Ars Poetica Poem by Michael Burch

Ars Poetica

Rating: 5.0


Ars Poetica: Poems about Poems



What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer
~~~underwater~~~
watching the shoreline blur
sees through his breath's weightless bubbles...
Both worlds grow obscure.

Published by ByLine, Mandrake Poetry Review, Poetically Speaking, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Little Brown Poetry,   Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Neovictorian/Cochlea, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet's Haven, Famous Poets and Poems and Bewildering Stories



Muse/Goddess
by Michael R. Burch

'What will you conceive in me? '―
I asked her. But she
only smiled.

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

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

Centuries later, I understand;
she whispered―'I Am.'

This was the first poem to appear in the first issue of Romantics Quarterly; it has also been published by Penny Dreadful, Unlikely Stories, Underground Poets, Poetically Speaking, Poetry Life & Times and Little Brown Poetry



Currents
by Michael R. Burch

How can I write and not be true
to the rhythm that wells within?
How can the ocean not be blue,
not buck with the clapboard slap of tide,
the clockwork shock of wave on rock,
the motion creation stirs within?

Originally published by The Lyric



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King, a poem of poetic kinship and brotherhood

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

Published in Songs of Innocence, Romantics Quarterly and Poetry Life & Times



What Works
by Michael R. Burch

for David Gosselin

What works―
hewn stone;
the blush the iris shows the sun;
the lilac's pale-remembered bloom.

The frenzied fly: mad-lively, gay,
as seconds tick his time away,
his sentence―one brief day in May,
a period. And then decay.

A frenzied rhyme's mad tip-toed time,
a ballad's languid as the sea,
seek, striving―immortality.

When gloss peels off, what works will shine.
When polish fades, what works will gleam.

When intellectual prattle pales,
the dying buzzing in the hive
of tedious incessant bees,
what works will soar and wheel and dive
and milk all honey, leap and thrive,

and teach the pallid poem to seethe.



escape!
by michael r. burch

for anaïs vionet

to live among the daffodil folk...
slip down the rainslickened drainpipe...
suddenly pop out
the GARGANTUAN SPOUT...
minuscule as alice, shout
yippee-yi-yee!
in wee exultant glee
to be leaving behind the
LARGE
THREE-DENALI GARAGE.

This is another poem about poetic kinship ― here, escaping the real world for the world of imagination.



The Heimlich Limerick
by Michael R. Burch

for T. M.

The sanest of poets once wrote:
'Friend, why be a sheep or a goat?
Why follow the leader
or be a blind breeder? '
But almost no one took note.



The Better Man
by Michael R. Burch

Dear Ed: I don't understand why
you will publish this other guy―
when I'm brilliant, devoted,
one hell of a poet!
Yet you publish Anonymous. Fie!

Fie! A pox on your head if you favor
this poet who's dubious, unsavor
y, inconsistent in texts,
no address (I checked!) :
since he's plagiarized Unknown, I'll wager!

This double limerick was originally published by The Eclectic Muse (Canada)



The State of the Art (?)
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Shall poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review



Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

It's better not to speculate
'continually' on who is great.
Though relentless awe's
a Célèbre Cause,
please reserve some time for the contemplation
of the perils of EXAGGERATION.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On...)
by Michael R. Burch

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at 'meter, ' I crossly concluded
I'd use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I'm under-quaaluded.

Originally published by Grand Little Things



US Verse, after Auden
by Michael R. Burch

'Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.'

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.)

Published by The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse and Poetry Life & Times

The Unisphere mentioned is a spherical stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the 1964 New York World's Fair. It was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the space age and dedicated to 'Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.' The lines quoted in the epigraph are from W. H. Auden's love poem 'Lullaby.'



The Forge
by Michael R. Burch

To at last be indestructible, a poem
must first glow, almost flammable, upon
a thing inert, as gray, as dull as stone,

then bend this way and that, and slowly cool
at arms-length, something irreducible
drawn out with caution, toughened in a pool

of water so contrary just a hiss
escapes it―water instantly a mist.

