Year: 
2021

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

Because You Came to Me
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Because you came to me with sweet compassion
and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,
I do not love you after any fashion,
but wildly, in despair.

Because you came to me in my black torment
and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun
upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn’s foment
they melt, I am undone.

Because I am undone, you have remade me
as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow
the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me
and bower me, somehow.

I wrote the first version of this poem around age 18, then revised it 30 years later and dedicated the new version to my wife Beth.

***

Infinity
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your soul sought its shell like a crab on a beach,
then scuttled inside to be safe, out of reach?

Might I lift you tonight from earth’s wreckage and damage
on these waves gently rising to pay the moon homage?
Or better, perhaps, let me say that I, too,
have dreamed of infinity . . . windswept and blue.

This poem was originally published by TC Broadsheet Verses (for a whopping $10, my first cash payment) then subsequently by Piedmont Literary Review, Penny Dreadful, the Net Poetry and Art Competition, Songs of Innocence, Setu (India), Better Than Starbucks, Borderless Journal (Singapore), Poetry Life & Times, Formal Verse (Potcake Poet’s Choice) and The Chained Muse. This poem was originally longer, but I was never happy with the longer version. I thought the first two stanzas were superior to the remainder of the poem, and at some point, years later, it occurred to me to let the poem end where it does now. It was only after I pared the poem down to the first two stanzas that I considered it publishable. I now consider it to be one of my best poems. This is one of my early poems that made me feel like a “real poet,” along with “Reckoning,” “Playmates,” “Time,” “Am I” and a few others. I wrote the longer poem as a teenager, to no one in particular, but after I met Beth I revised the poem and dedicated it to her, as the lover and soul mate I had been searching for. The closing lines say that I, too, have felt darkness and despair, and have felt utterly alone. But the hope of the poem is that we are not alone. This poem is my “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

***

Poetry
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry, I found you where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you to torture and confound you,
I found you—shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh’s skies, had leapt with dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care; there savage brands had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars; your bones were broken with the force
with which they’d lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all. So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call from where dawn’s milling showers fall—
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth to temper for a lover’s touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand and led my steps from boy to man;
now I look back, remember when—you shone, and cannot understand
why here, tonight, you bear their brand.

I will take and cradle you in my arms, remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight—back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears for all those blissful years . . .
my love, whom I adore.

Originally published by The Lyric, then subsequently by Amerikai költok a második (Hungarian translation by by István Bagi), La Luce Che Non Muore (Italy), The Eclectic Muse (Canada), Shabestaneh (Iran), Kritya (India), Sailing in the Mist of Time (Anthology of Fifty Award-Winning Poems), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Captivating Poetry (Anthology), Formal Verse, Tucumcari Literary Review, The Chained Muse, The New Lyre, Poet’s Haven, Poet’s Corner, Famous Poets and Poems and Inspirational Stories

***

I wrote this poem from the window of my freshman dorm at age 18, while watching students returning from rush week parties in the wee hours of the morning. There is a sonnet version, followed by a longer version. In the longer version there are clues, particularly “quaint sprigs of ivy,” that the poet, like Prufrock, is aware of perils of Romanticism in the modern age. I consider “These Hallowed Halls” to be my Ars Poetica, along with “Poetry.”

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber of these ancient halls.
I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time—alone, not untouched.
And I am as they were—unsure, for the days
stretch out ahead, a bewildering maze.

Ah, faithless lover—that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.
For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has leapt from the pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

***

These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .

I.

A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.  

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time—alone,
not untouched.

And I am as they were
...unsure...
for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.

II.

Ah, faithless lover—
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.

A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we fail to gauge Time’s speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.

Ungentle maiden—
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.

A measureless rhythm rules the night—
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.

So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills’
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar’s shrill, cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any;
how can I—when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
framed by your perfect pillowcase?

VII.

If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled savage lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today—
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude—
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone, by himself, to think.

VIII.

And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.

Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.

X.

A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.

This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these Hallowed Halls.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

***

Davenport Tomorrow
by Michael R. Burch

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the trees stand stark-naked in the sun.

Now it is always summer
and the bees buzz in cesspools,
adapted to a new life.

There are no flowers,
but the weeds, being hardier,
have survived.

The small town has become
a city of millions;
there is no longer a sea,
only a huge sewer,
but the children don't mind.

They still study
rocks and stars,
but biology is a forgotten science ...
after all, what is life?

Davenport tomorrow ...
all the children murmur through vein-streaked gills
whispered wonders of long-ago.

***

Describing You
by Michael R. Burch

How can I describe you?

The fragrance of morning rain
mingled with dew
reminds me of you;

the warmth of sunlight
stealing through a windowpane
brings you back to me again.

This is an early poem of mine, written as a teenager, possibly age 16 due to the romantic style and sentiments. 

***

Be that Rock
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather George Edwin Hurt Sr.

When I was a child
    I never considered man’s impermanence,
for you were a mountain of adamant stone:
    a man steadfast, immense,
and your words rang.

And when you were gone,
    I still heard your voice, which never betrayed,
"Be strong and of a good courage,
    neither be afraid ..."
as the angels sang.

And, O!, I believed
    for your words were my truth, and I tried to be brave
though the years slipped away
    with so little to save
of that talk.

Now I'm a man—
    a man ... and yet Grandpa ... I'm still the same child
who sat at your feet
    and learned as you smiled.
Be that rock.

I don't remember when I wrote this poem, but I will guess around age 18 in 1976. The verse quoted is from an old, well-worn King James Bible my grandfather gave me after his only visit to the United States, as he prepared to return to England with my grandmother. I was around eight at the time and didn't know if I would ever see my grandparents again, so I was heartbroken – destitute, really. Fortunately my father was later stationed at an Air Force base in Germany and we were able to spend four entire summer vacations with my grandparents. I was also able to visit them in England several times as an adult. But the years of separation were very difficult for me and I came to detest things that separated me from my family and friends: the departure platforms of train stations, airport runways, even the white dividing lines on lonely highways and interstates as they disappeared behind my car. My idea of heaven became a place where we are never again separated from our loved ones. And that puts hell here on earth.

***

130 Refuted
by Michael R. Burch

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red ...
— Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

Seas that sparkle in the sun
without its light would have no beauty;
but the light within your eyes
is theirs alone; it owes no duty.
And that flame, not half as bright,
is meant for me, and brings delight.

Coral formed beneath the sea,
though scarlet-tendriled, cannot warm me;
while your lips, not half so red,
just touching mine, at once inflame me.
And the searing flames your lips arouse
fathomless oceans fail to douse.

Bright roses’ brief affairs, declared
when winter comes, will wither quickly.
Your cheeks, though paler when compared
with them?—more lasting, never prickly.
And your cheeks, so dear and warm,
far vaster treasures, need no thorns.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

I believe I wrote this poem as a college freshman; if not as a freshman, then definitely by my sophomore year. I composed my refutation in my head as I walked back to my dorm from an English class where I had read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130.” This was my first attempt at a sonnet, but I dispensed with the rules, as has always been my wont.

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

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