Year: 
2021

"Nightfall" is a poem I wrote for my fellow poet and friend Kevin Nicholas Roberts, shortly after his death. 

Nightfall
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

Only the long dolor of dusk delights me now,
     as I await death.
The rain has ruined the unborn corn,
         and the wasting breath
of autumn has cruelly, savagely shorn
               each ear of its radiant health.
As the golden sun dims, so the dying land seems to relinquish its vanishing wealth.

Only a few erratic, trembling stalks still continue to stand,
     half upright,
and even these the winds have continually robbed of their once-plentiful,
          golden birthright.
I think of you and I sigh, forlorn, on edge
               with the rapidly encroaching night.
Ten thousand stillborn lilies lie limp, mixed with roses, unable to ignite.

Whatever became of the magical kernel, golden within
     at the winter solstice?
What of its promised kingdom, Amen!, meant to rise again
          from this balmless poultice,
this strange bottomland where one Scarecrow commands
               dark legions of ravens and mice?
And what of the Giant whose bellows demand our negligible lives, his black vice?

I find one bright grain here aglitter with rain, full of promise and purpose
     and drive.
Through lightning and hail and nightfalls and pale, cold sunless moons
         it will strive
to rise up from its “place” on a network of lace, to the glory
             of being alive.
Why does it bother, I wonder, my brother? O, am I unwise to believe?
                                    But Jack had his beanstalk
                              and you had your poems
                         and the sun seems intent to ascend
               and so I also must climb
          to the end of my time,
     however the story
may unwind
and
end.

This poem was written around a month after Kevin’s death.

***

White in the Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

White in the shadows
I see your face,
unbidden. Go, tell
Love it is commonplace;

tell Regret it is not so rare.

Our love is not here
though you smile,
full of sedulous grace.
Lost in darkness, I fear

the past is our resting place.

Published by Carnelian, The Chained Muse, Poetry Life & Times, A-Poem-A-Day and in a YouTube video by Aurora G. with the titles “Ghost,” “White Goddess” and “White in the Shadows.” This poem has become popular on the Internet, particularly around Halloween, with nearly 3,000 Google results for the fifth line. I have dedicated the poem to my friend and fellow poet Kevin Nicholas Roberts. Keywords/Tags: ghost, shadow, shadows, face, visage, haunted, haunting, regret, darkness, fear, past, memory, memories, death, grave, resting place, night, nightfall, death, Kevin Nicholas Roberts, Kevin N. Roberts, Kevin Roberts, elegy, eulogy, poet, poets, poem, poems, poetry

***

Storied Lovers
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin and Janice Roberts

In your quest for the Beloved,
my brother, did you make
a near-fatal mistake?

*

Did you trust in the Enchantress,
La Belle Dame, as they say,
Sans Merci? Shall I pray
more kindly hands to gather you
to warmer breasts, and hold
your Spirit there, enfold
your heart in love’s sweet blessedness?

*

No need! One Angel’s fond caress
was your sweet haven here.
None ever held more dear,
you harbored with your Anchoress
whenever storms drew near.

*

Whatever storms drew near,
however great the Flood,
she held you, kind and good,
no imperious savage Empress,
but as earthly Angels should.

*

In your quest for the Beloved
did the road take some strange fork
where ecstatic feys cavort
that led you to her hermitage
and her hearth, safe from that wood.
(Did La Belle Dame’s dark eyes hood?)

*

I am thankful for the marriage
two tender spirits shared.
When the raging waters glared
and the deadly bugles blared
like cruel Trumps of Doom, below
how strong death’s undertow!

*

But true spirits never sink.
Though he swam through hell’s fell stink
and a sea of putrid harms,
he swam back to your arms!

*

Life lived upon the brink
of death, man’s human fate,
can yet such Love create
that the hosts above, spellbound,
fall silent. So confound
the heavens with your Love
and fly, O tender Dove!,
to wherever hearts may rest
once having sweetly blessed
a heart like my dear brother’s
and be both storied lovers.

Amen

I wrote this poem on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2009.

***

You Were the One Who Talked to Angels
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

You were the one who talked to Angels
while I was the one who berated God,
calling him Tyrant, Infidel, Fool,
Killer, Clown, Brute, Sod, Despot, Clod.

But you were the one who talked to Angels—
who, bathed in celestial light,
stood unarmed, except for your pen
and your journal, ecstatic, to write.

How kind their baptisms, how gentle their voices!
Considering their nature the world rejoices,
and you were their gentle, their chosen one . . .
you, my kind friend, now unkindly gone.

But you were the one who talked to Angels,
in empathy, being their kind,
a child of compassion whose tender heart
burst beneath skin’s ruptured rind.

You sought the Beloved with a questing Heart;
once found, the heav’n-quickened Spirit must fly!
You mastered Man’s strange, fatalistic Art—
to live, to love, to laugh, then die.

But living here, Angel, you found the arms
of a human Angel and, living, you knew
the glories of temporal, mortal love
where one and one eclipses two.

And now she mourns you, as we all do.

But you were the one who talked to Angels,
as William Blake did, in his day,
and, childlike, felt their eclectic grace—
sweet warmth, illuminating clay.

Two kinds of Warmth—a Wife’s, and Theirs.
Two kinds of Love—Human, Divine.
Two kinds of Grace—the Angels’, Hers.
Two Planes within one Heart combine.

And so you brought far heaven near,
and so you elevated earth
and Human Love, to where the Cloud
of Witnesses might see man’s worth.

                          ***

My Christlike brother, who talked to Angels,
where do you soar today, I wonder?
Do you fly on white percussive wings,
far, far beyond earth’s abyssal thunder,
and looking back, regard the earth
and its lightnings and their bellowed hymns
as the sparks and groans of a temporal Forge,
as merely momentary things?

There, looking up, do you see the Host
of those who ascended, of those who see
all things more clearly, having slipped
thin veils of flesh, for Eternity?

And will you, in your Joy, forget
the sufferings of serfs below,
or will you remember, cry “Relent!”
to those with the power to bestow
the gifts of spirit upon the many
rather than just the Chosen Few,
who sell bottled grace for a pretty penny
and break the hearts of doves like you?

Or will you be the Advocate
of those who live—the fag; the whore;
the homeless man; the indigent;
the waif who begs at the kirk’s barred door
and dares not enter, for her “sins”
which the rich-robed mannequins deplore
as they circle her and mind the store?

Will mercy, pity, peace conspire
to hold you in their gravity
so that, still Human, you aspire
to change earth’s dark trajectory?

I wrote this poem the day after Kevin died.

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