It writhes, a thing of senseless shapelessness...

And then the driven hammer falls and falls.
The horses prick their ears in nearby stalls.
A soldier on his cot leans back and smiles.

A sound of ancient import, with the ring
of honest labor, sings of fashioning.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Poetry
by Michael R. Burch

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 at 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 child to man;
now I look back, remember when
you shone, and cannot understand
why now, 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.

I consider 'Poetry' to be my Ars Poetica. I believe I wrote the first version of 'Poetry' in my late teens, around age 18-19. Originally published by The Lyric, then subsequently by Amerikai költok a második (in a Hungarian translation by István Bagi)



Instruction
by Michael R. Burch

Toss this poem aside
to the filigreed and the prettified tide
of sunset.

Strike my name,
and still it is all the same.
The onset

of night is in the despairing skies;
each hut shuts its bright bewildered eyes.
The wind sighs

and my heart sighs with her―
my only companion, O Lovely Drifter!
Still, men are not wise.

The moon appears; the arms of the wind lift her,
pooling the light of her silver portent,
while men, impatient,

are beings of hurried and harried despair.
Now willows entangle their fragrant hair.
Men sleep.

Cornsilk tassels the moonbright air.
Deep is the sea; the stars are fair.
I reap.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Chit Chat: In the Poetry Chat Room
by Michael R. Burch

WHY SHULD I LERN TO SPELL?
HELL,
NO ONE REEDS WHAT I SAY
ANYWAY! ! !

Sing for the cool night,
whispers of constellations.
Sing for the supple grass,
the tall grass, gently whispering.
Sing of infinities, multitudes,
of all that lies beyond us now,
whispers begetting whispers.
And i am glad to also whisper...

I WUS HURT IN LUV I'M DYIN'
FER TH' TEARS I BEEN A-CRYIN'! ! !

i abide beyond serenities
and realms of grace,
above love's misdirected earth,
i lift my face.
i am beyond finding now...

I WAS IN, LOVE, AND HE SCREWED ME! ! !
THE JERK! ! ! TOTALLY! ! !

i loved her once, before, when i
was mortal too, and sometimes i
would listen and distinctly hear
her laughter from the juniper,
but did not go...

I JUST DON'T GET POETRY, SOMETIMES.
IT'S OKAY, I GUESS.
I REALLY DON'T READ THAT MUCH AT ALL,
I MUST CONFESS! ! ! ; -)

Travail, inherent to all flesh,
i do not know, nor how to feel.
Although i sing them nighttimes still:
the bitter woes, that do not heal...

POETRY IS BORING.
SEE, IT SUCKS! ! ! , I'M SNORING! ! ! ZZZZZZZ! ! !

The words like breath, i find them here,
among the fragrant juniper,
and conifers amid the snow,
old loves imagined long ago...

WHY DON'T YOU LIKE MY PERFICKT WORDS
YOU USELESS UN-AMERIC'N TURDS? ! ! !

What use is love, to me, or Thou?
O Words, my awe, to fly so smooth
above the anguished hearts of men
to heights unknown, Thy bare remove...

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Finally to Burn
(the Fall and Resurrection of Icarus)
by Michael R. Burch

Athena takes me
sometimes by the hand

and we go levitating
through strange Dreamlands

where Apollo sleeps
in his dark forgetting

and Passion seems
like a wise bloodletting

and all I remember
, upon awaking,

is: to Love sometimes
is like forsaking

one's Being―to glide

heroically beyond thought,

forsaking the here
for the There and the Not.

*

O, finally to Burn,
gravity beyond escaping!

To plummet is Bliss
when the blisters breaking

rain down red scabs
on the earth's mudpuddle...

Feathers and wax
and the watchers huddle...

Flocculent sheep,
O, and innocent lambs! ,

I will rock me to sleep
on the waves' iambs.

*

To sleep's sweet relief
from Love's exhausting Dream,

for the Night has Wings
gentler than moonbeams―

they will flit me to Life
like a huge-eyed Phoenix

fluttering off
to quarry the Sphinx.

