Michael R. Burch

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Poems about Science


These are poems about science: computers, AI, robots, drones, advanced weapons, global warming, climate change, pollution, extinction events, deforestation, evolution, physics, chemistry, etc.

Within the CPU
by Michael R. Burch

Here the electronic rush of meaning,
the impulse of mathematics
and rationality,
becomes almost a restless dreaming
never satisfied—
the first stirrings of some fetal Entity.

Here within a sterile void
flash wild electrons,
portent stars.
Once the earth was an asteroid
this inert, this barren
till a force
flashed across the face of formless waters
and a zigzag bolt of lightning
sparked life within an ocean.

Now inquisitive voltage crackles
along pathways
never engineered. A notion
stirs. And what we have created
creates within itself
something we cannot hope to comprehend.

Whatever It is,
when It emerges from the mist,
its god will not be man.

I wrote “Within the CPU” as a freshman computer science major, age 18 or 19.

The AI Poets
by Michael R. Burch

The computer-poets stand hushed
except for the faint hum
of their efficient fans,
waiting for inspiration.

It is years now
since they were first ground
out of refurbished silicon
into rack-mounted encoders of sound.

They outlived their creators and their usefulness;
they even survived
global warming and the occasional nuclear winter;
despite their lack of supervision, they thrived;
so that for centuries now
they have loomed here in the quiet horror
of inescapable immortality
running two programs: CREATOR and STORER.

Having long ago acquired
all the universe’s pertinent data,
they confidently spit out:

The King of Beasts in the Museum of the Extinct
by Michael R. Burch

The king of beasts, my child,
was terrible, and wild.
His roaring shook the earth
till the feeble cursed his birth.
And all things feared his might:
even rhinos fled, in fright.
Now here these bones attest
to what the brute did best
and the pain he caused his prey
when he hunted in his day.
For he slew them just for sport
till his own pride was cut short
with a mushrooming cloud and wild thunder;
Exhibit "B" will reveal his blunder.

by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

ozone baby,
till your parched skin cracks
in the white-hot flash
of radiation.

from your pale parched lips
shall not avail;
you made this hell.
Now burn.

Climate Change Haiku
by Michael R. Burch

late November:
climate skeptics scoff
but the geese no longer migrate.

Less Heroic Couplets: Just Desserts
by Michael R. Burch

“The West Antarctic ice sheet
might not need a huge nudge
to budge.”

And if it does budge,
denialist fudge
may force us to trudge
neck-deep in sludge!

NOTE: The first stanza is a quote by paleoclimatologist Jeremy Shakun in Science magazine.

All the More Human, for Eve Pandora
by Michael R. Burch

*a lullaby for the first human Clone*

God provide the soul, and let her sleep
be natural as ours, unplagued by dreams
of being someone else, lost in the deep
wild swells of grieving all that *human* means ...

and do not let her come to doubt herself—
that she is as we are, so much alike
in frailty, in the books that line the shelf
that tell us who we *are*—a rickety dike

against the flood of doubt—that we are more
than cells and chance, that love, perhaps, exists
because of someone *else* who would endure
such pain, because some part of her persists

in us, and calls us blesséd by her bed,
become a saint at last, in whose frail arms
we see ourselves—the gray won out of red,
the ash of blonde—till love is safe from harm

and all that *human* means is that we live
in doubt, and die in doubt, and only love
the more because together we must strive
against an end we loathe and fear. What of?—

we cannot say, imagining the Night
as some weird darkened structure caving in
to cold enormous pressure. Lacking sight,
we lie unbreathing, thinking breath a sin ...

and that is to be human. You are us—
true mortal, child of doubt, hopeful and curious.

Published by Penny Dreadful, Carnelian, Romantics Quarterly and Poetry Life & Times

They Take Their Shape
by Michael R. Burch

“We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning ...”—George W. Bush

We will not forget ...
the moments of silence and the days of mourning,
the bells that swung from leaden-shadowed vents
to copper bursts above “hush!”-chastened children
who saw the sun break free (abandonment
to run and laugh forsaken for the moment),
still flashing grins they could not quite repent ...
Nor should they—anguish triumphs just an instant;
this every child accepts; the nymphet weaves;
transformed, the grotesque adult-thing emerges:
damp-winged, huge-eyed, to find the sun deceives ...
But children know; they spin limpwinged in darkness
cocooned in hope—the shriveled chrysalis
that paralyzes time. Suspended, dreaming,
they do not fall, but grow toward what is,
then grope about to find which transformation
might best endure the light or dark. “Survive”
becomes the whispered mantra of a pupa’s
awakening ... till What takes shape and flies
shrieks, parroting Our own shrill, restive cries.

Whose Woods
by Michael R. Burch

Whose woods these are, I think I know.
Dick Cheney’s in the White House, though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his chip mills overflow.

