Year: 
2021

These are poems about Frost, Ice and Winter, plus poems I have written after Robert Frost. 

Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

after Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,

that likes its pikes’ sharp rows of teeth
and doesn’t mind its victims’ grief

(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.

Many people misunderstand the most famous phrase in Robert Frost’s acclaimed poem “Mending Wall.” In the poem Frost’s neighbor quotes his father’s adage that “Good fences make good neighbors” as they work together to repair an unnecessary wall on the border of their properties. Talk about a misunderstanding: this phrase has even been used by politicians to justify apartheid walls and similar barriers! But Frost did not share his neighbor’s belief and compared him to a stone-armed savage who moved in primitive darkness and could not go beyond his father’s saying. Frost’s own belief about such walls was expressed in the poem: “Before I built a wall I'd ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out / And to whom I was like to give offense.” At the end of the poem, Frost considers teasing his neighbor with the idea that mischievous elves are responsible for the wall falling down, but decides to hold his peace. My title questions who builds such walls: “Not Elves, Exactly” but something much darker and more ominous.

Published by Snakeskin, Poem Today (twice), Perfect Poems, Borderless Journal (Singapore), Edna’s

***

Less Heroic Couplets: Fahr an’ Ice
by Michael R. Burch

with abject apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash

From what I know of death, I’ll side with those
who’d like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

Published by: Light, Famous Poets & Poems, Poetry on Demand, Poetry Life & Times, Fullosia Press, Inspirational Stories, Litera (UK), Poems About, English Poetry

***

Distances
by Michael R. Burch

There is a small cleanness about her,
as if she has always just been washed,
and there is a dull obedience to convention
in her accommodating slenderness
as she feints at her salad.

She has never heard of Faust, or Frost,
and she is unlikely to have been seen
rummaging through bookstores
for mementos of others
more difficult to name.

She might imagine “poetry”
to be something in common between us,
as we write, bridging the expanse
between convention and something . . .
something the world calls “art”
for want of a better word.

At night I scream
at the conventions of both our worlds,
at the distances between words
and their objects: distances
come lately between us,
like a clean break.

Published by Verse Libre, Triplopia and Lone Stars

***

Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Robert Frost

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth’s gravitron—
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn’s cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful—
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we’d feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Published by The Raintown Review, Stremez (translated into Macedonian by Marija Girevska), Jewish Letter (translated into Russian by Vera Zubarev), The Chimaera, Contemporary Sonnet, The Eclectic Muse, Better Than Starbucks, Glass Facets of Poetry, Victorian Violet Press, Freshet and Deronda Review; also won fourth place and $100 in the Tom Howard Poetry Contest conducted by Winning Writers

***

Love Stronger than Time
by Victor Hugo
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I first set my lips to your full cup,
Since my pallid face first nested in your hands,
Since I sensed your soul and every bloom lit up—
Till those rare perfumes were lost to deepening sands;

Since I was first allowed these pleasures deep—
To hear your heart speak mysteries, divine;
Since I have seen you smile, have watched you weep,
Your lips pressed to my lips, your eyes on mine;

Since I have sensed above my thoughts the gleam
Of a ray, a single ray, of your bright star
(If sometimes veiled), and felt light—falling—stream
Like one rose petal plucked from high, afar;

I now can say to time's swift-changing hours:
“Pass, pass upon your way, for you grow old;
Flee to the dark abyss with your drear flowers,
but one unmarred within my heart I hold.

Your flapping wings may jar but cannot spill
The cup fulfilled of love, from which I drink;
My heart has fires your frosts can never chill,
My soul more love to fly than you can sink.”

***

Where Does the Butterfly Go?
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go ...
when lightning rails ...
when thunder howls ...
when hailstones scream ...
when winter scowls ...
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), Thaqafat (Arabic translation by Nizar Sartarwi), SindhuNews (India), Promosaik (Germany), Islamically Speaking, Poems for Gaza, Poetry Life & Times and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worchester; also set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab

***

Whose Woods
by Michael R. Burch

after Robert Frost

Whose woods these are, I think I know.
Dick Cheney’s in the White House, though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his chip mills overflow.

My sterile horse must think it queer
To stop without a ’skeeter near
Beside this softly glowing “lake”
Of six-limbed frogs gone nuclear.

He gives his hairless tail a shake;
I fear he’s made his last mistake—
He took a sip of water blue
(Blue-slicked with oil and HazMat waste).

Get out your wallets; Dick’s not through—
Enron’s defunct, the bill comes due . . .
Which he will send to me, and you.
Which he will send to me, and you.

Published by The Chariton Review

Keywords/Tags: frost, ice, snow, winter, Robert Frost, wall, walls, rocks, liquor, autumn, fall

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