Year: 
2021

These are my early poems, which I began writing around age eleven to thirteen, although I didn't make a conscious decision to become a poet until around age fourteen. 

Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

Alone again as evening falls,
I join gaunt shadows and we crawl
up and down my room's dark walls.

Up and down and up and down,
against starlight—strange, mirthless clowns—
we merge, emerge, submerge . . . then drown.

We drown in shadows starker still,
shadows of the somber hills,
shadows of sad selves we spill,

tumbling, to the ground below.
There, caked in grimy, clinging snow,
we flutter feebly, moaning low

for days dreamed once an age ago
when we weren't shadows, but were men . . .
when we were men, or almost so.

Published by Homespun and Mind in Motion. The poem above was written either in high school or my first two years of college because it appeared in the 1979 issue of my college literary journal, Homespun.

***

Easter, in Jerusalem
by Michael R. Burch

The streets are hushed from fervent song,
for strange lights fill the sky tonight.
A slow mist creeps
up and down the streets
and a star has vanished that once burned bright.
Oh Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
who tends your flocks tonight?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
a Shepherd calls
through the markets and the cattle stalls,
but a fiery sentinel has passed from sight.

Golgotha shudders uneasily,
then wearily settles to sleep again,
and I wonder how they dream
who beat him till he screamed,
"Father, forgive them!"
Ah Nazareth, Nazareth,
now sunken deep into dark sleep,
do you heed His plea
as demons flee,
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep."

The temple trembles violently,
a veil lies ripped in two,
and a good man lies
on a mountainside
whose heart was shattered too.
Galilee, oh Galilee,
do your waters pulse and froth?
"Feed my sheep,"
"Feed my sheep,"
the waters creep
to form a starlit cross.

This poem was published in my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1978, along with another poem, "A Pledge for Ignorance." It also appeared in a folder of poems I submitted to a poetry contest after my sophomore year in college. According to my notes, I wrote the poem around age 15-16.

***

You didn't have time
by Michael R. Burch

You didn't have time to love me,
always hurrying here and hurrying there;
you didn't have time to love me,
and you didn't have time to care.

You were playing a reel like a fiddle half-strung:
too busy for love, "too old" to be young . . .
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

You didn't have time to take time
and you didn't have time to try.
Every time I asked you why, you said,
"Because, my love; that's why." And then
you didn't have time at all, my love.
You didn't have time at all.

You were wheeling and diving in search of a sun
that had blinded your eyes and left you undone.
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

This is a song-poem that I wrote during my early songwriter phase, around age 17. According to my notes, I wrote it in 1975 and revised it in 1978.

***

A pledge for ignorance
by Michael R. Burch

In these troubled times,
when truth and conjecture
are no longer distinguished
by the common man,
who accepts all things
as part of some ultimate plan,
believing, perhaps rightly so,
that any gods existing now
shall soon be overthrown,
I have closed my eyes and seen
the dissolution of my beliefs.

Once I thought myself secure
belonging to a race of logic and science,
infallible, perhaps capable
of conquering the universe . . .
but as I have seen the plight
of my people growing worse and worse,
today I attempt not to think at all,
nor do I scale the heights that I once did;
having experienced one harrowing fall,
I will not risk another
even to save a brother.

For thought is like the flight of birds
that rise to heights unknown to men,
till, grazing the orbits of fiery stars,
they fall to earth, their feathers singed.
So I will not venture those starry paths
by moons unseen and planets ringed,
but I will live my life below,
secure in blissful ignorance,
never approaching thought's orbs aglow . . .
and though I may be wrong in this,
what I have not seen, I have not missed.

In this poem, I unleashed my inner 15-year-old cynic and I don't think it can be taken seriously. This poem was published in my college literary journal, *Homespun*, in the 1977-1978 issue. It was the first poem in that issue.

***

Dance With Me
by Michael R. Burch

Dance with me
to the fiddles’ plaintive harmonies.
Enchantingly,
each highstrung string,
each yearning key,
each a thread within the threnody,
whispers "Waltz!"
then sets us free
to wander, dancing aimlessly.

