Poetry: Michael Burch

Michael R. Burch

BIO: Michael R. Burch's poems have been published by hundreds of literary journals, taught in high schools and colleges, translated into 14 languages, incorporated into three plays and two operas, and set to music, from swamp blues to opera, by 27 composers.

 

alien

 

there are mornings in england

when, riddled with light,

the Blueberries gleam at us—

plump, sweet and fragrant.

 

but i am so small ...

what do i know

of the ways of the Daffodils?

“beware of the Nettles!”

 

we go laughing and singing,

but somehow, i, ...

i know i am lost. i do not belong

to this Earth or its Songs.

 

and yet i am singing ...

the sun—so mild;

my cheeks are like roses;

my skin—so fair.

 

i spent a long time there

before i realized: They have no faces,

no bodies, no voices.

i was always alone.

 

and yet i keep singing:

the words will come

if only i hear.

 

I believe I wrote this poem around age 19. One of my earliest memories is picking blueberries amid the brambles surrounding the tiny English hamlet, Mattersey, where I and my mother lived with her parents while my American father was stationed in Thule, Greenland, where dependents were not permitted.
***



Because You Came to Me

 

for Beth

 

Because you came to me with sweet compassion

and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,

I do not love you after any fashion,

but wildly, in despair.

 

Because you came to me in my black torment

and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun

upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn’s foment

they melt ... I am undone.

 

Because I am undone, you have remade me

as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow

the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me

and bower me, somehow.

 

I wrote this poem around age 18, as a senior in high school.

*** 

 

The Beautiful People

 

They are the beautiful people,

and their shadows dance through the valleys of the moon

to the listless strains of an ancient tune.

 

Oh, no ... please don't touch them,

for their smiles might fade.

Don’t go ... don’t approach them

as they promenade,

for they waltz through a vacuum

and dream they're not made

of the dust and the dankness

to which men degrade.

 

They are the beautiful people,

and their spirits sighed in their mothers’ wombs

as the distant echoings of unearthly tunes.

 

Winds do not blow there

and storms do not rise,

and each hair has its place

and each gown has its price.

And they whirl through the darkness

untouched by our cares

as we watch them and long for

a "life" such as theirs.

I wrote this poem in high school, around age 17 or 18.

***


Be that Rock

 

for my grandfather George Edwin Hurt Sr.

When I was a child

    I never considered man’s impermanence,

for you were a mountain of adamant stone:

    a man steadfast, immense,

and your words rang.

 

And when you were gone,

    I still heard your voice, which never betrayed,

"Be strong and of a good courage,

    neither be afraid ..."

as the angels sang.

 

And, O!, I believed

    for your words were my truth, and I tried to be brave

though the years slipped away

    with so little to save

of that talk.

 

Now I'm a man—

    a man ... and yet Grandpa ... I'm still the same child

who sat at your feet

    and learned as you smiled.

Be that rock.

 

I wrote this poem around age 18. The verse quoted is from an old, well-worn King James Bible my grandfather gave me after his only visit to the United States, as he prepared to return to England with my grandmother. I was around eight at the time and didn't know if I would ever see my grandparents again, so I was heartbroken – destitute, really. Fortunately my father was later stationed at an Air Force base in Germany and we were able to spend four entire summer vacations with my grandparents. I was also able to visit them in England several times as an adult. But the years of separation were very difficult for me and I came to detest things that separated me from my family and friends: the departure platforms of train stations, airport runways, even the white dividing lines on lonely highways and interstates as they disappeared behind my car. My idea of heaven became a place where we are never again separated from our loved ones.

*** 

 

Bound

 

Now it is winter—the coldest night.

And as the light of the streetlamp casts strange shadows to the ground,

I have lost what I once found

in your arms.

 

Now it is winter—the coldest night.

And as the light of distant Venus fails to penetrate dark panes,

I have remade all my chains

and am bound.

 

I wrote this poem around age 14 or 15, then revised at age 17, then again at age 26. But the poem remains pretty close to the original, which was published in my high school journal the Lantern.
***



Burn

 

for Trump

 

Sunbathe,

ozone baby,

till your parched skin cracks

in the white-hot flash

of radiation.

 

Incantation

from your pale parched lips

shall not avail;

you made this hell.

Now burn.

 

This was one of my early poems, written around age 19. I dedicated the poem to Trump after he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change accords.

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