*

Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Quixotic, I seek Love
amid the tarnished

rusted-out steel
when to live is varnish.

To Dream―that's the thing!
Aye, that Genie I'll rub,

soak by the candle,
aflame in the tub.

*

Riddlemethis,
riddlemethat,

Rynosseross,
throw out the Welcome Mat.

Somewhither, somewhither
aglitter and strange,

we must moult off all knowledge
or perish caged.

*

I am reconciled to Life
somewhere beyond thought―

I'll Live the Elsewhere,
I'll Dream of the Naught.

Methinks it no journey;
to tarry's a waste,

so fatten the oxen;
make a nice baste.

I'm coming, Fool Tom,
we have Somewhere to Go,

though we injure noone,
ourselves wildaglow.

Published by The Lyric and The Ekphrastic Review



In Praise of Meter
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
a trillion oscillations, yet not lose
a second's beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth's; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.

If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what's been left to chance?
Should poets be more lax―their circumstance

as humble as it is? ―or readers wince

to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
the moans of drones drown out the Chanticleer?

Originally published by The Eclectic Muse, then in The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

Published by Shot Glass Journal, Brief Poems, QuoteFancy, IdleHearts, AZquotes



Kin
by Michael R. Burch

for Richard Moore

1.
Shrill gulls,
how like my thoughts
you, struggling, rise
to distant bliss―
the weightless blue of skies
that are not blue
in any atmosphere,
but closest here...

2.
You seek an air
so clear,
so rarified
the effort leaves you famished;
earthly tides
soon call you back―
one long, descending glide...

3.
Disgruntledly you grope dirt shores for orts
you pull like mucous ropes
from shells' bright forts...
You eye the teeming world
with nervous darts―
this way and that...
Contentious, shrewd, you scan―
the sky, in hope,
the earth, distrusting man.

Originally published by Able Muse



The Harvest of Roses
by Michael R. Burch

for Harvey Stanbrough

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.

Originally published by The Raintown Review when Harvey Stanbrough was the editor



Safe Harbor
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin N. Roberts

The sea at night seems
an alembic of dreams―
the moans of the gulls,
the foghorns' bawlings.

A century late
to be melancholy,
I watch the last shrimp boat as it steams
to safe harbor again.

In the twilight she gleams
with a festive light,
done with her trawlings,
ready to sleep...

Deep, deep, in delight
glide the creatures of night,
elusive and bright
as the poet's dreams.

Published by The Lyric, Grassroots Poetry, Romantics Quarterly, Angle and Poetry Life & Times



At Wilfred Owen's Grave
by Michael R. Burch

A week before the Armistice, you died.
They did not keep your heart like Livingstone's,
then plant your bones near Shakespeare's. So you lie
between two privates, sacrificed like Christ
to politics, your poetry unknown
except for one brief flurry: thirteen months
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death.

Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of 'ergotherapists' that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful's merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath's transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine―scalding eyes,

and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.

Originally published by The Chariton Review



The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

for Norman Kraeft in memory of his beloved wife and fellow poet June Kysilko Kraeft

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him―obscene illusion! ―

made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness―

her ghost beyond perfection―for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.



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
swaying 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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts. 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.



In a Stolen Moment
by Kim Cherub (an alias of 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.



Orpheus
by Michael R. Burch

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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Discrimination
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who continue to write traditional poetry

The meter I had sought to find, perplexed,
was ripped from books of 'verse' that read like prose.
I found it in sheet music, in long rows
of hologramic CDs, in sad wrecks
of long-forgotten volumes undisturbed
half-centuries by archivists, unscanned.
I read their fading numbers, frowned, perturbed―
why should such tattered artistry be banned?

I heard the sleigh bells' jingles, vampish ads,
the supermodels' babble, Seuss's books
extolled in major movies, blurbs for abs...
