Michael R. Burch

1958
Send Message

Righteous

These are poems about love and spirituality. Is love the highest form of spirituality? The evangelist Paul thought so in his epiphany on Divine Love in 1 Corinthians 13.



Righteous
by Michael R. Burch

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
that I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of bright stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

Published in Writer’s Gazette and Tucumcari Literary Review.
Keywords/Tags: love, lovers, night, stars, twilight, moon, spectral, ancient, scripture, arms, hair, revel, ardent, passion, passionate, desire, lust, sex



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
each day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels’ white chorales
sing, and astound you.



If Love Were Infinite
by Michael R. Burch

If love were infinite, how I would pity
our lives, which through long years’ exactitude
might seem a pleasant blur—one interlude
without prequel or sequel—wanly pretty,
the gentlest flame the heart might bring to bear
to tepid hearts too sure of love to flare.

If love were infinite, why would I linger
caressing your fine hair, lost in the thought
each auburn strand must shrivel with this finger,
and so in thrall to time be gently brought
to final realization: love, amazing,
must leave us ash for all our fiery blazing.

If flesh’s heat once led me straight to you,
love’s arrow’s burning mark must pierce me through.



Only Let Me Love You
by Michael R. Burch

after Rabindranath Tagore

Only let me love you, and the pain
of living will be easier to bear.
Only let me love you. Nay, refrain
from pinning up your hair!

Only let me love you. Stay, remain.
A face so lovely never needs repair!
Only let me love you to the strains
of Rabindranath on a soft sitar.

Only let me love you, while the rain
makes music: gentle, eloquent, sincere.
Only let me love you. Don’t complain
you need more time to make yourself more fair!

Only let me love you. Stay, remain.
No need for rouge or lipstick! Only share
your tender body swiftly ...



Homeless Us
by Michael R. Burch

The coldest night I ever knew
the wind out of the arctic blew
long frigid blasts; and I was you.

We huddled close then: yes, we two.
For I had lost your house, to rue
such bitter weather, being you.

Our empty tin cup sang the Blues,
clanged—hollow, empty. Carols (few)
were sung to me, for being you.

For homeless us, all men eschew.
They beat us, roust us, jail us too.
It isn’t easy, being you.

Published by Street Smart, First Universalist Church of Denver, Mind Freedom Switzerland and on 20+ web pages supporting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities



To Have Loved
by Michael R. Burch

Helen, bright accompaniment,
accouterment of war as sure as all
the polished swords of princes groomed to lie
in mausoleums all eternity ...

The price of love is not so high
as never to have loved once in the dark
beyond foreseeing. Now, as dawn gleams pale
upon small wind-fanned waves, amid white sails ...

Now all that war entails becomes as small,
as though receding. Paris in your arms
was never yours, nor were you his at all.
And should gods call

in numberless strange voices, should you hear,
still what would be the difference? Men must die
to be remembered. Fame, the shrillest cry,
leaves all the world dismembered.

Hold him, lie,
tell many pleasant tales of lips and thighs;
enthrall him with your sweetness, till the pall
and ash lie cold upon him.

Is this all? You saw fear in his eyes, and now they dim
with fear’s remembrance. Love, the fiercest cry,
becomes gasped sighs in his once-gallant hymn
of dreamed “salvation.” Still, you do not care

because you have this moment, and no man
can touch you as he can ... and when he’s gone
there will be other men to look upon
your beauty, and have done.

Smile—woebegone, pale, haggard. Will the tales
paint this—your final portrait? Can the stars
find any strange alignments, Zodiacs,
to spell, or unspell, what held beauty lacks?

Published by The Raintown Review, Triplopia, The Eclectic Muse (Canada), The Chained Muse, Borderless Journal, The Pennsylvania Review, and in a YouTube recital by David B. Gosselin



Minor Key Duet
by Michael R. Burch

Without the drama of cymbals
or the fanfare and snares of drums,
I present my case
stripped of its fine veneer:
Behold, thy instrument.

Play, for the night is long.

Originally published by Brief Poems



Erotic Errata
by Michael R. Burch

I didn’t mean to love you; if I did,
it came unbid-
en, and should’ve remained hid-
den!



The Drawer of Mermaids
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Alina Karimova, who was born with severely deformed legs and five fingers missing. Alina loves to draw mermaids and believes her fingers will eventually grow out.

Although I am only four years old,
they say that I have an old soul.
I must have been born long, long ago,
here, where the eerie mountains glow
at night, in the Urals.

A madman named Geiger has cursed these slopes;
now, shut in at night, the emphatic ticking
fills us with dread.
(Still, my momma hopes
that I will soon walk with my new legs.)

It’s not so much legs as the fingers I miss,
drawing the mermaids under the ledges.
(Observing, Papa will kiss me
in all his distracted joy;
but why does he cry?)

