Michael Burch

Michael Burch Poems

Ali's Song
by Michael R. Burch

for Muhammad Ali
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Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
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These are humorous epigrams: puns, wordplay, quips, zingers, japes, jests, gags, giggles, one-liners, irony, etc.
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The Pain of Love
by Michael R. Burch

for Tom Merrill
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Memory
by Michael R. Burch

A black ringlet
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Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch
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Shadows
by Michael R. Burch

Alone again as evening falls,
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In the Whispering Night (I)
by Michael R. Burch

for George King
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Enheduanna is the first writer we know by name. She also created the first poetry anthology and hymnal, the Kesh Temple Hymns, circa 2250 BC, in ancient Sumer. She was the daughter of King Sargon the Great, and a formidable woman and poetess in her own right. She was the entu (high priestess) of the goddess Inanna (Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite) and the moon god Nanna (Sin) in the Sumerian city-state of Ur.

Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna
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10.

Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
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LOVE POEMS by Michael R. Burch

These are love poems by Michael R. Burch: original poems and translations about passion, desire, lust, sex, dating and marriage. On an amusing note, my steamy Baudelaire translations have become popular with the pros ― porn stars and escort services!
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12.

Twice
by Michael R. Burch

Now twice she has left me
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The Evolution of Love
by Michael R. Burch

Love among the infinitesimal
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The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

(for my mother, Christine Ena Burch)
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Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.
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EARLY POEMS: JUVENILIA
by Michael R. Burch

These are early poems, most of them written between the ages of 11-18 and some published in my high school literary journal, THE LANTERN. Other poems were written later and several of those were published in my college literary journal, HOMESPUN.
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Moonbeams on water —
the reflected light
of a halcyon star
now drowning in night...
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Indestructible, for Johnny Cash
by Michael R. Burch

What is a mountain, but stone?
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Poems about Fathers and Grandfathers

I translated the first six Native American poems for my father, Paul Ray Burch Jr., when he chose to enter hospice and end his life by not taking dialysis …
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Ebb Tide
by Michael R. Burch

(lines written on a bay beach beside a stormy, lightning-lit sea)
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Michael Burch Biography

Michael R. Burch has been published more than 6,000 times, including poems that have gone viral. His poems have been translated into 14 languages, taught in high schools and colleges, and set to music by 12 composers. His poems, translations, essays, epigrams and letters have appeared in major newspapers and magazines which include TIME, Writer's Digest, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Hindu, and many others. He also edits www.thehypertexts.com (a literary website that currently gets around 1.2 million page views per year) .)

The Best Poem Of Michael Burch

Ali's Song (For Muhammad Ali)

Ali's Song
by Michael R. Burch

for Muhammad Ali

They say that gold don't tarnish. It ain't so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, 'called a spade a spade.'
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.

Ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me n-gger, did me wrong.
A man can't be lukewarm, 'cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, 'Now here's your bullet and your gun,
and there's your cell: we're waiting, you choose one.'
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their 'future' to the river, child.
I gave their 'future' to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

The first time I saw an eagle in my neighborhood was the day Muhammad Ali died. A tip of the cap for my poem, perhaps? I would like to think so!



For Ali, Fighting Time
by Michael R. Burch

So now your speech is not as clear...
time took its toll each telling year...
and O how tragic that your art,
so brutal, broke your savage heart.

But we who cheered each blow that fell
within that ring of torrent hell
never dreamed to see you maimed,
bowed and bloodied, listless, tamed.

For you were not as other men
as we cheered and cursed you then;
no, you commanded dreams and time—
blackgold Adonis, bold, sublime.

For once your glory leapt like fire—
pure and potent. No desire
ever burned as fierce or bright.
Oh Ali, Ali... win this fight!



Me?
Whee!
(I stole this poem
From Muhammad Ali.)
—Michael R. Burch

The poem above was written in response to the Quora question: 'Can you write a poem titled 'Me'?



In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free—
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.

This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.

I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.

We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina



Speechless
by Ko Un
translation by Michael R. Burch

At Auschwitz
piles of glasses
mountains of shoes
returning, we stared out different windows.



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.



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters—deep and dark and still.
All men have passed this way, or will.

I wrote 'Styx' as a high school student, probably around age 18. It was part of an uncooperative longer poem titled 'Death.' It later occurred to me to excerpt the lines above in the form of a rhyming epigram.



Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
which disdain has swept into a corner... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

This is the first poem I wrote that didn't rhyme. It was my first free verse poem. I believe I write it around age 18-19, either as high school senior or my freshman year of college.



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt Sr., on the day he departed this life

Between the prophecies of morning
and twilight's revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.



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...



Where Does the Butterfly Go?
For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
For a Ukrainian 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?



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.



