Year: 
2021

These are early poems I wrote as a boy starting around age eleven, as a teen in high school and during my first two years in college, plus a few that may be a bit later. 

Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch

If God
is good,
half the Bible
is libel.

Published by Boloji (India), Nexus Myanmar (Burma), Kalemati (Iran), Pride Magazine, Brief Poems, Idle Hearts, AZquotes (Top 17 Very Witty Quotes), QuoteStats (the #12 Functional Family  Quote), and numerous other quotation websites

This is one of my earliest poems, perhaps the earliest, and the first one I can remember writing. I wrote this epigram to express my conclusions after having read the Bible from cover to cover, ten chapters per day, at age eleven. I don’t remember exactly when I came up with the epigram, but it was sometime between ages eleven to thirteen. At that time I hadn’t made the decision to become a poet and it was more an observation than a poem in my mind, at that time.

***

Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba

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 has swept into a corner ... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Published by There is Something in the Autumn (anthology), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Setu (India), Poezii (Romanian translation by Petru Dimofte), Borderless Journal, Boloji (India), FreeXpression (Australia), Life and Legends, Poetry Super Highway, Poet’s Corner, Promosaik (Germany), Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse; also used in numerous Holocaust projects; also translated into Turkish by Nurgül Yayman; turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong; and used by Windsor Jewish Community Centre during a candle-lighting ceremony and by Park Hill Church in a Holocaust remembrance service

This is the first nonrhyming poem I wrote, and the only one for quite some time. I consider "Something" to be one of the best of my early poems.

***

An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the "common crowd,"
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most stylish and best-dressed;
it seems he’d never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerks loved the "Hanging Judge" and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, "They'll crucify him!" The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case
by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
"It is obscene,"
he screamed,
"to expose the naked heart!"
The recorder (bewildered Society)
greeted this statement with applause.

"This man is no poet.
Just look—his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar!
He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words
or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an imposter!

I ask that his sentence be
the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster."

The jury left in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair,
"Please, let me answer to my peers."
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times. A well-known poet/editor criticized this poem for being "journalistic." But then the poem is written from the point of view of a journalist who's covering the trial of a poet about to be burned at the stake by his peers. The poem was completed by the end of my sophomore year in college. But I believe I wrote the original version a bit earlier, probably around age 18 or 19.

***

Remembrance
by Michael R. Burch

That eerie night I met you, the moon bathed all the land
in strange, enchanting patterns which stirred in my chilled mind
forgotten dreams of fiery youth and hopes of things to come
that I had seen destroyed or lost to cold, uncaring Time.

The goblet of wine I held gleamed with a wildly-flickering light
and the pool of fragrant liquid seemed a shade too close to blood;
there, in its mirror-like surface, I saw you passing by,
and suddenly, shockingly, I felt the pang of Love . . .

You wore a long white gown and when the moonlight caught your hair
you seemed a slender taper lit by a silver flame . . .
and . . . though we had never met before . . .
. . . somehow . . . I knew your name . . .

I sought to speak, but I could not,
for the demon wine had numbed my tongue . . .
Oh, I turned to follow you through the door,
looking about, but you were gone . . .

"Remembrance" was written in my late teens, circa 1977-1978, and appears in my 1978 poetry contest folder.

***

Damp Days
by Michael R. Burch

These are damp days,
and the earth is slick and vile
with the smell of month-old mud.

And yet it seldom rains;
a never-ending drizzle
drenches spring's bright buds
till they droop as though in death.

Now Time
drags out His endless hours
as though to bore to tears
His fretting, edgy servants
through the sheer length of His days
and slow passage of His years.

Damp days are His domain.

Irritation
grinds the ravaged nerves
and grips tight the gorging brain
which fills itself, through sense,
with vast seas of soggy clay
while the temples throb in pain
at the thought of more damp days.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem sometime between 1974 and 1976, then revised it around 1978.

***

Flying
by Michael R. Burch

I shall rise
and try the bloody wings of thought
ten thousand times
before I fly ...

and then I'll sleep
and waste ten thousand nights
before I dream;

but when at last ...

I soar the distant heights of undreamt skies
where never hawks nor eagles dared to go,
as I laugh among the meteors flashing by
somewhere beyond the bluest earth-bound seas ...

if I'm not told
I’m just a man,
then I shall know
just what I am.

This is one of my early poems, written in high school around age 16 or 17.

