Children's Poems

Children's Poems

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

Mother's Smile
by Michael R. Burch
There never was a fonder smile
than mother's smile, no softer touch
than mother's touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than "much."
So more than "much, " much more than "all."
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother's there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.
There never was a stronger back
than father's back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small, 
and bore us till we reached the gate, 
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother's tender smile
will leap and follow after you! 
Originally published by TALESetc
The Desk
by Michael R. Burch
for Jeremy
There is a child I used to know
who sat, perhaps, at this same desk
where you sit now, and made a mess
of things sometimes.I wonder how
he learned at all...
He saw T-Rexes down the hall
and dreamed of trains and cars and wrecks.
He dribbled phantom basketballs, 
shot spitwads at his schoolmates' necks.
He played with pasty Elmer's glue
(and sometimes got the glue on you!) .
He earned the nickname "teacher's PEST."
His mother had to come to school
because he broke the golden rule.
He dreaded each and every test.
But something happened in the fall ―
he grew up big and straight and tall, 
and now his desk is far too small; 
so you can have it.
One thing, though ―
one swirling autumn, one bright snow, 
one gooey tube of Elmer's glue...
and you'll outgrow this old desk, too.
Originally published by TALESetc
A True Story
by Michael R. Burch
for Jeremy
Jeremy hit the ball today, 
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away
a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!) 
Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across our neighbor's yard.
So very hard across her yard
the bat that boomed a mighty "THWACK! "
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.
Originally published by TALESetc
Picturebook Princess
by Michael R. Burch
for Keira
We had a special visitor.
Our world became suddenly brighter.
She was such a charmer! 
Such a delighter! 
With her sparkly diamond slippers
and the way her whole being glows, 
Keira's a picturebook princess
from the points of her crown to the tips of her toes! 
The Aery Faery Princess
by Michael R. Burch
for Keira
There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff ―
the down of a thistle, butterflies' wings, 
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings, 
moonbeams on garlands, strands of bright hair...
I think she's just you when you're floating on air! 
Tallen the Mighty Thrower
by Michael R. Burch 
Tallen the Mighty Thrower
is a hero to turtles, geese, ducks...
they splash and they cheer
when he tosses bread near
because, you know, eating grass sucks! 

On Looking into Curious George’s Mirrors
by Michael R. Burch

for Maya McManmon, granddaughter of the poet Jim McManmon

Maya was made in the image of God;
may the reflections she sees in those curious mirrors
always echo back Love.


Maya's Beddy-Bye Poem
by Michael R. Burch

for Maya McManmon, granddaughter of the poet Jim McManmon

With a hatful of stars
and a stylish umbrella
and her hand in her Papa’s
(that remarkable fella!)
and with Winnie the Pooh
and Eeyore in tow,
may she dance in the rain
cheek-to-cheek, toe-to-toe
till each number’s rehearsed ...
My, that last step’s a leap! ―
the high flight into bed
when it’s past time to sleep!

Note: “Hatful of Stars” is a lovely song and image by Cyndi Lauper.

Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch
Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers? 
And will she find flowers, 
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn? 
Will there be starlight
while she gathers
and mussels
and albatross feathers? 
And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain? 
Originally published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK) 
by Michael R. Burch
for Jeremy
Cherubic laugh; sly, impish grin; 
Angelic face; wild chimp within.
It does not matter; sleep awhile
As soft mirth tickles forth a smile.
Gray moths will hum a lullaby
Of feathery wings, then you and I
Will wake together, by and by.
Life's not long; those days are best
Spent snuggled to a loving breast.
The earth will wait; a sun-filled sky
Will bronze lean muscle, by and by.
Soon you will sing, and I will sigh, 
But sleep here, now, for you and I
Know nothing but this lullaby.

Love Is Not Love
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love is not love that never looked
within itself and questioned all,
curled up like a zygote in a ball,
throbbed, sobbed and shook.

(Or went on a binge at a nearby mall,
then would not cook.)

Love is not love that never winced,
then smiled, convinced
that soar’s the prerequisite of fall.

When all
its wounds and scars have been saline-rinsed,
where does Love find the wherewithal
to try again,
endeavor, when

all that it knows
is: O, because!

by Michael R. Burch
There once was a leopardess, Dot, 
who indignantly answered: "I'll not! 
The gents are impressed
with the way that I'm dressed.
I wouldn't change even one spot."
There once was a dromedary
who befriended a crafty canary.
Budgie said, "You can't sing, 
but now, here's the thing ―
just think of the tunes you can carry! "

Enough with this pitiful pelican! 
He's awkward and stinks! Sense his smellican! 
His beak's far too big, 
so he eats like a pig, 
and his breath reeks of fish, I can tellican! 

