Year: 
2021

These are early poems of mine written beginning as a boy around age eleven, through my teens in high school and as a college freshman and sophomore, plus a few that were written in my early twenties. 

Myth
by Michael R. Burch

after the sprung rhythm of Dylan Thomas

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf—
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain—
golden and humble in all its weary worth.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year of high school, around age 18. To my recollection this is my only poem influenced by the “sprung rhythm” of Dylan Thomas (moreso than that of Gerard Manley Hopkins). But I was not happy with the fourth line and put the poem aside for more than 20 years, until 1998, when I revised it. But I was still not happy with the fourth line, so I put it aside and revised it again in 2020, nearly half a century after originally writing the poem!

***

The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
  without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
    but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
      felt more than seen.
      I was eighteen,
    my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
  Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant . . .
  without words, but with a deeper communion,
    as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
      liquidly our lips met
       —feverish, wet—
    forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
  in the immediacy of our fumbling union . . .
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

I wrote this poem around age 18 and it has been published by Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Webring.

***

Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret,
a pain
I chose to bear . . .

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again—
how rare.

I wrote "Regret" around age 19; it has been published by The HyperTexts and The Chained Muse.

***

Earthbound
by Michael R. Burch

Tashunka Witko, better known as Crazy Horse, had a vision of a red-tailed hawk at Sylvan Lake, South Dakota. In his vision he saw himself riding a spirit horse, flying through a storm, as the hawk flew above him, shrieking. When he awoke, a red-tailed hawk was perched near his horse.

Earthbound,
and yet I now fly
through these clouds that are aimlessly drifting ...
so high
that no sound
echoing by
below where the mountains are lifting
the sky
can be heard.

Like a bird,
but not meek,
like a hawk from a distance regarding its prey,
I will shriek,
not a word,
but a screech,
and my terrible clamor will turn them to clay—
the sheep,
the earthbound.

I wrote "Earthbound" around age 20 and it has been published by Boston Poetry Magazine, Native American Indian Pride and Native American Poems, Prayers and Stories.

***

Mare Clausum
by Michael R. Burch

These are the narrows of my soul—
dark waters pierced by eerie, haunting screams.
And these uncharted islands bleakly home
wild nightmares and deep, strange, forbidding dreams.

Please don’t think to find pearls’ pale, unearthly glow
within its shoals, nor corals in its reefs.
For, though you seek to salvage Love, I know
that vessel lists, and night brings no relief.

Pause here, and look, and know that all is lost;
then turn, and go; let salt consume, and rust.
This sea is not for sailors, but the damned
who lingered long past morning, till they learned

why it is named:
Mare Clausum.

I wrote "Mare Clausum" around age 19; it was originally published by Penny Dreadful.

***

Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.

I wrote "Each Color a Scar" around age 21. 

***

The Tender Weight of Her Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

The tender weight of her sighs
lies heavily upon my heart;
apart from her, full of doubt,
without her presence to revolve around,
found wanting direction or course,
cursed with the thought of her grief,
believing true love is a myth,
with hope as elusive as tears,
hers and mine, unable to lie,
I sigh ...

I believe “The Tender Weight of Her Sighs” and “Each Color a Scar” are companion poems, probably written around the same time at age 21. This poem has an unusual rhyme scheme, with the last word of each line rhyming with the first word of the next line. The final line is a “closing couplet” in which both words rhyme with the last word of the preceding line. I believe I invented the nonce form, which I will dub the “End-First Curtal Sonnet.”

***

Laughter from Another Room
by Michael R. Burch

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel;
as I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

Only you and I are real.
Only you and I exist.
Only burns that blister heal.
Only dreams denied persist.

Only dreams denied persist.
Only hope that lingers dies.
Only love that lessens lives.
Only lovers ever cry.

Only lovers ever cry.
Only sinners ever pray.
Only saints are crucified.
The crucified are always saints.

The crucified are always saints.
The maddest men control the world.
The dumb man knows what he would say;
the poet never finds the words.

The poet never finds the words.
The minstrel never hits the notes.
The minister would love to curse.
The warrior longs to spare his foe.

The warrior longs to spare his foe.
The scholar never learns the truth.
The actors never see the show.
The hangman longs to feel the noose.

The hangman longs to feel the noose.
The artist longs to feel the flame.
The proudest men are not aloof;
the guiltiest are not to blame.

The guiltiest are not to blame.
The merriest are prone to brood.
If we go outside, it rains.
If we stay inside, it floods.

If we stay inside, it floods.
If we dare to love, we fear.
Blind men never see the sun;
other men observe through tears.

Other men observe through tears
the passage of these days of doom;
now I listen and I hear
laughter from another room.

Laughter from another room
mocks the anguish that I feel.
As I sit alone and brood,
only you and I are real.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem as a college freshman or sophomore, around age 18 or 19. It remains largely the same as the original poem.

***

Lay Down Your Arms
by Michael R. Burch

Lay down your arms; come, sleep in the sand.
The battle is over and night is at hand.
Our voyage has ended; there's nowhere to go ...
the earth is a cinder still faintly aglow.

Lay down your pamphlets; let's bicker no more.
Instead, let us rest here on this ravaged shore.
The sea is still boiling; the air is wan, thin ...
So lay down your pamphlets; now no one will “win.”

Lay down your hymnals; abandon all song.
If God was to save us, He waited too long.
A new world emerges, but this world is through . . .
so lay down your hymnals, or write something new.

I wrote “Lay Down Your Arms” around age 21 and it became my first published poem, possibly. Can an acceptance be a rejection? I never received a copy of the first journal that accepted one of my poems, The Romantist, so I still don’t know if my first “published poem” was actually published!

***

Ode to the Sun
by Michael R. Burch

Day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Follow still your silent course.
Follow your unyielding course.
On, swift sun.

Leave no trace of where you've been;
give no hint of what you've seen.
But, ever as you onward flee,
touch me, O sun,
touch me.

Now day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Go touch my love about her face
and warm her now for my embrace;
for though she sleeps so far away,
where she is not, I shall not stay.
Go tell her now I, too, shall come.
Go on, swift sun,
go on.

I seem to remember writing this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18. It was originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review.

***

All My Children
by Michael R. Burch

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the blousy flowers
of this backyard cemet'ry,
upon my children as they sleep.

Oh, there is Hank in the daisies now,
with a mound of earth for a pillow;
his face as hard as his monument,
but his voice as soft as the wind through the willows.

And there is Meg beside the spring
that sings her endless sleep.
Though it’s often said of stiller waters,
sometimes quicksilver streams run deep.

And there is Frankie, little Frankie,
tucked in safe at last,
a child who weakened and died too soon,
but whose heart was always steadfast.

And there is Mary by the bushes
where she hid so well,
her face as dark as their berries,
yet her eyes far darker still.

And Andy . . . there is Andy,
sleeping in the clover,
a child who never saw the sun
so soon his life was over.

And Em'ly, oh my Em'ly . . .
the prettiest of all . . .
now she's put aside her dreams
of lovers dark and tall
for dreams dreamed not at all.

It is May now, merry May
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the green gardens,
on the graves of all my children . . .

But they never did depart;
They still live within my heart.

God, keep them safe until
I join them, as I will.

God, guard their tender dust
until I meet them, as I must.

This is one of my earliest poems, written around 1973, circa age 15, about the same time as “Jessamyn’s Song” although I think this one is a bit older, based on its language and style.

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

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