Michael R. Burch

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The Wonder Boys

These are poems for poets and poems about poets. Also, poems about the art and craft of writing poetry...

The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

(for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right)

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kites, amazed,
in dream of shocks that suddenly came true...

but came almost as static: background noise,
a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned in to their kite strings, saucer-eared.

They thought to feel the lightning’s brilliant sparks
electrify their nerves, their brains; the smoke
of words poured from their overheated hearts.
The kite string, knotted, made a nifty rope...

You will not find them here; they blew away
in tumbling flight beyond nights’ stars. They clung
by fingertips to satellites. They strayed
too far to remain mortal. Elfin, young,

their words are with us still. Devout and fey,
they wink at us whenever skies are gray.

The Singer
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp

The sun that swoons at dusk
and seems a vanished grace
breaks over distant shores
as a child’s uplifted face
takes up a song like yours.
We listen, and embrace
its warmth with dawning trust.

Dawn, to the Singer
by Michael R. Burch

for Leslie Mellichamp

“O singer, sing to me—
I know the world’s awry—
I know how piteously
the hungry children cry.”

We hear you even now—
your voice is with us yet.
Your song did not desert us,
nor can our hearts forget.

“But I bleed warm and near,
And come another dawn
The world will still be here
When home and hearth are gone.”

Although the world seems colder,
your words will warm it yet.
Lie untroubled, still its compass
and guiding instrument.

by Michael R. Burch

for Anaïs Vionet

Sometimes it’s not
so hot
to be hot,

like when you’re
a bullfrog
boiling in a pot

or when you’re a hottie
who’s been a bit naughty
and now has a stalker

who needs to be shot!

a poem in which i a-coos Coo & Co. of being unfairly lovable
by Michael R. Burch

Coo & Co. are unfairly lovable!
their poems are entirely too huggable!
for what hope have we po'-its,
we intellectual know-its,
or no-wits, when ours are so drubabble?

Thanksgiving Poem #1
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Felicity Teague,
we’ve a prophet who doesn’t deceive.
Put down religion,
all furor and schism:
just read her epistles and breathe!

Thanksgiving Poem #2
by Michael R. Burch

Thanks to Coo & Co.
we learn what’s important to know:
Fliss gives us the skinny
about lovely Ginny,
George Swan and the others. Bravo!

Courtly, Courteous Coo
by Michael R. Burch

Coo, the mysterious Columbine,
I’m glad to say, is a friend of mine.

Coo publishes poems composed by Fliss,
and a few of mine, whether hit or miss.

For Coo's much too courteous to say,
as graceless humans do, “No way!”

Plover One to Ground Control
by Michael R. Burch

for Coo & Co.

"Plover, please confirm
you’re not hungover by the worm!"

"I admit it made me squirm
with its stinky, slimy derm

but my beak left no real doubt,
then the tussle became a rout.

I’ve returned to my rocky redoubt.
Plover, over and out."

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

thinking to illuminate the darkness?
—Michael R. Burch

I’ll forgive Aaron Poochigian his “dumb damn PhD”
if he’ll focus all his intellectual powers on me!
—Michael R. Burch

Gwynn and Bear It
by Michael R. Burch

He once was a scholar,
but now he's just hot under the collar:
civility repealed,
his redneck at last revealed.
Parasites to the venue:
cooked Gwynn's on the menu!

I wrote the poem above after Sam Gwynn reported that both his A/C units had gone out at the same time and it was 89 degrees in his office.

Kinda Crazy
by Michael R. Burch

It’s kinda crazy, what I did...
Translated everybody. How?
Batman. Robin. Alfred? Jeeves?
Holy Cow!

How It Happened
by Michael R. Burch

I came, a little out of luck,
to be a poet. Much by pluck.
After destroying
all my annoying
childhood poems “because they suck!”
I gathered all my might,
and then continued to write
(a little by day, but mostly by night)
at odds with the moon
and a “silver shoon,”
seeking a song that someone might croon,
following Blake and a fellow from Doon.
Did it come late, or did it come soon?
Did it come at all?
Fifty years later, “Stay tuned.”