Let us kiss
beneath the stars
as we slowly meet ...
we'll part
laughing gaily as we go
to measure love’s arpeggios.

Yes, dance with me,
enticingly;
press your lips to mine,
then flee.

The night is young,
the stars are wild;
embrace me now,
my sweet, beguiled,
and dance with me.

The curtains are drawn,
the stage is set
—patterned all in grey and jet—
where couples in such darkness met
—careless airy silhouettes—
to try love's timeless pirouettes.

They, too, spun across the lawn
to die in shadowy dark verdant.

But dance with me.

Sweet Merrilee,
don't cry, I see
the ironies of all the years
within the moonlight on your tears,
and every virgin has her fears ...

So laugh with me
unheedingly;
love's gaiety is not for those
who fail to heed the music`s flow,
but it is ours.

Now fade away
like summer rain,
then pirouette ...
the dance of stars
that waltz among night's meteors
must be the dance we dance tonight.

Then come again—
like winter wind.

Your slender body as you sway
belies the ripeness of your age,
for a woman's body burns tonight
beneath your gown of virgin white—
a woman's breasts now rise and fall
in answer to an ancient call,
and a woman's hips—soft, yet full—
now gently at your garments pull.

So dance with me,
sweet Merrilee ...
the music bids us,
"Waltz!"

Don't flee;
let us kiss
beneath the stars.
Love's passing pains will leave no scars
as we whirl beneath false moons
and heed the fiddle’s plaintive tunes ...

Oh, Merrilee,
the curtains are drawn,
the stage is set,
we, too, are stars beyond night's depths.
So dance with me.

I distinctly remember writing this poem my freshman year in college, circa 1976-1977, after meeting George King, who taught the creative writing classes there. I would have been 18 when I started the poem, but it didn’t always cooperate and I seem to remember working on it the following year as well.

***

Dance With Me (II)
by Michael R. Burch

While the music plays
remembrance strays
toward a grander time . . .

Let's dance.

Shadows rising, mute and grey,
obscure those fervent yesterdays
of youth and gay romance,
but time is slipping by, and now
those days just don't seem real, somehow . . .

Why don't we dance?

This music is a memory,
for it's of another time . . .
a slower, stranger time.

We danced—remember how we danced?—
uncaring, merry, wild and free.
Remember how you danced with me?

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast,
your nipples hard against my chest,
we danced
     and danced
          and danced.

We cannot dance that way again,
for the years have borne away the flame
and left us only ashes,
but think of all those dances,

and dance with me.

I believe I wrote this poem around the same time as the original “Dance With Me,” this time from the perspective of the same lovers many years later. So this poem would have been written sometime between 1976 and 1977, around age 18.

***

Blue Cowboy
by Michael R. Burch

He slumps against the pommel,
a lonely, heartsick boy—
his horse his sole companion,
his gun his only toy
—and bitterly regretting
he ever came so far,
forsaking all home's comforts
to sleep beneath the stars,
he sighs.

He thinks about the lover
who waits for him no more
till a tear anoints his lashes,
lit by uncaring stars.
He reaches to his aching breast,
withdraws a golden lock,
and kisses it in silence
as empty as his thoughts
while the wind sighs.

Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
between the earth and heartless stars.
Do not fall; the fiends of hell
would leap to feast upon your heart.

Blue cowboy, sift the burnt-out sand
for a drop of water warm and brown.
Dream of streams like silver seams
even as you gulp it down.

Blue cowboy, sing defiant songs
to hide the weakness in your soul.
Blue cowboy, ride that lonesome ridge
and wish that you were going home
as the stars sigh.

I believe I wrote this poem during my songwriting phase, sometime between 1974 and 1976, around age 16 or a bit later.

Keywords/Tags: early, early poems, juvenile, juvenalia, child, childhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenage, young adult

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