Leave Taking
by Michael R. Burch

Brilliant leaves abandon
battered limbs
to waltz upon ecstatic winds
until they die.

But the barren and embittered trees
lament the frolic of the leaves
and curse the bleak
November sky.

Now, as I watch the leaves'
high flight
before the fading autumn light,
I think that, perhaps, at last I may

have learned what it means to say
goodbye.

I wrote the original version of this poem around age 14 or 15. It was originally a stanza in a much longer poem called 'Jessamyn's Song.'



Shattered
by Vera Pavlova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I shattered your heart;
now I limp through the shards
barefoot.



She bathes in silver
by Michael R. Burch

She bathes in silver
~~~~~afloat~~~~~
on her reflections...



Moments
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

There were moments
full of promise,
like the petal-scented rainfall
of early spring,
when to hold you in my arms
and to kiss your willing lips
seemed everything.

There are moments
strangely empty
full of pale unearthly twilight
—how the cold stars stare! —
when to be without you
is a dark enchantment
the night and I share.



Observance
by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old, and rolling
casually in their old age;
on the horizon youthful mountains
bathe themselves in windblown fountains...

By dying leaves and falling raindrops,
I have traced time's starts and stops,
and I have known the years to pass
almost unnoticed, whispering through treetops...

For here the valleys fill with sunlight
to the brim, then empty again,
and it seems that only I notice
how the years flood out, and in...

I wrote this poem as a teenager in a McDonald's break room. It was the first poem that made me feel like a 'real poet, ' so I will always treasure it. The poem was published as 'Reckoning' by Arkansas Tech University in Nebo: A Literary Journal. After being revised and renamed 'Observance, ' it was selected as a top 100 poem in the 1999 Writer's Digest rhyming poetry contest, out of over 13,000 overall contest entries. It was subsequently published in Tucumcari Literary Review, Piedmont Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times, Verses, Setu (India) , Better Than Starbucks, The Chained Muse and the anthology There is Something in the Autumn. Not too shabby for a teenage poet!



Infinity
by Michael R. Burch

Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your soul sought its shell like a crab on a beach,
then scuttled inside to be safe, out of reach?

Might I lift you tonight from earth's wreckage and damage
on these waves gently rising to pay the moon homage?
Or better, perhaps, let me say that I, too,
have dreamed of infinity... windswept and blue.

I wrote 'Infinity' as a high school student, probably around age 18. It was the second poem that made me feel like a 'real poet, ' after 'Observance.'



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.



Fascination with Light
by Michael R. Burch

Desire glides in on calico wings,
a breath of a moth
seeking a companionable light,

where it hovers, unsure,
sullen, shy or demure,
in the margins of night,

a soft blur.

With a frantic dry rattle
of alien wings,
it rises and thrums one long breathless staccato

then flutters and drifts on in dark aimless flight.

And yet it returns
to the flame, its delight,
as long as it burns.



Second Sight
by Michael R. Burch

I never touched you—
that was my mistake.

Deep within,
I still feel the ache.

Can an unformed thing
eternally break?

***

Now, from a great distance,
I see you again

not as you are now,
but as you were then—

eternally present
and Sovereign.



In this Ordinary Swoon
by Michael R. Burch

In this ordinary swoon
as I pass from life to death,
I feel no heat from the cold, pale moon;
I feel no sympathy for breath.

Who I am and why I came,
I do not know; nor does it matter.
The end of every man's the same
and every god's as mad as a hatter.

I do not fear the letting go;
I only fear the clinging on
to hope when there's no hope, although
I lift my face to the blazing sun

and feel the greater intensity
of the wilder inferno within me.



Ordinary Love
by Michael R. Burch

Indescribable—our love—and 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's thinned and 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.



Undine
by Renée Vivien
loose translation/interpretation by Kim Cherub aka Michael R. Burch

Your laughter startles, your caresses rake.
Your cold kisses love the evil they do.
Your eyes—blue lotuses drifting on a lake.
Lilies are less pallid than your face.

You move like water parting.
Your hair falls in rootlike tangles.
Your words like treacherous rapids rise.
Your arms, flexible as reeds, strangle,

Choking me like tubular river reeds.
I shiver in their enlacing embrace.
Drowning without an illuminating moon,
I vanish without a trace,
lost in a nightly swoon.



The Shrinking Season
by Michael R. Burch

With every wearying year
the weight of the winter grows
and while the schoolgirl outgrows
her clothes,
the widow disappears
in hers.



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty...

what do we know of love,
or duty?



How Long the Night
anonymous Middle English poem
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.



Spring Was Delayed
by Michael R. Burch

Winter came early:
the driving snows,
the delicate frosts
that crystallize

all we forget
or refuse to know,
all we regret
that makes us wise.

Spring was delayed:
the nubile rose,
the tentative sun,
the wind's soft sighs,

all we omit
or refuse to show,
whatever we shield
behind guarded eyes.



Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all

for children, however tall.
And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call

the one who was everything.
That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all

for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won't remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.
No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.



Final Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

Sleep peacefully—for now your suffering's over.

Sleep peacefully—immune to all distress,
like pebbles unaware of raging waves.

Sleep peacefully—like fields of fragrant clover
unmoved by any motion of the wind.

Sleep peacefully—like clouds untouched by earthquakes.

Sleep peacefully—like stars that never blink
and have no thoughts at all, nor need to think.

Sleep peacefully—in your eternal vault,
immaculate, past perfect, without fault.



See
by Michael R. Burch

See how her hair has thinned: it doesn't seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there, then burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are—that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.
For life remains undimmed in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book's.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.



Free Fall to Liftoff
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 late November leaves
with nothing left to cling to...



Free Fall
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

These cloudless nights, the sky becomes a wheel
where suns revolve around an axle star...
Look there, and choose. Decide which moon is yours.
Sink Lethe-ward, held only by a heel.

Advantage. Disadvantage. Who can tell?
To see is not to know, but you can feel
the tug sometimes—the gravity, the shell
as lustrous as damp pearl. You sink, you reel

toward some draining revelation. Air—
too thin to grasp, to breathe. Such pressure. Gasp.
The stars invert, electric, everywhere.
And so we fall in spirals through night's fissure—

two beings—pale, intent to fall forever
around each other—fumbling at love's tether...
now separate, now distant, now together.



Free Fall (II)
by Michael R. Burch

I have no earthly remembrance of you, as if
we were never of earth, but merely white clouds adrift,
swirling together through Himalayan altitudes—
no more man and woman than exhaled breath—unable to fall
back to solid existence, despite the air's sparseness: all
our being borne up, because of our lightness,
toward the sun's unendurable brightness...

But since I touched you, fire consumes each wing!

We who are unable to fly, stall
contemplating disaster. Despair like an anchor, like an iron ball,
heavier than ballast, sinks on its thick-looped chain
toward the earth, and soon thereafter shall be sufficient pain
to recall existence, to make the coming darkness everlasting.



I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
each day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.



For All That I Remembered
by Michael R. Burch

For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved...
and yet I hold her close within my thought:
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could...
I'd reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush

my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.



Isolde's Song
by Michael R. Burch

After the deaths of Tristram and Isolde, a hazel and a honeysuckle grew out of their graves until the branches intertwined and could not be parted.

Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night's deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring's urgency, midsummer's heat, fall's lash,
wild winter's ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life's great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold.
And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.



Almost
by Michael R. Burch

We had—almost—an affair.
You almost ran your fingers through my hair.
I almost kissed the almonds of your toes.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

You almost contemplated using Nair
and adding henna highlights to your hair,
while I considered plucking you a Rose.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

I almost found the words to say, 'I care.'
We almost kissed, and yet you didn't dare.
I heard coarse stubble grate against your hose.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

You almost called me suave and debonair
(perhaps because my chest is pale and bare?) .
I almost bought you edible underclothes.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

I almost asked you where you kept your lair
and if by chance I might seduce you there.
You almost tweezed the redwoods from my nose.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

We almost danced like Rogers and Astaire
on gliding feet; we almost waltzed on air...
until I mashed your plain, unpolished toes.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.

I almost was strange Sonny to your Cher.
We almost sat in love's electric chair
to be enlightninged, till our hearts unfroze.
We almost loved,
that's always how love goes.



Options Underwater: The Song of the First Amphibian
by Michael R. Burch

'Evolution's a Fishy Business! '

1.
Breathing underwater through antiquated gills,
I'm running out of options. I need to find fresh Air,
to seek some higher Purpose. No porpoise, I despair
to swim among anemones' pink frills.

2.
My fins will make fine flippers, if only I can walk,
a little out of kilter, safe to the nearest rock's
sweet, unmolested shelter. Each eye must grow a stalk,
to take in this green land on which it gawks.

