These are prose poems and experimental poems.

Prose Poem: The Trouble with Poets
by Michael R. Burch

This morning the neighborhood girls were helping their mothers with chores, but one odd little girl went out picking roses by herself, looking very small and lonely. Suddenly the odd one refused to pick roses anymore because it occurred to her that being plucked might “hurt” them. Now she just sits beside the bushes, rocking gently back and forth, weeping and consoling the vegetation!

Now she’s lost all interest in nature, which she finds “appalling.” She dresses in black “like Rilke” and murmurs that she prefers the “roses of the imagination”! Intermittently she mumbles something about being “pricked in conscience” and being “pricked to death.” What on earth can she mean? Does she plan to have sex until she dies?

For chrissake, now she’s locked herself in her room and refuses to come out until she has “conjured” the “perfect rose of the imagination”! We haven’t seen her for days. Her only communications are texts punctuated liberally with dashes. They appear to be badly-rhymed poems. She signs them “starving artist” in lower-case. What on earth can she mean? Is she anorexic, or bulimic, or is this just a phase she’ll outgrow?

Prose Poem: Something
―for the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba
by Michael R. Burch

Something inescapable is lost—lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight, vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars immeasurable and void. Something uncapturable is gone—gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn, scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass and remembrance. Something unforgettable is past—blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less, which finality swept into a corner, where it lies ... in dust and cobwebs and silence.

This was my first poem that didn't rhyme, written in my late teens. The poem came to me "from blue nothing" (to borrow a phrase from my friend the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier). Years later, I dedicated the poem to the children of the Holocaust and the Nakba.

by Michael R. Burch

manishatched,hopsintotheMix, cavorts,hassex(quick!,spawnanewBrood!); then,likeamayfly,he’ssuddenlygone: plantfood.

by Michael R. Burch

She has belief without comprehension, and in her crutchwork shack she is much like us ... Tamping the bread into edible forms, regarding her children at play with something akin to relief ... Ignoring the towers ablaze in the distance because they are not revelations but things of glass, easily shattered ... And if you were to ask her, she might say—"Sometimes God visits his wrath upon an impious nation for its leaders’ sins!" ... And we might agree: seeing her mutilations.

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.

Critical Mass
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this evening and it has a certain gravity, as if it knows its destination, perhaps even its particular destiny. I do not believe mine is to be uplifted, although I, too, may be flung precipitously and from a great height.

Here "gravity" and "particular destiny" are puns, since rain droplets are seeded by minute particles of dust adrift in the atmosphere and they fall due to gravity when they reach "critical mass." The title is also a pun, since the poem is skeptical about heaven-lauding Masses and other religious ceremonies.

It’s Hard Not To Be Optimistic: An Updated Sonnet to Science
by Michael R. Burch

“DNA has cured deadly diseases and allowed labs to create animals with fantastic new features.” — U.S. News & World Report

It’s hard not to be optimistic when things are so wondrously futuristic: when DNA, our new Louie Pasteur, can effect an autonomous, miraculous cure, while labs churn out fluorescent monkeys who, with infinite typewriters, might soon outdo USN&WR’s flunkeys. Yes, it’s hard not to be optimistic when the world is so delightfully pluralistic: when Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive, and Hawking says time can run backwards. We thrive, befuddled drones, on someone else’s regurgitated nectar, while our cheers drown out poet-alarmists who might Hector the Achilles heel of pure science (common sense) and reporters who tap out supersillyous nonsense.

Dear U.S. News & World Report Editors: I am a fan of both real science and science fiction, and I like to think I can tell the difference, at least between the two extremes. I feel confident that Schrödinger didn’t think the cat in his famous experiment was both dead and alive. Rather, he was pointing out that we can’t know until we open the box, scratchings and smell aside. While traveling backwards in time is great for science fiction, it seems extremely doubtful as a practical application. And as for DNA curing deadly diseases ... well, it must have created them, so perhaps don’t give it too much credit! While I’m usually a fan of your magazine, as a writer I must take to task the Frankensteinian logic of the excerpt I cited, and I challenge you to publish my “letter” as proof that poets do have a function in the third millennium, even if it is only to suggest that paid writers should not create such outlandish, freakish horrors of the English language.—Somewhat irked, but still a fan, Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

u are charming & disarming, but mostly !!!ALARMING!!! since all my resolve dissolved! u are chic as a sheikh's harem girl in the sheets, but now my bed’s not my own and my kingdom's been overthrown!

Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry. You could have saved her, but you were all tied up: complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp. Scratch that. You were born after World War II. You had something more important to do: while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a religious tract against homosexual marriage and various things gods and evangelists disparage.) Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure. After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians? Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians. Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.

by michael r. burch

to live among the daffodil folk ... slip down the rainslickened drainpipe ... suddenly pop out the GARGANTUAN SPOUT ... minuscule as alice, shout yippee-yi-yee! in wee exultant glee to be leaving behind the LARGE THREE-DENALI GARAGE.

by Michael R. Burch

u are too beautiful, too innocent,  too inherently lovely to merely reflect the sun’s splendor ... too full of irresistible candor to remain silent, too delicately fawnlike for a world so violent ... come, my beautiful bambi and i will protect you ...  but of course u have already been lured away by the dew-laden roses ...

Children's Prose Poem: The Three Sisters and the Mysteries of the Magical Pond
by Michael R. Burch

Every child has a secret name, which only their guardian angel knows. Fortunately, I am able to talk to angels, so I know the secret names of the Three Sisters who are the heroines of the story I am about to tell ...

The secret names of the Three Sisters are Etheria, Sunflower and Bright Eyes. Etheria, because the eldest sister’s hair shines like an ethereal blonde halo. Sunflower, because the middle sister loves to plait bright flowers into her hair. Bright Eyes, because the youngest sister has flashing dark eyes that are sometimes full of mischief! This is the story of how the Three Sisters solved the Three Mysteries of the Magical Pond ...

The first mystery of the Magical Pond was the mystery of the Great Heron. Why did the Great Heron seem so distant and aloof, never letting human beings or even other animals come close to it? This great mystery was solved by Etheria, who noticed that the Great Heron was so large it couldn’t fly away from danger quickly. So the Heron was not being aloof at all ... it was simply being cautious and protecting itself by keeping its distance from faster creatures. Things are not always as they appear!

The second mystery was the mystery of the River Monster. What was the dreaded River Monster, and did it pose a danger to the three sisters and their loved ones? This great mystery was solved by Sunflower, who found the River Monster’s footprints in the mud after a spring rain. Sunflower bravely followed the footprints to a bank of the pond, looked down, and to her surprise found a giant snapping turtle gazing back at her! Thus the mystery was solved, and the River Monster was not dangerous to little girls or their family and friends, because it was far too slow to catch them. But it could be dangerous if anyone was foolish enough to try to pet it. Sometimes it is best to leave nature’s larger creatures alone, and not tempt fate, even when things are not always as they appear!

The third mystery was the most perplexing of all. How was it possible that tiny little starlings kept chasing away much larger crows, hawks and eagles? What a conundrum! (A conundrum is a perplexing problem that is very difficult to solve, such as the riddle: “What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs during the day, then on three legs at night?” Can you solve it? ... The answer is a human being, who crawls on four legs as a baby, then walks on two legs most of its life, but needs a walking cane in old age. This is the famous Riddle of the Sphinx.) Yes, what a conundrum! But fortunately Bright Eyes was able to solve the Riddle of the Starlings, because she noticed that the tiny birds were much more agile in the air, while the much larger hawks and eagles couldn’t change direction as easily. So, while it seemed the starlings were risking their lives to defend their nests, in reality they had the advantage! Once again, things are not always as they appear!

Now, these are just three adventures of the Three Sisters, and there are many others. In fact, they will have a whole lifetime of adventures, and perhaps we can share in them from time to time. But if their mother reads them this story at bedtime, by the end of the story their eyes may be getting very sleepy, and they may soon have dreams of Giant Herons, and Giant Turtles, and Tiny Starlings chasing away Crows, Hawks and Eagles! Sweet dreams, Etheria, Sunflower and Bright Eyes!

Fake News, Probably
by Michael R. Burch

The elusive Orange-Tufted Fitz-Gibbon is the rarest of creatures—rarer by far than Sasquatch and the Abominable Snowman (although they are very similar in temperament and destructive capabilities). While the common gibbon is not all that uncommon, the orange-tufted genus has been found less frequently in the fossil record than hobbits and unicorns. The Fitz-Gibbon sub-genus is all the more remarkable because it apparently believes itself to be human, and royalty, no less! Now there are rumors—admittedly hard to believe—that an Orange-Tufted Fitz-Gibbon resides in the White House and has been spotted playing with the nuclear codes while chattering incessantly about attacking China, Mexico, Iran and North Korea. We find it very hard to credit such reports. Surely American voters would not elect an oddly-colored ape with self-destructive tendencies president!

Writing Verse for Free, Versus Programs for a Fee
by Michael R. Burch

How is writing a program like writing a poem? You start with an idea, something fresh. Almost a wish. Something effervescent, like foam flailing itself against the rocks of a lost tropical coast ...

After the idea, of course, there are complications and trepidations, as with the poem or even the foam. Who will see it, appreciate it, understand it? What will it do? Is it worth the effort, all the mad dashing and crashing about, the vortex—all that? And to what effect?

Next comes the real labor, the travail, the scouring hail of things that simply don’t fit or make sense. Of course, with programming you have the density of users to fix, which is never a problem with poetry, since the users have already had their fix (this we know because they are still reading and think everything makes sense); but this is the only difference.

