Poems about Flight and Flying

Poems about Flight and Flying

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

Poems about Flight, Flying, Flights of Fancy, Kites, Leaves, Butterflies, Birds and Bees


by Michael R. Burch

It is the nature of loveliness to vanish
as butterfly wings, batting against nothingness
seek transcendence ...

Originally published by Hibiscus (India)

Southern Icarus
by Michael R. Burch

Windborne, lover of heights,
unspooled from the truck’s wildly lurching embrace,
you climb, skittish kite . . .

What do you know of the world’s despair,
gliding in vast . . . solitariness . . . there,
so that all that remains is to

Only a little longer the wind invests its sighs;
spread-eagled, as the canvas snaps

and flaps
its white rebellious wings,
and all

the houses watch with baffled eyes.

The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

(for Leslie Mellichamp, the late editor of The Lyric,
who was a friend and mentor to many poets, and
a fine poet in his own right)

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kitesamazed,

in dream of shocks that suddenly came true . . .

but came almost as staticbackground noise,

a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned in to their kite strings, saucer-eared.

They thought to feel the lightning’s brilliant sparks
electrify their nerves, their brains; the smoke
of words poured from their overheated hearts.
The kite string, knotted, made a nifty rope . . .

You will not find them here; they blew away
in tumbling flight beyond nights’ stars. They clung
by fingertips to satellites. They strayed
too far to remain mortal. Elfin, young,

their words are with us still. Devout and fey,
they wink at us whenever skies are gray.

Originally published by The Lyric

American Eagle, Grounded
by Michael R. Burch

Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,

Published as “Tremble” by The Lyric, Verses Magazine, Romantics Quarterly, Journeys, The Raintown Review, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom (All-Star Tribute), The Fabric of a Vision, NPACNet Poetry and Art Competition, Poet’s Haven, Listening To The Birth Of Crystals (Anthology), Poetry Renewal, Inspirational Stories, Poetry Life & Times, MahMag (Iranian/Farsi), The Eclectic Muse (Canada). Keywords/Tags: coronavirus, American eagle, predator, raptor, grounded, caged, wings clipped, eagle, hawk, falcon, talon, beak, wing, preen, preened

by Michael R. Burch

I caress themtrapped in brittle cellophane

and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flightan old prop plane,

their blissful arc through alien blue skies ...

And I touch them here through leaves whichtattered, frayed

are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects’ wingspinned, held. Here, time delayed,

their features never merged, remaining two ...

And Grief, which lurked unseen beyond the lens
or in shadows where It crept on furtive claws
as It scritched Its way into their hearts, depends
on sorrows such as theirs, and works Its jaws ...

and slavers for Its meatthose young, unwise,

who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.

Springtime Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

They’ll have to grow like crazy,
the springtime baby geese,
if they’re to fly to balmier climes
when autumn dismembers the leaves ...

And so I toss them loaves of bread,
then whisper an urgent prayer:
“Watch over these, my Angels,
if there’s anyone kind, up there.”

Originally published by The HyperTexts

Learning to Fly
by Michael R. Burch

We are learning to fly
every day . . .

learning to fly
away, away . . .

O, love is not in the ephemeral flight,
but love, Love! is our destination

graced land of eternal sunrise, radiant beyond night!
Let us bear one another up in our vast migration.

In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they vanish, and never repent.
We must dance in the darkness as stars dance before us,
soar, Soar! through the night on a butterfly's breeze ...
blown high, upward-yearning, twin spirits returning
to the heights of awareness from which we were seized.

Published by Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly, The Chained Muse and Poetry Life & Times. This is a poem I wrote for my favorite college English teacher, George King, about poetic kinship, brotherhood and romantic flights of fancy.

For a Palestinian 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?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab

Earthbound, a Vision of Crazy Horse
by Michael R. Burch

Tashunka Witko, a Lakota Sioux better known as Crazy Horse, had a vision of a red-tailed hawk at Sylvan Lake, South Dakota. In his vision he saw himself riding a spirit horse, flying through a storm, as the hawk flew above him, shrieking. When he awoke, a red-tailed hawk was perched near his horse.

and yet I now fly
through the clouds that are aimlessly drifting ...
so high
that no sound
echoing by
below where the mountains are lifting
the sky
can be heard.

Like a bird,
but not meek,
like a hawk from a distance regarding its prey,
I will shriek,
not a word,
but a screech,
and my terrible clamor will turn them to clay
the sheep,
the earthbound.

Published by American Indian Pride and Boston Poetry Magazine

Sioux Vision Quest

by Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


A man must pursue his Vision

as the eagle explores

the sky's deepest blues.


Published by Better Than Starbucks, A Hundred Voices


in-flight convergence

by Michael R. Burch


serene, almost angelic,

the lights of the city  extend 

over lumbering behemoths

shrilly screeching displeasure;

they say

that nothing is certain,

that nothing man dreams or ordains

long endures his command


here the streetlights that flicker

and those blazing steadfast

seem one: from a distance;


they abruptly

part  ways,


so that nothing is one

which at times does not suddenly blend

into garish insignificance

in the familiar alleyways,

in the white neon flash

and the billboards of Convenience


and man seems the afterthought of his own Brilliance

as we thunder down the enlightened runways.


Originally published by The Aurorean and subsequently nominated for the Pushcart Prize

Flight 93

by Michael R. Burch


I held the switch in trembling fingers, asked

why existence felt so small, so purposeless,

like a minnow wriggling feebly in my grasp ...


vibrations of huge engines thrummed my arms

as, glistening with sweat, I nudged the switch

to OFF ... I heard the klaxon's shrill alarms


like vultures’ shriekings ... earthward, in a stall ...

we floated ... earthward ... wings outstretched, aghast

like Icarus ... as through the void we fell ...


till nothing was so beautiful, so blue ...

so vivid as that moment ... and I held

an image of your face, and dreamed I flew


into your arms. The earth rushed up. I knew

such comfort, in that moment, loving you.



by Michael R. Burch


Eagle, raven, blackbird, crow . . .

What you are I do not know.

Where you go I do not care.

I’m unconcerned whose meal you bear.

But as you mount the sunlit sky,

I only wish that I could fly.

I only wish that I could fly.


Robin, hawk or whippoorwill . . .