A few poor thinnish journals crammed in nooks
are all I've found this late to sell to those
who'd classify free verse 'expensive prose.'

Originally published by The Chariton Review



Abide
by Michael R. Burch

after Philip Larkin's 'Aubade'

It is hard to understand or accept mortality―
such an alien concept: not to be.
Perhaps unsettling enough to spawn religion,
or to scare mutant fish out of a primordial sea
boiling like goopy green tea in a kettle.

Perhaps a man should exhibit more mettle
than to admit such fear, denying Nirvana exists
simply because we are stuck here in such a fine fettle.

And so we abide...
even in life, staring out across that dark brink.
And if the thought of death makes your questioning heart sink,
it is best not to drink
(or, drinking, certainly not to think) .

Originally published by Light Quarterly



Observance
by Michael R. Burch

Here the hills are old and rolling
carefully 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...

This is an early poem that made me feel like a real poet. I remember writing it in the break room of the McDonald's where I worked as a high school student. I believe that was at age 17. 'Observance' was originally published by Nebo as 'Reckoning.' It was later published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Piedmont Literary Review, Verses, Romantics Quarterly, the anthology There is Something in the Autumn and Poetry Life & Times.



Millay Has Her Way with a Vassar Professor
by Michael R. Burch

After a night of hard drinking and spreading her legs,
Millay hits the dorm, where the Vassar don begs:
'Please act more chastely, more discretely, more seemly! '
(His name, let's assume, was, er... Percival Queemly.)

'Expel me! Expel me! '―She flashes her eyes.

'Oh! Please! No! I couldn't! That wouldn't be wise,
for a great banished Shelley would tarnish my name...
Eek! My game will be lame if I can't milque your fame! '

'Continue to live here―carouse as you please! '

the beleaguered don sighs as he sags to his knees.
Millay grinds her crotch half an inch from his nose:
'I can live in your hellhole, strange man, I suppose...
but the price is your firstborn, whom I'll sacrifice to Moloch.'
(Which explains what became of pale Percy's son, Enoch.)

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms



Radiance
by Michael R. Burch

for Dylan Thomas

The poet delves earth's detritus―hard toil―
for raw-edged nouns, barbed verbs, vowels' lush bouquet;
each syllable his pen excretes―dense soil,
dark images impacted, rooted clay.

The poet sees the sea but feels its meaning―
the teeming brine, the mirrored oval flame
that leashes and excites its turgid surface...
then squanders years imagining love's the same.

Belatedly he turns to what lies broken―
the scarred and furrowed plot he fiercely sifts,
among death's sicksweet dungs and composts seeking
one element that scorches and uplifts.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Wonder Boys
by Michael R. Burch

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

The stars were always there, too-bright cliches:
scintillant truths the jaded world outgrew
as baffled poets winged keyed kites―amazed,
in dream of shocks that suddenly came true...

but came almost as static―background noise,
a song out of the cosmos no one hears,
or cares to hear. The poets, starstruck boys,
lay tuned in to their kite strings, saucer-eared.

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

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

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

Originally published by The Lyric



The Composition of Shadows (I)
by Michael R. Burch

'I made it out of a mouthful of air.'―W. B. Yeats

We breathe and so we write; the night
hums softly its accompaniment.
Pale phosphors burn; the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants'
strange golden weight, each plosive's shape―
curved like the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds' shadows mass beneath bright glass
like singing voles curled in a maze
of blank white space. We touch a face―
long-frozen words trapped in a glaze

that insulates our hearts. Nowhere
can love be found. Just shrieking air.

Published by The Lyric, Contemporary Rhyme, Candelabrum, Iambs & Trochees (Poem of the Week)



The Composition of Shadows (II)
by Michael R. Burch

We breathe and so we write;
the night
hums softly its accompaniment.

Pale phosphors burn;
the page we turn
leads onward, and we smile, content.

And what we mean
we write to learn:
the vowels of love, the consonants'

strange golden weight,
the blood's debate
within the heart. Here, resonant,

sounds' shadows mass
against bright glass,
within the white Labyrinthian maze.