Generation Gap
by Michael R. Burch 
A quahog clam, 
age 405, 
said, "Hey, it's great 
to be alive! " 
I disagreed, 
not feeling nifty, 
babe though I am, 
just pushing fifty. 
Note: A quahog clam found off the coast of Ireland is the longest-lived animal on record, at an estimated age of 405 years. 

Murder Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

“Murder most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner!”
the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Published by Lighten Up Online and Potcake Chapbooks

NOTE: In an attempt to demonstrate that not all couplets are heroic, I have created a series of poems called “Less Heroic Couplets.” I believe even poets should abide by truth-in-advertising laws! This poem also questions who the "original sinner" was. How was it not the Creator, if such a being exists, since owls are forced by nature to murder innocent mice and other prey animals? Is it possible that the Creator is not so heroic either?  Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch 
Preposterous bird! 
Inelegant! Absurd! 
Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

we did not Dye in vain!
by Michael R. Burch

from “songs of the sea snails”

though i’m just a slimy crawler,
my lineage is proud:
my forebears gave their lives
(oh, let the trumps blare loud!)
so purple-mantled Royals
might stand out in a crowd.

i salute you, fellow loyals,
who labor without scruple
as your incomes fall
while deficits quadruple
to swaddle unjust Lords
in bright imperial purple!

Notes: In ancient times the purple dye produced from the secretions of purpura mollusks (sea snails) was known as “Tyrian purple,” “royal purple” and “imperial purple.” It was greatly prized in antiquity, and was very expensive according to the historian Theopompus: “Purple for dyes fetched its weight in silver at Colophon.” Thus, purple-dyed fabrics became status symbols, and laws often prevented commoners from possessing them. The production of Tyrian purple was tightly controlled in Byzantium, where the imperial court restricted its use to the coloring of imperial silks. A child born to the reigning emperor was literally porphyrogenitos ("born to the purple") because the imperial birthing apartment was walled in porphyry, a purple-hued rock, and draped with purple silks. Royal babies were swaddled in purple; we know this because the iconodules, who disagreed with the emperor Constantine about the veneration of images, accused him of defecating on his imperial purple swaddling clothes!

The Last Enchantment
by Michael R. Burch

Oh, Lancelot, my truest friend,
how time has thinned your ragged mane
and pinched your features; still you seem
though, much, much changed―somehow unchanged.

Your sword hand is, as ever, ready,
although the time for swords has passed.
Your eyes are fierce, and yet so steady
meeting mine ... you must not ask.

The time is not, nor ever shall be,
for Merlyn’s words were only words;
and now his last enchantment wanes,
and we must put aside our swords ...

by Michael R. Burch
for Jeremy
We need our children to keep us humble
between toast and marmalade; 
there is no time for a ticker-tape parade
before bed, no award, no bright statuette 
to be delivered for mending skinned knees, 
no wild bursts of approval for shoveling snow. 
A kiss is the only approval they show; 
to leave us ― the first great success they achieve.
Keep Up
by Michael R. Burch
Keep Up! 
Daddy, I'm walking as fast as I can; 
I'll move much faster when I'm a man... 
Time unwinds
as the heart reels, 
as cares and loss and grief plummet, 
as faith unfailing ascends the summit
and heartache wheels
like a leaf in the wind. 
Like a rickety cart wheel
time revolves through the yellow dust, 
its creakiness revoking trust, 
its years emblazoned in cold hard steel. 
Keep Up! 
Son, I'm walking as fast as I can; 
take it easy on an old man.
The butterfly 
perfuming its wings 
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch
A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Buson Yosa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch
An ancient pond, 
the frog leaps: 
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch
Poems for Older Children
by Michael R. Burch 
for Jeremy
Some intuition of her despair
for her lost brood, 
as though a lost fragment of song
torn from her flat breast, 
touched me there... 
I felt, unable to hear
through the bright glass, 
the being within her melt
as her unseemly tirade
left a feather or two
adrift on the wind-ruffled air. 
Where she will go, 
how we all err, 
why we all fear
for the lives of our children, 
I cannot pretend to know. 
But, O! , 
how the unappeased glare
of omnivorous sun
over crimson-flecked snow
makes me wish you were here.
Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the Horny Toad)
by Michael R. Burch 
He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes)ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously) , and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad's...
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats...
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted, 
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.
Clyde Lied
by Michael R. Burch
There once was a mockingbird, Clyde, 
who bragged of his prowess, but lied.
To his new wife he sighed, 
"When again, gentle bride? "
"Nevermore! " bright-eyed Raven replied.

Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch
It's not that every leaf must finally fall, 
it's just that we can never catch them all.
Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch
I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Salat Days
by Michael R. Burch 
Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Paul Ray Burch, Sr. 
I remember how my grandfather used to pick poke salat...
though first, usually, he'd stretch back in the front porch swing, 
dangling his long thin legs, watching the sweat bees drone, 
talking about poke salat ―
how easy it was to find if you knew where to look for it...
standing in dew-damp clumps by the side of a road, shockingly green, 
straddling fence posts, overflowing small ditches, 
crowding out the less-hardy nettles. 
"Nobody knows that it's there, lad, or that it's fit tuh eat
with some bacon drippin's or lard." 
"Don't eat the berries. You see ― the berry's no good.
And you'd hav'ta wash the leaves a good long time." 
"I'd boil it twice, less'n I wus in a hurry.
Lawd, it's tough to eat, chile, if you boil it jest wonst." 
He seldom was hurried; I can see him still...
silently mowing his yard at eighty-eight, 
stooped, but with a tall man's angular gray grace. 
Sometimes he'd pause to watch me running across the yard, 
trampling his beans, 
dislodging the shoots of his tomato plants. 
He never grew flowers; I never laughed at his jokes about The Depression.
Years later I found the proper name―pokeweed―while perusing a dictionary.
Surprised, I asked why anyone would eat a weed. 
I still can hear his laconic reply... 
"Well, chile, s'm'times them times wus hard." 
Of Civilization and Disenchantment
by Michael R. Burch

for Anais Vionet
Suddenly uncomfortable
to stay at my grandfather's house ―
actually his third new wife's, 
in her daughter's bedroom
― one interminable summer 
with nothing to do, 
all the meals served cold, 
even beans and peas... 
Lacking the words to describe
ah! , those pearl-luminous estuaries ―
strange omens, incoherent nights. 
Seeing the flares of the river barges
illuminating Memphis, 
city of bluffs and dying splendors. 
Drifting toward Alexandria, 
Pharos, Rhakotis, Djoser's fertile delta, 
lands at the beginning of a new time and "civilization." 
Leaving behind sixty miles of unbroken cemetery, 
Alexander's corpse floating seaward, 
bobbing, milkwhite, in a jar of honey. 
Memphis shall be waste and desolate, 
without an inhabitant.
Or so the people dreamed, in chains.
by Michael R. Burch 
What good are your tears? 
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish? 
What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action? 
What help, the eloquence of prayers, 
or a pleasant benediction? 
Before this day is gone, 
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs, 
and eyes too parched to cry? 
I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing...
mournful, and distant. 
How pitiful our "effort, "
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them, 
if only with neglect.

by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
Of one fallen star.

by Michael R. Burch

for all good mothers

Your love is as delicate
as a butterfly cleaning its wings,
as soft as the predicate the hummingbird sings
to itself, gently murmuring―“Fly! Fly! Fly!”

Your love is the string
soaring kites untie.

Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for loving, compassionate, courageous mothers everywhere

There was, in your touch, such tenderness―as

only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now―
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness―time, oh, and love.

But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?―insufficient to life’s brief task.

I can only admire, unable to ask―

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?

I Cannot Remember My Mother
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes in the middle of my playing
a melody seemed to hover over my playthings:
some forgotten tune she loved to sing
while rocking my cradle.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes on an early autumn morning
the smell of the shiuli flowers fills my room
as the scent of the temple’s morning service
wafts over me like my mother’s perfume.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes still, from my bedroom window,
when I lift my eyes to the heavens’ vast blue canopy
and sense on my face her serene gaze,
I feel her grace has encompassed the sky.

Frail Envelope of Flesh, from "Poems of the Nakba"
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza and the Nakba. The word Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe." The children of Gaza and their parents know all too well how fragile life and human happiness can be. What can I say, but that I hope, dream, wish and pray that one day ruthless men will no longer have power over the lives and happiness of innocents? Women, children and babies are not "terrorists," so why are they being punished collectively for the "crime" of having been born "wrong"? How can the government of Israel practice systematic racism and apartheid, and how can the government of the United States fund and support such barbarism?

by Michael R. Burch

All that’s left of Ireland is her hair―
bright carrot―and her milkmaid-pallid skin,

her brilliant air of cavalier despair,
her train of children―some conceived in sin,

the others to avoid it. For nowhere
is evidence of thought. Devout, pale, thin,
gay, nonchalant, all radiance. So fair!

How can men look upon her and not spin
like wobbly buoys churned by her skirt’s brisk air?
They buy. They grope to pat her nyloned shin,
to share her elevated, pale Despair ...
to find at last two spirits ease no one’s.
All that’s left of Ireland is the Care,
her impish grin, green eyes like leprechauns’.