3.
No predators have made it here, so I need not adapt.
Sun-sluggish, full, lethargic―I'll take such nice long naps!

The highest form of life, that's me! (Quite apt
to lie here chortling, calling fishes saps.)

4.
I woke to find life teeming all around―
mammals, insects, reptiles, loathsome birds.
And now I cringe at every sight and sound.
The water's looking good! I look Absurd.

5.
The moral of my story's this: don't leap
wherever grass is greener. Backwards creep.
And never burn your bridges, till you're sure
leapfrogging friends secures your Sinecure.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online

Keywords/Tags: amphibian, amphibians, evolution, gills, water, air, lungs, fins, flippers, fish, fishy business



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

Moonbeams on water —
the reflected light
of a halcyon star
now drowning in night...
So your memories are.

Footprints on beaches
now flooding with water;
the small, broken ribcage
of some primitive slaughter...
So near, yet so far.



Unlikely Mike
by Michael R. Burch

I married someone else's fantasy;
she admired me despite my mutilations.

I loved her for her heart's sake, and for mine.
I hid my face and changed its connotations.

And in the dark I danced—slight, Chaplinesque—
a metaphor myself. How could they know,

the undiscerning ones, that in the glow
of spotlights, sometimes love becomes burlesque?

Disfigured to my soul, I could not lose
or choose or name myself; I came to be

another of life's odd dichotomies,
like Dickey's Sheep Boy, Pan, or David Cruse:

as pale, as enigmatic. White, or black?
My color was a song, a changing track.



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!



Poetry

Poetry, I found you where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you to torture and confound you,
I found you—shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh's skies, had leapt with dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care; there savage brands had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars; your bones were broken with the force
with which they'd lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all. So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call from where dawn's milling showers fall—
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth to temper for a lover's touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand and led my steps from boy to man;
now I look back, remember when—you shone, and cannot understand
why here, tonight, you bear their brand.

I will take and cradle you in my arms, remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight—back into that incandescent light
which flows out of the core of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears for all those blissful years...
my love, whom I adore.



POEMS ABOUT POOL SHARKS

These are poems about pool sharks, gamblers, con artists and other sharks. I used to hustle pool on bar tables around Nashville, where I ran into many colorful characters, and a few unsavory ones, before I hung up my cue for good.

Shark
by Michael R. Burch

They are all unknowable,
these rough pale men—
haunting dim pool rooms like shadows,
propped up on bar stools like scarecrows,
nodding and sagging in the fraying light...

I am not of them,
as I glide among them—
eliding the amorphous camaraderie
they are as unlikely to spell as to feel,
camouflaged in my own pale dichotomy...

That there are women who love them defies belief—
with their missing teeth,
their hair in thin shocks
where here and there a gap of scalp gleams like bizarre chrome,
their smell rank as wet sawdust or mildewed laundry...

And yet—
and yet there is someone who loves me:
She sits by the telephone
in the lengthening shadows
and pregnant grief...

They appreciate skill at pool, not words.
They frown at massés,
at the cue ball's contortions across green felt.
They hand me their hard-earned money with reluctant smiles.
A heart might melt at the thought of their children lying in squalor...
At night I dream of them in bed, toothless, kissing.
With me, it's harder to say what is missing...



Fair Game
by Michael R. Burch

At the Tennessee State Fair,
the largest stuffed animals hang tilt-a-whirl over the pool tables
with mocking button eyes,
knowing the playing field is unlevel,
that the rails slant, ever so slightly, north or south,
so that gravity is always on their side,
conspiring to save their plush, extravagant hides
year after year.

'Come hither, come hither...'
they whisper; they leer
in collusion with the carnival barkers,
like a bevy of improbably-clad hookers
setting a 'fair' price.
'Only five dollars a game, and it's so much Fun!
And it's not really gambling. Skill is involved!
You can make us come: really, you can.
Here are your balls. Just smack them around.'

But there's a trick, and it usually works.
If you break softly so that no ball reaches a rail,
you can pick them off: One. Two. Three. Four.
Causing a small commotion,
a stir of whispering, like fear,
among the hippos and ostriches.



Con Artistry
by Michael R. Burch

The trick of life is like the sleight of hand
of gamblers holding deuces by the glow
of veiled back rooms, or aces; soon we'll know
who folds, who stands...

The trick of life is like the pool shark's shot—
the wild massé across green velvet felt
that leaves the winner loser. No, it's not
the rack, the hand that's dealt...

The trick of life is knowing that the odds
are never in one's favor, that to win
is only to delay the acts of gods
who'd ante death for sin...

and death for goodness, death for in-between.