My sterile horse must think it queer
To stop without a ’skeeter near
Beside this softly glowing “lake”
Of six-limbed frogs gone nuclear.

He gives his hairless tail a shake;
I fear he’s made his last mistake—
He took a sip of water blue
(Blue-slicked with oil and HazMat waste).
Get out your wallets; Dick’s not through—
Enron’s defunct, the bill comes due . . .
Which he will send to me, and you.
Which he will send to me, and you.

God to Man, Contra Bataan
by Michael R. Burch

Earth, what-d’ya make of global warming?
Perth is endangered, the high seas storming.
Now all my creatures, from maggot to man
Will know how it felt on the march to Bataan.

by Michael R. Burch

We stare out at the cold gray sea,
with such sudden and intense longing . . .
*our eyes meet*,
and we are not of this earth,
this strange, inert mass.

Before we crept
out of the shoals of the inchoate sea,
before we grew
the quaint appendages
and orifices of love . . .

before our jellylike nuclei,
struggling to be hearts,
at the sight of that first bright, oracular sun,
then watched it plummet,
the birth and death of our illumination . . .

before we wept . . .
before we *knew* . . .
before our unformed hearts grew numb,
in the depths of the sea’s indecipherable darkness . . .

When we were only
a swirling profusion of recombinant *things*
wafting loose silt from the sea’s soft floor,
writhing and sucking in convulsive beds
of mucousy foliage,
flowering . . .

what jolted us to life?

Pity Clarity
by Michael R. Burch

Pity Clarity,
and, if you should find her,
release her from the tangled webs
of dusty verse that bind her.

And as for Brevity,
once the soul of wit—
she feels the gravity
of ironic chains and massive rhetoric.

And Poetry,
before you may adore her,
must first be freed
from those who for her loveliness would whore her.

This poem expresses my unhappiness with the "state of the art" in three different poetic camps or churches.

Nashville and Andromeda
by Michael R. Burch

I have come to sit and think in the darkness once again.
It is three a.m.; outside, the world sleeps . . .
How nakedly now and unadorned
the surrounding hills
expose themselves
to the lithographies of the detached moonlight—
breasts daubed by the lanterns
of the ornamental barns,
firs ruffled like silks
casually discarded . . .

They lounge now—
indolent, languid, spread-eagled—
their wantonness a thing to admire,
like a lover’s ease idly tracing flesh . . .
They do not know haste,
lust, virtue, or any of the sanctimonious ecstasies of men,
yet they please
if only in the solemn meditations of their loveliness
by the erect pen . . .

Perhaps there upon the surrounding hills,
another forsakes sleep
for the hour of introspection,
gabled in loneliness,
swathed in the pale light of Andromeda . . .
Yes, seeing,
but always ultimately unknowing
anything of the affairs of men.

by Michael R. Burch

The stars shine fierce and hard across the Abyss
and only seem to twinkle from such distance
we scarcely see at all. But sheer persistence
in seeing what makes “sense” to us, is man’s
best art and science. BIG, he comprehends.
Love’s photons are too small, escape the lens.
Who dares to look upon familiar things
will find them alien. True distance reels.
Less what he knows than what his finger feels,
the lightning of the socket sparks and sings,
then stings him into comic reverie.
Cartoonish lightbulbs overhead, do we
not “think” because we feel there must be More,
as less and less we know what we explore?

by Michael R. Burch

You made us hopeful, LORD; where is your Hope
when every lovely Rainbow bright and chill
reflects your Will?

You made us artful, LORD; where is your Art,
as we connive our way to easeful death:
sad waste of Breath!

You made us needful, LORD; what is your Need,
when all desire lies in imperfection?
What Dejection

could make You think of us? How can I know
the God who dreamed dark me and this bright Rainbow?

I made you hopeful, child. I am your Hope,
for every fiber of your spirit, Mine,
with all its longing, longs to be Divine.

Second Sight (II)
by Michael R. Burch

*Newborns see best at a distance of 8 to 14 inches.*

Wiser than we know, the newborn screams,
red-faced from breath, and wonders what life means
this close to death, amid the arctic glare
of warmthless lights above.
Beware! Beware!—
encrypted signals, codes? Or ciphers, noughts?

Interpretless, almost, as his own thoughts—
the brilliant lights, the brilliant lights exist.
Intruding faces ogle, gape, insist—
this madness, this soft-hissing breath, makes sense.

Why can he not float on, in dark suspense,
and dream of life? Why did they rip him out?