John Masella
’s an engaging fella;
if he writes a book,
it’ll be a bestsella;
and he’s got lotsa things
he’ll be happy to tell ya.
—Michael R. Burch

Jousting for her maidenhood, the Princes Charmin come.
COVID won’t deter them, emboldened by cheap rum.
They’ll meekly beg a favor:
garter, thong or blazer,
then take on, say, King Kong.
—Michael R. Burch

When I visited Byron's residence at Newstead Abbey, there were peacocks running around the grounds, which I thought quite appropriate.

was not a shy one,
as peacocks run.
—Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

It's a crisis in truth, I'm not lying!
Is it "eyeing" or "eying"?

I, for one, am not ayeing

Furthermore, is it "dyeing" or "dying"?

I am eyeing "eying" ire-ily!
Is it "lyeing" or "lying"?
Inform me!

Lines written after A. E. Stallings raised this critical question in a tweet.

Further Stallings
by Michael R. Burch

I am eyeing "eying" ire-ily!
Is it "dyeing" or "dying"?
Inform me!

I wrote “Further Stallings” after A. E. Stallings tweeted that “eyeing” has become “eying” according to some publisher’s house rules. Is the publisher in question Elon Musk or Donald Trump, perhaps?

by Thomas Campion, an English poet who composed poems in Latin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their whores for exotic positions.

by Thomas Campion

Impressionum plurium librum laudat
Librarius; scortum nec non minus leno.

by Thomas Campion, an English poet who composed poems in Latin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dogs raise a ruckus at the stench of a thief,
so what would they say about you, given speech?
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Suspecto quid fure canes cum,
Pontice, latrent Dixissent melius, si potuere loqui?

Pindar Epigrams and Odes

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

Fairest of all preludes is mine to incomparable Athens
as I lay the foundation of songs for the mighty race of Alcmaeonidae and their majestic steeds.
Among all the nations, which heroic house compares with glorious Hellas?
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Toil and expense confront excellence in endeavors fraught with danger,
but those who succeed are considered wise by their companions.
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I rejoice at this accomplishment and yet I also grieve,
seeing how Envy slanders noble endeavors.
—Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Olympian Ode I
by Pindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water is best of all,
and after that Gold flaming like a fire in the night with the luster of imperial wealth;
but if you are reluctant, O my soul, to sing of prizes in mere games ... please consider this:
for just as the brightest star can never outshine the sun no matter how often we scan the heavens by day,
even so we shall never find any games greater than our Olympics!

Therefore we raise our voices!

Hence come these glorious hymns!

Thus our minds bend to those skillful in song,
who celebrate Zeus, the son of Kronos,
as they come to the rich and happy hearth of Hieron ...

Hieron, who wields the scepter of justice in Sicily of the many flocks!

Hieron, who culls the choicest fruits of all sorts of excellence!

Hieron, whose halls flower with the splendid music he makes, as one sings blithely at a friend’s table!

Take down from its peg the Dorian lute!

Let the wise sing of the stallion Pherenikos, the steed who carried Hieron to glory,
who now at Pisa has turned out souls toward glad thoughts and rejoicing,
because by the banks of Alpheos he ran, giving his ungoaded body to the course,
and thus delivered victory to his master, the Syracusans' king, who delights in horses!


Now the majesty we remember today will be ever sovereign to men. All men.
My role is to crown Hieron with an equestrian strain in an elegant Aeolian mood,
and I am sure that no host among men — now, or ever —
shall I ever glorify in the sounding labyrinths of song
who is more learned in the learning of honor or with more might to achieve it!

A god has set a guard over your hopes, O Hieron, and regards them with peculiar care.
And if this god does not fail you, I shall again proclaim in song a greater glory yet,
and find the appropriate words when the time comes,
when to the bright-shining mountain of Kronos I return:
my Muse has yet to release her strongest-wingéd dart!

There are many kinds of greatness in men,
but the highest can only be achieved by kings.
Think not to look further into this,
but let it be your lot to walk loftily all your life,
and mine to be friend to the game-winners, winning honor for my art among Hellenes everywhere.

This is my tribute poem for Bob Dylan, based on my first "meeting" with him at age 11 on a London rooftop...