Through simple grace,
I touch your face,
ah words! And I would gaze

the night's dark length
in waning strength
to find the words to feel

such light again.
O, for a pen
to spell love so ethereal.

Originally published in a different version by The Lyric



The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay) ,
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,
for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,
for waltzes ending in a hush,
for rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames' exhausted, drifting ash,
and petals falling from the rose, ...
I raise my cup before I drink,
saluting ghosts of loves long dead,
and silently propose a toast―
to joys set free, and those I fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme



These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch

a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age...

I.
A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.

I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time―alone,
not untouched.
And I am as they were

unsure

for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.


II.
Ah, faithless lover―
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.

For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation―
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.

III.
A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.

And so it is
that we seldom gauge Time's speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.

Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.

IV.
Ungentle maiden―
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.

And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.

V.
A measureless rhythm rules the night―
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.

To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.

But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.

VI.
So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills'
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar's shrill, cryptic trills.
But I will not sleep this night, nor any...
how can I―when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
and a tear upon your pillowcase?

VII.
If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled savage lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.

But there are no monks or hermits today―
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.

For today man abhors solitude―
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone, by himself, to think.

VIII.
And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.

No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.

IX.
Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the 'old-fashioned' way.

X.
A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
once again.

XI.
This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.

But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these hallowed halls.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

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

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

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

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

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

Published by MahMag (translated into Farsi by Mahnaz Badihian) , Other Voices International, Thanal(India) , Deviant Art, Portal Vapasin (Farsi)



To Please The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

for poets who still write musical verse

To please the poet, words must dance―
staccato, brisk, a two-step:
so!
Or waltz in elegance to time
of music―mild,
adagio.

To please the poet, words must chance
emotion in catharsis―
flame.
Or splash into salt seas, descend
in sheets of silver-shining
rain.

To please the poet, words must prance
and gallop, gambol, revel,
rail.
Or muse upon a moment―mute,
obscure, unsure, imperfect,
pale.

To please the poet, words must sing,
or croak, wart-tongued, imagining.

Originally published by The Lyric



The Po' Biz Explained
by Michael R. Burch

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The editor's work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Performing Art
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

What instinctual memories
lend stunning brightness
to the strange dreams

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

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

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

Originally published by The Raintown Review



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.

Published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea and Poetry Life & Times



The Century's Wake
by Michael R. Burch

lines written at the close of the 20th century

Take me home. The party is over,
the century passed―no time for a lover.

And my heart grew heavy
as the fireworks hissed through the dark
over Central Park,
past high-towering spires to some backwoods levee,
hurtling banner-hung docks to the torchlit seas.

And my heart grew heavy;
I felt its disease―
its apathy,
wanting the bright, rhapsodic display
to last more than a single day.

If decay was its rite,
now it has learned to long
for something with more intensity,
more gaudy passion, more song―
like the huddled gay masses,
the wildly-cheering throng.

You ask me―
How can this be?
A little more flair,
or perhaps only a little more clarity.
I leave her tonight to the century's wake;
she disappoints me.

Originally published by The Centrifugal Eye



Distances
by Michael R. Burch

There is a small cleanness about her,
as though she has always just been washed,
and there is a dull obedience to convention
in her accommodating slenderness
as she feints at her salad.

She has never heard of Faust, or Frost,
and she is unlikely to have been seen
rummaging through bookstores
for mementos of others
more difficult to name.

She might imagine 'poetry'
to be something in common between us,
as we write, bridging the expanse
between convention and something...
something the world calls 'art'
for want of a better word.

At night I scream
at the conventions of both our worlds,
at the distances between words
and their objects: distances
come lately between us,
like a clean break.

Originally published by Verse Libre



Nashville and Andromeda
by Michael R. Burch

I have come to sit and think in the darkness once again.
It is three a.m.; outside, the world sleeps...

