Year: 
2021

These are poems about fall, falls and falling, whether in love or literally ...

Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

These cloudless nights, the sky becomes a wheel
where suns revolve around an axle star ...
Look there, and choose. Decide which moon is yours.
Sink Lethe-ward, held only by a heel.

Advantage. Disadvantage. Who can tell?
To see is not to know, but you can feel
the tug sometimes—the gravity, the shell
as lustrous as damp pearl. You sink, you reel

toward some draining revelation. Air—
too thin to grasp, to breath. Such pressure. Gasp.
The stars invert, electric, everywhere.
And so we fall in spirals through night’s fissure—

two beings—pale, intent to fall forever
around each other—fumbling at love’s tether ...
now separate, now distant, now together.

Published by Poetry Porch/Sonnet Scroll, Poetry Life & Times, Artvilla, Trinacria, The Chained Muse and vzjp.cz (in a Czech translation by Václav Z J Pinkava)

***

Free Fall (II)
by Michael R. Burch

I have no earthly remembrance of you, as if
we were never of earth, but merely white clouds adrift,
swirling together through Himalayan serene altitudes—
no more man and woman than exhaled breath—unable to fall
back to solid existence, despite the air’s sparseness: all
our being borne up, because of our lightness,
toward the sun’s unendurable brightness . . .

But since I touched you, fire consumes each wing!

We who are unable to fly, stall
contemplating disaster. Despair like an anchor, like an iron ball,
heavier than ballast, sinks on its thick-looped chain
toward the earth, and soon thereafter there will be sufficient pain
to recall existence, to make the coming darkness everlasting.

***

Free Fall to Liftoff
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleam
in his still-keen eye,
and I understand his desire
to test this last wind,
like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...

***

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.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, Deronda Review, Jewish Letter (Russia), Verse Weekly, Brief Poems, Poezii (Romania), Deviant Art, Setu (India), Stremez (Macedonia), Better Than Starbucks, Borderless Journal, Green Tapestry, Hannah’s Walk, and translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish, Arabic and Romanian

***

Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Robert Frost

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth’s gravitron—
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn’s cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful—
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we’d feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Published by The Raintown Review, Stremez (translated into Macedonian by Marija Girevska), Jewish Letter (translated into Russian by Vera Zubarev), The Chimaera, Contemporary Sonnet, The Eclectic Muse, Better Than Starbucks, Glass Facets of Poetry, Victorian Violet Press, Freshet and Deronda Review; also won fourth place and $100 in the Tom Howard Poetry Contest conducted by Winning Writers

***

Love Is Not Love
by Michael R. Burch      

for Beth

Love is not love that never looked
within itself and questioned all,
curled up like a zygote in a ball,
throbbed, sobbed and shook.

(Or went on a binge at a nearby mall,
then would not cook.)

Love is not love that never winced,
then smiled, convinced
that soar’s the prerequisite of fall.

When all
its wounds and scars have been saline-rinsed,
where does Love find the wherewithal
to try again,
endeavor, when

all that it knows
is: O, because!

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Deronda Review, Better Than Starbucks and Stremez (translated into Macedonian by Marija Girevska)

Keywords/Tags: Love, zygote, binge, mall, soar, fall, wounds, scars, tears, persistence, hope, fetal ball, sob, sobs, sobbing, shake, shaking, throb, throbbing, wince, wincing, smile, smiling, convinced, prerequisite, wherewithal, endeavor, just because

***

Last Anthem
by Michael R. Burch

Where you have gone are the shadows falling . . .
does memory pale
like a fossil in shale
. . . do you not hear me calling?

Where you have gone do the shadows lengthen . . .
does memory wane
with the absence of pain
. . . is silence at last your anthem?

***

Lucifer, to the Enola Gay
by Michael R. Burch

Go then,
and give them my meaning
so that their teeming
streets
become my city.

Bring back a pretty
flower—
a chrysanthemum,
perhaps, to bloom
if but an hour,
within a certain room
of mine
where
the sun does not rise or fall,
and the moon,
although it is content to shine,
helps nothing at all.

There,
if I hear the wistful call
of their voices
regretting choices
made
or perhaps not made
in time,
I can look back upon it and recall,
in all
its pale forms sublime,
still
Death will never be holy again.