And there is a boy
who whispers my name.
Then I am not lame;
for I leap, and I follow.
(G’amma brings a wiseman who says

our infirmities are ours, not God’s,
that someday a beautiful Child
will return from the stars,
and then my new fingers will grow
if only I trust Him; and so

I am preparing to meet Him, to go,
should He care to receive me.)



Almost
by Michael R. Burch

We had—almost—an affair.
You almost ran your fingers through my hair.
I almost kissed the almonds of your toes.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

You almost contemplated using Nair
and adding henna highlights to your hair,
while I considered plucking you a Rose.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

I almost found the words to say, “I care.”
We almost kissed, and yet you didn’t dare.
I heard coarse stubble grate against your hose.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

You almost called me suave and debonair
(perhaps because my chest is pale and bare?).
I almost bought you edible underclothes.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

I almost asked you where you kept your lair
and if by chance I might seduce you there.
You almost tweezed the redwoods from my nose.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

We almost danced like Rogers and Astaire
on gliding feet; we almost waltzed on air ...
until I mashed your plain, unpolished toes.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.

I almost was strange Sonny to your Cher.
We almost sat in love’s electric chair
to be enlightninged, till our hearts unfroze.
We almost loved,
                            that’s always how love goes.



The Less-Than-Divine Results of My Prayers to be Saved from Televangelists
by Michael R. Burch

I’m old,
no longer bold,
just cold,
and (truth be told),
been bought and sold,
rolled
by the wolves and the lambs in the fold.

Who’s to be told
by this worn-out scold?
The complaint department is always on hold.



These are poems written for my grandfathers and grandmothers.

Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt Sr., the day he departed this life

Between the prophesies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.



Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

I remember how my grandfather used to pick poke salat...
though first, usually, he'd stretch back in the front porch swing,
dangling his long thin legs, watching the sweat bees drone,
talking about poke salat—
how easy it was to find if you knew where to seek it...
standing in dew-damp clumps by the side of a road, shockingly green,
straddling fence posts, overflowing small ditches,
crowding out the less-hardy nettles.

"Nobody knows that it's there, lad, or that it's fit tuh eat
with some bacon drippin's or lard."

"Don't eat the berries. You see—the berry's no good.
And you'd hav'ta wash the leaves a good long time."

"I'd boil it twice, less'n I wus in a hurry.
Lawd, it's tough to eat, chile, if you boil it jest wonst."

He seldom was hurried; I can see him still...
silently mowing his yard at eighty-eight,
stooped, but with a tall man's angular gray grace.

Sometimes he'd pause to watch me running across the yard,
trampling his beans,
dislodging the shoots of his tomato plants.

He never grew flowers; I never laughed at his jokes about The Depression.

Years later I found the proper name—"pokeweed"—while perusing a dictionary.

Surprised, I asked why anyone would eat a weed.

I still can hear his laconic reply...
"Well, chile, s'm'times them times wus hard."

Keywords/Tags: Great Depression, greatness, courage, resolve, resourcefulness, hero, heroes, South, Deep South, southern, poke salad, poke salat, pokeweed, free verse



All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfathers George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are
somehow more near

and remind me that,
once, upon a star,

you taught me
wish
that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

and seemed to speak of times before
when you clasped my small glad hand
in your wise paw
and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .



Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandmothers Lillian Lee and Christine Ena Hurt

Bring your peculiar strength
to the strange nightmarish fray:
wrap up your cherished ones
in the golden light of day.



Mother's Day Haiku
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandmothers Lillian Lee and Christine Ena Hurt

Crushed grapes
surrender such sweetness:
a mother’s compassion.

My footprints
so faint in the snow?
Ah yes, you lifted me.

An emu feather ...
still falling?
So quickly you rushed to my rescue.

The eagle sees farther
from its greater height:
our mothers' wisdom.



The Rose
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandmother, Lillian Lee, who used to grow the most beautiful roses

The rose is—
the ornament of the earth,
the glory of nature,
the archetype of the flowers,
the blush of the meadows,
a lightning flash of beauty.

This poem above is my translation of a Sappho epigram.



Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for my wife, Beth, my mother and my grandmothers

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

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

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



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

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch, and the grandmother of my son Jeremy

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 infinite love
will still reach me, underground.



Sailing to My Grandfather
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt Sr.

This distance between us
—this vast sea
of remembrance—
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spray—light fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.

Note: "Under the Sextant’s Stars" is a painting by Benini.



Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

With gentleness and fine and tender will,
attend upon them still;
thou art the grass.

Nor let men’s feet here muddy as they pass
thy subtle undulations, nor depress
for long the comforts of thy lovingness,

nor let the fuse
of time wink out amid the violets.
They have their use—

to wave, to grow, to gleam, to lighten their paths,
to shine sweet, transient glories at their feet.

Thou art the grass;
make them complete.



Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch

for George Edwin Hurt Sr.

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

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

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

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

I wrote the poem above for my grandfather when I was around 18.