My boyhood introduction to the Prophet Laureate and how I became his Mini-Me at age eleven
by Michael R. Burch

for Martin Mc Carthy, author of “The Perfect Voice”

Atop a London rooftop
on a rare cloudless day,
between the potted geraniums,
I hear the strange music play ...

Not quite a vintage Victrola,
but maybe a half step up:
late ’69 technology.
I sat up, abrupt.

What the hell was I hearing,
a prophet from days of yore?
Whatever it was, I felt it —
and felt it to the core.

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

The unspoken answer meandered
on the wings of a light summer breeze,
unfiltered by the geraniums
and the dove in me felt ill at ease.

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

I was only eleven and far from heaven,
intent on rock music (and lust),
far from God and his holy rod
(seduced by each small budding bust).

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Who was this unknown prophet
calling me back to the path
of brotherhood through peace?
I felt like I needed a bath!

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Needless to say, I was altered.
Perhaps I was altared too.
I became a poet, peace activist,
and now I Am preaching to you!

For the times, they are a-changin’ ...

Get off your duffs, do what you can,
follow the Prophet’s declaiming:
no need to kneel, just even the keel,
For the times, they are a-changin’!

by Michael R. Burch

apologies to Allen Ginsberg

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media, overdressed obsessive savers dragging themselves scowling through albino streets at dawn looking for a Facebook fix while cautiously protecting their Personal Data,
addleheaded quipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the latest Podcast,
who in poverty for lack of a Smartphone upgrade sat hollow-eyed smoking medicinal weed in the unnatural illumination of their rebooting routers while contemplating the wonders of AI,
who bared their brains to ChatGPT and saw Marvel-ous angels in YouTube ads while waxing nostalgic about things they never actually experienced,
who passed through minor universities with solid B’s hallucinating careers as computer programmers advancing quickly to systems analysts, ready to compete confidently with robots,
who were never expelled for publishing obscene odes on bathroom stalls or Subway walls, but were always well-behaved and polite to their supervisors,
who always wore appropriate underwear to job interviews and never burned their bras in defiance of Big Brother,
who never grew their hair too long or sprouted scraggly beards while returning on redeyes from Big Apple job interviews,
who never ate fire in paint hotels, or drank turpentine in paradise alley, or purgatoried their toned torsos night after night with dreams, or with drugs, but only with reruns of Games of Thrones,
who never wandered blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of canada & paterson, but rather sought the mystical illumination of AI,
who scorned peyote for the tantalizing Tweets of Technocrats sharing their opinions like oracles,
who never once chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from battery to the bronx on benzedrine, but only arrived at the next job interview drained of brilliance in the drear light of the latest breakup between Ross and Rachel,
who were always ready to please their oppressive employers with robotic diligence while advancing in their careers like automatons,
who never sank all night in the submarine light of bickford’s but floated high on the stirring strains of the Spice Girls and Justin Bieber,
who talked continuously seventy hours about the advantages of homoeopathic medicines, a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists more progressive than Wonder Bread and Wireless Bras, all crying “me too,”
yakety-yakking facts, anecdotes and memories all plastered incessantly on Instagram,
whose intellects were disgorged for seven sleepless days and nights with eyes dulled by monitor radiance, as if they’d been marooned on the moon with Maroon 5,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of unambiguous selfies shot with the ubiquitous holy iPhone, suffering Whatsapp withdrawal sweats and Internet downtime migraines worse than any heroin addict’s,
who wandered restless at midnight wondering when Paradise Lost would be restored, i.e. the Internet coming back up, while making prophets of Green Day,
who never lit cigarettes in boxcars or even knew what boxcars were, but rode Virtual “Reality” snowmobiles to the north pole, then bragged about their conquests on Quora,
who never read plotinus poe st. john of the cross but knew by heart every word uttered in the Marvel Universe and every word of Klingon ever spoken on Star Trek,
who never loned it through the streets of idaho seeking visionary indian angels but only revered Warren Kenneth Worthington III,
who experienced bliss when the Big Bang aired in supernatural ecstasy and a nerd nailed the cute girl (Aye, there is hope for us all!).
who rode in rented limousines on prom night dreaming of similar hookups while listening to Justin Timberlake prophetically sing “Cry Me a River,”