Should men care that you hunger still?

I do not wish to see your home.

I do not wonder where you roam.

But as you scale the sky's bright stairs,

I only wish that I were there.

I only wish that I were there.


Sparrow, lark or chickadee . . .

Your markings I disdain to see.

Where you fly concerns me not.

I scarcely give your flight a thought.

But as you wheel and arc and dive,

I, too, would feel so much alive.

I, too, would feel so much alive.


This is a poem that I believe I wrote as a high school sophomore. But it could have been written a bit later. I seem to remember the original poem being influenced by William Cullen Bryant's "To a Waterfowl."

Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.


by Michael R. Burch


I shall rise

and try the bloody wings of thought

ten thousand times

before I fly ...


and then I'll sleep

and waste ten thousand nights

before I dream;

but when at last ...


I soar the distant heights of undreamt skies

where never hawks nor eagles dared to go,

as I laugh among the meteors flashing by

somewhere beyond the bluest earth-bound seas ...


if I'm not told

I’m just a man,

then I shall know

just what I am.


This is one of my early poems, written around age 16-17. According to my notes, I may have revised the poem later, in 1978, but if so the changes were minor because the poem remains very close to the original.


Stage Craft-y

by Michael R. Burch


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!"


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.


Less Heroic Couplets: 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 in Potcake Chapbook #7

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!  MRB



by Michael R. Burch


Preposterous bird!

Inelegant! Absurd!


Until the great & mighty heron

brandishes his fearsome sword.


Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’

by Michael R. Burch


Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ the bees rise

in a dizzy circle of two.

Oh, when I’m with you,

I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too.



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.


Lone Wild Goose

by Du Fu (712-770)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


The abandoned goose refuses food and drink;

he cries querulously for his companions.


Who feels kinship for that strange wraith

as he vanishes eerily into the heavens?


You watch it as it disappears;

its plaintive calls cut through you.


The indignant crows ignore you both:

the bickering, bantering multitudes.


Du Fu (712-770) is also known as Tu Fu. The first poem is addressed to the poet's wife, who had fled war with their children. Ch'ang-an is an ironic pun because it means "Long-peace."


The Red Cockatoo

by Po Chu-I (772-846)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


A marvelous gift from Annam

a red cockatoo,

bright as peach blossom,

fluent in men's language.


So they did what they always do

to the erudite and eloquent:

they created a thick-barred cage

and shut it up.


Po Chu-I (772-846) is best known today for his ballads and satirical poems. Po Chu-I believed poetry should be accessible to commoners and is noted for his simple diction and natural style. His name has been rendered various ways in English: Po Chu-I, Po Chü-i, Bo Juyi and Bai Juyi.


The Migrant Songbird

Li Qingzhao aka Li Ching-chao (c. 1084-1155)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


The migrant songbird on the nearby yew

brings tears to my eyes with her melodious trills;

this fresh downpour reminds me of similar spills:

another spring gone, and still no word from you ...


Lines from Laolao Ting Pavilion

by Li Bai (701-762)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


The spring breeze knows partings are bitter;

The willow twig knows it will never be green again.


The Day after the Rain

Lin Huiyin (1904-1955)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


I love the day after the rain

and the meadow's green expanses!

My heart endlessly rises with wind,

gusts with wind ...

away the new-mown grasses and the fallen leaves ...

away the clouds like smoke ...

vanishing like smoke ...


Untitled Translations


Cupid, if you incinerate my soul, touché!

For like you she has wings and can fly away!

Meleager, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


As autumn deepens,

a butterfly sips

chrysanthemum dew.

Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Come, butterfly,

it’s late

and we’ve a long way to go!

Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Up and at ’em! The sky goes bright!

Let’s hit the road again,

Companion Butterfly!

Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Ah butterfly,

what dreams do you ply

with your beautiful wings?

Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:

a puff of white snow

cresting mountains

Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


Dry leaf flung awry:

bright butterfly,


Michael R. Burch, original haiku


Will we remain parted forever?

Here at your grave:

two flowerlike butterflies

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


a soaring kite flits

into the heart of the sun?

Butterfly & Chrysanthemum

Michael R. Burch, original haiku


The cheerful-chirping cricket

contends gray autumn's gay,

contemptuous of frost

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,

solemn evangelist

of loneliness

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


The sea darkening,

the voices of the wild ducks:

my mysterious companions!

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



shatters the darkness

the night heron's shriek

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


This snowy morning:

cries of the crow I despise

(ah, but so beautiful!)

Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch


A crow settles

on a leafless branch:

autumn nightfall.

Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!

Heaven's indignant messengers,

you remind me of wordsmiths!

O no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch


Higher than a skylark,

resting on the breast of heaven:

this mountain pass.

Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


An exciting struggle

with such a sad ending:

cormorant fishing.

Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?

Only the sea gull

in his high, lonely circuits, may tell.

Glaucus, translation by Michael R. Burch


The eagle sees farther

from its greater height

our ancestors’ wisdom

Michael R. Burch, original haiku


A kite floats

at the same place in the sky

where yesterday it floated ...

Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



by Michael R. Burch


I have listened to the rain all this morning

and it has a certain gravity,

as if it knows its destination,

perhaps even its particular destiny.

I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,

although I, too, may be flung precipitously

and from a great height.


Ultimate Sunset

by Michael R. Burch


for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.


he now faces the Ultimate Sunset,

his body like the leaves that fray as they dry,

shedding their vital fluids (who knows why?)

till they’ve become even lighter than the covering sky,

ready to fly ...


Free Fall

by Michael R. Burch


for my father, Paul Ray Burch, Jr.


I see the longing for departure gleam

in his still-keen eye,

and I understand his desire

to test this last wind, like those late autumn leaves

with nothing left to cling to ...


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 remembergoes 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



by Michael R. Burch


for Richard Moore



Shrill gulls,

how like my thoughts

you, struggling, rise

to distant bliss

the weightless blue of skies

that are not blue

in any atmosphere,

but closest here ...



You seek an air

so clear,

so rarified

the effort leaves you famished;

earthly tides

soon call you back

one long, descending glide ...



Disgruntledly you grope dirt shores for orts

you pull like mucous ropes

from shells’ bright forts ...

You eye the teeming world

with nervous darts

this way and that ...

