Year: 
2021

These are villanelles by Michael R. Burch.

Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all
for children, however tall.

And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call
the one who was everything.

That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all
for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won’t remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.

No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.

***

Villanelle: Because Her Heart Is Tender
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth, on the first anniversary of 9-11

She scrawled soft words in soap: “Never Forget”
dove-white on her car’s window (though the wren,
because its heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her). As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: “Never Forget”
and kept her heart’s own counsel. No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers’ glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on ...
she stitches in damp linen: “NEVER FORGET”
and listens to her heart’s emphatic song.
(The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when nestlings fell beyond, beyond, beyond ...
love's reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.)

She writes in adamant: “NEVER FORGET!”
because her heart is tender with regret.

Published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Villanelle, The Eclectic Muse, Nietzsche Twilight, Nutty Stories (South Africa), Poetry Renewal Magazine, and Other Voices International

***

Villanelle: Because Her Heart is Tender (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Because her heart is tender
there is hope some God might mend her, …
some small hope Fates might relent.

Because her heart is tender
mighty Angels, come defend her!
Even the Devil might repent.

Because her heart is tender
Jacob’s Ladder should descend here,
the heavens open, saints assent.

Because her heart is tender
why does the cruel world rend her?
Fix the world, or let it end here!

***

Villanelle: Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribable—our love—and still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
“I love you,” in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair’s blonde thicket’s thinned and tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
“I love you,” in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray ...
to warm ourselves. We do not touch, despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we’re older now, that “love” has had its day.
But that which love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
“I love you,” in the ordinary way.

Published by The Lyric, Romantics Quarterly, Amerikai költok a második (Hungarian translation by István Bagi), Mandrake Poetry Review, Carnelian, Formal Verse, Net Poetry and Art Competition, Famous Poets & Poems, FreeXpression, PW Review, Poetic Voices, Poetry Renewal, Poem Kingdom and Poetry Life & Times; also winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne Poetry Award

***

Villanelle: The Divide
by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide . . . 
was man born to sorrow that first day?
The moon—a pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied—
the tug at his heart’s pink, burgeoning clay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
but grew bitter, bitter—man’s torrents supplied.
The bride of their longing—forever astray, 
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.
The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.
The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love’s concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide . . .
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

Published by Neovictorian/Cochlea, The Eclectic Muse, Freshet, Better Than Starbucks, Sonnetto Poesia, The New Formalist and Pennsylvania Review

***

Double Trouble
by Michael R. Burch

The villanelle is trouble:
it’s like you’re on the bubble
of beginning to see double.

It’s like you’re on the Hubble
when the lens begins to wobble:
the villanelle is trouble.

It’s like you’re Barney Rubble
scratching itchy beer-stained stubble
because you’re seeing double.

Then your lines begin to gobble
up the good rhymes, and you hobble.
The villanelle is trouble,

just like getting sloshed in the pub’ll
begin to make you babble
because you’re seeing double.

Because the form is flubbable
and is really not that loveable,
the villanelle is trouble:
it’s like you’re seeing double.

***

Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-stoned.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-stoned,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-stoned,
we first proved we had lives of our own).

Published by Barbitos, Trinacria, Songs and Poems that Changed the World (reference.com), Atomic Publishing and The Eclectic Muse (Canada)

***

Villanelle: An Ode to the Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

This is how the Universe works:
The rich must have their perks.
This is how the Good Lord rolls.

Did T-Rexes have souls?
The poor must live on doles.
This is how the Universe works.

The rich must have their dirks
to poke serfs full of holes.
This is how the Good Lord rolls.

The despot laughs and lurks
while the Tyger slaughters foals.
This is how the Universe works.

What are the despots’ goals?
The poor must mind, not shirk.
This is how the Good Lord rolls.

Trump and Putin praise the kirks
while the cowed mind ancient scrolls.
This is how the Universe works.
This is how the Good Lord rolls.

Keywords/Tags: villanelle, villanelles, refrain, chorus, love, regret, tender, tenderness, ordinary, commonplace, everyday, bed, warmth, comfort, delight, night, light

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