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.


Having Touched You

What I have lost
is not less
than what I have gained

And for each moment passed
like the sun to the west,
another remained

suspended in memory
like a flower
in crystal

so that eternity
is but an hour
and fall

is no longer a season
but a state
of mind.

I have no reason
to wait;
the wind

does not pause
for remembrance
or regret

because
there is only fate and chance.
And so then, forget . . .

Forget that we were very happy
for a day.
That day was my lifetime.


Before that day I was empty
and the sky was grey.
You were the sunshine,

the sunshine that gave me life.
I took root
and I grew.

Now the touch of death is like a terrible knife,
and yet I can bear it,
having touched you.
***


Each Color a Scar

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.
***

hymn to Apollo

something of sunshine attracted my i
as it lazed on the afternoon sky,
                                     golden,
splashed on the easel of god;
                                    what,
                           i thought,
could this elfin stuff be,
         to, phantomlike,                   flit

    through TALL trees
on      days, such as these?
    fall

and the breeze
whispered a dirge
to the vanishing light;
enchoired with the evening, it sang;
its voice 
              enchantedly  
                                  rang
chanting “Night!” . . .

till all the bright light
retired,
expired.
***


All My Children

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the blousy flowers
of this backyard cemet'ry,
upon my children as they sleep.

Oh, there is Hank in the daisies now,
with a mound of earth for a pillow;
his face as harsh as his monument,
but his voice as soft as the wind through the willows.

And there is Meg beside the spring
that sings her endless sleep.
Though it’s often said of stiller waters,
sometimes quicksilver streams run deep.

And there is Frankie, little Frankie,
tucked in safe at last,
a child who weakened and died too soon,
but whose heart was always steadfast.

And there is Mary by the bushes
where she hid so well,
her face as dark as their berries,
yet her eyes far darker still.

And Andy . . . there is Andy,
sleeping in the clover,
a child who never saw the sun
so soon his life was over.

And Em'ly, oh my Em'ly!,
the prettiest of all . . .
now she's put aside her dreams
of beaus kind, dark and tall
for dreams dreamed not at all.

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon this backyard garden,
on the graves of all my children ...

God, keep them safe until
I join them, as I will.
God, guard their tender dust
until I meet them, as I must.
***

El Dorado

It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.

Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.

Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.

The young men with outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a pot of gold
near El Dorado.

And the painted “actress” who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of “defeats”
and “triumphs” on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.

Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.

But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.

We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it "just once more."
For this is the big, big apple,
though it’s rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.
***

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