Published by Romantics Quarterly, Penny Dreadful, Warosu (Japan), Pela Poesia (Portugal), Borderless Journal (Singapore), ArtVilla, Poetry Life & Times, Let Justice Roll and Study.com

***

Death Fugue
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
We’re digging a grave like a hole in the sky;
there’s sufficient room to lie there.
The man of the house plays with vipers; he writes
in the Teutonic darkness, “Your golden hair Margarete ...”
He composes by starlight, whistles hounds to stand by,
whistles Jews to dig graves, where together they’ll lie.
He commands us to strike up bright tunes for the dance!

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come dawn, come midday, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house plays with serpents; he writes ...
he writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete ...
Your ashen hair Shulamith ...”
We are digging dark graves where there’s more room, on high.
His screams, “Hey you, dig there!” and “Hey you, sing and dance!”
He grabs his black nightstick, his eyes pallid blue,
screaming, “Hey you, dig deeper! You others—sing, dance!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house writes, “Your golden hair Margarete ...
Your ashen hair Shulamith ...” as he cultivates snakes.
He screams, “Play Death more sweetly! Death’s the master of Germany!”
He cries, “Scrape those dark strings, soon like black smoke you’ll rise
to your graves in the skies; there’s sufficient room for Jews there!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come midnight;
we drink you come midday; Death’s the master of Germany!
We drink you come dusk; we drink you and drink you ...
He’s a master of Death, his pale eyes deathly blue.
He fires leaden slugs, his aim level and true.
He writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete ...”
He unleashes his hounds, grants us graves in the skies.
He plays with his serpents; Death’s the master of Germany ...

“Your golden hair Margarete ...
your ashen hair Shulamith.”

Published by Bewildering Stories, Rose Marie’s Litteratur (Germany), Supporting Evidence, War Poems Student Book and cnpoems (China)

***

A Page from the Deportation Diary
by Wladyslaw Szlengel
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I saw Janusz Korczak walking today,
leading the children, at the head of the line.
They were dressed in their best clothes—immaculate, if gray.
Some say the weather wasn’t dismal, but fine.

They were in their best jumpers and laughing (not loud),
but if they’d been soiled, tell me—who could complain?
They walked like calm heroes through the haunted crowd,
five by five, in a whipping rain.

The pallid, the trembling, watching high overhead
through barely cracked windows, were transfixed with dread.

Every now and then, from the loud, tolling bell
a strange moan escaped, like a sea gull’s wailed cry.
Their “superiors” watched, their bleak eyes hard as stone,
so let us not flinch, friend, as they march on, to die.

Footfalls . . . then silence . . . the cadence of feet . . .
O, who can console them, their last mile so drear?
The church bells peal on, over shocked Leszno Street.
Will Jesus Christ save them? The high bells career.

No, God will not save them. Nor you, friend, nor I.
But let us not flinch, as they march on, to die.

No one will offer the price of their freedom.
No one will proffer a single word.
His eyes hard as gavels, the silent policeman
agrees with the priest and his terrible Lord:

                                  “Give them the Sword!”

At the town square, dear friend, there is no intervention.
No one tugs Schmerling’s sleeve. No one cries:
“Rescue the children!” The air, thick with tension,
reeks with the odor of vodka, and lies.

How calmly he walks, with a child in each arm:
Gut Doktor Korczak, please keep them from harm!

A fool rushes up with a reprieve in hand:
“Look Janusz Korczak—please look, you’ve been spared!”
No use for that. One resolute man,
uncomprehending that no one else cared
—not enough to defend them—
his choice is to end with them.

What can he say to the thick-skulled conferer
of such sordid blessings?
Should he whisper, “Mein Führer!”
then arrange window dressings?

It’s too late for lessons.
His last rites are kisses
for two hundred children
the wailing world “misses”
but he alone befriended
and with his love, defended.

But dear friend, never fear:
be absolved by a Tear!

