Year: 
2021

These are early poems of mine, written beginning around age eleven as a boy, then through my high school and college years ...

The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch

The nature of Nature
is bitter survival
from Winter’s bleak fury
till Spring’s brief revival.

The weak implore Fate;
bold men ravish, dishevel her ...
till both are cut down
by mere ticks of the Leveler.

Published by The Lyric, The Aurorean, Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly and in a YouTube video by Asma Masooma. I believe I wrote this poem around age 20, in 1978 or thereabouts.

***

Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Starlit recorder of summer nights,
what magic spell bewitches you?
They say that all lovers love first in the dark . . .
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true?

Uncanny seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared . . .
what sights have you seen,
what dreams have you dreamed,
what rhetoric have you heard?

Is love an oration or is it a word?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?

Published by Romantics Quarterly and set to music by David Hamilton and performed by the Australian choir Choralation

***

Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
alone, ever lonely . . .
yes, go down to die.

And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
Go down to the valley;
go down to Tomb Lake.

Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours —
mad souls without meaning,
frail souls without force.

Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
They lie in her shallows
and sleep in her bed.

"Tomb Lake" is a companion poem to "Moon Lake" written around age 18.

***

Leave Taking (I)
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.

***

In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
as the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our husks into some raging ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze:
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times and The Chained Muse

George King was one of my college English professors, and the one who encouraged me the most. He said that I was one of the two most talented student poets he’d instructed, but I like to think that he underestimated me!

***

In the Whispering Night (II)

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky,
and the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our husks into some savage ocean
and laugh as they shatter, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze,
blown high, upward yearning,
twin spirits returning
to the world of resplendence from which we were seized.

In the whispering night, when the mockingbird calls
while denuded vines barely cling to stone walls,
as the red-rocked rivers rush on to the sea,
like a bright Goddess calling
a meteor falling
may flare like desire through skeletal trees.

If you look to the east, you will see a reminder
of days that broke warmer and nights that fell kinder;
but you and I were not meant for this life,
a life of illusions
and painful delusions:
a life without meaning—unless it is life.

So turn from the east and look to the west,
to the stars—argent fire ablaze at God's breast—
but there you'll find nothing but dreams of lost days:
days lost forever,
departed, and never,
oh never, oh never shall they be regained.

So turn from those heavens—night’s pale host of stars—
to these scarred pitted mountains, these wild grotesque tors
which—looming in darkness—obscure lustrous seas.
We are men, we must sing
till enchanted vales ring;
we are men; though we wither, our spirits soar free.

***

Love Unfolded Like a Flower
by Michael R. Burch

for Christy

Love unfolded
like a flower;
Pale petals pinked and blushed to see the sky.
I came to know you
and to trust you
in moments lost to springtime slipping by.

Then love burst outward,
leaping skyward,
and untamed blossoms danced against the wind.
All I wanted
was to hold you;
though passion tempted once, we never sinned.

Now love's gay petals
fade and wither,
and winter beckons, whispering a lie.
We were friends,
but friendships end . . .
yes, friendships end and even roses die.

This is a love poem I wrote in my late teens for a girl I had a serious crush on. The poem was originally titled "Christy."

***

Bound
by Michael R. Burch

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of the streetlamp casts strange shadows to the ground,
I have lost what I once found
in your arms.

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of distant Venus fails to penetrate dark panes,
I have remade all my chains
and am bound.

This poem appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern. I seem to remember writing it around age 14 or 15. It was originally titled "Why Did I Go?"

***

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 the careless 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 distant 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.

***

absinthe sea
by Michael R. Burch

i hold in my hand a goblet of absinthe
the bitter green liqueur
reflects the dying sunset over the sea
and the darkling liquid froths
up over the rim of my cup
to splash into the free,
churning waters of the sea
i do not drink

i do not drink the liqueur,
for I sail on an absinthe sea
that stretches out unendingly
into the gathering night
its waters are no less green
and no less bitter,
nor does the sun strike them with a kinder light
they both harbor night,
and neither shall shelter me

neither shall shelter me
from the anger of the wind
or the cruelty of the sun
for I sail in the goblet of some Great God
who gazes out over a greater sea,
and when my life is done,
perhaps it will be because
He lifted His goblet and sipped my sea.

I seem to remember writing this poem in college, just because I liked the sound of the word “absinthe.” I had no idea, really, what it was or what absinthe looked or tasted like, beyond something I had read somewhere.

***

Am I
by Michael R. Burch

Am I inconsequential;
do I matter not at all?
Am I just a snowflake,
to sparkle, then to fall?

Am I only chaff?
Of what use am I?
Am I just a feeble flame,
to flicker, then to die?

Am I inadvertent?
For what reason am I here?
Am I just a ripple
in a pool that once was clear?

Am I insignificant?
Will time pass me by?
Am I just a flower,
to live one day, then die?

Am I unimportant?
Do I matter either way?
Or am I just an echo—
soon to fade away?

This is one of my earliest poems; if I remember correctly, it was written the same day as “Time,” which appeared in my high school sophomore poetry assignment booklet. If not, it was a companion piece written around the same time. The refrain “Am I” is an inversion of the biblical “I Am” supposedly given to Moses as the name of God. I was around 14 or 15 when I wrote the two poems.

***

Time
by Michael R. Burch

Time,
where have you gone?
What turned out so short,
had seemed like so long.

Time,
where have you flown?
What seemed like mere days
were years come and gone.

Time,
see what you've done:
for now I am old,
when once I was young.

Time,
do you even know why
your days, minutes, seconds
preternaturally fly?

This is a companion piece to "Am I." It appeared in my high school project notebook "Poems" along with "Playmates," so I was probably around 14 or 15 when I wrote it.

***

Ambition
by Michael R. Burch

Men speak of their “ambition”
and I smile to hear them say
that within them burns such fire,
such a longing to be great ...

But I laugh at their “Ambition”
as their wistfulness amasses;
I seek Her tongue’s indulgence
and Her parted legs’ crevasses.

I was very ambitious about my poetry, even as a teenager. I wrote this one around age 18 or 19.

***

Analogy
by Michael R. Burch

Our embrace is like a forest
lying blanketed in snow;
you, the lily, are enchanted
by each shiver trembling through;

I, the snowfall, cling in earnest
as I press so close to you.
You dream that you now are sheltered;
I dream that I may break through.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 18. The lily symbolizes purity and virginity.

***

As the Flame Flowers
by Michael R. Burch

As the flame flowers, a flower, aflame,
arches leaves skyward, aching for rain,
but it only encounters wild anguish and pain
as the flame sputters sparks that ignite at its stem.

Yet how this frail flower aflame at the stem
reaches through night, through the staggering pain,
for a sliver of silver that sparkles like rain,
as it flutters in fear of the flowering flame.

Mesmerized by a distant crescent-shaped gem
which glistens like water though drier than sand,
the flower extends itself, trembles, and then
dies as scorched leaves burst aflame in the wind.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem in my late teens. The flower aflame yet entranced by the moon is, of course, a metaphor for destructive love and its passions.

Keywords/Tags: early, early poems, juvenilia, child, childhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenage, teenager, student, high school, college, love, roses, flower, petals, unfolding, blossoms, spring, passion, desire, lust, sin, winter, fade, wither, wind, gay, pink, pinked, blushed, friendships, die, death

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