How nakedly now and unadorned
the surrounding hills
expose themselves
to the lithographies of the detached moonlight―
breasts daubed by the lanterns
of the ornamental barns,
firs ruffled like silks
casually discarded...

They lounge now―
indolent, languid, spread-eagled―
their wantonness a thing to admire,
like a lover's ease idly tracing flesh...

They do not know haste,
lust, virtue, or any of the sanctimonious ecstasies of men,
yet they please
if only in the solemn meditations of their loveliness
by the erect pen...

Perhaps there upon the surrounding hills,
another forsakes sleep
for the hour of introspection,
gabled in loneliness,
swathed in the pale light of Andromeda...

Seeing.
Yes, seeing,
but always ultimately unknowing
anything of the affairs of men.

Published by The Aurorean and The Centrifugal Eye



Resurrecting Passion
by Michael R. Burch

Last night, while dawn was far away
and rain streaked gray, tumescent skies,
as thunder boomed and lightning railed,
I conjured words, where passion failed...

But, oh, that you were mine tonight,
sprawled in this bed, held in these arms,
your breasts pale baubles in my hands,
our bodies bent to old demands...

Such passions we might resurrect,
if only time and distance waned
and brought us back together; now
I pray that this might be, somehow.

But time has left us twisted, torn,
and we are more apart than miles.
How have you come to be so far―
as distant as an unseen star?

So that, while dawn is far away,
my thoughts might not return to you,
I feed your portrait to the flames,
but as they feast, I burn for you.

Published by Songs of Innocence and The Chained Muse



Caveat
by Michael R. Burch

If only we were not so eloquent,
we might sing, and only sing, not to impress,
but only to enjoy, to be enjoyed.

We might inundate the earth with thankfulness
for light, although it dies, and make a song
of night descending on the earth like bliss,

with other lights beyond―not to be known―
but only to be welcomed and enjoyed,
before all worlds and stars are overthrown...

as a lover's hands embrace a sleeping face
and find it beautiful for emptiness
of all but joy. There is no thought to love

but love itself. How senseless to redress,
in darkness, such becoming nakedness...

Originally published by Clementine Unbound



Imperfect Sonnet
by Michael R. Burch

A word before the light is doused: the night
is something wriggling through an unclean mind,
as rats creep through a tenement. And loss
is written cheaply with the moon's cracked gloss
like lipstick through the infinite, to show
love's pale yet sordid imprint on us. Go.

We have not learned love yet, except to cleave.
I saw the moon rise once... but to believe...
was of another century... and now...
I have the urge to love, but not the strength.

Despair, once stretched out to its utmost length,
lies couched in squalor, watching as the screen
reveals 'love's' damaged images: its dreams...
and masturbating limply, screams and screams.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll



To the Post-Modern Muse, Floundering
by Michael R. Burch

The anachronism in your poetry
is that it lacks a future history.
The line that rings, the forward-sounding bell,
tolls death for you, for drowning victims tell
of insignificance, of eerie shoals,
of voices underwater. Lichen grows
to mute the lips of those men paid no heed,
and though you cling by fingertips, and bleed,
there is no lifeline now, for what has slipped
lies far beyond your grasp. Iron fittings, stripped,
have left the hull unsound, bright cargo lost.
The argosy of all your toil is rust.

The anchor that you flung did not take hold
in any harbor where repair is sold.

Originally published by Ironwood



Nightfall
by Michael R. Burch

for Kevin Nicholas Roberts

Only the long dolor of dusk delights me now,
as I await death.
The rain has ruined the unborn corn,
and the wasting breath
of autumn has cruelly, savagely shorn
each ear of its radiant health.
As the golden sun dims, so the dying land seems to relinquish its vanishing wealth.

Only a few erratic, trembling stalks still continue to stand,
half upright,
and even these the winds have continually robbed of their once-plentiful,
golden birthright.
I think of you and I sigh, forlorn, on edge
with the rapidly encroaching night.
Ten thousand stillborn lilies lie limp, mixed with roses, unable to ignite.

Whatever became of the magical kernel, golden within
at the winter solstice?