Published by: Wladyslaw Szlengel Blog, Poetas Siglo (Spain), Schofield English III and cnpoems (China)

Wladyslaw Szlengel (1912-1943) was a Jewish-Polish poet, lyricist, journalist and stage actor. A victim of the Holocaust, he and his wife died during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Janusz Korczak (c. 1878-1942) was a Jewish-Polish educator and children’s author who refused to abandon the Jewish orphans in his care and accompanied them to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis at the Treblinka extermination camp. Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, poem, Janusz Korczak, Wladyslaw Szlengel, children, orphans, Warsaw, Treblinka, genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, intolerance, injustice, murder, horror, terror, Nazis

***

Step Into Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

Step into starlight,
lovely and wild,
lonely and longing,
a woman, a child . . .

Throw back drawn curtains,
enter the night,
dream of his kiss
as a comet ignites . . .

Then fall to your knees
in a wind-fumbled cloud
and shudder to hear
oak hocks groaning aloud.

Flee down the dark path
to where the snaking vine bends
and withers and writhes
as winter descends . . .

And learn that each season
ends one vanished day,
that each pregnant moon holds
no spent tides in her sway . . .

For, as suns seek horizons,
boys fall, men decline.
As the grape sags with its burden, / heavy-burdened / swollen, gravid / see more below ...
remember—the wine!

Published by The Lyric, The Chained Muse, Poetry Life & Times and OperaNews

***

Leave Taking (II)
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Silver Stork

***

Precipice
by 
Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

They will teach you to scoff at love
from the highest, windiest precipice of reason.

Do not believe them.

There is no place safe for you to fall
save into the arms of love.

***

Am I
by Michael R. Burch

Am I inconsequential;
do I matter not at all?
Am I just a snowflake,
to sparkle, then to fall?

Am I only chaff?
Of what use am I?
Am I just a feeble flame,
to flicker, then to die?

Am I inadvertent?
For what reason am I here?
Am I just a ripple
in a pool that once was clear?

Am I insignificant?
Will time pass me by?
Am I just a flower,
to live one day, then die?

Am I unimportant?
Do I matter either way?
Or am I just an echo—
soon to fade away?

This is one of my early poems, written around age 14 or 15.

***

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber of these ancient halls.
I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time—alone, not untouched.
And I am as they were—unsure, for the days
stretch out ahead, a bewildering maze.

Ah, faithless lover—that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.
For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has leapt from the pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

***

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

I.

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.  

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time—alone,
not untouched.

And I am as they were
...unsure...
for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.

Ah, faithless lover—
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.

A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we fail to gauge Time’s speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

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

IV.

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

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

V.

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

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

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

VI.

So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills’
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar’s shrill, cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any;
how can I—when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
framed by your perfect pillowcase?

VII.

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

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

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

VIII.

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

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

IX.

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

X.

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

XI.

This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these Hallowed Halls.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

Keywords/Tags: fall, free fall, falling, night, sky, wheel, axle, orbit, gravity, star, moon, planet, satellite, Lethe, air, atmosphere, tether, tethered, umbilical, floating, separate, separation, distance, closeness, nearness, togetherness, attachment

***

To Flower
by Michael R. Burch

When Pentheus [“grief’] went into the mountains in the garb of the baccae, his mother [Agave] and the other maenads, possessed by Dionysus, tore him apart (Euripides, Bacchae; Apollodorus 3.5.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.511-733; Hyginus, Fabulae 184). The agave dies as soon as it blooms; the moonflower, or night-blooming cereus, is a desert plant of similar fate.

We are not long for this earth, I know—
you and I, all our petals incurled,
till a night of pale brilliance, moonflower aglow.
Is there love anywhere in this strange world?

The agave knows best when it’s time to die
and rages to life with such rapturous leaves
her name means Illustrious. Each hour more high,
she claws toward heaven, for, if she believes 

in love at all, she has left it behind
to flower, to flower. When darkness falls
she wilts down to meet it, where something crawls:
beheaded, bewildered. And since love is blind,

she never adored it, nor watches it go.
Can we be as she is, moonflower aglow?

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, Famous Poets and Poems, Poetry on Demand, Inspirational Stories, The Chained Muse and Sonnetto Poesia (Canada)

Keywords/Tags: fall, falls, falling, free-fall, sky, sun, stars, moon, air, wind, breath

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