Soothing Poems: 285 / 500

Ali's Song (For Muhammad Ali)

Rating: 4.9

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, 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.



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.

And 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



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 poet who speaks in parentheses.

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.



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 those late autumn leaves
with nothing left to cling to...



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.)



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.



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.



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) .



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.



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.



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



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

Published as the collection 'Ali's Song'

Friday, January 11, 2013
Soothing Poems: 285 / 500
Topic(s) of this poem: race,racism,racist,slave,vietnam war,black african american,discrimination,god,gold,islamic
POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
Originally published by Black Medina
READ THIS POEM IN OTHER LANGUAGES
COMMENTS OF THE POEM

Excellent poem Michael and a nice tribute to a great Athlete, well done and 10 from me.

2 0 Reply
Mike Burch 02 January 2018

Thanks Allen!

1 0 Reply
Zino 19 November 2021

I love this poem

1 0 Reply
Zino 19 November 2021

I love this poem

1 0 Reply
Richard Wlodarski 24 December 2019

A KNOCK-OUT tribute to The Great One! Excellent job, Michael. Gonna check out that video. Might even show it to the Great George Chuvalo.

1 0 Reply
Mike Burch 02 January 2018

lyw (Lillian Y. Wong) has done a YouTube video of the poem. Anyone who's interested can find it with a YouTube search like: Michael R. Burch Ali's Song

1 0 Reply
Smoky Hoss 01 January 2018

Superb. Loved this poem.

2 0 Reply