The rules have never changed; the artist knows
the oldest con is life; the chips he blows
can't be redeemed.



Pool's Prince Charming
by Michael R. Burch

this is my tribute poem, written on the behalf of his fellow pool sharks, for the legendary Saint Louie Louie Roberts

Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool,
making all the ladies drool...
Take the 'nuts'? I'd be a fool!
Louie, Louie, Prince of Pool.

Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis,
owner of (ahem) a similar pelvis...
Compared to you, the books will shelve us.
Louie, Louie, pretty as Elvis.

Louie, Louie, fearless gambler,
ladies' man and constant rambler,
but such a sweet, loquacious ambler!
Louie, Louie, fearless gambler.

Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic,
pool's charming hero, but tragic, Byronic,
winning the Open drinking gin and tonic?
Louie, Louie, angelic, chthonic.



Rounds
by Michael R. Burch

Solitude surrounds me
though nearby laughter sounds;
around me mingle men who think
to drink their demons down,
in rounds.

Now agony still hounds me
though elsewhere mirth abounds;
hidebound I stand and try to think,
not sink still further down,
spellbound.

Their ecstasy astounds me,
though drunkenness compounds
resounding laughter into joy;
alloy such glee with beer and see
bliss found.

Originally published by Borderless Journal



POEMS ABOUT POETS

Orpheus
by Michael R. Burch

for and after William Blake

I.
Many a sun
and many a moon
I walked the earth
and whistled a tune.

I did not whistle
as I worked:
the whistle was my work.
I shirked

nothing I saw
and made a rhyme
to children at play
and hard time.

II.
Among the prisoners
I saw
the leaden manacles
of Law,

the heavy ball and chain,
the quirt.
And yet I whistled
at my work.

III.
Among the children's
daisy faces
and in the women's
frowsy laces,

I saw redemption,
and I smiled.
Satanic millers,
unbeguiled,

were swayed by neither girl,
nor child,
nor any God of Love.
Yet mild

I whistled at my work,
and Song
broke out,
ere long.



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
as 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 husks into some raging ocean
and laugh as they shatter, 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.

I wrote 'In the Whispering Night' as a college freshman, around age 18-19, for my favorite English teacher, George King.



Poet to poet
by Michael R. Burch

This poem imagines a discussion between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke so poetically about his dream of equality, and a young poet who speaks in parentheses. I wrote the poem in my teens, so the poem's youthful voice is authentic.

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)



I, Too, Have a Dream
by Michael R. Burch writing as 'The Child Poets of Gaza'

I, too, have a dream...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
I, too, have a dream...



My Nightmare...
by Michael R. Burch writing as 'The Child Poets of Gaza'

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing 'You're nothing! '... so blind!



US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

Verse has small value in our Unisphere,
nor is it fit for windy revelation.
It cannot legislate less taxing fears;
it cannot make us, several, a nation.
Enumerator of our sins and dreams,
it pens its cryptic numbers, and it sings,
a little quaintly, of the ways of love.
(It seems of little use for lesser things.)



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

I have not come for the harvest of roses—
the poets' mad visions,
their railing at rhyme...
for I have discerned what their writing discloses:
weak words wanting meaning,
beat torsioning time.

Nor have I come for the reaping of gossamer—
images weak,
too forced not to fail;
gathered by poets who worship their luster,
they shimmer, impendent,
resplendently pale.



Annual
by Michael R. Burch

Silence
steals upon a house
where one sits alone
in the shadow of the itinerant letterbox,
watching the disconnected telephone
collecting dust...

hearing the desiccate whispers of voices'
dry flutters, —
moths' wings
brittle as cellophane...

Curled here,
reading the yellowing volumes of loss
by the front porch light
in the groaning swing...

through thin adhesive gloss
I caress your face.



Grave Thoughts
by Michael R. Burch

as a poet i'm rather subVerse-ive;
as a writer i much prefer Curse-ive.
and why not be brave
on my way to the grave
since i doubt that i'll end up reHearse-ive?

NOTE: 'Subversive, ' 'cursive' and 'rehearse-ive' are double entendres: subversive/below verse, cursive/curse, rehearsed/recited and re-hearsed (reincarnated to end up in a hearse again) .



In a Stolen Moment
by Michael R. Burch

In a stolen moment,
when the clock's hands complete their inevitable course
and sleep is the night's dark spell,
I call it a curse,

seeking the force,
the font of candescent words, the electric thrill
tingling from brain to spine
to incessant quill—

the fever, the chill.
I know it as well as I know myself.
Time's second hand stirs; not I; in my cell,
words spill.



An Obscenity Trial
by Michael R. Burch

The defendant was a poet held in many iron restraints
against whom several critics cited numerous complaints.
They accused him of trying to reach the 'common crowd, '
and they said his poems incited recitals far too loud.

The prosecutor alleged himself most stylish and best-dressed;
it seems he'd never lost a case, nor really once been pressed.
He was known far and wide for intensely hating clarity;
twelve dilettantes at once declared the defendant another fatality.

The judge was an intellectual well-known for his great mind,