What of its promised kingdom, Amen! , meant to rise again
from this balmless poultice,
this strange bottomland where one Scarecrow commands
dark legions of ravens and mice?
And what of the Giant whose bellows demand our negligible lives, his black vice?

I find one bright grain here aglitter with rain, full of promise and purpose
and drive.
Through lightning and hail and nightfalls and pale, cold sunless moons
it will strive
to rise up from its 'place' on a network of lace, to the glory
of being alive.
Why does it bother, I wonder, my brother? O, am I unwise to believe?
But Jack had his beanstalk
and you had your poems
and the sun seems intent to ascend
and so I also must climb
to the end of my time,
however the story
may unwind
and
end.

Originally published by The HyperTexts


The Board
by Michael R. Burch

Accessible rhyme is never good.
The penalty is understood―
soft titters from dark board rooms where
the businessmen paste on their hair
and, Walter Mitties, woo the Muse
with reprimands of Dr. Seuss.

The best book of the age sold two,
or three, or four (but not to you) ,
strange copies of the ones before,
misreadings that delight the board.
They sit and clap; their revenues
fall trillions short of Mother Goose.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The following is a much-rejected poem. If a joke falls and no one gets it, did the jokester really exist?

Confession
by Michael R. Burch

What shall I say to you, to confess,
words? Words that can never express
anything close to what I feel?

For words that seem tangible, real,
when I think them
become vaguely surreal when I put ink to them.

And words that I thought that I knew,
like 'love' and 'devotion'
never ring true.

While 'passion'
sounds strangely like the latest fashion
or a perfume.

Originally published by The HyperTexts. At the time I wrote this poem, a perfume named Passion was in fashion. For all that I know, it may still be.



Revision
by Michael R. Burch

I found a stone
ablaze in a streambed,
honed to a flickering jewel
by all the clear,
swiftly-flowing
millennia of water...


and as I kneeled
to do it obeisance,
the homage of retrieval,
it occurred to me
that perhaps its muddied
underbelly

rooted precariously
in the muck
and excrescence
of its slow loosening
upward...

might not be finished,
like a poem
brilliantly faceted
but only half revised,
which sparkles
seductively
but is not yet worth

ecstatic digging.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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.

Originally published by The HyperTexts. I believe this poem was written in my early twenties, around 1980.



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?

Originally published by The HyperTexts. '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) .



Pointed Art
by Michael R. Burch

The point of art is that
there is no point.
(A grinning, quick-dissolving cat
from Cheshire
must have told you that.)

The point of art is this―
the hiss
of Cupid's bright bolt, should it miss,
is bliss
compared to Truth's neurotic kiss.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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) .

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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

Originally published by The HyperTexts



The Poet
by Michael R. Burch

He walks to the sink,
takes out his teeth,
rubs his gums.
He tries not to think.

In the mirror, on the mantle,
Time―the silver measure―
does not stare or blink,

but in a wrinkle flutters,
in a hand upon the brink
of a second, hovers.

Through a mousehole,
something scuttles
on restless incessant feet.

There is no link
between life and death
or from a fading past
to a more tenuous present
that a word uncovers
in the great wink.

The white foam lathers
at his thin pink
stretched neck
like a tightening noose.
He tries not to think.

Published by Icon and Tucumcari Literary Review



Artificial Smile
by Michael R. Burch

I'm waiting for my artificial teeth
to stretch belief, to hollow out the cob
of zealous righteousness, to grasp life's stub
between clenched molars, and yank out the grief.

Mine must be art-official―zenlike Art―
a disembodied, white-enameled grin
of Cheshire manufacture. Part by part,
the human smile becomes mock porcelain.

