Villanelles

Villanelles

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

The modern Villanelle is a poetic form with a double refrain; in earlier incarnations it was simply a pastoral poem with a refrain and no specific size or rhyme scheme.



Villanelle: The Divide

by Michael R. Burch

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
was man born to sorrow that first day,
with the moona pale beacon across the Divide,

the brighter for longing, an object denied
the tug at his heart's pink, bourgeoning clay?

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
but grew bitter, bitterman's torrents supplied.

The bride of their longingforever astray,

her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.

The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.

The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love's concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

"The Divide" is essentially a formal villanelle despite the non-formal line breaks.



Villanelle: Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribableour loveand still we say

with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled
, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray
to warm ourselves.
 We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we're older now, that "love" has had its day.
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

"Ordinary Love" was the winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest. It was originally published by Romantics Quarterly and nominated by the journal for the Pushcart Prize. It is missing a tercet but seemed complete enough without it.MRB




Villanelle: Because Her Heart Is Tender

by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

She scrawled soft words in soap: "Never Forget,"
Dove-white on her car's window, and the wren,
because her heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her. As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: "Never Forget,"
and kept her heart's own counsel. No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers' glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on,
she stitches in wet linen: "
NEVER FORGET,"
and listens to her heart's emphatic song.

The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when fledglings fell beyond, beyond, beyond ...
its reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.

She writes in adamant: "NEVER FORGET"
because her heart is tender with regret.



Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-stoned.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-stoned,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-stoned,
we first proved we had lives of our own).



Villanelle Sequence: Clandestine But Gentle
by Michael R. Burch

Variations on the villanelle. A play in four acts. The heroine wears a trench coat and her every action drips nonchalance. The “hero” is pallid, nerdish and nervous. But more than anything, he is palpably desperate with longing. Props are optional, but a streetlamp, a glowing cigarette and lots of eerie shadows should suffice.

I.

Clandestine but gentle, wrapped in night,
she eavesdropped on morose codes of my heart.
She was the secret agent of delight.

The blue spurt of her match, our signal light,
announced her presence in the shadowed court:
clandestine but gentle, cloaked in night.

Her cigarette was waved, a casual sleight,
to bid me “Come!” or tell me to depart.
She was the secret agent of delight,

like Ingrid Bergman in a trench coat, white
as death, and yet more fair and pale (but short
with me, whenever I grew wan with fright!).

II.

Clandestine but gentle, veiled in night,
she was the secret agent of delight;
she coaxed the tumblers in some cryptic rite

to make me spill my spirit.
Lovely tart!
Clandestine but gentle, veiled in night

she waited till my tongue, untied, sang bright
but damning strange confessions in the dark . . .

III.

She was the secret agent of delight;
so I became her paramour. Tonight
I await her in my exile, worlds apart . . .

IV.

For clandestine but gentle, wrapped in night,
she is the secret agent of delight.



Villanelle: Hang Together, or Separately
by Michael R. Burch

“The first shall be last, and the last first.”

Be careful whom you don’t befriend
When hyenas mark their prey:
The odds will get even in the end.

Some “deplorables” may yet ascend
And since all dogs must have their day,
Be careful whom you don’t befriend.

When pallid elitists condescend
What does the Good Book say?
The odds will get even in the end.

Since the LORD advised us to attend
To each other along the way,
Be careful whom you don’t befriend.

But He was deserted. Friends, comprehend!
Though revilers mock and flay,
The odds will get even in the end.

Now infidels have loot to spend:
As bloody as Judas’s that day.
Be careful whom you don’t befriend:
The odds will get even in the end.

NOTE: This poem portrays a certain worldview. The poet does not share it and suspects from reading the gospels that the “real” Jesus would have sided with the infidel refugees, not Trump and his ilk.



Villanelle: The Sad Refrain
by Michael R. Burch

O, let us not repeat the sad refrain
that Christ is cruel because some innocent dies.
No, pain is good, for character comes from pain!

There’d be no growth without the hammering rain
that tests each petal’s worth. Omnipotent skies
peal, “Let us not repeat the sad refrain,

but separate burnt chaff from bountiful grain.
According to God’s plan, the weakling dies
and pain is good, for character comes from pain!

A God who’s perfect cannot bear the blame
of flawed creations, just because one dies!
So let us not repeat the sad refrain

or think to shame or stain His awesome name!
Let lightning strike the devious source of lies
that pain is bad, for character comes from pain!
Oh, let us not repeat the sad refrain!

NOTE: An eternal hell cannot be justified. Nothing can be learned from eternal suffering except that the creation of life was the ultimate act of evil. The creator of an eternal hell would be infinitely cruel and should never have created any creature that might possibly end up there. That so many Christians do not understand this suggests they lack the knowledge of good and evil and were rooked by their "god" in the Garden of Eden or have been bamboozled by heartless and mindless theologians.



If
by
 Michael R. Burch

If I regret
fire in the sunset
exploding on the horizon,
then let me regret loving you.