though not for being merciful, honest, sane or kind.
Clerks loved the 'Hanging Judge' and the critics were his kin.
Bystanders said, 'They'll crucify him! ' The public was not let in.

The prosecutor began his case
by spitting in the poet's face,
knowing the trial would be a farce.
'It is obscene, '
he screamed,
'to expose the naked heart! '
The recorder (bewildered Society)
greeted this statement with applause.

'This man is no poet.
Just look—his Hallmark shows it.
Why, see, he utilizes rhyme, symmetry and grammar!
He speaks without a stammer!
His sense of rhythm is too fine!
He does not use recondite words
or conjure ancient Latin verbs.
This man is an imposter!
I ask that his sentence be
the almost perceptible indignity
of removal from the Post-Modernistic roster.'
The jury left in tears of joy, literally sequestered.

The defendant sighed in mild despair,
'Please, let me answer to my peers.'
But how His Honor giggled then,
seeing no poets were let in.

Later, the clashing symbols of their pronouncements drove him mad
and he admitted both rhyme and reason were bad.



Come Down
by Michael R. Burch

for Harold Bloom

Come down, O, come down
from your high mountain tower.
How coldly the wind blows,
how late this chill hour...

and I cannot wait
for a meteor shower
to show you the time
must be now, or not ever.

Come down, O, come down
from the high mountain heather
blown, brittle and brown,
as fierce northern gales sever.

Come down, or your heart
will grow cold as the weather
when winter devours
and spring returns never.

NOTE: I dedicated this poem to Harold Bloom after reading his introduction to the Best American Poetry anthology he edited. Bloom seemed intent on claiming poetry as the province of the uber-reader (i.e., himself) , but I remember reading poems by Blake, Burns, cummings, Dickinson, Frost, Housman, Eliot, Pound, Shakespeare, Whitman, Yeats, et al, and grokking them as a boy, without any 'advanced' instruction from anyone.



Rant: The Elite
by Michael R. Burch

When I heard Harold Bloom unsurprisingly say:
Poetry is necessarily difficult. It is our elitist art...
I felt a small suspicious thrill. After all, sweetheart,
isn't this who we are? Aren't we obviously better,
and certainly fairer and taller, than they are?

Though once I found Ezra Pound
perhaps a smidgen too profound,
perhaps a bit over-fond of Benito
and the advantages of fascism
to be taken ad finem, like high tea
with a pure white spot of intellectualism
and an artificial sweetener, calorie-free.

I know! I know! Politics has nothing to do with art
And it tempts us so to be elite, to stand apart...
but somehow the word just doesn't ring true,
echoing effetely away—the distance from me to you.

Of course, politics has nothing to do with art,
but sometimes art has everything to do with becoming elite,
with climbing the cultural ladder, with being able to meet
someone more Exalted than you, who can demonstrate how to fart
so that everyone below claims one's odor is sweet.
You had to be there! We were falling apart
with gratitude! We saw him! We wept at his feet!
Though someone will always be far, far above you, clouding your air,
gazing down at you with a look of wondering despair.



Editor's Notes
by Michael R. Burch

Eat, drink and be merry
(tomorrow, be contrary) .

(Bitch and complain
in bad refrain,
but please—not till I'm on the plane!)

Write no poem before its time
(in your case, this means never) .
Linger over every word
(by which, I mean forever) .

By all means, read your verse aloud.
I'm sure you'll be a star
(and just as distant, when I'm gone) ;
your poems are beauteous (afar) .



Impotent
by Michael R. Burch

Tonight my pen
is barren
of passion, spent of poetry.

I hear your name
upon the rain
and yet it cannot comfort me.

I feel the pain
of dreams that wane,
of poems that falter, losing force.

I write again
words without end,
but I cannot control their course...

Tonight my pen
is sullen
and wants no more of poetry.

I hear your voice
as if a choice,
but how can I respond, or flee?

I feel a flame
I cannot name
that sends me searching for a word,

but there is none
not over-done,
unless it's one I never heard.

I believe this poem was written in my early twenties, around.



Everlasting
by Michael R. Burch

Where the wind goes
when the storm dies,
there my spirit lives
though I close my eyes.

Do not weep for me;
I am never far.
Whisper my name
to the last star...

then let me sleep,
think of me no more.

Still...

By denying death
its terminal sting,
in my words I remain
everlasting.



Sea Dreams
by Michael R. Burch

I.
In timeless days
I've crossed the waves
of seaways seldom seen.
By the last low light of evening
the breakers that careen
then dive back to the deep
have rocked my ship to sleep,
and so I've known the peace
of a soul at last at ease
there where Time's waters run
in concert with the sun.

With restless waves
I've watched the days'
slow movements, as they hum
their antediluvian songs.
Sometimes I've sung along,
my voice as soft and low
as the sea's, while evening slowed
to waver at the dim
mysterious moonlit rim
of dreams no man has known.

In thoughtless flight,
I've scaled the heights
and soared a scudding breeze
over endless arcing seas
of waves ten miles high.
I've sheared the sable skies
on wings as soft as sighs
and stormed the sun-pricked pitch
of sunset's scarlet-stitched,
ebullient dark demise.

I've climbed the sun-cleft clouds
ten thousand leagues or more
above the windswept shores
of seas no man has sailed
— great seas as grand as hell's,
shores littered with the shells
of men's 'immortal' souls —
