Year: 
2021

These are poems about flying and flight. 

Are the geese flying south?
The candle continues to flicker ...
—Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

***

Once they’ve crossed the sea,
winter winds can never return.
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(Written in October 1944 as Kamikaze pilots were flying out to sea.)

***

Free Fall (II)
by Michael R. Burch

I have no earthly remembrance of you, as if
we were never of earth, but merely white clouds adrift,
swirling together through Himalayan serene altitudes—
no more man and woman than exhaled breath—unable to fall
back to solid existence, despite the air’s sparseness: all
our being borne up, because of our lightness,
toward the sun’s unendurable brightness . . .

But since I touched you, fire consumes each wing!

We who are unable to fly, stall
contemplating disaster. Despair like an anchor, like an iron ball,
heavier than ballast, sinks on its thick-looped chain
toward the earth, and soon thereafter there will be sufficient pain
to recall existence, to make the coming darkness everlasting.

***

Fledglings
by Michael R. Burch

With her small eyes, pale blue and unforgiving,
she taught me—December is not for those
unweaned of love, the chirping nestlings
who bicker for worms with dramatic throats

still pinkly exposed, who have yet to learn
the first harsh lesson of survival: to devour
their weaker siblings in the high-leafed ferned
fortress and impregnable bower

from which men must fly like improbable dreams
to become poets. They have yet to grasp that,
before they can soar starward like fanciful archaic machines,
they must first assimilate the latest technology, or

lose all in the sudden realization of gravity,
following Icarus’s, sun-unwinged, singed trajectory.

***

The Higher Atmospheres
by Michael R. Burch

Whatever we became climbed on the thought
of Love itself; we floated on plumed wings
ten thousand miles above the breasted earth
that had vexed us to such Distance; now all things
seem small and pale, a girdle’s handsbreadth girth ...

I break upon the rocks; I break; I fling
my human form about; I writhe; I writhe.
Invention is not Mastery, nor wings
Salvation. Here the Vulture cruelly chides
and plunges at my eyes, and coos and sings ...

Oh, some will call the sun my doom, but Love
melts callow wax the higher atmospheres
leave brittle. I flew high: not high enough
to melt such frozen resins ... thus, Her jeers.

***

Southern Icarus
by Michael R. Burch

Windborne, lover of heights,
unspooled from the truck’s wildly lurching embrace,
you climb, skittish kite . . .

What do you know of the world’s despair,
gliding in vast          solitariness           there,
so that all that remains is to

fall?

Only a little longer the wind invests its sighs;
you
stall,
spread-eagled, as the canvas snaps

and flaps
its white rebellious wings,
and all

the houses watch with baffled eyes.

***

Love, if you incinerate my soul, touché!
For like you she has wings and can fly away!
—Meleager, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

***

Springtime Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

They’ll have to grow like crazy,
the springtime baby geese,
if they’re to fly to balmier climes
when autumn dismembers the leaves ...

And so I toss them loaves of bread,
then whisper an urgent prayer:
“Watch over these, my Angels,
if there’s anyone kind, up there.”

***

Duet (I)
by Michael R. Burch

Oh, Wendy, by the firelight, how sad,
how worn and gray your auburn hair became!
You’re very silent, like an evening rain
that trembles on dark petals. Tears you’ve shed
for days we danced together, glisten now;
your flesh became translucent; and your brow
knits, gathered loosely. By the well-made bed
three portraits hang with knowing eyes, beloved,
but mine is not among them. Time has proved
our hearts both strangely mortal. If I said
I loved you once, how is it that could change?
And yet I watch you fondly; love is strange . . .

Oh, Peter, by the firelight, how bright
my thought of you remains, and if I said
I loved you once, then took him to my bed,
I did it for the need of love, one night
when you were far away. My heart endured
transfigurement—in flaming ash inured
to heartbreak and the violence of sight:
I saw myself grow old and thin and frail
with thinning hair about me, like a veil . . .
And so I loved him for myself, despite
the love between us—our first startled kiss.
But then I loved him for his humanness.
And then we both grew old, and it was right . . .

Oh, Wendy, if I fly, I fly beyond
these human hearts, these cities walled and tiered
against the night, beyond this vale of tears,
for love, if it exists, dies with the years . . .

No, Peter, love is constant as the heart
that keeps till its last beat a measured pace
and sets the fixtures of its dreams in place
by beds at first well-used, at last well-made,
and counts each face a joy, each tear a grace . . .

***

Free Fall to Liftoff
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.

I see the longing for departure gleam
in his still-keen eye,
and I understand his desire
to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to ...

Keywords/Tags: poem, poems, poetry, flying, flight, fly, wing, winged, gravity, Icarus
 

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