Joy in the Morning
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Christine Ena Hurt

There will be joy in the morning
for now this long twilight is over
and their separation has ended.

For fourteen years, he had not seen her
whom he first befriended,
then courted and married.

Let there be joy, and no mourning,
for now in his arms she is carried
over a threshold vastly sweeter.

He never lost her; she only tarried
until he was able to meet her.

Keywords/Tags: George Edwin Hurt Christine Ena Spouse reunited heaven joy together forever



Come Spring
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Come spring we return, innocent and hopeful, to the Virgin,
beseeching Her to bestow
Her blessings upon us.

Pitiable sinners, we bow before Her,
nay, grovel,
as She looms above us, aglow
in Her Purity.

We know
all will change in an instant; therefore
in the morning we will call her,
an untouched maiden no more,
“whore.”

The so-called Religious Right prizes virginity in women and damns them for doing what men do. I have long been a fan of women like Tallulah Bankhead, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West, who decided what’s good for the gander is equally good for the goose.



HOMELESS POETRY

These are poem about the homeless and poems for the homeless.



Epitaph for a Homeless Child
by Michael R. Burch

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



Homeless Us
by Michael R. Burch

The coldest night I ever knew
the wind out of the arctic blew
long frigid blasts; and I was you.

We huddled close then: yes, we two.
For I had lost your house, to rue
such bitter weather, being you.

Our empty tin cup sang the Blues,
clanged—hollow, empty. Carols (few)
were sung to me, for being you.

For homeless us, all men eschew.
They beat us, roust us, jail us too.
It isn’t easy, being you.

Published by Street Smart, First Universalist Church of Denver, Mind Freedom Switzerland and on 20+ web pages supporting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities



Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for homeless mothers and their children

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

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

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



For a Homeless Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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



Neglect
by Michael R. Burch

What good are tears?
Will they spare the dying their anguish?
What use, our concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?

What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action?
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?

Before this day is over,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, emaciate limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?

I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of theirs departing ...
mournful, and distant.

How pitiful our “effort,”
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.



The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Clinging
to the plum tree:
one blossom's worth of warmth
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



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



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



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

               “Evolution’s a Fishy Business!”

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.)

4.
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.

5.
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.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online



A Possible Explanation for the Madness of March Hares
by Michael R. Burch

March hares,
beware!
Spring’s a tease, a flirt!

This is yet another late freeze alert.
Better comfort your babies;
the weather has rabies.



Cold Snap Coin Flip
by Michael R. Burch

Rise and shine,
The world is mine!
Let’s get ahead!

Or ...

Back to bed,
Old sleepyhead,
Dull and supine.



Song Cycle
by Michael R. Burch

Sing us a song of seasons—
of April’s and May’s gay greetings;
let Winter release her sting.
Sing us a song of Spring!

Nay, the future is looking glummer.
Sing us a song of Summer!

Too late, there’s a pall over all;
sing us a song of Fall!

Desist, since the icicles splinter;
sing us a song of Winter!

Sing us a song of seasons—
of April’s and May’s gay greetings;
let Winter release her sting.
Sing us a song of Spring!



Over(t) Simplification
by Michael R. Burch

“Keep it simple, stupid.”

A sonnet is not simple, but the rule
is simply this: let poems be beautiful,
or comforting, or horrifying. Move
the reader, and the world will not reprove
the idiosyncrasies of too few lines,
too many syllables, or offbeat beats.

It only matters that she taps her feet
or that he frowns, or smiles, or grimaces,
or sits bemused—a child—as images
of worlds he’d lost come flooding back, and then . . .
they’ll cheer the poet’s insubordinate pen.

A sonnet is not simple, but the rule
is simply this: let poems be beautiful.



She Was Very Pretty
by Michael R. Burch

She was very pretty, in the usual way
for (perhaps) a day;
and when the boys came out to play,
she winked and smiled, then ran away
till one unexpectedly caught her.

At sixteen, she had a daughter.

She was fairly pretty another day
in her squalid house, in her pallid way,
but the skies ahead loomed drably grey,
and the moonlight gleamed jaundiced on her cheeks.

She was almost pretty perhaps two weeks.

Then she was hardly pretty; her jaw was set.
With streaks of silver scattered in jet,
her hair became a solemn iron grey.
Her daughter winked, then ran away.

She was hardly pretty another day.

Then she was scarcely pretty; her skin was marred
by liver spots; her heart was scarred;
her child was grown; her life was done;
she faded away with the setting sun.

She was scarcely pretty, and not much fun.

Then she was sparsely pretty; her hair so thin;
but a light would sometimes steal within
to remind old, stoic gentlemen
of the rules, and how girls lose to win.



Keywords/Tags: homeless poetry, homeless poems, homelessness, street life, child, children, mom, mother, mothers, America, neglect, starving, dying, perishing, famine, illness, disease, tears, anguish, concern, prayers, inaction, death, charity, love, compassion, kindness, altruism
367 Total read