Contentious, shrewd, you scan

the sky, in hope,

the earth, distrusting man.



by Michael R. Burch


Within its starkwhite ribcage, how the heart

must flutter wildly, O, and always sing

against the pressing darkness: all it knows

until at last it feels the numbing sting

of death. Then life's brief vision swiftly passes,

imposing night on one who clearly saw.

Death held your bright heart tightly, till its maw

envenomed, fangedcould swallow, whole, your Awe.

And yet it was not death so much as you

who sealed your doom; you could not help but sing

and not be silenced. Here, behold your tomb's

white alabaster cage: pale, wretched thing!

But you'll not be imprisoned here, wise wren!

Your words soar free; rise, sing, fly, live again.


A poet like Nadia Anjuman can be likened to a caged bird, deprived of flight, who somehow finds it within herself to sing of love and beauty. But when the world finally robs her of both flight and song, what is left for her but to leave the world, thus bereaving the world of herself and her song?


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.


Lean Harvests

by Michael R. Burch


for T.M.


the trees are shedding their leaves again:

another summer is over.

the Christians are praising their Maker again,

but not the disconsolate plover:

i hear him berate

the fate

of his mate;

he claims God is no body’s lover.


Published by The Rotary Dial and Angle


My Forty-Ninth Year

by Michael R. Burch


My forty-ninth year

and the dew remembers

how brightly it glistened

encrusting September, ...

one frozen September

when hawks ruled the sky

and death fell on wings

with a shrill, keening cry.


My forty-ninth year,

and still I recall

the weavings and windings

of childhood, of fall ...

of fall enigmatic,

resplendent, yet sere, ...

though vibrant the herald

of death drawing near.


My forty-ninth year

and now often I've thought on

the course of a lifetime,

the meaning of autumn,

the cycle of autumn

with winter to come,

of aging and death

and rebirth ... on and on.


Originally published by Romantics Quarterly as “My Twenty-Ninth Year”



by Michael R. Burch


Here the recalcitrant wind

sighs with grievance and remorse

over fields of wayward gorse

and thistle-throttled lanes.


And she is the myth of the scythed wheat

hewn and sighing, complete,

waiting, lain in a low sheaf

full of faith, full of grief.


Here the immaculate dawn

requires belief of the leafed earth

and she is the myth of the mown grain

golden and humble in all its weary worth.

What Works

by Michael R. Burch


for David Gosselin


What works

hewn stone;

the blush the iris shows the sun;

the lilac’s pale-remembered bloom.


The frenzied fly: mad-lively, gay,

as seconds tick his time away,

his sentenceone brief day in May,

a period. And then decay.


A frenzied rhyme’s mad tip-toed time,

a ballad’s languid as the sea,

seek, strivingimmortality.


When gloss peels off, what works will shine.

When polish fades, what works will gleam.

When intellectual prattle pales,

the dying buzzing in the hive

of tedious incessant bees,

what works will soar and wheel and dive

and milk all honey, leap and thrive,


and teach the pallid poem to seethe.


Child of 9-11

by Michael R. Burch


a poem for Christina-Taylor Green, who

was born on September 11, 2001 and who

died at age 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 evil 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 bring them to your final bier,

and leave them with my promise, here.


Originally published by The Flea

by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Roberts

“What will you conceive in me?”
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

“Naked, I bore your child
when the wolf wind howled,
when the cold moon scowled ...
naked, and gladly.”

“What will become of me?”
I asked her, as she
absently stroked my hand.

Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered, “I Am.”



by Michael R. Burch


Though you possessed the moon and stars,

you are bound to fate and wed to chance.

Your lips deny they crave a kiss;

your feet deny they ache to dance.

Your heart imagines wild romance.


Though you cupped fire in your hands

and molded incandescent forms,

you are barren now, andspent of flame

the ashes that remain are borne

toward the sun upon a storm.


You, who demanded more, have less,

your heart within its cells of sighs

held fast by chains of misery,

confined till death for peddling lies

imprisonment your sense denies.


You, who collected hearts like leaves

and pressed each once within your book,

forgot. Nonewinsome, bright or rare

not one was worth a second look.

My heart, as others, you forsook.


But I, though I loved you from afar

through silent dawns, and gathered rue

from gardens where your footsteps left

cold paths among the asters, knew

each moonless night the nettles grew


and strangled hope, where love dies too.


Published by Penny Dreadful, Carnelian, Romantics Quarterly, Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Life & Times



by Michael R. Burch


You float, unearthly angel, clad in flesh

as strange to us who briefly knew your flame

as laughter to disease. And yet you laugh.

Behind your smile, the sun forfeits its claim

to earth, and floats forever now the same

light captured at its moment of least height.


You laugh here always, welcoming the night,

and, just a photograph, still you can claim

bright rapture: like an angel, not of flesh

but something more, made less. Your humanness

this moment of release becomes a name

and something elsea radiance, a strange

brief presence near our hearts. How can we stand

and chain you here to this nocturnal land

of burgeoning gray shadows? Fly, begone.

I give you back your soul, forfeit all claim

to radiance, and welcome grief’s dark night

that crushes all the laughter from us. Light

in someone Else’s hand, and sing at ease

some song of brightsome mirth through dawn-lit trees

to welcome morning’s sun. O daughter! these

are eyes too weak for laughter; for love’s sight,

I welcome darkness, overcome with light.


Reading between the lines

by Michael R. Burch


Who could have read so much, as we?

Having the time, but not the inclination,

TV has become our philosophy,

sheer boredom, our recreation.


Rilke Translations


Archaic Torso of Apollo

by Rainer Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


We cannot know the beheaded god

nor his eyes' forfeited visions. But still

the figure's trunk glows with the strange vitality

of a lamp lit from within, while his composed will

emanates dynamism. Otherwise

the firmly muscled abdomen could not beguile us,

nor the centering loins make us smile

at the thought of their generative animus.

Otherwise the stone might seem deficient,

unworthy of the broad shoulders, of the groin

projecting procreation's triangular spearhead upwards,

unworthy of the living impulse blazing wildly within

like an inchoate stardemanding our belief.

You must change your life.


Herbsttag ("Autumn Day")

by Rainer Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Lord, it is time. Let the immense summer go.