and I've warred with dark sea-holes
whose open mouths implored
their depths to be explored.

And I've grown and grown and grown
till I thought myself the king
of every silver thing...

But sometimes late at night
when the sorrowing wavelets sing
sad songs of other times,
I taste the windborne rime
of a well-remembered day
on the whipping ocean spray,
and I bow my head to pray...

II.
It's been a long, hard day;
sometimes I think I work too hard.
Tonight I'd like to take a walk
down by the sea —
down by those salty waves
brined with the scent of Infinity,
down by that rocky shore,
down by those cliffs that I used to climb
when the wind was tart with a taste of lime
and every dream was a sailor's dream.

Then small waves broke light,
all frothy and white,
over the reefs in the ramblings of night,
and the pounding sea
—a mariner's dream—
was bound to stir a boy's delight
to such a pitch
that he couldn't desist,
but was bound to splash through the surf in the light
of ten thousand stars, all shining so bright.

Christ, those nights were fine,
like a well-aged wine,
yet more scalding than fire
with the marrow's desire.

Then desire was a fire
burning wildly within my bones,
fiercer by far than the frantic foam...
and every wish was a moan.
Oh, for those days to come again!
Oh, for a sea and sailing men!
Oh, for a little time!

It's almost nine
and I must be back home by ten,
and then... what then?

I have less than an hour to stroll this beach,
less than an hour old dreams to reach...
And then, what then?

Tonight I'd like to play old games—
games that I used to play
with the somber, sinking waves.
When their wraithlike fists would reach for me,
I'd dance between them gleefully,
mocking their witless craze
—their eager, unchecked craze—
to batter me to death
with spray as light as breath.

Oh, tonight I'd like to sing old songs—
songs of the haunting moon
drawing the tides away,
songs of those sultry days
when the sun beat down
till it cracked the ground
and the sea gulls screamed
in their agony
to touch the cooling clouds.
The distant cooling clouds.

Then the sun shone bright
with a different light
over different lands,
and I was always a pirate in flight.

Oh, tonight I'd like to dream old dreams,
if only for a while,
and walk perhaps a mile
along this windswept shore,
a mile, perhaps, or more,
remembering those days,
safe in the soothing spray
of the thousand sparkling streams
that rush into this sea.
I like to slumber in the caves
of a sailor's dark sea-dreams...
oh yes, I'd love to dream,
to dream
and dream
and dream.



Son
by Michael R. Burch

An island is bathed in blues and greens
as a weary sun settles to rest,
and the memories singing
through the back of my mind
lull me to sleep as the tide flows in.

Here where the hours pass almost unnoticed,
my heart and my home will be till I die,
but where you are is where my thoughts go
when the tide is high.

So there where the skylarks sing to the sun
as the rain sprinkles lightly around,
understand if you can
the mind of a man
whose conscience so long ago drowned.



Swan Song
by Michael R. Burch

The breast you seek reserves all its compassion
for a child unborn. Soon meagerly she'll ration
soft kisses and caresses—not for Him,
but you. Soon in the night, bright lights she'll dim
and croon a soothing love hymn (not for you)
and vow to Him that she'll always be true,
and never falter in her love. But now
she whispers falsehoods, meaning them, somehow,
still unable to foresee the fateful Wall
whose meaning's clear: such words strange gods might scrawl
revealing what must come, stark-chiseled there:
Gaze on them, weep, ye mighty, and despair!
There'll be no Jericho, no trumpet blast
imploding walls womb-strong; this song's your last.

Keywords/Tags: Muhammad Ali, boxing, The Greatest, race, racism, racist, discrimination, black, slave name, Vietnam War, Olympics, gold medal, God, Muslim, Islam, Islamic



There's a Stirring and Awakening in the World
by Michael R. Burch

There's a stirring and awakening in the world,
and even so my spirit stirs within,
imagining some Power beckoning—
the Force which through the stamen gently whirrs,
unlocking tumblers deftly, even mine.

The grape grows wild-entangled on the vine,
and here, close by, the honeysuckle shines.
And of such life, at last there comes there comes the Wine.

And so it is with spirits' fruitful yield—
the growth comes first, Green Vagrance, then the Bloom.

The world somehow must give the spirit room
to blossom, till its light shines—wild, revealed.

And then at last the earth receives its store
of blessings, as glad hearts cry—More! More! More!

Originally published by Borderless Journal



On the Horns of a Dilemma (I)
by Michael R. Burch

Love has become preposterous
for the over-endowed rhinoceros:
when he meets the right miss
how the hell can he kiss
when his horn is so horny it lofts her thus?

I need an artist or cartoonist to create an image of a male rhino lifting his prospective mate into the air during an abortive kiss. Any takers?



On the Horns of a Dilemma (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Love has become preposterous
for the over-endowed rhinoceros:
when he meets the right miss
how the hell can he kiss
when his horn deforms her esophagus?



On the Horns of a Dilemma (III)
by Michael R. Burch

A wino rhino said, 'I know!
I have a horn I cannot blow!
And so,
ergo,
I'll watch the lovely spigot flow!



The Horns of a Dilemma Solved, if not Solvent
by Michael R. Burch

A wine-addled rhino debated
the prospect of living unmated
due to the scorn
gals showed for his horn,
then lost it to poachers, sedated.

Published as the collection 'Ali's Song'

