar's atrocious;
Great Poets would know this.

You lack any plan
save to flatten Iran
like some cute Mini-Me
cloned from G. W. B.

Admit it, Ms. Palin!
Stop your winkin' and wailin'—
only "heroes" like Nero
fiddle sparks at Ground Zero.

Eerie Dearie
by Michael R. Burch

A trembling young auditor, white
as a sheet, like a ghost in the night,
saw his dreams, his career
in a poof!, disappear,
and then, strangely Enronic, his wife.

NOTE: Fortune named Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years, but the company went bankrupt and vanished after its accounting practices were determined to be fraudulent.



The Church Gets the Burch Rod

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
—Michael R. Burch

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

I have my doubts about your God and his “love”:
If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?
—Michael R. Burch

With the clumsy cobbling of the pagan Greek "hell" into the Bible, the prophets were replaced by profits.—Michael R. Burch

Can a true religion be based on lies?—Michael R. Burch

Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
—Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
—Michael R. Burch

since GOD created u so gullible
how did u conclude HE's so lovable?
—Michael R. Burch

Life is pointless, then you die.
Never ask the good LORD why.
His plan’s divine. You’re a mayfly.
—Michael R. Burch

• The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch
• Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch
• Most Christians make their God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch
• If one screams below, what the hell is “Above”?—Michael R. Burch
• Hell hath no fury like a hypocritical moralist out to control other people's behavior.—Michael R. Burch
• Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch
• In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.—Robert Frost
• In six words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on, until it doesn't.—Michael R. Burch
• An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch
• Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch
• The problem with bigots is that they know they're not bigots, just "better."—Michael R. Burch

The Hole-y Bible

The Bible's most inspired passage is 1 Corinthians 13, where the evangelist Paul says Divine Love never condemns, never gives up, and never fails. Unfortunately, all the mythical gods including Jehovah fall far short of that lofty standard.—Michael R. Burch

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned?—Michael R. Burch

Can a true religion be based on lies? How can the Bible be "infallible" when from beginning to end it commands and condones but never condemns the satanic institution of slavery?—Michael R. Burch

Can a true religion be based on lies? How can the Bible be "the word of God" when it commands and/or condones the worst crimes known to humanity: slavery, sex slavery, infanticide, matricide, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and the ghastly stoning to death of rape victims and child brides who didn't bleed sufficiently on their wedding nights to prove their virginity?—Michael R. Burch

Can a true religion be based on lies? The Bible says God can never be seen and has been seen repeatedly; that it is a shame for a man to have long hair but that men consecrated to God like Samson and Samuel never cut their hair; that God wanted men to be monogamous but also endorsed sex slavery, that trees grew on earth before the sun was created, and so on.—Michael R. Burch

The Christian Bible quickly evolved from an empty grave and a big question “Mark” — pardon the pun — to outrageous claims of Jesus flying into the clouds like Superman.—Michael R. Burch

The original gospel of Mark ended with a huge question mark. — Michael R. Burch

Oh, what treacherous webs they weave when "theologians" practice to deceive. —Michael R. Burch

(The Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament never mentioned "hell," "purgatory" or "limbo." These were the creation of deceitful Christian theologians: very good for terrorizing people into converting and giving money to the theologians' churches.)

The orthodox Christian religion is fundamentally dishonest, pardon the pun. Christianity calls evil "good" when its diabolical god does evil things, such as mass-murdering women and children, and either causing or allowing billions of souls to be eternally tortured in a purposeless "hell" for guessing wrong about which irrational religion to believe. Eternal torture for guessing wrong makes the Christian "god" infinitely worse than the Devil.—Michael R. Burch

Why I Left the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

He's got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of his shirt
and he upholds the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

The Least of These ...

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
—Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch

Hell has been hellishly overdone!
Why blame such horrors on God's only Son
when Jehovah and his prophets never mentioned it once?
—Michael R. Burch

(Bible scholars agree: the word "hell" has been removed from the Old Testaments of the more accurate modern Bible translations. And the few New Testament verses that mention "hell" are obvious mistranslations.)

Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,

that likes its pikes’ sharp rows of teeth
and doesn’t mind its victims’ grief

(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.

Why I Left the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

He's got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of his shirt
and he upholds the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

Double Cross
by Michael R. Burch

Come to the cross;
contemplate all loss
and how little was gained
by those who remained
uncrucified.

Farewell to Faith I
by Michael R. Burch

What we want is relief
from life’s grief and despair:
what we want’s not “belief”
but just not to be there.

Farewell to Faith II
by Michael R. Burch

Confronted by the awesome thought of death,
to never suffer, and be free of grief,
we wonder: What’s the use of drawing breath?
Why seek relief
from the bible’s Thief,
who ripped off Eve then offered her a leaf?