Lay your long shadows over the sundials

and over the meadows, let the free winds blow.

Command the late fruits to fatten and shine;

O, grant them another Mediterranean hour!

Urge them to completion, and with power

convey final sweetness to the heavy wine.

Who has no house now, never will build one.

Who's alone now, shall continue alone;

he'll wake, read, write long letters to friends,

and pace the tree-lined pathways up and down,

restlessly, as autumn leaves drift and descend.


Originally published by Measure


The Panther

by Rainer Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


His weary vision's so overwhelmed by iron bars,

his exhausted eyes see only blank Oblivion.

His world is not our world. It has no stars.

No light. Ten thousand bars. Nothing beyond.

Lithe, swinging with a rhythmic easy stride,

he circles, his small orbit tightening,

an electron losing power. Paralyzed,

soon regal Will stands stunned, an abject thing.

Only at times the pupils' curtains rise

silently, and then an image enters,

descends through arrested shoulders, plunges, centers

somewhere within his empty heart, and dies.


Come, You

by Ranier Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


This was Rilke's last poem, written ten days before his death. He died open-eyed in the arms of his doctor on December 29,1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium, of leukemia and its complications. I had a friend who died of leukemia and he was burning up with fever in the end. I believe that is what Rilke was describing here: he was literally burning alive.


Come, youthe last one I acknowledge; return

incurable pain searing this physical mesh.

As I burned in the spirit once, so now I burn

with you; meanwhile, you consume my flesh.


This wood that long resisted your embrace

now nourishes you; I surrender to your fury

as my gentleness mutates to hellish rage

uncaged, wild, primal, mindless, outré.


Completely free, no longer future's pawn,

I clambered up this crazy pyre of pain,

certain I'd never returnmy heart's reserves gone

to become death's nameless victim, purged by flame.


Now all I ever was must be denied.

I left my memories of my past elsewhere.

That lifemy former liferemains outside.

Inside, I'm lost. Nobody knows me here.


Love Song

by Rainer Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


How can I withhold my soul so that it doesn't touch yours?

How can I lift mine gently to higher things, alone?

Oh, I would gladly find something lost in the dark

in that inert space that fails to resonate until you vibrate.

There everything that moves us, draws us together like a bow

enticing two taut strings to sing together with a simultaneous voice.

Whose instrument are we becoming together?

Whose, the hands that excite us?

Ah, sweet song!


The Beggar's Song

by Rainer Maria Rilke

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


I live outside your gates,

exposed to the rain, exposed to the sun;

sometimes I'll cradle my right ear

in my right palm;

then when I speak my voice sounds strange,



I'm unsure whose voice I'm hearing:

mine or yours.

I implore a trifle;

the poets cry for more.


Sometimes I cover both eyes

and my face disappears;

there it lies heavy in my hands

looking peaceful, instead,

so that no one would ever think

I have no place to lay my head.



by Michael R. Burch


“Van trepando en mi viejo dolor como las yedras.”  Pablo Neruda

“They climb on my old suffering like ivy.”


Ivy winds around these sagging structures

from the flagstones

to the eave heights,

and, clinging, holds intact

what cannot be saved of their loose entrails.


Through long, blustery nights of dripping condensation,

cured in the humidors of innumerable forgotten summers,

waxy, unguent,

palely, indifferently fragrant, it climbs,

pausing at last to see

the alien sparkle of dew

beading delicate sparrowgrass.


Coarse saw grass, thin skunk grass, clumped mildewed yellow gorse

grow all around, and here remorse, things past,

watch ivy climb and bend,

and, in the end, we ask

if grief is worth the gaps it leaps to mend.


Keywords/Tags: past, memory, memories, remembrance, regret, regrets, time, loss, age, aging, grief


Joy in the Morning

by Michael R. Burch


for my grandparents George Edwin Hurt and Christine Ena Hurt


There will be joy in the morning

for now this long twilight is over

and their separation has ended.

For fourteen years, he had not seen her

whom he first befriended,

then courted and married.

Let there be joy, and no mourning,

for now in his arms she is carried

over a threshold vastly sweeter.

He never lost her; she only tarried

until he was able to meet her.


Keywords/Tags: George Edwin Hurt Christine Ena Spouse reunited heaven joy together forever



by Michael R. Burch


This poem is dedicated to Kevin Longinotti, who died four days short of graduation from Vanderbilt University, the victim of a tornado that struck Nashville on April 16, 1998.


You have graduated now,

to a higher plane

and your heart’s tenacity

teaches us not to go gently

though death intrudes.


For eighteen days

jarring interludes

of respite and pain

with life only faintly clinging,

like a cashmere snow,

testing the capacity

of the blood banks

with the unstaunched flow

of your severed veins,

in the collapsing declivity,

in the sanguine haze

where Death broods,

you struggled defiantly.


A city mourns its adopted son,

flown to the highest ranks

while each heart complains

at the harsh validity

of God’s ways.


On ponderous wings

the white clouds move

with your captured breath,

though just days before

they spawned the maelstrom’s

hellish rift.


Throw off this mortal coil,

this envelope of flesh,

this brief sheath

of inarticulate grief

and transient joy.


Forget the winds

which test belief,

which bear the parchment leaf

down life’s last sun-lit path.


We applaud your spirit, O Prodigal,

O Valiant One,

in its percussive flight into the sun,

winging on the heart’s last madrigal.



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.


The Quickening

by Michael R. Burch


I never meant to love you

when I held you in my arms

promising you sagely

wise, noncommittal charms.


And I never meant to need you

when I touched your tender lips

with kisses that intrigued my own

such kisses I had never known,

nor a heartbeat in my fingertips!


It's Halloween!

by Michael R. Burch


If evening falls

on graveyard walls

far softer than a sigh;

if shadows fly

moon-sickled skies,

while children toss their heads

uneasy in their beds,

beware the witch's eye!


If goblins loom

within the gloom

till playful pups grow terse;

if birds give up their verse

to comfort chicks they nurse,

while children dream weird dreams

of ugly, wiggly things,

beware the serpent's curse!


If spirits scream

in haunted dreams

while ancient sibyls rise

to plague black nightmare skies

one night without disguise,

while children toss about

uneasy, full of doubt,

beware the devil's eyes . . .


it's Halloween!