Anyway, what’s left is the debugging, or, if you’re a poet, the hugging yourself and crying, hoping someone will hear you, so that you can shame them into reading your poem, which they will refuse, but which your mother will do if you phone, perhaps with only the tiniest little mother-of-the-poet, harried, self-righteous moan.

The biggest difference between writing a program and writing a poem is simply this: if your program works, or seems to work, or almost works, or doesn’t work at all, you’re set and hugely overpaid. Made-in-the-shade-have-a-pink-lemonade-and-ticker-tape-parade OVERPAID.

If your poem is about your lover and sucks up quite nicely, perhaps you’ll get laid. Perhaps. Regardless, you’ll probably see someone repossessing your furniture and TV to bring them posthaste to someone like me. The moral is this: write programs first, then whatever passes for poetry. DO YOUR SHARE; HELP END POVERTY TODAY!

Prose Poem: Litany
by Michael R. Burch

Will you take me with all my blemishes? I will take you with all your blemishes, and show you mine. We’ll suck wine out of cardboard boxes till our teeth and lips shine red like greedily gorging foxes’. We’ll swill our fill, then have sex for hours till our neglected guts at last rebel. At two in the morning, we’ll eat cold Krystals out of greasy cardboard boxes, and we will be in love. And that’s it? That’s it! And can I go out with my friends and drink until dawn? You can go out with your friends and drink until dawn, come home lipstick-collared, pass out by the pool, or stay at the bar till the new moon sets, because we will be in love, and in love there is no room for remorse or regret. There is no right, no wrong, and no mistrust, only limb-numbing sex, hot-pistoning lust. And that’s all? That’s all. That’s great! But wait... Wait? Why? What’s wrong? I want to have your children. Children? Well, perhaps just one. And what will happen when we have children? The most incredible things will happen—you’ll change, stop acting so strangely, start paying more attention to me, start paying your bills on time, grow up and get rid of your horrible friends, and never come home at a-quarter-to-three drunk from a night of swilling, smelling like a lovesick skunk, stop acting so lewdly, start working incessantly so that we can afford a new house which I will decorate lavishly and then grow tired of in a year or two or three, start growing a paunch so that no other woman would ever have you, stop acting so boorishly, start growing a beard because you’re too tired to shave, or too afraid, thinking you might slit your worthless wrinkled throat...

Sweet Nothings
by Michael R. Burch

Tonight, will you whisper me a sweet enchantment? We’ll take my motorcycle, blaze a trail of metallic exhaust and scorched-black sulphuric fumes to a tawdry diner where I’ll slip my fingers under your yellow sun dress, inside the elastic waist band of your thin white cotton panties, till your pinkling lips moisten obligingly and the corpulent pink hot dog with tangy brown mustard and sweet pickle relish comes. Tonight, can we talk about something other than sex, perhaps things we both love? What I love is to go to the beach, where the hot oil smells like baking coconuts, and lie in the sun’s humidor thinking of you, while the sand worms its way inside your sexy little pink bikini, your compressed breasts squishy with warm sweet milk like coconuts, the hair between your legs sleek as a wet mink’s ... Tonight, can we make love instead of just talking dirty? Sorry, honey, I’m just not in the mood.

Sometimes the Dead
by Michael R. Burch

Sometimes we catch them out of the corners of our eyes—the pale dead. After they have fled the gourds of their bodies, like escaping fragrances they rise. Once they have become a cloud’s mist, sometimes like the rain they descend; ... they appear, sometimes silver, like laughter, to gladden the hearts of men. Sometimes like a pale gray fog, they drift unencumbered, yet lumbrously, as if over the sea there was the lightest vapor even Atlas could not lift. Sometimes they haunt our dreams like forgotten melodies only half-remembered. Though they lie dismembered in black catacombs, sepulchers and dismal graves; although they have committed felonies, yet they are us. Someday soon we will meet them in the graveyard dust, blood-engorged, but never sated since Cain slew Abel. But until we become them, let us steadfastly forget them, even as we know our children must ...

Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Desire glides in on calico wings, a breath of a moth seeking a companionable light ... where it hovers, unsure, sullen, shy or demure, in the margins of night, a soft blur. With a frantic dry rattle of alien wings, it rises and thrums one long breathless staccato ... and flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight. And yet it returns to the flame, its delight, as long as it burns.

Burn, Ovid
by Michael R. Burch

“Burn Ovid”—Austin Clarke

Sunday School, Faith Free Will Baptist, 1973: I sat imaging watery folds of pale silk encircling her waist. Explicit sex was the day’s “hot” topic (how breathlessly I imagined hers) as she taught us the perils of lust fraught with inhibition. I found her unaccountably beautiful, as she rolled implausible nouns off the edge of her tongue: adultery, fornication, masturbation, sodomy. Acts made suddenly plausible by the faint blush of her unrouged cheeks, by her pale lips accented only by a slight quiver, a trepidation. What did those lustrous folds foretell of our uncommon desire? Why did she cross and uncross her legs lovely and long in their taupe sheaths? Why did her breasts rise pointedly, as if indicating a direction?