who lounged wellfed through houston seeking sex or Smartphone games only to relate their lack of success on SnapChat,
who disappeared into the bowels of Bluetooth wired to their earbuds never to be seen again, not even on Reddit,
only to reappear on TikTok investigating 9-11 conspiracy theories and posting incomprehensible memes,
who burned vape holes in their arms protesting the cancellation of Friends, then posted the pictures on Pinterest,
who distributed languid Tweets mildly protesting the term “slacktivism,”
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the bullying of jocks,
who bit their abusers with sharp braces and attacked them with protractors stored unconcealed in their plaid shirt pockets’ plastic holsters,
who howled on their knees for faster Internet access, like monks for transcendence,
who watched Internet porn until their libidos shriveled,
who were blown, then blown away by sexy Avatars,
who balled so infrequently they had only 2.02 children,
who preferred Marvel’s Angel to those of religion,
who lost their loverboys and/or lovergirls to the lures of the latest Video Game and LinkedIn,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with Alexa until they came eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who preferred the snatches of virtual girlfriends to those of their real ones (And safer as well!) trembling with joy after sunset but redeyed rising from lack of sleep perusing Paradisal Porn,
who went out VR-whoring safe from venereal diseases, fabled Cocksmen and Adonises of their sheeplike Android Dreams, the Marvel-ous Masters of innumerable lays of girls with artificial breasts bigger than Bot-swana,
who starred in sordid movies as their Avatars, grabbed snatches of sleep, then woke with sudden Smartwatch alarms in order to arrive dutifully at work on time, if slightly worse for wear,
who never walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for an east river door to swing open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
but instead employed E-Readers to study Ulysses in preparation for MFA exams,
who never ate the lamb stew of the imagination but only digested slimy eels dredged from the muddy river bottoms of Babel-on,
who wept at the music of Britney Spears pouring endlessly from their Smart Speakers,
whose best friends and heroes were Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj (And how earnestly we prayed for them to finally get laid!),
who never sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, nor rose to build harpsichords in their lofts,
but instead worshiped the gods of American Idol and bowed prostrate before a heavenly Voice,
who confused rock-‘n’-roll with fizzled pop, whose anthem became “I Want It That Way” sung by the Backstreet Boys,
whose archetype was Eminem’s Stan, the Holy Grail of Fandom,
who screamed “Save the whales!” while shucking oysters and watching Predator reruns,
who never plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg, but instead preferred vegan Egg Replacers,
who never threw their watches from roofs to cast their ballot for Eternity outside Time, but dutifully set their Smartwatches to remind them when to exercise, and stop, and when to record Sex and the City,
who never opened actual antique stores but sold their families’ heirlooms on eBay,
who were never burned alive in their well-tailored suits on Madison Avenue but were run down after hours by the drunken taxicab of Leisure Suit Larry,
who never jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge but once bungeed from the Bridge to Nowhere on a dare,
who never sang from their windows in despair, but posted many aggrieved missives on their sacred Facebook walls,
who barreled down many Virtual Highways in their Virtual Hotrods despite never mastering a real-world stick shift,
whose only Mario was a plumber,
who never drove crosscountry seventytwo hours pursuing a vision of eternity, but once played Gran Turismo seventytwo hours nonstop,
who never made it to Denver, but managed the Broncos thanks to Madden,
who never fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation, but blessed each other in the names of Marvel-ous Odin, Thor and heavenly Asgaard,
who retired to California to cultivate legal weed and thus never ended up in jail pleading to pay their bail with BitCoin,
who never demanded sanity trials but questioned the nature of reality having grokked The Matrix,
who never threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers but were always attentive to their mentors,
who like the Cambridge ladies were invariably interested in various things like insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protests revolted mildly against the trumping of the paris accords,
who would have been bald by now except for hair plugs imprecisely implanted,
who never bickered with the echoes of the soul in foetid halls as their bodies turned to stone heavy as the moon,
but always thanked their mothers on Facebook after watching It’s a Wonderful Life (obligatory at Christmastime) for the umpteenth time.
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