An Illusion

by Michael R. Burch


The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee

and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold

when I awoke.


She came to me with the sound of falling leaves

and the scent of new-mown grass;

I held out my arms to her and she passed


into oblivion ...


This is one of my early poems, written around age 16 and published in my high school literary journal, The Lantern.


Describing You

by Michael R. Burch


How can I describe you?


The fragrance of morning rain

mingled with dew

reminds me of you;


the warmth of sunlight

stealing through a windowpane

brings you back to me again.


This is an early poem of mine, written as a teenager. Keywords/Tags: describing, you, description, fragrance, perfume, odor, rain, dew, sunlight, warmth, light



by Michael R. Burch


your gods have become e-vegetation;

your saintspale thumbnail icons; to enlarge

their images, right-click; it isn’t hard

to populate your web-site; not to mention


cool sound effects are nice; Sound Blaster cards

can liven up dull sermons, [zing some fire];

your drives need added Zip; you must discard

your balky paternosters: Sex!!! Desire!!!


these are the watchwords, catholic; you must

as Yahoo! did, employ a little lust :)

if you want great e-commerce; hire a bard

to spruce up ancient language, shed the dust


of centuries of sameness;

lameness SUCKS;

your gods grew blurred; go 3D; scale; adjust.


Published by: Ironwood, Triplopia and Nisqually Delta Review. This poem pokes fun at various stages of religion, all tied however elliptically to T. S. Eliot's "Fire Sermon: (1) The Celts believed that the health of the land was tied to the health of its king. The Fisher King's land was in peril because he had a physical infirmity. One bad harvest and it was the king's fault for displeasing the gods. A religious icon (the Grail) could somehow rescue him. Strange logic! (2) The next stage brings us the saints, the Catholic church, etc. Millions are slaughtered, tortured and enslaved in the name of religion. Strange logic! (3) The next stage brings us to Darwin, modernism and "The Waste Land.” Religion is dead. God is dead. Man is a glorified fungus! We'll evolve into something better adapted to life on Earth, someday, if we don’t destroy it. But billions continue to believe in and worship ancient “gods.” Strange logic! (4) The current stage of religion is summed up by this e-mail: the only way religion can compete today is as a form of flashy entertainment. Erect a website before it's too late. Hire some sexy supermodels and put the evangelists on the Internet!


Her Grace Flows Freely

by Michael R. Burch


July 7, 2007


Her love is always chaste, and pure.

This I vow. This I aver.

If she shows me her grace, I will honor her.

This I vow. This I aver.

Her grace flows freely, like her hair.

This I vow. This I aver.

For her generousness, I would worship her.

This I vow. This I aver.

I will not damn her for what I bear

This I vow. This I aver.

like a most precious incensedesire for her,

This I vow. This I aver.

nor call her “w***e” where I seek to repair.

This I vow. This I aver.


I will not wink, nor smirk, nor stare

This I vow. This I aver.

like a foolish child at the foot of a stair

This I vow. This I aver.

where I long to go, should another be there.

This I vow. This I aver.


I’ll rejoice in her freedom, and always dare

This I vow. This I aver.

the chance that she’ll flee memy starling rare.

This I vow. This I aver.

And then, if she stays, without stays, I swear

This I vow. This I aver.

that I will joy in her grace beyond compare.

This I vow. This I aver.


Second Sight (II)

by Michael R. Burch


Newborns see best at a distance of 8 to 14 inches.


Wiser than we know, the newborn screams,

red-faced from breath, and wonders what life means

this close to death, amid the arctic glare

of warmthless lights above.

Beware! Beware!

encrypted signals, codes? Or ciphers, noughts?


Interpretless, almost, as his own thoughts

the brilliant lights, the brilliant lights exist.

Intruding faces ogle, gape, insist

this madness, this soft-hissing breath, makes sense.

Why can he not float on, in dark suspense,

and dream of life? Why did they rip him out?


He frowns at themsmall gnomish frowns, all doubt

and with an ancient mien, O sorrowful!,

re-closes eyes that saw in darkness null

ecstatic sights, exceeding beautiful.



by Michael R. Burch


All I need to know of life I learned

in the slap of a moment,

as my outward eye turned

toward a gauntlet of overhanging lights

which coldly burned, hissing


"There is no way back! . . ."


As the ironic bright blood

trickled down my face,

I watched strange albino creatures twisting

my flesh into tight knots of separation

all the while tediously insisting


“He's doing just fine!"



by Michael R. Burch


Life has not lived up to its first bright vision

the light overhead fluorescing, revealing

no blessingbestowing its glaring assessments

impersonally (and no doubt carefully metered).


That first hard




demanded my attention. Defiantly rigid,

I screamed at their backs as they, laughingly,




my mother’s pale flesh from my unripened shell,

snapped it in two like a pea pod, then dropped

it somewherein a dustbin or a furnace, perhaps.


And that was my clue


that some deadly, perplexing, unknowable task

lay, inexplicable, ahead in the white arctic maze

of unopenable doors, in the antiseptic gloom . . .


Keywords/Tags: birth, umbilical cord, harsh, overhead, florescent, light, slap, maze, gloom, earth, life, death



by Michael R. Burch


In a dream I saw boys lying

under banners gaily flying

and I heard their mothers sighing

from some dark distant shore.


For I saw their sons essaying

into fieldsgleeful, braying

their bright armaments displaying;

such manly oaths they swore!


From their playfields, boys returning

full of honor’s white-hot burning

and desire’s restless yearning

sired new kids for the corps.


In a dream I saw boys dying

under banners gaily lying

and I heard their mothers crying

from some dark distant shore.


Poet to poet

by Michael R. Burch


I have a dream

pebbles in a sparkling sand

of wondrous things.

I see children

variations of the same man

playing together.

Black and yellow, red and white,

stone and flesh, a host of colors

together at last.

I see a time

each small child another's cousin

when freedom shall ring.

I hear a song

sweeter than the sea sings

of many voices.

I hear a jubilation

respect and love are the gifts we must bring

shaking the land.

I have a message,

sea shells echo, the melody rings

the message of God.

I have a dream

all pebbles are merely smooth fragments of stone

of many things.

I live in hope

all children are merely small fragments of One

that this dream shall come true.