If I forget
even for a moment
that you are the only one,
then let me forget that the sky is blue.

If I should yearn
in a season of discontentment
for the vagabond light of a companionless moon,
let dawn remind me that you are my sun.

If I should burnone moment less brightly,
one instant less true
then with wild scorching kisses,
inflame me, inflame me, inflame me anew.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Recursion
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 fields
gleeful, 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.




I AM!
by Michael R. Burch

I am not one of ten billionI

sunblackened Icarus, chary fly, 
staring at God with a quizzical eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I.

I am not one life has left unsquashed
scarred as Ulysses, goddess-debauched, 
pale glowworm agleam with a tale of panache.

I am not one life has left unsquashed.

I am not one without spots of disease, 
laugh lines and tan lines and thick-callused knees
from begging and praying and girls sighing "Please!"

I am not one without spots of disease.

I am not one of ten billionI

scion of Daedalus, blackwinged fly
staring at God with a sedulous eye.

I am not one of ten billion, I
AM!





Rondels, Roundels and Rondeaux

These are poetic forms similar to the villanelle, with refrains (repeated lines) and sometimes double refrains.



Rondel: Merciles Beaute ("Merciless Beauty")

by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation Michael R. Burch

Your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.

Unless your words heal me hastily,
my heart's wound will remain green;
for your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain.

By all truth, I tell you faithfully
that you are of life and death my queen;
for at my death this truth shall be seen:
your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.




Rondel: Rejection
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.

I'm guiltless, yet my sentence has been cast.
I tell you truly, needless now to feign,
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain.

Alas, that Nature in your face compassed
Such beauty, that no man may hope attain
To mercy, though he perish from the pain;
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.



Rondel: Escape
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.

He may question me and counter this and that;
I care not: I will answer just as I mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean.

Love strikes me from his roster, short and flat,
And he is struck from my books, just as clean,
Forevermore; there is no other mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.



Rondel: Your Smiling Mouth
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization Michael R. Burch

Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains,
Your hands so smooth, each finger straight and plain,
Your little feetplease, what more can I say?


It is my fetish when you’re far away
To muse on these and thus to soothe my pain
Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains.

So would I beg you, if I only may,
To see such sights as I before have seen,
Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene?
I’ll be obsessed until my dying day
By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray,
Your ample breasts and slender arms’ twin chains!



Oft in My Thought
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization Michael R. Burch

So often in my busy mind I sought,
Around the advent of the fledgling year,
For something pretty that I really ought
To give my lady dear;
But that sweet thought's been wrested from me, clear,
Since death, alas, has sealed her under clay
And robbed the world of all that's precious here―
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

For me to keep my manner and my thought
Acceptable, as suits my age's hour?
While proving that I never once forgot
Her worth? It tests my power!
I serve her now with masses and with prayer;
For it would be a shame for me to stray
Far from my faith, when my time's drawing near
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

Now earthly profits fail, since all is lost
And the cost of everything became so dear;
Therefore, O Lord, who rules the higher host,
Take my good deeds, as many as there are,
And crown her, Lord, above in your bright sphere,
As heaven's truest maid! And may I say:
Most good, most fair, most likely to bring cheer
God keep her soul, I can no better say.

When I praise her, or hear her praises raised,
I recall how recently she brought me pleasure;
Then my heart floods like an overflowing bay
And makes me wish to dress for my own bier
God keep her soul, I can no better say.



This World's Joy
(anonymous Middle English lyric)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter awakens all my care
as leafless trees grow bare.
For now my sighs are fraught
whenever it enters my thought:
regarding this world's joy,
how everything comes to naught.



Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

. . . qui laetificat juventutem meam . . .
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
. . . requiescat in pace . . .
May she rest in peace.
. . . amen . . .
Amen.


I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager. I later decided to incorporate it into a poem. From what I now understand, “ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” means “to the God who gives joy to my youth,” but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Vulgate Latin Bible (circa 385 AD).



How Long the Night 
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts
with the mild pheasants' song ...
but now I feel the northern wind's blast,
its severe weather strong.
Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!
And I, because of my momentous wrong
now grieve, mourn and fast.



Fowles in the Frith 

anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


The fowls in the forest,
the fishes in the flood
and I must go mad:
such sorrow I've had
for beasts of bone and blood!

Sounds like an early animal rights activist! The use of "and" is intriguing ... is the poet saying that his walks in the wood drive him mad because he is also a "beast of bone and blood," facing a similar fate?



I am of Ireland 
anonymous Medieval Irish lyric, circa 13th-14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


I am of Ireland,
and of the holy realm of Ireland.
Gentlefolk, I pray thee:
for the sake of saintly charity,
come dance with me
in Ireland!



Whan the turuf is thy tour
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


1.
When the turf is your tower
and the pit is your bower,
your pale white skin and throat
shall be sullen worms’ to note.
What help to you, then,
was all your worldly hope?