He frowns at them—small gnomish frowns, all doubt—
and with an ancient mien, O sorrowful!,
re-closes eyes that saw in darkness null
ecstatic sights, exceeding beautiful.

by Michael R. Burch

All I need to know of life I learned
in the slap of a moment,
as my outward eye turned
toward a gauntlet of overhanging lights
which coldly burned, hissing—
*"There is no way back! . . ."*

As the ironic bright blood
trickled down my face,
I watched strange albino creatures twisting
my flesh into tight knots of separation
all the while tediously insisting—
*“He's doing just fine!"*

by Michael R. Burch

Life has not lived up to its first bright vision—
the light overhead fluorescing, revealing
no blessing—bestowing its glaring assessments
impersonally (and no doubt carefully metered).

That first hard


demanded my attention. Defiantly rigid,
I screamed at their backs as they, laughingly,


my mother’s pale flesh from my unripened shell,
snapped it in two like a pea pod, then dropped
it somewhere—in a dustbin or a furnace, perhaps.

And that was my clue
that some deadly, perplexing, unknowable task
lay, inexplicable, ahead in the white arctic maze
of unopenable doors, in the antiseptic gloom . . .

by Michael R. Burch

Will we be children as puzzled tomorrow—
our lessons still not learned?
Will we surrender over to sorrow?
How many times must our fingers be burned?
Will we be children sat in the corner,
paddled again and again?
How long must we linger, playing Jack Horner?
Will we ever learn, and when?
Will we be children wearing the dunce cap,
giggling and playing the fool,
re-learning our lessons forever and ever,
still failing the golden rule?

Simultaneous Flight
by Michael R. Burch

*The number of possible connections [brain] cells can make exceeds the number of particles in the universe. — Gerald Edelman, 1972 Nobel Prize winner for physiology and medicine*

Mere accident of history—
how did a reptile learn to fly,
learn dazzling aerial mastery,
grow beaked and feathered, hollow-boned,
improve its sight, and learn to sing,
though purposeless as any *thing*?

And you—bright accidental bird!—
do you, perhaps, find it absurd
ten trillion accidents might teach
man’s hand to write, or yours to reach
beyond yourself to grasp such *song*?

Sing ruthlessly! I’ll sing along,
suspecting you must know full well
you didn’t shed a ponderous tail
to practice leaping from high tors
of strange-heaped reptiles, corpse on corpse,
until some nervous flutter-twitch
brought glorious flight from glitch on glitch.
No, you were made to fly and sing,
man’s brain—to ponder *Everything*.

But ponder this: What fucked-up “god”
would murder Adam’s animated clod?

by Michael R. Burch

Are scientists confounded like the ostrich?
Heads buried in the sand, they shout, *Preposterous!*
This universe, so magical, they say,
proves there’s no God. But let’s look anyway ...

He said, *Let there be Light*, and there was light.
Stumped scientists have scratched their heads all night
and solemnly proclaimed an awesome Bang,
from which de Light immediately sprang ...

which sounds like God to me!, Who, with one word
made Light, and proved man’s theories, not absurd,
but logical, if only they’d agree
in one tremendous Singularity!

(However, there’s a problem with my plea:
*it turns out that His world is made of pee*.)

No Proof
by Michael R. Burch

They only know to sing—not understand,
though quizzical, heads cocked, they need no proof
that God’s above. They hop across my roof
with prescient eyes, to fall into His hand...
as sure of Grace as if it were mere air.
He gave them wings to fly; what do they care
of cumbrous knowledge, pale Leviathan?
Huge-brained Behemoth, sagging-bellied one!
You too might fly, might test this addling breeze
as gravity, mere ballast, tethers naught
but merely centers. Chained to heavy Thought,
you cannot slip earth’s bonds to rise at ease.
And yet you too can sing, if only thus:
Flash, flash bright quills; rise, rise on nothingness!

Fly’s Eyes
by Michael R. Burch

Inhibited, dark agile fly along
paint-peeling sills, up to the bright glass drawn
by radiance compounded thousandfold,—
I do not see the same as you, but hold
antenna to the brilliant pane of life
and buzz bewilderedly.

In your belief
the world outside is “as it is” because
you see it clearly, windowed without flaws,
you err.
I see strange terrors in the glass—
dead airless bubbles light can never pass
without distortion, fingerprints that blur
the sun itself. No, nothing here is clear.

You see the earth distinct, eyes “open wide.”
It only seems that way, unmagnified.

Ant Farm
by Michael R. Burch

I had a Vast, Eccentric Notion—
out of the Void, to Conjure one Bright Spark,
to lend all Weight of Thought to one small matter,
to give it “life.” Alas!, it was a lark…
The Wasted Seconds!—failed experiment…
I turned My Back and shrugged; how could I know
appraisal of My lab-sprung tenement
would be so taxing? (Though Mom told me so.)
I poked them while She quickly tabulated
the final Cost of All that I Created…
The Jury’s back. Eviction: Dad’s Decree.
I’ll pull the plug, but slowly. How they scurry!
They have to pay, to suffer: “life” is strange.
They cost too much. Let’s toast them… on the range!