The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother Christine Ena Burch

The poet's condition
(bother tradition)
is whining contrition.
Supposedly sage,

his editor knows
his brain's in his toes
though he would suppose
to soon be the rage.

His readers are sure
his work's premature
or merely manure,
insipidly trite.

His mother alone
will answer the phone
(perhaps with a moan)
to hear him recite.

The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother Christine Ena Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.

Heroin or Heroine?
by Michael R. Burch

for mothers battling addiction

serve the Addiction;
worship the Beast;
feed the foul Pythons,
your flesh, their fair feast ...

or rise up, resist
the huge many-headed hydra;
for the sake of your Loved Ones
decapitate medusa.

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth, Laura and all good mothers

Bring your peculiar strength
to the strange nightmarish fray:
wrap up your cherished ones
in the golden light of day.


Love has a gentle grace
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth on Mother’s Day

Love has a gentle grace; you have not seen her
unless you’ve looked into your mother’s eyes
and seen her faith
―serene, composed and wise―
that you’re the center of her very being
(as once, indeed, she carried you inside.)

Love has no wilder beauty than the thought
that you’re the best of all she ever sought.

(And if, perhaps, you don’t believe my song,
can your mother be wrong?)

Your Gift
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Counsel, console.
This is your gift.
Calm, kiss and encourage.
Tenderly lift
each world-wounded heart
from its fatal dart.
Mend every rift.
Bid pain, “Depart!”
Save every sorrow
for your own untaught heart.

Passages on Fatherhood
by Michael R. Burch
for Jeremy
He is my treasure, 
and by his happiness I measure
my own worth. 
Four years old, 
with diamonds and gold
bejeweled in his soul. 
His cherubic beauty
is felicity
to simplicity and passion ―
for a baseball thrown
or an ice-cream cone
or eggshell-blue skies. 
It's hard to be "wise"
when the years
career through our lives 
and bees in their hives
test faith
and belief 
while Time, the great thief, 
with each falling leaf
foreshadows grief.
The wisdom of the ages
and prophets and mages
and doddering sages 
is useless
it encompasses this: 
his kiss.
by Michael R. Burch 
for Jeremy
Every day we whittle away at the essential solidity of him, 
and every day a new sharp feature emerges: 
a feature we'll spend creative years: planing, smoothing, refining, 
trying to find some new Archaic Torso of Apollo, or Thinker... 
And if each new day a little of the boisterous air of youth is deflated
in him, if the hours of small pleasures spent chasing daffodils
in the outfield as the singles become doubles, become triples, 
become unconscionable errors, become victories lost, 
become lives wasted beyond all possible hope of repair... 
if what he was becomes increasingly vague ― like a white balloon careening
into clouds; like a child striding away aggressively toward manhood, 
hitching an impressive rucksack over sagging, sloping shoulders, 
shifting its vaudevillian burden back and forth, 
then pausing to look back at us with an almost comical longing... 
if what he wants is only to be held a little longer against a forgiving bosom; 
to chase after daffodils in the outfield regardless of scores; 
to sail away like a balloon
on a firm string, always sure to return when the line tautens, 
till he looks down upon us from some removed height we cannot quite see, 
bursting into tears over us: 
what, then, of our aspirations for him, if he cannot breathe, 
cannot rise enough to contemplate the earth with his own vision, 
unencumbered, but never untethered, forsaken... 
cannot grow brightly, steadily, into himself ― flying beyond us? 

Chip Off the Block
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

In the fusion of poetry and drama,
Shakespeare rules! Jeremy’s a ham: a
chip off the block, like his father and mother.
Part poet? Part ham? Better run for cover!
Now he’s Benedick ― most comical of lovers! 

NOTE: Jeremy’s father is a poet and his mother is an actress; hence the fusion, or confusion, as the case may be.

