Year: 
2021

These are poems about coming together, or failing to come together due to misunderstandings, alienation, divisions, a loss of interest, or simply the passage of time affecting human relationships …

Come!
by Michael R. Burch

Will you come to visit my grave, I wonder,
in the season of lightning, the season of thunder,
when I have lain so long in the indifferent earth
that I have no girth?

When my womb has conformed to the chastity
your anemic Messiah envisioned for me,
will you be satisfied that my sex was thus rendered
unpalatable, disengendered?

And when those strange loathsome organs that troubled you so
have been eaten by worms, will the heavens still glow
with the approval of your God that I ended a maid—
thanks to a spade?

And will you come to visit my grave, I wonder,
in the season of lightning, the season of thunder?

***

The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide . . . 
was man born to sorrow that first day?
The moon—a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied—
the tug at his heart’s pink, burgeoning clay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
but grew bitter, bitter—man’s torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing—forever astray, 
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.
The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.
The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love’s concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

Published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Eclectic Muse, Freshet, Better Than Starbucks, Sonnetto Poesia, The New Formalist and Pennsylvania Review

***

I AM!
by Michael R. Burch

I am not one of ten billion—I—
sunblackened Icarus, chary fly,
staring at God with a quizzical eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I.

I am not one life has left unsquashed—
scarred as Ulysses, goddess-debauched,
pale glowworm agleam with a tale of panache.

I am not one life has left unsquashed.

I am not one without spots of disease,
laugh lines and tan lines and thick-callused knees
from begging and praying and girls sighing “Please!”

I am not one without spots of disease.

I am not one of ten billion—I—
scion of Daedalus, blackwinged fly
staring at God with a sedulous eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I

AM!

Note: According to recent blog posts and tweets about the movie Ten Billion, it is past time to consider the twin specters of population growth and climate change. But the poetic perspective may be a bit different, with the poet insisting, “I am not one of ten billion!”

***

In His Kingdom of Corpses
by Michael R. Burch

1.
In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many enraged discourses,
high from some mountain peak
where He’s lectured men on “compassion”
while the sparrows around Him fell
and babes, for His meager ration
of rain, died and went to hell,
unbaptized, for that’s His fashion.

2.
In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to vent
in many obscure discourses
on the need for man to repent,
to admit he’s a lust-addled sinner,
give up threesomes and riches and fame,
be disciplined at his dinner
though always he dies the same,
whether fatter or thinner.

3.
In his kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many absurd discourses
of man’s Ego, precipitous Peak!,
while demanding praise and worship,
and the bending of every knee.
And though He sounds like the Devil,
his witchdoctors unanimously agree:
He loves them, indubitably.

Published by The Chimaera, Cyclamens and Swords and Lucid Rhythms

***

Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today ...
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away ...

Published by The Lantern, Homespun, The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Poezii (Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte), Better Than Starbucks, Potcake Chapbooks (UK) and Fullosia Press

"Smoke" appeared in my high school literary journal, The Lantern, in 1976, and my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977. I had The Summer of '42 in mind when I wrote the poem. Ironically, I didn't see the movie until many years later (too young for an R-rated movie according to my parents), but something about its advertisement touched me. Am I the only poet who wrote a love poem for Jennifer O'Neil after seeing her fleeting image in a blurb? At least in that respect, I may be unique! In any case, the movie came out in 1971, so I was probably around 13 or 14 when I wrote it. I find it interesting that I was able to write a "rhyme rich" poem at such a young age. In six lines the poem has 26 rhymes and near rhymes: smoke-spoke-smoky, well-farewell-tell-bells-still-recall-still, summer-remember-summer-summer, within-din-in, say-today-days-haze-today-away, had-good-bad. There is another, somewhat longer, version of this poem along with two other poems I wrote about the movie that touched me so strangely, long before I watched it. The other poems are addressed to Hermie, the movie's teenage protagonist who might have been my nebbish twin, or doppelganger. I wrote the other poems after seeing the movie as an adult, many years later. On an interesting note, one of my "youngest poems" is slated to be published by one of England's oldest publishing houses, Sampson Low, in the Lost Love issue of its Potcake Chapbooks series, edited by Robin Helweg-Larsen and illustrated by Alban Low.

***

Listen, Hermie
by Michael R. Burch

Listen, Hermie . . .
you can hear the strangled roar
of water inundating that lost shore . . .

and you can see how white she shone

that distant night, before
you blinked
and she was gone . . .

