Early Poems Poem by Michael Burch

Early Poems



EARLY POEMS: JUVENILIA
by Michael R. Burch

These are early poems, most of them written between the ages of 13-18 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.



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...

I wrote this early poem as a teenager, around age 17, in a McDonald's break room. It was the first poem that made me feel like a 'real' 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.

This early poem was originally published by TC Broadsheet Verses. I was paid a whopping $10, my first cash payment! It's the second poem that made me feel like a 'real' poet, written around age 18.



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today...
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away...

I wrote this early poem as a boy, around age 14, after seeing an ad for the movie 'Summer of '42' which starred the lovely Jennifer O'Neill and a young male actor who might have been my nebbish twin. The movie came out in 1971, so the poem was probably written around 1971-1972. But it could have been a bit later, working from memory. In any case, the poem was published in my high school literary journal in 1976.



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.

This early poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, 'Jessamyn's Song, ' which dates to around age 14 or 15, or perhaps a bit later.

Published by The Lyric



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

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

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

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager, around age 16 or 17. I later decided to incorporate the prayer into a poem, which I started in high school and revised slightly as an adult. I dedicated the poem to my mother, Christine Ena Burch, after her death, because she always a little girl at heart, and pure of heart like a little girl.



Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart's baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!

This is a poem I wrote about a vacation my family took to Salzburg when I was a boy, age 11 or perhaps a bit older.



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
felt more than seen.
I was eighteen,
my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant...
without words, but with a deeper communion,
as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
liquidly our lips met
—feverish, wet—
forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
in the immediacy of our fumbling union...
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

Published by Grassroots Poetry and Poetry Webring

This is one of my early poems but I can't remember exactly when I wrote it. Due to the romantic style, I believe it was probably written during my first two years in college, making me 18 or 19 at the time.



Something
by Michael R. Burch

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 finality swept into a corner... where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Originally published in the anthology There is Something in the Autumn, then turned into a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong

This is one of the first poems I wrote that didn't rhyme. I consider one of the best of my early poems.



An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion...

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



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

Sunbathe,
ozone baby,
till your parched skin cracks
in the white-hot flash
of radiation.

Incantation
from your pale parched lips
shall not avail;
you made this hell.
Now burn.

This was one of my early poems although I can't remember exactly when it was written. I'm guessing around age 19 or 20. I dedicated the poem to Trump after he pulled out of the Paris accords.



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,
and 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 leapt from the pinnacle of love,
and the result of every 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
that groan as I do, yet somehow sleep
through the nightjar's cryptic trills.

But I will not sleep this night, nor any...
how can I, when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed in 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 foreign 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.


I wrote this poem in my freshman dorm at age 18, watching students returning from dances in the wee hours of the morning. The date I have is 1976, and I seem to remember it being written during freshman rush.



Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown,
the Ferris wheel teeters,
not up, yet not down...
Have I been too long at the fair?

This is one of my earliest poems, written around age 15 when we were living with my grandfather in his house on Chilton Street, within walking distance of the Nashville fairgrounds. I remember walking to the fairgrounds, stopping at a Dairy Queen along the way, and swimming at a public pool. But I believe the Ferris wheel only operated during the state fair. So my 'educated guess' is that this poem was written during the 1973 state fair, or shortly thereafter. I remember watching people hanging suspended in mid-air, waiting for carnies to deposit them safely on terra firma again.



Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday
the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.



Hymn to Apollo
by Michael R. Burch

something of sunshine attracted my i
as it lazed on the afternoon sky,
golden, splashed on the easel of god;
what, i thought,
could this airy stuff be,
to, phantomlike, flit
through tall trees
on fall days, such as these?

and the breeze
whispered a dirge
to the vanishing light;
enchoired with the evening, it sang;
its voice enchantedly rang
chanting 'Night! '...

till all the bright light
retired,
expired.

This poem appeared in my high school literary journal, the LANTERN, so it was written by age 18, but probably around age 16 or 17. That was my 'cummings' period.



as Time walked by
by michael r. burch

yesterday i dreamed of us again,
when
the air, like honey,
trickled through cushioning grasses,
softly flowing, pouring itself upon the masses
of dreaming flowers...
and the hours
were tentative, coy and shy
while the sky
swirled all its colors together,
giving pleasure to the appreciative eye
as Time walked by.

then your smile
could fill the darkest night
with brilliant light
or thrill the dullest day
with ecstasy
so long as Time led leisurely our way;
as It did,
It did.

but soon the summer hid
her sunny smile...
the honeyed breaths of wind
became cold,
biting to the bone
as Time sped on,
fled from us
to be gone
forevermore.

this morning i awakened to the thought
that you were near
with honey hair and happy smile
lying sweetly by my side,
but then i remembered—you were gone,
that you toppled long ago
like an orchid felled by snow
as the thing called 'us' sank slowly down to die
and Time roared by.