by Michael R. Burch
... Among the shadows of the groaning elms, 
amid the darkening oaks, we fled ourselves...
... Once there were paths that led to coracles
that clung to piers like loosening barnacles...
... where we cannot return, because we lost
the pebbles and the playthings, and the moss...
... hangs weeping gently downward, maidens' hair
who never were enchanted, and the stairs...
... that led up to the Fortress in the trees
will not support our weight, but on our knees...
... we still might fit inside those splendid hours
of damsels in distress, of rustic towers...
... of voices of the wolves' tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams' soft, windy vowels...
Originally published by Sonnet Scroll
Leaf Fall
by Michael R. Burch
Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high, 
soft bastion against earth's gravitron ―
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.
And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn's cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful ―
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we'd feel today, should we leaf-fall again.
Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea
The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch
She is wise in the way that children are wise, 
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.
We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go, 
so I smile, and I follow...
And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes ―
I can almost remember ― goes something like this: 
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.
She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker's knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me
rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.
Originally published by Romantics Quarterly
Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch
We'd like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard, 
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps, 
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy "boo-boo! , " only two.
We'd like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile, 
that baseball's just as fun with just one arm, 
that God is always Just, that girls will smile, 
not frown down at his thousand livid scars, 
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.
We do not want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks, 
that lips aren't easily fashioned, that his smile's
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears, 
when tears are out of fashion. O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life's Mysteries...
Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, "It's me I see. Just me."
He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures.
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.
Originally published by Lucid Rhythms
Child of 9-11
by Michael R. Burch
a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who was born
on September 11,2001 and died at the age of nine, 
shot to death...
Child of 9-11, beloved, 
I bring this lily, lay it down
here at your feet, and eiderdown, 
and all soft things, for your gentle spirit.
I bring this psalm ― I hope you hear it.
Much love I bring ― I lay it down
here by your form, which is not you, 
but what you left this shell-shocked world
to help us learn what we must do
to save another child like you.
Child of 9-11, I know
you are not here, but watch, afar
from distant stars, where angels rue
the vicious things some mortals do.
I also watch; I also rue.
And so I make this pledge and vow: 
though I may weep, I will not rest
nor will my pen fail heaven's test
till guns and wars and hate are banned
from every shore, from every land.
Child of 9-11, I grieve
your tender life, cut short... bereaved, 
what can I do, but pledge my life
to saving lives like yours? Belief
in your sweet worth has led me here...
I give my all: my pen, this tear, 
this lily and this eiderdown, 
and all soft things my heart can bear; 
I bear them to your final bier, 
and leave them with my promise, here.
Originally published by The Flea
For a Sandy Hook Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch
Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails, 
when thunder howls, 
when hailstones scream, 
when winter scowls, 
when nights compound dark frosts with snow...
Where does the butterfly go? 
Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill? 
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow, 
where does the butterfly go? 
And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face, 
and hope is lost without a trace? 
Oh, when the light of life runs low, 
where does the butterfly go? 
Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch
―for the mothers and children of Gaza
Frail envelope of flesh, 
lying cold on the surgeon's table
with anguished eyes
like your mother's eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable...
Frail crucible of dust, 
brief flower come to this ―
your tiny hand
in your mother's hand
for a last bewildered kiss...
Brief mayfly of a child, 
to live two artless years! 
Now your mother's lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears...
This is, I believe, the second poem I wrote. Or at least it's the second one that I can remember. I believe I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.
by Michael R. Burch
WHEN you were my playmate and I was yours, 
we spent endless hours with simple toys, 
and the sorrows and cares of our indentured days
were uncomprehended... far, far away...
for the temptations and trials we had yet to face
were lost in the shadows of an unventured maze. 
Then simple pleasures were easy to find
and if they cost us a little, we didn't mind; 
for even a penny in a pocket back then
was one penny too many, a penny to spend. 
Then feelings were feelings and love was just love, 
not a strange, complex mystery to be understood; 
while "sin" and "damnation" meant little to us, 
since forbidden batter was our only lust! 
Then we never worried about what we had, 
and we were both sure-what was good, what was bad.
And we sometimes quarreled, but we didn't hate; 
we seldom gave thought to injustice, or fate. 
Then we never thought about the next day, 
for tomorrow seemed hidden ― adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past, 
and wondered, at times, why things didn't last. 
Still, we never worried about getting by, 
and we didn't know that we were to die...
when we spent endless hours with simple toys, 
and I was your playmate, and we were boys. 

The Origins of Smoke


by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today ...
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away ...
[We loved and life we left alone and deftly was it done;
we sang our song all summer long beneath the sultry sun.]

I wrote this poem as a boy, after seeing an ad for the movie Summer of ’42, which starred the lovely Jennifer O’Neill and a young male actor who might have been my nebbish twin. I didn’t see the R-rated movie at the time: too young, according to my parents! But something about the ad touched me; even thinking about it today makes me feel sad and a bit out of sorts. The movie came out in 1971, so the poem was probably written around 1971-1972. But it could have been a bit later, with me working from memory. In any case, the poem was published in my high school literary journal, The Lantern, in 1976. The poem is “rhyme rich” with eleven rhymes in the first four lines: well, farewell, tell, bells, within, din, in, say, today, had, bad. The last two lines appear in brackets because they were part of the original poem but I later chose to publish just the first six lines. I didn’t see the full movie until 2001, around age 43, after which I addressed two poems to my twin, Hermie …

Listen, Hermie
by Michael R. Burch

Listen, Hermie . . .
you can hear the strangled roar
of water inundating that lost shore . . .

and you can see how white she shone

that distant night, before
you blinked
and she was gone . . .