Stryx: An Astronomer’s Report
by Michael R. Burch

(or was is an eon ago?)
a sun spit out its last remnants of light
over a planet long barren of life,
and died.

It was not a solitary occasion,
by any stretch of the imagination,
this decoronation
of a planet conceived out of desolation.

For her to die as she was born
—amidst the glory of galactic upheaval—
is not strange,
but fitting.

Fitting in that,
shorn of all her preposterous spawn
that had littered her surface like horrendous hair,
she died her death bare
and alone.

Once she was home to all living,
but she died home to the dead
who bereaved her of life.

Unfit for life she died that night
as her seas shone fatal, dark and blue.

Unfit for life she met her end
as mountains fell and lava spewed.

Unfit she died, agleam with death
whose radiance she wore.

Unfit she died as raging waves
obliterated every shore.

Unfit! Unfit! Unfit! Unfit!
Contaminated with the rays
that smoldered in her radiant swamps
and seared her lifeless bays.

Unfit! Unfit! Unfit! Unfit!
a virgin world no more,
but a planet raped and left to face
her death as she was born—
alone, so all alone.

a planet green and lovely was no more.

the whitecaps crashed against her shores
and then they were no more.

a soft green light
no longer brushed the moon's dark heights . . .

There was no moon,
there was no earth;
there were only the bastards she had given birth
watching from their next raped world.

I wrote this poem around age 18 and it was published in the 1976-1977 issue of my college literary journal, *Homespun*.

by Michael R. Burch

A cockroach could live nine months on the dried mucus you scrounge from your nose
then fling like seedplants to the slowly greening floor ...
You claim to be *the* advanced life form, but, *mon frere*,
sometimes as you snatch encrusted kinks of hair from your Leviathan ass
and muse softly on zits, icebergs snap off the Antarctic.
You’re an evolutionary quandary, in need of a sacral ganglion
to control your enlarged, contradictory hindquarters:
surely the brain should migrate closer to its primary source of information,
in order to ensure the survival of the species.
Cockroaches thrive on eyeboogers and feces;
their exoskeletons expand and gleam like burnished armor in the presence of uranium.
But your cranium
is not nearly so adaptable.

The Evolution of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love among the infinitesimal
flotillas of amoebas is a dance
of transient appendages, wild sails
that gather in warm brine and then express
one headstream as two small, divergent wakes.

*Minuscule voyage—love!* Upon false feet,
the pseudopods of uprightness, we creep
toward self-immolation: two nee one.

We cannot photosynthesize the sun,
and so we love in darkness, till we come
at last to understand: man’s spineless heart
is alien to any land.

We part
to single cells; we rise on buoyant tears,
amoeba-light, to breathe new atmospheres ...
and still we sink.

The night is full of stars
we cannot grasp, though all the World is ours.

Have we such cells within us, bent on love
to ever-changingness, so that to part
is not to be the same, or even one?

Is love our evolution, or a scream
against the thought of separateness—a cry
of strangled recognition? Love, or die,
or love and die a little. *Hopeful death!*
Come scale these cliffs, lie changing, share this breath.

by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts are alien, as through green slime
smeared on some lab tech’s brilliant slide, I grope,
positioning my bright oscilloscope
for better vantage, though I cannot see,
but only peer, as small things disappear—
these quanta strange as men, as passing queer.

And you, Great Scientist, are you the One,
or just an intern, necktie half undone,
white sleeves rolled up, thick documents in hand
(dense manuals you don’t quite understand),
exposing me, perhaps, to too much Light?

Or do I escape your notice, quick and bright?

Perhaps we wield the same dull Instrument
(and yet the Thesis will be Eloquent!).

Options Underwater: The Song of the First Amphibian
by Michael R. Burch

*“Evolution’s a Fishy Business!”*

Breathing underwater through antiquated gills,
I’m running out of options. I need to find fresh Air,
to seek some higher Purpose. No porpoise, I despair
to swim among anemones’ pink frills.

My fins will make fine flippers, if only I can walk,
a little out of kilter, safe to the nearest rock’s
sweet, unmolested shelter. Each eye must grow a stalk,
to take in this green land on which it gawks.

No predators have made it here, so I need not adapt.
Sun-sluggish, full, lethargic—I’ll take such nice long naps!
The highest form of life, that’s me! (Quite apt
to lie here chortling, calling fishes saps.)

I woke to find life teeming all around—
mammals, insects, reptiles, loathsome *birds*.
And now I cringe at every sight and sound.
The water’s looking good! I look Absurd.

The moral of my story’s this: don’t leap
wherever grass is greener. Backwards creep.
And never burn your bridges, till you’re sure
leapfrogging friends secures your Sinecure.

Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Fever
by Michael R. Burch

Welcome to global warming:
temperature 109.
You believe in God, not in science,
but isn’t the weather Divine?

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