This poem appeared in my high school journal in 1976 and was probably written around 1974 at age 16 or thereabouts.



Playmates
by Michael R. Burch

WHEN you were my playmate and I was yours,
we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and the sorrows and cares of our indentured days
were uncomprehended... far, far away...
for the temptations and trials we had yet to face
were lost in the shadows of an unventured maze.

Then simple pleasures were easy to find
and if they cost us a little, we didn't mind;
for even a penny in a pocket back then
was one penny too many, a penny to spend.

Then feelings were feelings and love was just love,
not a strange, complex mystery to be understood;
while 'sin' and 'damnation' meant little to us,
since forbidden batter was our only lust!

Then we never worried about what we had,
and we were both sure-what was good, what was bad.
And we sometimes quarreled, but we didn't hate;
we seldom gave thought to injustice, or fate.

Then we never thought about the next day,
for tomorrow seemed hidden—adventures away.
Though sometimes we dreamed of adventures past,
and wondered, at times, why things didn't last.

Still, we never worried about getting by,
and we didn't know that we were to die...
when we spent endless hours with simple toys,
and I was your playmate, and we were boys.

This is, I believe, my second 'intentional' poem. I think I was around 13 or 14 when I wrote it.



Smoke
by Michael R. Burch

The hazy, smoke-filled skies of summer I remember well;
farewell was on my mind, and the thoughts that I can't tell
rang bells within (the din was in) my mind, and I can't say
if what we had was good or bad, or where it is today.
The endless days of summer's haze I still recall today;
she spoke and smoky skies stood still as summer slipped away...

This early poem appeared in my high school journal, the Lantern, in 1976. It also appeared in my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977.



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

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

I believe wrote 'Styx' as a teenager, around age 18.



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.



Will There Be Starlight
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
damask
and lilac
and sweet-scented heathers?

And will she find flowers,
or will she find thorns
guarding the petals
of roses unborn?

Will there be starlight
tonight
while she gathers
seashells
and mussels
and albatross feathers?

And will she find treasure
or will she find pain
at the end of this rainbow
of moonlight on rain?

If I remember correctly, I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, around age 18.



The Leveler
by Michael R. Burch

The nature of Nature
is bitter survival
from Winter's bleak fury
till Spring's brief revival.

The weak implore Fate;
bold men ravish, dishevel her...
till both are cut down
by mere ticks of the Leveler.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20, or thereabouts.



Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.

I read the Bible from cover to cover at age eleven, ten chapters per day, at the suggestion of my parents. The so-called 'word of God' left me aghast. How could anyone possibly claim the biblical god Yahweh/Jehovah was good, wise, loving, just, etc.? I came up with this epigram to express my conclusions. But I'm not sure when I came up with it: I will guess sometime between ages eleven to thirteen, but it could have been a bit later. I never submitted the poem for formal publication, to my recollection, but I have used it extensively indiscussions, so it is 'out there.'



hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term 'superstar.'



Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown;
the Ferris wheel teeters...
not up, yet not down.
Have I been too long at the fair?

This is one of my earliest poems, written around age 15 when we were living with my grandfather in his house on Chilton Street, within walking distance of the Nashville fairgrounds.



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.

According to my notes, I wrote this poem around age 19 or earlier.



Desdemona
by Michael R. Burch

Though you possessed the moon and stars,
you are bound to fate and wed to chance.
Your lips deny they crave a kiss;
your feet deny they ache to dance.
Your heart imagines wild romance.

Though you cupped fire in your hands
and molded incandescent forms,
you are barren now, and—spent of flame—
the ashes that remain are borne
toward the sun upon a storm.

You, who demanded more, have less,
your heart within its cells of sighs
held fast by chains of misery,
confined till death for peddling lies—
imprisonment your sense denies.

You, who collected hearts like leaves
and pressed each once within your book,
forgot. None—winsome, bright or rare—
not one was worth a second look.
My heart, as others, you forsook.

But I, though I loved you from afar
through silent dawns, and gathered rue
from gardens where your footsteps left
cold paths among the asters, knew—
each moonless night the nettles grew

and strangled hope, where love dies too.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem in my early twenties.



Mare Clausum
by Michael R. Burch

These are the narrows of my soul—
dark waters pierced by eerie, haunting screams.
And these uncharted islands bleakly home
wild nightmares and deep, strange, forbidding dreams.

Please don't think to find pearls' pale, unearthly glow
within its shoals, nor corals in its reefs.
For, though you seek to salvage Love, I know
that vessel lists, and night brings no relief.

Pause here, and look, and know that all is lost;
then turn, and go; let salt consume, and rust.
This sea is not for sailors, but the damned
who lingered long past morning, till they learned

why it is named:
Mare Clausum.

Originally published by Penny Dreadful

NOTE: Mare Clausum is Latin for 'Closed Sea.' I believe this poem was written around age 19.



An Illusion
by Michael R. Burch

The sky was as hushed as the breath of a bee
and the world was bathed in shades of palest gold
when I awoke.