I have a dream . . .

but when you're gone, won't the dream have to end?

Oh, no, not as long as you dream my dream too!


Here, hold out your hand, let's make it come true.

i can feel it begin

Lovers and dreamers are poets too.

poets are lovers and dreamers too


Life Sentence

by Michael R. Burch


. . . 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.


Beast 666

by Michael R. Burch


“... what rough beast ... slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”W. B. Yeats


Brutality is a cross

wooden, blood-stained,

gas hissing, sibilant,

lungs gilled, deveined,

red flecks on a streaked glass pane,

jeers jubilant,



Brutality is shocking

tiny orifices torn,

impaled with hard lust,

the fetus unborn

tossed in a dust-

bin. The scarred skull shorn,

nails bloodied, tortured,

an old wound sutured

over, never healed.


Brutality, all its faces revealed,

is legion:

Death March, Trail of Tears, Inquisition . . .

always the same.

The Beast of the godless and of man’s “religion”

slouching toward Jerusalem:

horned, crowned, gibbering, drooling, insane.


America's Riches

by Michael R. Burch


Balboa's dream

was bitter folly

no El Dorado near, nor far,

though seas beguiled

and rivers smiled

from beds of gold and silver ore.


Drake retreated

rich with plunder

as Incan fled Conquistador.

Aztecs died

when Spaniards lied,

then slew them for an ingot more.


The pilgrims came

and died or lived

in fealty to an oath they swore,

and bought with pain

the precious grain

that made them rich though they were poor.


Apache blood,

Comanche tears

were shed, and still they went to war;

they fought to be

unbowed and free

such were Her riches, and still are.


Published by Poetic Reflections and Tucumcari Literary Review. 

Keywords/Tags: America, history, pilgrims, Native Americans, freedom, land of the free, war, hypocrisy



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,

paddled again and again?

How long must we linger, playing Jack Horner?

Will we ever learn, and when?


Will we be children wearing the dunce cap,

giggling and playing the fool,

re-learning our lessons forever and ever,

still failing the golden rule?



by Michael R. Burch


Here are the effects of a life

and they might tell us a tale

(if only we had time to listen)

of how each imperiled tear would glisten,

remembered as brightness in her eyes,

and how each dawn’s dramatic skies

could never match such pale azure.


Like dreams of her, these ghosts endure

and they tell us a tale of impatient glory . . .

till a line appearsa trace of worry?

or the wayward track of a wandering smile

which even now can charm, beguile?


We might find good cause to wonder

as we see her pause (to frown?, to ponder?):

what vexed her in her loveliness . . .

what weight, what crushing heaviness

turned her lustrous hair a frazzled gray,

and stole her youth before her day?


We might ask ourselves: did Time devour

the passion with the ravaged flower?

But here and there a smile will bloom

to light the leaden, shadowed gloom

that always seems to linger near . . .


And here we find a single tear:

its shimmers like translucent dew

and tells us Anguish touched her too,

and did not spare her for her hair

of copper, or her eyes so blue.


Published in Tucumcari Literary Review (the first poem in its issue)



by Michael R. Burch


He desired an object to crave;

she came, and she altared his affection.

He asked her for something to save:

a memento for his collection.


But all that she had was her need;

what she needed, he knew not to give.

They compromised on a thing gone to seed

to complete the half lives they would live.


One in two, they were less than complete.

Two plus one, in their huge fractious home

left them two, the new one in the street,

then he, by himself, one, alone.


He awoke past his prime to new dawn

with superfluous dew all around,

in ten thousands bright beads on his lawn,

and he knew that, at last, he had found


a number of things he had missed:

things shining and bright, unencumbered

by their price, or their place on a list.

Then with joy and despair he remembered


and longed for the lips he had kissed

when his days were still evenly numbered.



by Michael R. Burch


“We will walk taller!” said Gupta,

sorta abrupta,

hand-in-hand with his mom,

eyeing the A-bomb.


“Who needs a mahatma

in the aftermath of NAFTA?

Now, that was a disaster,”

cried glib Punjab.


“After Y2k,

time will spin out of control anyway,”

flamed Vijay.


“My family is relatively heavy,

too big even for a pig-barn Chevy;

we need more space,”

spat What’s His Face.


“What does it matter,

dirge or mantra,”

sighed Serge.


“The world will wobble

in Hubble’s lens

till the tempest ends,”

wailed Mercedes.


“The world is going to hell in a bucket.

So f**k it and get outta my face!

We own this place!

Me and my friends got more guns than ISIS,

so what’s the crisis?”

cried Bubba Billy Joe Bob Puckett.


All My Children

by Michael R. Burch


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 hard 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 lovers dark and tall

for dreams dreamed not at all.


It is May now, merry May

and the sun shines pleasantly

upon the green gardens,

on the graves of all my children ...


But they never did depart;

they still live within my heart.


This is a poem I had forgotten for nearly 50 years until another poet, Robert Lavett Smith, mentioned the poem "We Are Seven" by William Wordsworth. As I read Wordsworth's poem about a little girl who refused to admit that some of her siblings were missing, I remembered a poem I had written as a teenager about a mother who clung as tenaciously to the memory of her children. The line "It is May now, gentle May" popped into my head and helped me locate the poem in my archives. I believe I wrote this poem about the same time as "Jessamyn's Song," which would place it around 1973-1974 at age 15-16, or thereabouts. I can tell it's one of my early poems because I was still allowing myself archaisms like "cemet'ry" which I would have avoided in my late teens and twenties. It feels a bit older than "Jessamyn's Song" so I will guess 1973. It is admittedly a sentimental poem, but then human beings are sentimental creatures.


Kingdom Freedom

by Michael R. Burch


LORD, grant me a rare sweet spirit of forgiveness.

Let me have none of the lividness

of religious outrage.


LORD, let me not be over-worried

about the lack of “morality” around me.

Surround me,


not with law’s restrictive cage,

but with Your spirit, freer than the wind,

so that to breathe is to have freest life,


and not to fly to You, my only sin.


Birthday Poem to Myself

by Michael R. Burch


LORD, be no longer this Distant Presence,


Star-Afar, Righteous-Anonymous,

but come! Come live among us;


come dwell again,

happy child among men


men rejoicing to have known you

in the familiar manger’s cool


sweet light scent of unburdened hay.