But is she ever really gone from you . . . or are
her lips the sweeter since you kissed them once:
her waist wasp-thin beneath your hands always,
her stockinged shoeless feet for that one dance
still whispering their rustling nylon trope
ofLove me. Love me. Love me. Give me hope

that love exists beyond these dunes, these stars.”

How white her prim brassiere, her waist-high briefs;
how lustrous her white slip. And as you danced
how white her eyes, her skin, her eager teeth.
She reached, but not for sex . . . for more . . . for you . . .
You cannot quite explain, but what is true
is true despite our fumbling in the dark.

Hold tight. Hold tight. The years that fall away
still make us what we are. If love exists,
we find it in ourselves, grown wan and gray,
within a weathered hand, a wrinkled cheek.

She cannot touch you now, but I would reach
across the years to touch that chord in you
which sang the pangs of love, and play it true.

Tell me, Hermie
by  Michael R. Burch

Tell me, Hermie  when you saw

her white brassiere crash to the floor
as she stepped from her waist-high briefs
into your arms, and mutual griefs 
did you feel such fathomless awe
as mystics in artists’ reliefs?

How is it that dark night remains
forever with us  present still 

despite her absence and the pains
of dreams relived without the thrill
of any ecstasy but this 
one brief, eternal, transient kiss?

She was an angel; you helped us see
the beauty of love’s iniquity.

by Michael R. Burch 
There was a moment
suspended in time like a swelling drop of dew about to fall, 
impendent, pregnant with possibility... 
when we might have made...
anything we dreamed, 
almost anything at all, 
coalescing dreams into reality. 
Oh, the love we might have fashioned
out of a fine mist and the nightly sparkle of the cosmos
and the rhythms of evening! 
But we were young, 
and what might have been is now a dark abyss of loss
and what is left is not worth saving. 
But, oh, you were lovely, 
child of the wild moonlight, attendant tides and doting stars, 
and for a day, 
what little we partook
of all that lay before us seemed so much, 
and passion but a force
with which to play.
by Michael R. Burch 
Will we be children as puzzled tomorrow―
our lessons still not learned? 
Will we surrender over to sorrow? 
How many times must our fingers be burned? 
Will we be children sat in the corner
over and over again? 
How long will we linger, playing Jack Horner? 
Or will we learn, and when? 
Will we be children wearing the dunce cap, 
giggling and playing the fool, 
re-learning our lessons forever and ever, 
never learning the golden rule? 
Life Sentence or Fall Well
... I swim, my Daddy's princess, newly crowned, 
toward a gurgly Maelstrom... if I drown 
will Mommy stick the Toilet Plunger down 
to suck me up? ... She sits upon Her Throne, 
Imperious (denying we were one) , 
and gazes down and whispers "precious son"... 
... the Plunger worked; i'm two, and, if not blessed, 
still Mommy got the Worst Stuff off Her Chest; 
a Vacuum Pump, They say, will do the rest... 
... i'm three; yay! whee! oh good! it's time to play! 
(oh no, I think there's Others on the way; 
i'd better pray) ... 
... i'm four; at night I hear the Banging Door; 
She screams; sometimes there's Puddles on the Floor; 
She wants to kill us, or, She wants some More... 
... it's great to be alive if you are five (unless you're me): 
my Mommy says: "you're WRONG! don't disagree! 
don't make this HURT ME! "... 
... i'm six; They say i'm tall, yet Time grows Short; 
we have a thriving Family; Abort!; 
a tadpole's ripping Mommy's Room apart... 
... i'm seven; i'm in heaven; it feels strange; 
I saw my life go gurgling down the Drain; 
another Noah built a Mighty Ark; 
God smiled, appeased, a Rainbow split the Dark; 
... I saw Bright Colors also, when She slammed
my head against the Tub, and then I swam
toward the magic tunnel... last, I heard... 
is that She feels Weird.

by Michael R. Burch

Memories flood the sand’s unfolding scroll;
they pour in with the long, cursive tides of night.

Memories of revenant blue eyes and wild lips
moist and frantic against my own.

Memories of ghostly white limbs . . .
of soft sighs
heard once again in the surf’s strangled moans.

We meet in the scarred, fissured caves of old dreams,
green waves of algae billowing about you,
becoming your hair.

Suspended there,
where pale sunset discolors the sea,
I see all that you are
and all that you have become to me.

Your love is a sea,
and I am its trawler―
harbored in dreams,
I ride out night’s storms.

Unanchored, I drift through the hours before morning,
dreaming the solace of your warm breasts,
pondering your riddles, savoring the feel
of the explosions of your hot, saline breath.