Certainly, saints, the world’s insane:
If I tell the truth they attack me,
f I lie they believe me.
—Kabir Das, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Keep the slanderer near you, build him a hut near your house.
For, when you lack soap and water, he will scour you clean.
—Kabir Das, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Without looking into our hearts,
how can we find Paradise?
—Kabir Das, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Clodhoppers and Hopers
by Michael R. Burch

If you trust the Christian “god”
you’re—like Adumb—a clod.



Redefinitions

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

There are more redefinitions later on this page.



Poetic Definitions

Sex Hex
by Michael R. Burch

after Richard Thomas Moore

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

Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love is either wholly folly,
or fully holy.

Death
by Michael R. Burch

Death is the ultimate finality
and banality
of reality.



Epigrams for Poets and Epigrams about Poets

Confetti for Ferlinghetti
by Michael R. Burch

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
is the only poet whose name rhymes with “spaghetti”
and, while not being quite as rich as J. Paul Getty,
he still deserves some confetti
for selling a million books while being a modern Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

NOTE: Both Ferlinghetti and Rossetti were painter-poets.

US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

“Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.”

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)

NOTE: The Unisphere mentioned is a large stainless steel representation of the earth; it was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

It's hard to be a man of taste
in such a waste:
hence the lambaste.

Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Robert Frost and Ogden Nash

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

Housman was right ...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life’s not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It’s just the bon voyage is hard
and the objections loud.

Long Division
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Laura Riding Jackson

All things become one
Through death’s long division
And perfect precision.

Bittersight
by Michael R. Burch

for Abu al-Ala Al-Ma'arri

To be plagued with sight
in the Land of the Blind,
—to know birth is death
and that Death is kind—
is to be flogged like Eve
(stripped, sentenced and fined)
because evil is “good”
as some “god” has defined.

A Passing Observation about Thinking Outside the Box
by Michael R. Burch

William Blake had no public, and yet he’s still read.
His critics are dead.

The Difference
by Michael R. Burch

The chimneysweeps
will weep
for Blake,
who wrote his poems
for their dear sake.

The critics clap,
polite, for you.
Another poem
for poets,
Whooo!

Blake Take
by Michael R. Burch

we became ashamed of our bodies;
we became ashamed of sweet sex;
we became ashamed of the LORD
with each terrible CURSE and HEX;
we became ashamed of the planet
(it’s such a slovenly hovel);
and we came to see, in the end,
that we really agreed with the devil.

tyger, lamb, free love, etc.
by michael r. burch

for and after william blake

the tiger’s a ferocious slayer.
he has no say in it.
hence, ur Creator’s a shit.

the lamb led to the slaughter
extends her neck to the block and bit.
she has no say in it.

so don’t be a nitwit:
drink, carouse and revel!
why obey the Devil?

Professor Poets
by Michael R. Burch

Professor poets remind me of drones
chasing the Classical queen's aging bones.
With bottle-thick glasses they still see to write —
droning on, endlessly buzzing all night.
And still in our classrooms their tomes are decreed ...
Perhaps they're too busy with buzzing to breed?



Miscellanea

Fascists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

Love has the value
of gold, if it’s true;
if not, of rue.
—Michael R. Burch

What would Mother Teresa do?
Do it too!
—Michael R. Burch

Delicacy
by Michael R. Burch

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring—
“Fly! Fly! Fly!”
Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.

Medusa
by Michael R. Burch

Friends, beware
of her iniquitous hair—
long, ravenblack & melancholy.

Many suitors drowned there—
lost, unaware
of the length & extent of their folly.

The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.

Sumer is icumen in
a modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing achu!
Groweth sed
And bloweth hed
And buyeth med?
Cuccu!

Piecemeal
by Michael R. Burch

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.
(A pale Piggy-Wiggy
will discount your demise as no biggie.)

Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

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.

These are the opening lines of the second poem I remember writing, around age 13 or 14.



MICHELANGELO TRANSLATIONS

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He and his fellow Florentine, Leonardo da Vinci, were rivals for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man. Michelangelo is considered by many to be the greatest artist of all time.

I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
Each stone contains a statue; it is the sculptor's task to release it.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

In the end it’s only the best poems that matter. But the best poems come from executing everything as close to perfection as possible. Michelangelo had to make every stroke of the chisel work — as close to perfection as possible — for the angel to emerge from the marble. Talent had to be abetted by craftsmanship. — Michael R. Burch

Poetry, like every art, requires both artistry and craftsmanship. Michelangelo the artist saw the angel in the marble. Michelangelo the craftsman had to get every detail correct in order for the angel to emerge.— Michael R. Burch

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

AIM HIGH

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo

If we shoot for the stars
to only end up on Mars,
that's still quite a trip.
The choice is ours.
—Michael R. Burch

Our greatness is bounded only by our horizons.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Trifles create perfection, yet perfection is no trifle.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
Genius is infinitely patient, and infinitely painstaking.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
If you knew how hard I worked, you wouldn't call it "genius."—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Be at peace, for God did not create us to abandon us.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
I live and love by God's peculiar light.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
My soul's staircase to heaven is earth's loveliness.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
God grant that I always desire more than my capabilities.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I have never found salvation in nature; rather I love cities.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
He who follows will never surpass.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
Beauty is what lies beneath superfluities.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
I criticize via creation, not by fault-finding.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch



Rumi Translations

Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

Beyond
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don’t demand union:
there’s a closer closeness, beyond.
The instant love descends to rest in me,
many beings become One.
In a single grain of wheat ten thousand sheaves germinate.
Within the needle’s eye innumerable stars radiate.

