These are poems of mine that have been turned into songs by composers, plus a few that I would like to become songs.
by Michael R. Burch
for Johnny Cash
What is a mountain, but stone?
Or a spire, but a trinket of steel?
Johnny Cash is gone,
black from his hair to his bootheels.
These are my modern English translations of the immortal Sappho of Lesbos.
A short revealing frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!
—Sappho, fragment 155, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
My poem may be yours indeed
In melody and tone,
If in its rhythm you can read
A music of your own;
If in its pale woof you can weave
Your lovelier design,
'Twill make my lyric, I believe,
More yours than mine.
I'm but a prompter at the best;
Crude cues are all I give.
In simple stanzas I suggest -
'Tis you who make them live.
My bit of rhyme is but a frame,
And if my lines you quote,
I think, although they bear my name,
'Tis you who wrote.
Written In Australia
THE WIDE sun stares without a cloud:
Whipped by his glances truculent
The earth lies quivering and cowed.
My heart is hot with discontent:
I hate this haggard continent.
But over the loping leagues of sea
A lone land calls to her children free:
My own land holding her arms to me—
But oh, the long loping leagues of sea.
The grey old city is dumb with heat;
No breeze comes leaping, naked, rude,
Adown the narrow, high-walled street;
Why Do Birds Sing
Let poets piece prismatic words,
Give me the jewelled joy of birds!
What ecstasy moves them to sing?
Is it the lyric glee of Spring,
The dewy rapture of the rose?
Is it the worship born in those
Who are of Nature's self a part,
The adoration of the heart?
Is it the mating mood in them
That makes each crystal note a gem?
Oh mocking bird and nightingale,
Oh mavis, lark and robin - hail!
Tell me what perfect passion glows
In your inspired arpeggios?
A thrush is thrilling as I write
When the Dark Comes Down
When the dark comes down, oh, the wind is on the sea
With lisping laugh and whimper to the red reef's threnody,
The boats are sailing homeward now across the harbor bar
With many a jest and many a shout from fishing grounds afar.
So furl your sails and take your rest, ye fisher folk so brown,
For task and quest are ended when the dark comes down.
When the dark comes down, oh, the landward valleys fill
Like brimming cups of purple, and on every landward hill
There shines a star of twilight that is watching evermore
Two Lyrics From Kilroy's Carnival A Masque
"--Kiss me there where pride is glittering
Kiss me where I am ripened and round fruit
Kiss me wherever, however, I am supple, bare and flare
(Let the bell be rung as long as I am young:
let ring and fly like a great bronze wing!)
"--I'll kiss you wherever you think you are poor,
Wherever you shudder, feeling striped or barred,
Because you think you are bloodless, skinny or marred:
your gaze has been stilled--
Turns and Movies Rose and Murray
After the movie, when the lights come up,
He takes her powdered hand behind the wings;
She, all in yellow, like a buttercup,
Lifts her white face, yearns up to him, and clings;
And with a silent, gliding step they move
Over the footlights, in familiar glare,
Panther-like in the Tango whirl of love,
He fawning close on her with idiot stare.
Swiftly they cross the stage. O lyric ease!
The drunken music follows the sure feet,
The swaying elbows, intergliding knees,
Moving with slow precision on the beat.
To My Enemy
Let those who will of friendship sing,
And to its guerdon grateful be,
But I a lyric garland bring
To crown thee, O, mine enemy!
Thanks, endless thanks, to thee I owe
For that my lifelong journey through
Thine honest hate has done for me
What love perchance had failed to do.
I had not scaled such weary heights
But that I held thy scorn in fear,
And never keenest lure might match
The subtle goading of thy sneer.
Thine anger struck from me a fire
That purged all dull content away,
To My Brothers
O BROTHERS, who must ache and stoop
O’er wordy tasks in London town,
How scantly Laura trips for you—
A poem in a gown!
How rare if Grub-street grew a lawn!
How sweet if Nature’s lap could spare
A dandelion for the Strand,
A cowslip for Mayfair!
But here, from immaterial lyres,
There rings in easy confidence
The blackbird’s bright philosophy
On apple-spray or fence:
For ploughmen wending home from toil
Some patriot thrush outpours his lay,