And I rise sometimes
from the tropical darkness
to gaze once again out over the sea . . .
You watch in the moonlight
that brushes the water;

bright waves throw back your reflection at me.

This is one of my more surreal poems, as the sea and lover become one. I believe I wrote this one at age 19. It has been published by Penny Dreadful, Romantics Quarterly, Boston Poetry Magazine and Poetry Life & Times. The poem may have had a different title when it was originally published, but it escapes me . . . ah, yes, "Entanglements."

Performing Art
by Michael R. Burch

Who teaches the wren
in its drab existence
to explode into song?

What parodies of irony
does the jay espouse
with its sharp-edged tongue?

What instinctual memories
lend stunning brightness
to the strange dreams

of the dull gray slug
―spinning its chrysalis,
gluing rough seams―

abiding in darkness
its transformation,
till, waving damp wings,

it applauds its performance?
I am done with irony.
Life itself sings.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

One suspects the typical American poetry professor and/or workshop instructor would advise birds to give up singing for muted expressions of jaded irony.

Pity Clarity
by Michael R. Burch

Pity Clarity,
and, if you should find her,
release her from the tangled webs
of dusty verse that bind her.

And as for Brevity,
once the soul of wit―
she feels the gravity
of ironic chains and massive rhetoric.

And Poetry,
before you may adore her,
must first be freed
from those who for her loveliness would score her.

Published by Contemporary Rhyme (January 2005), The Columbus Dispatch (Sunday, April 3, 2005) and Poem Today. This poem expresses my unhappiness with the "state of the art" in three different poetic camps or churches.

The Poem of Poems
by Michael R. Burch

This is my Poem of Poems, for you.
Every word ineluctably true:
I love you.

Practice Makes Perfect
by Michael R. Burch

I have a talent for sleep;
it’s one of my favorite things.
Thus when I sleep, I sleep deep ...
at least till the stupid clock rings.

I frown as I squelch its damn beep,
then fling it aside to resume
my practice for when I’ll sleep deep
in a silent and undisturbed tomb.

Originally published by Light Quarterly

Reflections on the Loss of Vision

by Michael R. Burch

The sparrow that cries from the shelter of an ancient oak tree and the squirrels

that dash in delight through the treetops as the first snow glistens and swirls,

remind me so much of my childhood and how the world seemed to me then,

that it seems if I tried

and just closed my eyes,

I could once again be nine or ten.

The rabbits that hide in the bushes where the snowflakes collect as they fall,

hunch there, I know, in the flurrying snow, yet now I can't see them at all.

For time slowly weakened my vision; while the patterns seem almost as clear,

some things that I saw

when I was a boy,

are lost to me now in my advancing years.

The chipmunk who seeks out his burrow and the geese in their unseen reprieve

are there as they were, and yet they are not; and though it seems childish to grieve,

who would condemn a blind man for bemoaning the vision he lost?

Well, in a small way,

through the passage of days,

I have learned some of his loss.

As a keen-eyed young lad I endeavored to see things most adults could not―

the camouflaged nests of the hoot owls, the woodpecker’s favorite haunts.

But now I no longer can find them, nor understand how I once could,

and it seems such a waste

of those far-sighted days,

to end up near blind in this wood.

The Sky Was Turning Blue
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday I saw you
as the snow flurries died,
spent winds becalmed.
When I saw your solemn face
alone in the crowd,
I felt my heart, so long embalmed,
begin to beat aloud.

Was it another winter,
another day like this?
Was it so long ago?
Where you the rose-cheeked girl
who slapped my face, then stole a kiss?
Was the sky this gray with snow,
my heart so all a-whirl?

How is it in one moment
it was twenty years ago,
lost worlds remade anew?
When your eyes met mine, I knew
you felt it too, as though
we heard the robin's song
and the sky was turning blue.

by michael r. burch

to live among the daffodil folk . . .
slip down the rainslickened drainpipe . . .
suddenly pop out
minuscule as alice, shout
in wee exultant glee
to be leaving behind the

by Michael R. Burch

You are too beautiful,
too innocent,
too inherently lovely
to merely reflect the sun’s splendor ...

too full of irresistible candor
to remain silent,
too delicately fawnlike
for a world so violent ...

Come, my beautiful Bambi
and I will protect you ...
but of course you have already been lured away
by the dew-laden roses ...

The Octopi Jars
by Michael R. Burch

Long-vacant eyes
now lodged in clear glass,
a-swim with pale arms
as delicate as angels'...

you are beyond all hope
of salvage now...
and yet I would pause,
no fear!,
to once touch
your arcane beaks...

