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.
Faces of two eternities keep looking at me.
One is Omar Khayam and the red stuff
wherein men forget yesterday and to-morrow
and remember only the voices and songs,
the stories, newspapers and fights of today.
One is Louis Cornaro and a slim trick
of slow, short meals across slow, short years,
letting Death open the door only in slow, short inches.
I have a neighbor who swears by Omar.
I have a neighbor who swears by Cornaro.
Both are happy.
In a strange town in a far land
They met amid a throng;
They stared, they could not understand
How life was sudden song.
As brown eyes looked in eyes of grey
Just for a moment's space,
Twin spirits met with sweet dismay
In that strange place.
And then the mob that swept them near
Reft them away again;
Two hearts in all the world most dear
Knew puzzlement and pain.
They barely brushed in passing by,
A wildered girl and boy,
In the fair morning of his life,
When his pure heart lay in his breast,
Panting, with all that wild unrest
To plunge into the great world's strife
That fills young hearts with mad desire,
He saw a sunset. Red and gold
The burning billows surged and rolled,
And upward tossed their caps of fire.
He looked. And as he looked the sight
Sent from his soul through breast and brain
Such intense joy, it hurt like pain.
His heart seemed bursting with delight.
So near the Unknown seemed, so close
Two Tramps in Mud Time
Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.
Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
"Why are your songs all wild and bitter sad
As funeral dirges with the orphans' cries?
Each night since first the world was made hath had
A sequent day to laugh it down the skies.
Chant us a glee to make our hearts rejoice,
Or seal in silence this unmanly moan."
My friend, I have no power to rule my voice --
A spirit lifts me where I lie alone,
And thrills me into song by its own laws;
That which I feel, but seldom know, indeed
Tempering the melody it could not cause.
I put my heart to school
In the world, where men grow wise,
"Go out," I said, "and learn the rule;
Come back when you win a prize."
My heart came back again:
"Now where is the prize?" I cried. ----
"The rule was false, and the prize was pain,
And the teacher's name was Pride."
I put my heart to school
In the woods, where veeries sing,
And brooks run cool and clear;
In the fields, where wild flowers spring,
And the blue of heaven bends near.
"Go out," I said: "you are half a fool,
I call myself a Tranquilist;
With deep detachment I exist,
From friction free;
While others court the gilded throng
And worship Women, Wine and Song,
I scorn the three.
For I have reached the sober age
When I prefer to turn a page
Beside the fire,
And from the busy mart of men
To meditative book and pen
With grace retire.
If you are craving peace of mind,
Twas One of Those Dreams
'TWAS one of those dreams, that by music are brought,
Like a bright summer haze, o'er the poet's warm thought --
When, lost in the future, his soul wanders on,
And all of this life, but its sweetness, is gone.
The wild notes he heard o'er the water were those
He had taught to sing Erin's dark bondage and woes,
And the breath of the bugle now wafted them o'er
From Dinis' green isle, to Glena's wooded shore.
He listen'd -- while, high o'er the eagle's rude nest,
The lingering sounds on their way loved to rest;
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat
" -- -- it was at the great concert given by the
Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing
`Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!'You know the song, perhaps?" "I've heard something like it," said Alice. "It goes on, you know," the Hatter continued,
"in this way: -- --
`Up above the world you fly,
Like a teatray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle --'"