2.
When the turf is your tower
and the grave is your bower,
your pale white throat and skin
worm-eaten from within ...
what hope of my help then?

NOTE: The second translation leans more to the "lover's complaint" and carpe diem genres, with the poet pointing out to his prospective lover that by denying him her favors she make take her virtue to the grave where worms will end her virginity in macabre fashion. This poem may be an ancient precursor of poems like Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress."



Ech day me comëth tydinges thre
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th to 14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Each day I’m plagued by three doles,
These gargantuan weights on my soul:
First, that I must somehow exit this fen.
Second, that I cannot know when.
And yet it’s the third that torments me so,
Because I don't know where the hell I will go!



Ich have y-don al myn youth
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa the 13th to 14th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


I have done it all my youth:
Often, often, and often!
I have loved long and yearned zealously ...
And oh what grief it has brought me!



I Sing of a Maiden
anonymous Medieval English Lyric, circa early 15th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


I sing of a maiden
That is matchless.
The King of all Kings
For her son she chose.
He came also as still
To his mother's breast
As April dew
Falling on the grass.
He came also as still
To his mother's bower
As April dew
Falling on the flower.
He came also as still
To where his mother lay
As April dew
Falling on the spray.
Mother and maiden?
Never one, but she!
Well may such a lady
God's mother be!




Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret . . .
a pain
I chose to bear . . .

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again
how rare.

Published by The HyperTexts and The Chained Muse



Enigma
by Michael R. Burch


O, terrible angel,
bright lover and avenger,
full of whimsical light
and vile anger;
wild stranger,
seeking the solace of night,
or the danger;
pale foreigner,
alien to man, or savior ...

Who are you,
seeking consolation and passion
in the same breath,
screaming for pleasure, bereft
of all articles of faith,
finding life
harsher than death?

Grieving angel,
giving more than taking,
how lucky the man
who has found in your love,
this, our reclamation;

fallen wren,
you must strive to fly
though your heart is shaken;

weary pilgrim,
you must not give up
though your feet are aching;

lonely child,
lie here still in my arms;
you must soon be waking.



Floating
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 DreadfulRomantics 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."



Sonnet: Water and Gold

by Michael R. Burch


You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy's a wan illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

You came to me as riches to a miser
when all is gold, or so his heart believes,
until he dies much thinner and much wiser,
his gleaming bones hauled off by chortling thieves.

You gave your heart too soon, too dear, too vastly;
I could not take it in; it was too much.
I pledged to meet your price, but promised rashly.
I died of thirst, of your bright Midas touch.

I dreamed you gave me water of your lips,
then sealed my tomb with golden hieroglyphs.

Published by The Lyric, Black Medina, The Eclectic Muse, Kritya(India), Shabestaneh (Iran), Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Captivating Poetry (Anthology), Strange Road, Freshet, Shot Glass Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Famous Poets and Poems, Sonnetto Poesia, Poetry Life & Times



Righteous
by Michael R. Burch

Come to me tonight
in the twilight, O, and the full moon rising,
spectral and ancient, will mutter a prayer.

Gather your hair
and pin it up, knowing
that I will release it a moment anon.

We are not one,
nor is there a scripture
to sanctify nights you might spend in my arms,

but the swarms
of bright stars revolving above us
revel tonight, the most ardent of lovers.

 

Published in Writer’s Gazette and Tucumcari Literary Review



R.I.P.
by Michael R. Burch

When I am lain to rest
and my soul is no longer intact,
but dissolving, like a sunset
diminishing to the west ...

and when at last
before His throne my past
is put to test
and the demons and the Beast

await to feast
on any morsel downward cast,
while the vapors of impermanence
cling, smelling of damask ...

then let me go, and do not weep
if I am left to sleep,
to sleep and never dream, or dream, perhaps,
only a little longer and more deep.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



The Effects of Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight ...
This is what I remember

now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember:
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh ...

our soft cries, like regret,

... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase ...

now that I have forgotten her face.



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;
descend,
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



Snapshots

by Michael R. Burch 


Here I scrawl extravagant rainbows.

And there you go, skipping your way to school.

And here we are, drifting apart

like untethered balloons.


Here I am, creating "art,"

chanting in shadows,

pale as the crinoline moon,

ignoring your face.


There you go,

in diaphanous lace,

making another man’s heart swoon.


Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,

taking my place.


Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Centrifugal Eye, Poetry Webring, Poetry Life & Times and The Eclectic Muse



The Quickening

by Michael R. Burch 


for Beth


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!




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 "This World's Joy"

Keywords/Tags: villanelle, refrain, repetition, poetic form, poetics, sea, salt, tide, moon. love, romance, romantic, romanticism

© 2020 Michael R. Burch


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Added on October 22, 2020
Last Updated on November 17, 2020
Tags: villanelle, refrain, repetition, poetic form, poetics, sea, salt, tide, moon, love, romance, romantic, romanticism, pastoral