Teach us again to be light that way,


with a chorus of angelic songs lessoned above.

Be to us again that sweet birth of Love


in the only way men can truly understand.

Do not frown darkening down upon an unrighteous land


planning fierce Retributions we require, and deserve,

but remember the child you were; believe


in the child I was, alike to you in innocence

a little while, all sweetness, and helpless without pretense.


Let us be little children again, magical in your sight.

Grant me this boon! Is it not my birthright


just to know you, as you truly were, and are?

Come, be my friend. Help me understand and regain Hope’s long-departed star!


Keywords/Tags: Lord, God, birthday, happy child, angelic songs, birth, love, innocence, sweet, gentle, meek, mild, manger, hay, hope, star, Christmas, Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men



by Michael R. Burch


Will you take me with all my blemishes?

I will take you with all your blemishes, and show you mine. We’ll suck wine out of cardboard boxes till our teeth and lips shine red like greedily gorging foxes’. We’ll swill our fill, then have sex for hours till our neglected guts at last rebel. At two in the morning, we’ll eat cold Krystals out of greasy cardboard boxes, and we will be in love.


And that’s it?

That’s it.


And can I go out with my friends and drink until dawn?

You can go out with your friends and drink until dawn, come home lipstick-collared, pass out by the pool, or stay at the bar till the new moon sets, because we will be in love, and in love there is no room for remorse or regret. There is no right, no wrong, and no mistrust, only limb-numbing sex, hot-pistoning lust.


And that’s all?

That’s all.


That’s great!

But wait . . .


Wait? Why? What’s wrong?

I want to have your children.



Well, perhaps just one.


And what will happen when we have children?

The most incredible things will happenyou’ll change, stop acting so strangely, start paying more attention to me, start paying your bills on time, grow up and get rid of your horrible friends, and never come home at a-quarter-to-three drunk from a night of swilling, smelling like a lovesick skunk, stop acting so lewdly, start working incessantly so that we can afford a new house which I will decorate lavishly and then grow tired of in a year or two or three, start growing a paunch so that no other woman would ever have you, stop acting so boorishly, start growing a beard because you’re too tired to shave, or too afraid, thinking you might slit your worthless wrinkled throat . . .


Mending Glass

by Michael R. Burch


In the cobwebbed house

lost in shadows

by the jagged mirror,

in the intricate silver face

cracked ten thousand times,

silently he watches,

and in the twisted light

sometimes he catches there

a familiar glimpse of revealing lace,

white stockings and garters,

a pale face pressed indiscreetly near

with a predatory leer,

the sheer flash of nylon,

an embrace, or a sharp slap,


. . . a sudden lurch of terror.


He finds bright slivers

the hard sharp brittle shards,

the silver jags of memory

starkly impressed there


and mends his error.



by Michael R. Burch


In our hearts, knowing

fewer daysand milderbeckon,

how are we, now, to measure

that flame by which we reckon

the time we have remaining?


We are shadows

spawned by a blue spurt of candlelight.

Darkly, we watch ourselves flicker.

Where shall we go when the flame burns less bright?

When chill night steals our vigor?


Why are we less than ourselves? We are shadows.

Where is the fire of youth? We grow cold.

Why does our future loom dark? We are old.

Why do we shiver?


In our hearts, seeing

fewer daysand brieferbreaking,

now, even more, we treasure

the brittle leaf-like aching

that tells us we are living.



by Michael R. Burch


Pressure is the plug of ice in the frozen hose,

the hiss of water within vinyl rigidly green and shining,

straining to writhe.


Pressure is the kettle’s lid ceaselessly tapping its tired dance,

the hot eye staring, its frantic issuance



Pressure is the bellow’s surge, the hard forged

metal shedding white heat, the beat of the clawed hammer

on cold anvil.


Pressure is a day’s work compressed into minutes,

frantic minute vessels constricted, straining and hissing,

unable to writhe,


the fingers drumming and tapping their tired dance,

eyes staring, cold and reptilian,

hooded and blind.


Pressure is the spirit sighingreflective,

restrictive compressionan endless drumming

the bellows’ echo before dying.


The cold eyeunblinking, staring.

The hot eyesinking, uncaring.


Open Portal

by Michael R. Burch


“You already have zero privacyget over it.”
Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems


While you’re at it

don’t bother to wear clothes:

We all know what you’re concealing underneath.


Let the bathroom door swing open.

Let, O let Us peer in!

What you’re doing, We’ve determined, may be a sin!


When you visit your mother

and it’s time to brush your teeth,

it’s okay to openly spit.


And, while you’re at it,

go ahead

take a long, noisy s**t.


What the he|ll is your objection?

What on earth is all this fuss?

Just what is it, exactly, you would hide from US?



by Michael R. Burch


Perhaps at three

you'll come to tea,

to sip a cuppa here?


You'll just stop in

to drink dry gin?

I only have a beer.


To name the greats:

Pope, Dryden, mates?

The whole world knows their names.


Discuss the songs

of Emerson?

But these are children's games.


Give me rhythm

wild as Dylan!

Give me Bobbie Burns!


Give me Psalms,

or Hopkins’ poems,

Hart Crane’s, if he returns!


Or Langston railing!

Blake assailing!

Few others I desire.


Or go away,

yes, leave today:

your tepid poets tire.


The Century’s Wake

by Michael R. Burch


lines written at the close of the 20th century


Take me home. The party is over,

the century passedno time for a lover.

And my heart grew heavy

as the fireworks hissed through the dark

over Central Park,

past high-towering spires to some backwoods levee,


hurtling banner-hung docks to the torchlit seas.

And my heart grew heavy;

I felt its disease

its apathy,

wanting the bright, rhapsodic display

to last more than a single day.


If decay was its rite,

now it has learned to long

for something with more intensity,

more gaudy passion, more song

like the huddled gay masses,

the wildly-cheering throng.


You ask me

How can this be?

A little more flair,

or perhaps only a little more clarity.