But is she ever really gone from you . . . or are
her lips the sweeter since you kissed them once:
her waist wasp-thin beneath your hands always,
her stockinged shoeless feet for that one dance
still whispering their rustling nylon trope
of—“Love me. Love me. Love me. Give me hope
that love exists beyond these dunes, these stars.”

How white her prim brassiere, her waist-high briefs;
how lustrous her white slip. And as you danced—
how white her eyes, her skin, her eager teeth.
She reached, but not for sex . . . for more . . . for you . . .
You cannot quite explain, but what is true
is true despite our fumblings in the dark.

Hold tight. Hold tight. The years that fall away
still make us what we are. If love exists,
we find it in ourselves, grown wan and gray,
within a weathered hand, a wrinkled cheek.

She cannot touch you now, but I would reach
across the years to touch that chord in you
which still reverberates, and play it true.

***

Tell me, Hermie
by Michael R. Burch

Tell me, Hermie — when you saw
her white brassiere crash to the floor
as she stepped from her waist-high briefs
into your arms, and mutual griefs —
did you feel such fathomless awe
as mystics do, in artists’ reliefs?

How is it that dark night remains
forever with us — present still
despite her absence and the pains
of dreams relived without the thrill
of any ecstasy but this —
one brief, eternal, transient kiss?

She was an angel; you helped us see
the beauty of love’s iniquity.

In the movie Summer of ’42, a beautiful young bride whose husband died in the war finds comfort in the arms of an empathetic teenage boy named Hermie.

***

Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch

Though you possessed the moon and stars,
you are bound to fate and wed to chance.
Your lips deny they crave a kiss;
your feet deny they ache to dance.
Your heart imagines wild romance.

Though you cupped fire in your hands
and molded incandescent forms,
you are barren now, and—spent of flame—
the ashes that remain are borne
toward the sun upon a storm.

You, who demanded more, have less,
your heart within its cells of sighs
held fast by chains of misery,
confined till death for peddling lies—
imprisonment your sense denies.

You, who collected hearts like leaves
and pressed each once within your book,
forgot. None—winsome, bright or rare—
not one was worth a second look.
My heart, as others, you forsook.

But I, though I loved you from afar
through silent dawns, and gathered rue
from gardens where your footsteps left
cold paths among the asters, knew—
each moonless night the nettles grew

and strangled hope, where love dies too.

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

***

Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch

We’d like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard,
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps,
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy “boo-boo!,” only two.

We’d like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile,
that baseball’s just as fun with just one arm,
that God is always Just, that girls will smile,
not frown down at his thousand livid scars,
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.

We just don’t want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks,
that lips aren’t easily fashioned, that his smile’s
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears,
when tears are out of fashion. O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life’s Mysteries . . .

Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, “It’s me I see. Just me.”

He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures,
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.
But hack him down and still he’ll always rise,
lifting his smile to the sun or the star-filled skies.

Published by Lucid Rhythms, The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Better Than Starbucks and Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for the Pushcart Prize)

***

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)

***

Aflutter
by Michael R. Burch

This rainbow is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh.—Yahweh

You are gentle now, and in your failing hour
how like the child you were, you seem again,
and smile as sadly as the girl (age ten?)
who held the sparrow with the mangled wing
close to her heart. It marveled at your power
but would not mend. And so the world renews
old vows it seemed to make: false promises
spring whispers, as if nothing perishes
that does not resurrect to wilder hues
like rainbows’ eerie pacts we apprehend
but cannot fail to keep. Now in your eyes
I see the end of life that only dies
and does not care for bright, translucent lies.
Are tears so precious? These few, let us spend
together, as before, then lay to rest
these sparrows’ hearts aflutter at each breast.

Published by The Lyric, Poetry Life & Times and The Eclectic Muse (Canada)

This is a poem about a couple committing suicide together. The “eerie pact” refers to a bible verse about the rainbow being a “covenant,” when the only covenant human beings can depend on is the original one that condemned us to suffer and die. That covenant is always kept perfectly.

***

For All That I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved ...
and yet I hold her close within my thought:
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed 
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could ...
I’d reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush

my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.

