Year: 
2021

These are early poems I wrote starting as a boy around age 11, then as a teen poet in high school and my first two years of college. 

Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees,
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

Published by The Lyric, Mindful of Poetry, Silver Stork Magazine and There is Something in the Autumn (anthology)

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, "Jessamyn's Song," which dates to around age 14 or 15, or perhaps a bit later. But I worked on the poem several times over the years until it was largely finished in 1978. I am sure of the completion date because that year the poem was included in my first poetry submission manuscript for a chapbook contest, during my sophomore year in college.

***

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 "I Am" poems, written around age 16-17. According to my notes, I may have revised the poem later, in 1978, but if so the changes were minor because the poem remains very close to the original.

***

as Time walked by
by Michael R. Burch

yesterday i dreamed of us again,
when
the air, like honey,
trickled through cushioning grasses,
softly flowing, pouring itself upon the masses
of dreaming flowers ...
then
he sly impish Hours
were tentative, coy and shy
while the sky
swirled all its colors together,
giving pleasure to the appreciative eye
as Time walked by.

sunbright, your smile
could fill the darkest night
with brilliant light
or thrill the dullest day
with ecstasy
so long as Time did not impede our way ...
until It did,
as It did.

for soon the summer hid
her sunny smile ...
the honeyed breaths of wind
became cold,
biting to the bone
as Time sped on,
fled from us
to be gone
Forevermore.

this morning i awakened to the thought
that u were near
with honey hair and happy smile
lying sweetly by my side,
but then i remembered—u were gone,
that u'd been toppled long ago
like an orchid felled by snow
as the bloom called “us” sank slowly down to die
and Time roared by.

This poem appeared in my high school journal in 1976 and was probably written around 1974 at age 16 or thereabouts. It was written during my "cummings period," which started around 1974 after I discovered him in a high school English book.

***

Flight
by Michael R. Burch

Eagle, raven, blackbird, crow . . .
What you are I do not know.
Where you go I do not care.
I’m unconcerned whose meal you bear.
But as you mount the sun-splashed sky,
I only wish that I could fly.
I only wish that I could fly.

Robin, hawk or whippoorwill . . .
Should men care if you hunger still?
I do not wish to see your home.
I do not wonder where you roam.
But as you scale the sky's bright stairs,
I only wish that I were there.
I only wish that I were there.

Sparrow, lark or chickadee . . .
Your markings I disdain to see.
Where you fly concerns me not.
I scarcely give your flight a thought.
But as you wheel and arc and dive,
I, too, would feel so much alive.
I, too, would feel so much alive.

I don’t remember exactly when this poem was written. I believe it was around 1974-1975, which would have made me 16 or 17 at the time. I do remember not being happy with the original version of the poem, and I revised it more than once over the years, including recently at age 61! The original poem was influenced by William Cullen Bryant’s “To a Waterfowl.”

***

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 around age 16.

***

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.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem around age 15-16.

Keywords/Tags: early, early poems, juvenile, juvenalia, child, childhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenage, teenager, high school, college

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