I leave her tonight to the century’s wake;

she disappoints me.



by Michael R. Burch


for the victims and survivors of 9-11


The world is unsalvageable ...


but as we lie here

in bed

stricken to the heart by love

despite war’s

flickering images,


sometimes we still touch,


laughing, amazed,

that our flesh

does not despair

of love

as we do,


that our bodies are wise


in ways we refuse

to comprehend,

still insisting we eat,

drink ...

even multiply.


And so we touch ...


touch, and only imagine

ourselves immune:

two among billions


in this night of wished-on stars,




and condolences.


We are not lovers of irony,



who imagine ourselves

beyond the redemption

of tears

because we have salvaged

so few

for ourselves ...


and so we laugh

at our predicament,

fumbling for the ointment.



by Michael R. Burch


This used to be a poplar, oak or elm . . .

we forget the names of trees, but still its helm,

green-plumed, like some Greek warrior’s, nobly fringed,

with blossoms almond-white, but verdant-tinged,

this massive helm . . . this massive, nodding head

here contemplated life, and now is dead . . .


Perhaps it saw its future, furrow-browed,

and flung its limbs about, dejectedly.

Perhaps it only dreamed as, cloud by cloud,

the sun plod through the sky. Heroically,

perhaps it stood against the mindless plots

of concrete that replaced each flowered bed.

Perhaps it heard thick loggers draw odd lots

and could not flee, and so could only dread . . .


The last of all its kind? They left its stump

with timeworn strange inscriptions no one reads

(because a language lost is just a bump

impeding someone’s progress at mall speeds).

We leveled all such “speed bumps” long ago

just as our quainter cousins leveled trees.

Shall we, too, be consumed by what we know?

Once gods were merely warriors; august trees

were merely twigs, and man the least divine . . .

mere fables now, dust, compost, turpentine.


First Dance

by Michael R. Burch


for Sykes and Mary Harris


Beautiful ballerina

so pert, pretty, poised and petite,

how lightly you dance for your waiting Beau

on those beautiful, elegant feet!

How palely he now awaits you, although

he’ll glow from the sparks when you meet!


Keep the Body Well

by Michael R. Burch


for William Sykes Harris III


Is the soul connected to the brain

by a slender silver thread,

so that when the thread is severed

we call the body “dead”

while the soul  released from fear and pain 

is finally able to rise

beyond earth’s binding gravity

to heaven’s welcoming skies?


If so ― no need to quail at death,

but keep the body well,

for when the body suffers

the soul experiences hell.


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.


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

She spoke
and her words
were like a ringing echo dying
or like smoke
rising and drifting
while the earth below is spinning.

She awoke
with a cry
from a dream that had no ending,
without hope
or strength to rise,
into hopelessness descending.

And an ache
in her heart
toward that dream, retreating,
left a wake
of small waves
in circles never completing.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly


Whose Woods

by Michael R. Burch


Whose woods these are, I think I know.

Dick Cheney’s in the White House, though.

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his chip mills overflow.


My sterile horse must think it queer

To stop without a ’skeeter near

Beside this softly glowing “lake”

Of six-limbed frogs gone nuclear.


He gives his hairless tail a shake;

I fear he’s made his last mistake

He took a sip of water blue

(Blue-slicked with oil and HazMat waste).


Get out your wallets; Dick’s not through

Enron’s defunct, the bill comes due . . .

Which he will send to me, and you.

Which he will send to me, and you.



by Michael R. Burch


“I don’t believe in psychics,” he said, “so convince me.”

When you were a child, the earth was a joy,

the sun a bright plaything, the moon a lit toy.

Now life’s minor distractions irk, frazzle, annoy.

When the crooked finger beckons, scythe-talons destroy.


“You’ll have to do better than that, to convince me.”

As you grew older, bright things lost their meaning.

You invested your hours in commodities, leaning

to things easily fleeced, to the convenient gleaning.

I see a pittance of dirtuntended, demeaning.


“Everyone knows that!” he said, “so convince me.”

Your first and last wives traded in golden bands

for vacations from the abuses of your hands.

Where unwatered blooms litter a dark plot of land,

the two come together, waving fans.


“Everyone knows that. Convince me.”

As your father left you, you left those you brought

to the doorstep of life as an afterthought.

Two sons and a daughter tap shoes, undistraught.

Their tears are contrived, their condolences bought.


“Everyone knows that. CONVINCE me.”

A moment, an instant . . . a life flashes by,

a tunnel appears, but not to the sky.

There is brightness, such brightness it sears the eye.

When a life grows too dull, it seems better to die.


“I could have told you that!” he shrieked, “I think I’ll kill myself!”


Originally published by Penny Dreadful

Memento Mori

by Michael R. Burch

I found among the elms

something like the sound of your voice,

something like the aftermath of love itself

after the lightning strikes,

when the startled wind shrieks . . .

a gored-out wound in wood,

love’s pale memento mori

that white scar

in that first heart,

forever unhealed . . .

and a burled, thick knot incised

with six initials pledged

against all possible futures,

and penknife-notched below,

six edged, chipped words

that once cut deep and said . . .



. . . which now, so disconsolately answer . . .




Lines for My Ascension

by Michael R. Burch




If I should die,

there will come a Doom,

and the sky will darken

to the deepest Gloom.


But if my body

should not be found,

never think of me

in the cold ground.




If I should die,

let no mortal say,

“Here was a man,

with feet of clay,


or a timid sparrow

God’s hand let fall.”

But watch the sky darken

to an eerie pall


and know that my Spirit,

unvanquished, broods,

and cares naught for graves,

prayers, coffins, or roods.


And if my body

should not be found,

never think of me

in the cold ground.




If I should die,

let no man adore

his incompetent Maker:

Zeus, Jehovah, or Thor.


Think of Me as One

who never died

the unvanquished Immortal

with the unriven side.


And if my body

should not be found,

never think of me

in the cold ground.




And if I should “die,”

though the clouds grow dark

as fierce lightnings rend

this bleak asteroid, stark ...


If you look above,

you will see a bright Sign

the sun with the moon

in its arms, Divine.


So divine, if you can,

my bright meaning, and know

my Spirit is mine.

I will go where I go.


And if my body

should not be found,

never think of me

in the cold ground.

© 2020 Michael R. Burch

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Added on October 21, 2020
Last Updated on November 21, 2020
Tags: Flight, Flying, Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Kites, Hawks, Eagles, Crows, Ravens