“Come unto me,
(unto me),”
together, we sang,

cheek to breast,
lips on lips,
devout, afire,

my hands
up her skirt,
her pants at her knees:

all night long,
all night long,
in the heavenly choir.

Sex 101
by Michael R. Burch

That day the late spring heat steamed through the windows of a Crayola-yellow schoolbus crawling its way up the backwards slopes of Nowheresville, North Carolina ... Where we sat exhausted from the day’s skulldrudgery and the unexpected waves of muggy, summer-like humidity ... Giggly first graders sat two abreast behind senior high students sprouting their first sparse beards, their implausible bosoms, their stranger affections ... The most unlikely coupling—Lambert, 18, the only college prospect on the varsity basketball team, the proverbial talldarkhandsome swashbuckling cocksman, grinning ... Beside him, Wanda, 13, bespectacled, in her primproper attire and pigtails, staring up at him, fawneyed, disbelieving ... And as the bus filled with the improbable musk of her, as she twitched impaled on his finger like a dead frog jarred to life by electrodes, I knew ... that love is a forlorn enterprise, that I would never understand it.

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

We stare out at the cold gray sea, overcome with such sudden and intense longing ... our eyes meet, inviolate ... 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, leapt 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, again, 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?

Memento Mori
by Michael R. Burch

I found among the elms something like the sound of your voice, something like the aftermath of love itself after the lightning strikes, when the startled wind shrieks ... a gored-out wound in wood, love’s pale memento mori—that white scar in that first heart, forever unhealed ... and a burled, thick knot incised with six initials pledged
against all possible futures, and penknife-notched below, six edged, chipped words
that once cut deep and said ...


... which now, so disconsolately answer ...


by Michael R. Burch

“We will walk taller!” said Gupta, sorta abrupta, hand-in-hand with his mom, eyeing the A-bomb. “Who needs a mahatma in the aftermath of NAFTA? Now, that was a disaster,” cried glib Punjab. “After Y2k, time will spin out of control anyway,”
flamed Vijay. “My family is relatively heavy, too big even for a pig-barn Chevy;
we need more space,” spat What’s His Face. “What does it matter, dirge or mantra,” sighed Serge. “The world will wobble in Hubble’s lens till the tempest ends,” wailed Mercedes. “The world is going to hell in a bucket. So fuck it and get outta my face!
We own this place! Me and my friends got more guns than ISIS, so what’s the crisis?”
cried Bubba Billy Joe Bob Puckett.

by Michael R. Burch

What shall I say to you, to confess, words? Words that can never express anything close to what I feel? For words that seem tangible, real, when I think them become vaguely surreal when I put ink to them. And words that I thought that I knew, like "love" and "devotion" never ring true. While "passion" sounds strangely like the latest fashion or a perfume.

NOTE: At the time I wrote this poem, a perfume called Passion was in fashion.

by Michael R. Burch

I found a stone ablaze in a streambed, honed to a flickering jewel by all the clear, swiftly-flowing millennia of water... and as I kneeled to do it obeisance, the homage of retrieval, it occurred to me that perhaps its muddied underbelly, rooted precariously in the muck and excrescence of its slow loosening upward ... might not be finished, like a poem brilliantly faceted but only half revised, which sparkles seductively but is not yet worth

ecstatic digging.

Open Portal
by Michael R. Burch

“You already have zero privacy—get over it.”—Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems

While ur at it—don’t bother to wear clothes: US know what ur concealing underneath. Let the bathroom door swing open. O, let, US peer in! What ur doing, US have DETERmined, may be a sin! When u visit ur mother and it’s time to brush your teeth, it’s okay to openly spit. And, while ur at it, go ahead—take a long, noisy shit. What the hell is ur objection? What on earth is all this fuss? Just what is it, exactly, u would conceal from US?

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.

by Michael R. Burch

these are the days of doom; u seldom leave ur room; u live in perpetual gloom ... yet also the days of hope; how to cope? u pray and u grope ... toward self illumination ... becoming an angel (pure love) ... and yet You must love Your Self ...

If you know someone who is very caring and loving, but struggles with self worth, this may be a poem to consider.

Reason Without Rhyme
by Michael R. Burch

I used to be averse
to free verse,
but now I admit
YOUR rhyming is WORSE!

But alas, in the end,
it’s all the same:
all verse is unpaid
and a crying shame.

Keywords/Tags: prose poem, prose poems, prose, poetry, free verse, experimental verse, poets, roses, Rilke, imagination, artist, death, sea, sun, illumination