Published by The Raintown Review, Boston Poetry Magazine, la luce che non muore (Italy), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Kritya (India), Jewish Letter (Russia), Gostinaya (in a Russian translation by Yelena Dubrovin), Freshet, Orchards Poetry, Poetry Life & Times, Sonnetto Poesia (Canada), Trinacria, The New Formalist and Pennsylvania Review

***

See
by Michael R. Burch

See how her hair has thinned: it doesn’t seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there, then burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are—that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.
For life remains undimmed in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book’s.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.

Published by Black Medina, Potcake Chapbooks (UK), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Amerikai költok a második (Hungarian translation by István Bagi), MahMag (Farsi translation by Dr. Mahnaz Badihian), Love Me Knots (anthology of the top 100 contemporary love poems), Short Quotes & Poems (listed in the top 10 short poems), Nutty Stories (South Africa), Better Than Starbucks, Strange Roads, The New Formalist, Sonnetto Poesia (Canada), Litera (UK), Poems About, Poetry Life & Times, Somewhere Along The Beaten Path (anthology), Freshet, Life & Legends, Famous Poets & Poems and Victorian Violet Press. “See” won 3rd place in the 2003 Writer’s Digest Rhyming Poetry contest, out of over 18,000 overall entries, and was published in Writer’s Digest’s The Year’s Best Writing.

***

Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch     

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon’s, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I still love her and enlist this sacred fire
to keep her memory’s exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles ...
They sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the “surgeons.” Sleeping, all.

Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less. Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man’s crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I’ll bed there and bid the world “Good Luck.”

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, then by Voices Israel, Other Voices International, Verse Weekly, Black Medina, ArtVilla, Poetry Renewal Magazine, Mindful of Poetry, The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Promosaik (Germany), Famous Poets & Poems, The Wandering Hermit, FreeXpression (Australia), Poetry Super Highway, Inspirational Stories, Poetry Life & Times, Sonnetto Poesia (Canada), Trinacria, Pennsylvania Review, Poems About, Litera (UK), Yahoo Buzz, Got Poetry and de Volkskrant Blog (Dutch newspaper)

***

What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer
~~~~underwater~~~~
watching the shoreline blur
sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles ...
Both worlds grow obscure.

Published by ByLine, Mandrake Poetry Review, Bewildering Stories, Poetically Speaking, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Little Brown Poetry, Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Neovictorian/Cochlea, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems, Poemine

***

The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight ...
This is what I remember

now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,  
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember ...
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh,

our soft cries, like regret

... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase ...

now that I have forgotten her face.

Published by Poetry Magazine, La luce che non muore (Italy), Kritya (India), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Carnelian, Triplopia, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Poetry Life & Times, Strange Road, Inspirational Stories and Centrifugal Eye; the poem was also e-mailed to over 20,000 subscribers by lovestories.com, has been used by porn sites like Gela Naked to advertise their wares, and was read aloud to a live audience as part of the Candlelight Reading Series, along with poems by Byron, Frost, Neruda, et al.

***

Kin
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gull,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss—
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here ...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified   
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back—
one long, descending glide ...

3.
Disgruntledly you grope dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells’ bright forts ...

You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts—
this way and that ...

Contentious, shrewd, you scan—
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.   

Published by Triplopia. Able Muse and The HyperTexts

***

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)

***

The Peripheries of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above us—the darkening pavilions of clouds.
Below us—rough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a virgin
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved ...
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near—

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.

Published by Romantics Quarterly, PoetryMagazine.com, Boston Poetry Magazine, Amerikai költok a második (Hungarian translation by István Bagi), Triplopia, Shadows Ink, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Emotions Literary Magazine, Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, Poetically Speaking, The Poetic Muse, Poet’s Haven, Poetic Voices, Nutty Stories (South Africa) and Gostinaya (in a Russian translation by Yelena Dubrovin)

***

Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

Massive, gray, these leaden waves
bear their unchanging burden—
the sameness of each day to day

while the wind seems to struggle to say
something half-submerged planks at the mouth of the bay
might nuzzle limp seaweed to understand.

Now collapsing dull waves drain away
from the unenticing land;
shrieking gulls shadow fish through salt spray—
whitish streaks on a fogged silver mirror.

Sizzling lightning impresses its brand.
Unseen fingers scribble something in the wet sand.

Published by Southwest Review, The Chained Muse and Better Than Starbucks

Keywords/Tags: coming together, come together, meeting, embracing, falling apart, breaking up, misunderstandings, alienation, divisions, loss of interest, time, human relationships 

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