Michael Burch Comments

a person 22 February 2019

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Michael Burch Quotes

A tweet by any other name would be as fleet! —Michael R. Burch

To write an epigram, cram. If you lack wit, scram!

Love is either wholly folly, or fully holy. —Michael R. Burch

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.

When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.

Love has the value of gold, if it's true; if not, of rue.

Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick; Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.

Thanks to politicians like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump, we now have a duh-mock-racy.

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be, but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea. —Plato, translation by Michael R. Burch

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell? Only the sea gull in his high, lonely circuits, may tell. —Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

A short revealing frock? It's just my luck your lips were made to mock! ―Sappho, fragment 155, translation by Michael R. Burch

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child: I lived as best I could, and then I died. Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

A man must pursue his Vision as the eagle explores the sky's deepest blues. ―Crazy Horse, translation by Michael R. Burch

Cherokee Prayer: As I walk life's trails, imperiled by the raging wind and rain, grant, O Great Spirit, that yet I may always walk like a man. ―loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cherokee Proverb: Before you judge a man for his sins, be sure to trudge many moons in his moccasins. ―loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. ―White Elk, translation by Michael R. Burch

The soul would see no Rainbows if not for the eyes' tears. ―Native American saying, translation by Michael R. Burch

The brave man dies but once, a coward many times. ―Native American saying, translation by Michael R. Burch

I loved you more than words, so let words prove. (From 'Hearthside')

Autumn Conundrum: It's not that every leaf must finally fall, it's just that we can never catch them all.—Michael R. Burch

Piercing the Shell: If we strip away all the accouterments of war, perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

First they came for the Muslims and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim.

Brief Fling: Epigram means cram, then scram! —Michael R. Burch

Nod to the Master: If every witty thing that's said were true, Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!

Ars Brevis, Proofreading Longa: Poets may labor from sun to sun, but their editor's work is never done. —Michael R. Burch

Religion is the opiate of the people.—Karl Marx Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch

Raise your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

I always take really good poetry as a challenge and try to avoid 'genius envy.'

We can't change the past, but we can learn from it.

Intolerance is unsuccessful because one cannot argue successfully against success.

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho, wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse. —Antipater of Sidon (circa 200 BC) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains the incurable malady invariably remains. —Voltaire, translation by Michael R. Burch

Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.—Leo Tolstoy, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Far beyond sermons of right and wrong there's a sunlit field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lazes in such lush grass the world is too full for discussion. ('The Field' by Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch)

Warmthless beauty attracts but does not hold us; it floats like hookless bait. — Capito, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Docile doves may coo for cowards, but we delight in dauntless men. —Antipater of Sidon (circa 200 BC) , loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel, or a house when it's time to change residences, even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life. —Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Civility is the ability to disagree freely but always agreeably. —Michael R. Burch

Love is exquisite torture.—Michael R. Burch (written after reading 'It's Only My Heart' by Mizra Ghalib)

Death is the ultimate finality and banality of reality.

Thanks to politicians like Sarah Palin, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, we now have a duh-mock-racy.—Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be? In the end Hamlet opted for naught. ('Stage Fright' by Michael R. Burch)

Redefinition: Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch

Redefinition: Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch

Redefinition: Baseball: occasional hittin' with immeasurable spittin'.—Michael R. Burch

Redefinition: Trickle down economics: an especially pungent golden shower.—Michael R. Burch

Redefinition: Poetry: the art of finding the right word at the right time.—Michael R. Burch

Your tepid poets tire. (From 'beMUSEd' by Michael R. Burch)

These nights bring dreams of Cherokee shamans, whose names are bright verbs and impacted dark nouns, whose memories are indictments of my pallid flesh, and I hear, as from a great distance, the cries tortured from their guileless lips, proclaiming the nature of my mutation. ('Mongrel Dreams' by Michael R. Burch)

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