Till in the end, the smile alone remains:
titanium-based alloys undestroyed
with graves' worm-eaten contents, all the pains
of bridgework unrecalled, and what annoyed

us most about the corpses rectified
to quaintest dust. The Smile winks, deified.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Pity Clarity
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

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



Wonderland
by Michael R. Burch

We stood, kids of the Lamb, to put to test
the beatific anthems of the blessed,
the sentence of the martyr, and the pen's
sincere religion. Magnified, the lens
shot back absurd reflections of each face―
a carnival-like mirror. In the space
between the silver backing and the glass,
we caught a glimpse of Joan, a frumpy lass
who never brushed her hair or teeth, and failed
to pass on GO, and frequently was jailed
for awe's beliefs. Like Alice, she grew wee
to fit the door, then couldn't lift the key.
We failed the test, and so the jury's hung.
In Oz, 'The Witch is Dead' ranks number one.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Album
by Michael R. Burch

I caress them—trapped in brittle cellophane—
and I see how young they were, and how unwise;
and I remember their first flight—an old prop plane,
their blissful arc through alien blue skies...

And I touch them here through leaves which—tattered, frayed—
are also wings, but wings that never flew:
like insects' wings—pinned, held. Here, time delayed,
their features never merged, remaining two...

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

and slavers for Its meat—those young, unwise,
who naively dare to dream, yet fail to see
how, lumbering sunward, Hope, ungainly, flies,
clutching to Her ruffled breast what must not be.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



Maker, Fakir, Curer
by Michael R. Burch

A poem should be a wild, unearthly cry
against the thought of lying in the dark,
doomed―never having seen bright sparks leap high,
without a word for flame, none for the mark
an ember might emblaze on lesioned skin.

A poet is no crafty artisan―
the maker of some crock. He dreams of flame
he never touched, but―fakir's courtesan―
must dance obedience, once called by name.

Thin wand, divine! , this world is too the same―
all watery ooze and flesh. Let fire cure
and quickly harden here what can endure.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

The ancient English scops were considered to be makers: for instance, in William Dunbar's 'Lament for the Makiris.' But in some modern literary circles poets are considered to be fakers, with lies being as good as the truth where art is concerned. Hence, this poem puns on 'fakirs' and dancing snakes. But according to Shakespeare the object is to leave something lasting, that will stand test of time. Hence, the idea of poems being cured in order to endure. The 'thin wand' is the poet's pen, divining the elixir―the magical fountain of youth―that makes poems live forever.



The Strangest Rain
by Michael R. Burch

'I... am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur―and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves...'―Emily Dickinson

'If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.'―Emily Dickinson

The strangest rain, a few bright sluggish drops,
unsure if they should fall, run through with sun,
came tumbling down and touched me, one by one,
too few to animate the shriveled crops
of nearby farmers (though their daughters might
feel each cool splash, a-shiver with delight) .

I thought again of Emily Dickinson,
who felt the tingle down her spine, inspired
to lifting hairs, to nerves' electric song
of passion for a thing so deep-desired
the heart and gut agree, and so must tremble
as all the neurons of the brain assemble
to whisper: This is love, but what is love?
Wrens darting rainbows, laughter high above.



Erotic Errata
by Michael R. Burch

I didn't mean to love you; if I did,
it came unbid-
en, and should've remained hid-
den!



Alien Nation
by Michael R. Burch

for J. S. S., a 'Christian' poet who believes in 'hell'

On a lonely outpost on Mars
the astronaut practices 'speech'
as alien to primates below
as mute stars winking high, out of reach.

And his words fall as bright and as chill
as ice crystals on Kilimanjaro―
far colder than Jesus's words
over the 'fortunate' sparrow.

And I understand how gentle Emily
felt, when all comfort had flown,
gazing into those inhuman eyes,
feeling zero at the bone.

Oh, how can I grok his arctic thought?
For if he is human, I am not.

Originally published by The HyperTexts



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.



Keywords/Tags: Poems, Poet, Poets, Poetic Expression, Poetry, Muse, Goddess, Rhythm, Rhyme, Meter, Metaphor, Creation, Words, Works, Muse, Art

Published as the collection 'Ars Poetica: Poems about Poems'

Saturday, November 21, 2020
Topic(s) of this poem: rhyme,write,writing,writings,art,metaphor,muse,poems,poet,poetic expression
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