***

I held a heart in my outstretched hand
by Michael R. Burch

I held a heart in my outstretched hand;
it was bloody and red and raw.
I ripped it and tore it;
I gnashed it and gnawed it;
I gored it with fingers like claws,
but it never missed a beat
of the heartfelt song it sang.

There my bruised heart wept in my open palm
and the gore dripped down my wrist;
I reviled it,
defiled it;
I gave it a twist
and wrung it dry of blood;
still it beat with a hearty thud,
and its movement was warm with love.

But I flung it into the ditch and walked
angrily, cruelly away . . .
There it lay in the dust
with a bloody crust
caking the crimson stain
that my claw-like fingers had made,
and its flesh was grey with death.

Oh, I cannot say why,
but I turned and I cried,
and I lifted it once again,
holding it to my cheek,
where it began to beat,
but to a tiny, tragic measure
devoid of trust or pleasure.

Then it kissed my fingers and sighed,
begging forgiveness even as it died.

Now that was many years ago,
and I am wiser, for I know
that a heart can last out any pain,
but cannot bear to be alone.

And my lifeless heart is wiser too,
having seen the way a man
can take his being into his hands
and crush it into a worthless ooze.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem in my late teens. It appears in my 1978 poetry contest folder and thus was complete by my sophomore year of college.

***

A midnight shade of blue
by Michael R. Burch

You thought you saw a shadow moving somewhere in the night—
a lost and lonely stranger searching for a little light—
so you told me to approach him, ask him if he'd like a room . . .
how sweet of you to think of one alone out in the gloom,
but he was only
a midnight shade of blue.

I thought I saw an answer shining somewhere in the night—
a spark of truth irradiating wisdom sweet and bright—
but when I sought to seize it, to bring it home to you . . .
it fluttered through my fingers like a wispy curlicue,
for it was only
a midnight shade of blue.

We thought that we had found true love together in the night—
a love as fine and elegant as wine by candlelight—
but when we woke this morning, we knew it wasn't true . . .
the "love" we'd shared was less than love; I guess we owe it to
emotion,
and a midnight shade of blue.

I seem to remember writing this one during my early songwriting phase. That would be around age 16 in 1974, give or take. While I don’t claim it’s a great poem, I think I did show a pretty good touch with meter in my youth.

***

Amora’s Complaint
by Michael R. Burch

Will you walk with me tonight?
for the moon hangs low and travelers seldom
disturb the silence of this ghostly kingdom . . .
We shall not be seen
if we linger by this stream
that shimmers in the starlight.

Will you talk to me awhile?
For sounds don’t carry very far;
the interminable silence is barely marred
by the labored breathing
of the "giant" who lies sleeping
in caverns fetid and vile,
and I crave your immaculate smile.

So close to death, the final sleep,
he hastens as he lies.
Silence louder than his sighs
drifts on the languid air
toward his musty lair,
and all life that it finds, it keeps.

And though he sleeps,
in dreams content,
he mistakes bile for dew,
for he knows not what is true.
His eyes are worse than blind men's eyes,
for the images they “see” disguise
how swift and sure is death's descent.

His ears hear songs that are not sung;
his nostrils scent a faint perfume
permeating midnight's gloom,
when all the while his rotting flesh
heralds worms to view his death.
He festers, having long been stung.

O, once he was as you are now —
full of passion, wild and free,
majestic, formed most perfectly.
But tonight, hideously deformed,
he himself becomes a worm;
though he doesn't see that he's changed, somehow.

Why, he still calls me his “dearest friend,”
although I cannot bear to near
that stinking, dying sufferer!

He asks me why I stray so far
from the "comfort" of his arms . . .
Tonight, I said, "This is the end."

O, he swore to not let me depart,
but when he couldn't even rise
to chase me as I leapt the skies,
I think he almost understood.
He frowned. His skin, like rotting wood,
seemed to come apart. He almost touched my heart.

But such a vile and leprous being
I cannot have to be my love.
So while the stars shine high above
and you and I are here alone,
help me undress; unzip my gown.
Come, sate my Desire this perfect evening.

This poem, written my late teens and originally titled “Amora to Spirare, with Intellecta dying,” appeared in my 1978 poetry contest folder, which I compiled after my sophomore year in college.

Bookmarks/Tags: early, early poems, juvenilia, child, childhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenager, young adult

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