I, more alien than you
to this imprismed world,
notice, most of all,
the scratches on the inside surfaces
of your hermetic cells ...

and I remember documentaries
of albino Houdinis
slipping like wraiths
over the walls of shipboard aquariums,
slipping down decks'
brine-lubricated planks,
spilling jubilantly into the dark sea,
parachuting through clouds of pallid ammonia...

and I know now in life you were unlike me:
your imprisonment was never voluntary.

Published by Triplopia and The Poetic Musings of Sam Hudson

Sailing to My Grandfather, for George Edwin Hurt
by Michael R. Burch

This distance between us
this vast sea
of remembrance
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spraylight fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.

Note: Under the Sextant’s Stars is a painting by Benini.

Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

for my father, Paul Ray Burch Jr. 

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons ...
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears ...
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
a man as large as I left
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim

"My father!"
"My son!"

This poem appeared in my 1978 poetry contest manuscript, so it was written either in high school or during my first two years of college. While 1976 is an educated guess, it was definitely written sometime between 1974 and 1978. At that time thirty seemed "old" to me and I used that age more than once to project my future adult self. For instance, in the poem "You."

Love Has a Southern Flavor
by Michael R. Burch

Love has a Southern flavor: honeydew,
ripe cantaloupe, the honeysuckle’s spout
we tilt to basking faces to breathe out
the ordinary, and inhale perfume ...

Love’s Dixieland-rambunctious: tangled vines,
wild clematis, the gold-brocaded leaves
that will not keep their order in the trees,
unmentionables that peek from dancing lines ...

Love cannot be contained, like Southern nights:
the constellations’ dying mysteries,
the fireflies that hum to light, each tree’s
resplendent autumn cape, a genteel sight ...

Love also is as wild, as sprawling-sweet,
as decadent as the wet leaves at our feet.

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Sonnet, The Eclectic Muse, Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse, Setu (India), Victorian Violet Press, A Long Story Short, Glass Facets of Poetry, Docster, Trinacria, PS: It’s Poetry (anthology), and in a Czech translation by Vaclav ZJ Pinkava

Ode to the Sun
by Michael R. Burch

Day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Follow still your silent course.
Follow your unyielding course.
On, swift sun.

Leave no trace of where you've been;
give no hint of what you've seen.
But, ever as you onward flee,
touch me, O sun,
touch me.

Now day is done . . .
on, swift sun.
Go touch my love about her face
and warm her now for my embrace,
for though she sleeps so far away,
where she is not, I shall not stay.
Go tell her now I, too, shall come.
Go on, swift sun,
go on.

Published by The Tucumcari Literary Review. I believe I wrote this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18, during my early Romantic Period. 


by Michael R. Burch

..…......fragile elusive
.......if held too closely
..the inter..................ruption
of its............................…bright
....and breaks disintegrates
..… the............touch of
....… undiscerning

I believe this is my only shape/shaped/concrete poem. 


by Michael R. Burch

I did it out of pity.

I did it out of love.

I did it not to break the heart of a tender, wounded dove.

But gods without compassion

ordained: "Frail things must break!"

Now what can I do for her shattered psyche’s sake?

I did it not to push.

I did it not to shove.

I did it to assist the flight of indiscriminate Love.

But gods, all mad as hatters,

who legislate in all such matters,

ordained that everything irreplaceable shatters.

Break Time

by Michael R. Burch 

for those who lost loved ones on 9-11

Intrude upon my grief; sit; take a spot

of milk to cloud the blackness that you feel;

add artificial sweeteners to conceal

the bitter aftertaste of loss. You’ll heal

if I do not. The coffee’s hot. You speak:

of bundt cakes, polls, the price of eggs. You glance

twice at your watch, cough, look at me askance.

The TV drones oeuvres of high romance

in syncopated lip-synch. Should I feel

the underbelly of Love’s warm Ideal,

its fuzzy-wuzzy tummy, and not reel

toward some dark conclusion? Disappear

to pale, dissolving atoms. Were you here?

I brush you off: like saccharine, like a tear.

by Michael R. Burch

these are the days of doom
u seldom leave ur room
u live in perpetual gloom

yet also the days of hope
how to cope?
u pray and u grope

toward self illumination ...
becoming an angel
(pure love)

and yet You must love Your Self

If you know someone who is very caring and loving, but struggles with self worth, this may be a poem to consider.

Our English Rose
by Michael R. Burch
for Christine Ena Burch
The rose is:
the ornament of the earth,
the glory of nature,
the archetype of the flowers,
the blush of the meadows,
a lightning flash of beauty.
This is my loose translation/interpretation of a Sappho epigram.

Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star ...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!

Published as the collection "Children's Poems"

© 2021 Michael R. Burch

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Added on September 28, 2019
Last Updated on May 8, 2021
Tags: Children, Kids, Mother, Mothers, Family, Families, Father, Fathers, Love