The Field
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Far beyond sermons of right and wrong there’s a sunlit field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lazes in such lush grass
the world is too full for discussion.

Two Insomnias (I)
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I’m with you, we’re up all night;
when we're apart, I’m unable to sleep.
Thank God for both insomnias
and their inspiration.

Two Insomnias (II)
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I’m with you, we’re up all night.
When we part, I’m unable to sleep.
I’m grateful for both insomnias
and the difference maker.

I choose to love you in silence
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I choose to love you in silence
where there is no rejection;

to possess you in loneliness
where you are mine alone;

to adore you from a distance
which diminishes pain;

to kiss you in the wind
stealthier than my lips;

to embrace you in my dreams
where you are limitless ...

I Prefer
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I prefer to love you in silence,
for in silence there is no rejection.

I prefer to possess you in loneliness,
for in loneliness you are mine alone.

I prefer to adore you from a distance,
because distance diminishes pain.

I prefer to kiss you in the wind,
because the wind is subtler than my lips.

I prefer to embrace you in my dreams,
because in my dreams you are limitless.

Untitled Rumi Epigrams

I am not this hair,
nor this thin sheathe of skin;
I am the Soul that abides within.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We come whirling from nothingness, scattering stardust.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Why should I brood, with every petal of my being blossoming?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Why should I brood when every petal of my being is blossoming?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Elevate your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Bare rock is barren. Be compost, so wildflowers spring up everywhere.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
I want to sing as the birds sing, heedless of who hears or heckles.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your heart’s candle is ready to be kindled.
Your soul’s void is waiting to be filled.
You can feel it, can’t you?
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your heart’s an immense ocean. Go discover yourself in its depths.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The only prevailing beauty is the heart’s.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is love: to fly toward a mysterious sky,
to cause ten thousand veils to fall.
First, to stop clinging to life,
then to step out, without feet ...
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What you seek also pursues you.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Love renders reason senseless.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Love is the bridge between your Heart and Infinity.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Your task is not to build love, but to bring down all the barriers you built against it.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let yourself be guided by the strange magnetism of what you truly love:
It will not lead you astray.
The lion is most majestic when stalking prey.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon shines most bright
when it embraces the night.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon shines brightest
when the night is darkest.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon is brightest when it embraces the night.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
If your heart is light, it will light your way home.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Are you still in the dark that your light lights the worlds?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Why do you remain prisoner when the door's ajar?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Why do you remain prisoner when the door's wide open?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
As you begin to follow the Way, the Way appears.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Come, come, fellow traveler. Wanderer, worshiper, itinerant: it makes no difference. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken ten thousand vows. Come yet again, come, come.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Forget security!
Live by the perilous sea.
Destroy your reputation, however glorious.
Become notorious.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don’t be satisfied with stories of others’ accomplishments. Create your own legend.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I was so drunk my lips got lost requesting a kiss.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Eyes identify love. Feet pursue.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Everything beautiful was made for the beholder.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The essence of the rose abides not in the perfume but the thorns.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Ignite yourself, then seek those able to fan your flames.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
When will you begin the long trek toward reconciliation with yourself?—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
There is eloquence in silence. Stop weaving and the pattern is perfected.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The universe lies within you, not without. Look within: everything you desire, you already are.—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You must understand
“one” and “two”
because one and one make two.
But you
must also understand
“and.”
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Martial Translations

You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll "recite" them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it, mon frère.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


1.
You’ll find good poems, but mostly poor and worse,
my peers being “diverse” in their verse.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2.
Some good poems here, but most not worth a curse:
such is the crapshoot of a book of verse.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Auite, liber.

He undertook to be a doctor
but turned out to be an undertaker.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Chirurgus fuerat, nunc est uispillo Diaulus:
coepit quo poterat clinicus esse modo.

1.
The book you recite from, Fidentinus, was my own,
till your butchering made it yours alone.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2.
The book you recite from I once called my own,
but you read it so badly, it’s now yours alone.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

3.
You read my book as if you wrote it,
but you read it so badly I’ve come to hate it.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Recite my epigrams? I decline,
for then they’d be yours, not mine.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I do not love you, but cannot say why.
I do not love you: no reason, no lie.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You’re young and lovely, wealthy too,
but that changes nothing: you're a shrew.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his fucking.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain—you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages—you alone!
Discrimination, taste and wit—you alone!
You have it all—who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife—
she is never alone!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Epitaph for the child Erotion

Lie lightly on her, grass and dew ...
So little weight she placed on you.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I must admit I'm partial
to Martial.
—Michael R. Burch
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