She came to me with the sound of falling leaves
and the scent of new-mown grass;
I held out my arms to her and she passed

into oblivion...

This little dream-poem appeared in my high school literary journal, the Lantern, so I was no older than 18 when I wrote it, probably younger. I will guess around age 16.



Myth
by Michael R. Burch

Here the recalcitrant wind
sighs with grievance and remorse
over fields of wayward gorse
and thistle-throttled lanes.

And she is the myth of the scythed wheat
hewn and sighing, complete,
waiting, lain in a low sheaf—
full of faith, full of grief.

Here the immaculate dawn
requires belief of the leafed earth
and she is the myth of the mown grain—
golden and humble in all its weary worth.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem toward the end of my senior year of high school, around age 18.



Accounting
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you, and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, accredited pain...
My assets remaining are liquid again.

I think I wrote this early poem around age 19 or 20.



Shock
by Michael R. Burch

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom—
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.

I may have been reading too many gothic ghost stories when I wrote this early poem! I think it shows a good touch with meter for a young poet.



The Communion of Sighs
by Michael R. Burch

There was a moment
without the sound of trumpets or a shining light,
but with only silence and darkness and a cool mist
felt more than seen.
I was eighteen,
my heart pounding wildly within me like a fist.
Expectation hung like a cry in the night,
and your eyes shone like the corona of a comet.

There was an instant...
without words, but with a deeper communion,
as clothing first, then inhibitions fell;
liquidly our lips met
—feverish, wet—
forgotten, the tales of heaven and hell,
in the immediacy of our fumbling union...
when the rest of the world became distant.

Then the only light was the moon on the rise,
and the only sound, the communion of sighs.

This is one of my early poems but I can't remember exactly when I wrote it. Due to the romantic style, I believe it was probably written during my first two years in college, making me 18 or 19 at the time.



Regret
by Michael R. Burch

1.
Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear...

once starlight
languished
in your hair...

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

2.
Regret...
a pain
I chose to bear...

unleash
the torrent
of your hair...

and show me
once again—
how rare.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 19. I may have been thinking about Rapunzel.



Earthbound
by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

I believe I wrote this early poem as a college sophomore or perhaps a bit earlier, age 19 or 20.



Burn
by Michael R. Burch

for Trump

Sunbathe,
ozone baby,
till your parched skin cracks
in the white-hot flash
of radiation.

Incantation
from your pale parched lips
shall not avail;
you made this hell.
Now burn.

This was one of my early poems, written around age 19. I dedicated the poem to Trump after he pulled out of the Paris climate change accords.



Floating
by Michael R. Burch

Memories flood the sand's unfolding scroll;
they pour in with the long, cursive tides of night.

Memories of revenant blue eyes and wild lips
moist and frantic against my own.

Memories of ghostly white limbs...
of soft sighs
heard once again in the surf's strangled moans.

We meet in the scarred, fissured caves of old dreams,
green waves of algae billowing about you,
becoming your hair.

Suspended there,
where pale sunset discolors the sea,
I see all that you are
and all that you have become to me.

Your love is a sea,
and I am its trawler—
harbored in dreams,
I ride out night's storms.

Unanchored, I drift through the hours before morning,
dreaming the solace of your warm breasts,
pondering your riddles, savoring the feel
of the explosions of your hot, saline breath.

And I rise sometimes
from the tropical darkness
to gaze once again out over the sea...
You watch in the moonlight
that brushes the water;

bright waves throw back your reflection at me.

This is one of my more surreal poems, as the sea and lover become one. I believe I wrote this one at age 19.



In the Whispering Night
by Michael R. Burch

for George King

In the whispering night, when the stars bend low
till the hills ignite to a shining flame,
when a shower of meteors streaks the sky
while the lilies sigh in their beds, for shame,
we must steal our souls, as they once were stolen,
and gather our vigor, and all our intent.
We must heave our bodies to some famished ocean
and laugh as they 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.

This is an early poem I wrote for my favorite college English teacher, George King, about poetic kinship, brotherhood and romantic flights of fancy.



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.

This poem started out as a stanza in a much longer poem, 'Jessamyn's Song, ' that dates to around age 14 or 15.



Each Color a Scar
by Michael R. Burch

What she left here,
upon my cheek,
is a tear.

She did not speak,
but her intention
was clear,

and I was meek,
far too meek, and, I fear,
too sincere.

What she can never take
from my heart
is its ache;

for now we, apart,
are like leaves
without weight,

scattered afar
by love, or by hate,
each color a scar.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 20-21.


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 in my late teens, probably around age 19.



Lay Down Your Arms
by Michael R. Burch

Lay down your arms; come, sleep in the sand.
The battle is over and night is at hand.
Our voyage has ended; there's nowhere to go...
the earth is a cinder still faintly aglow.

Lay down your pamphlets; let's bicker no more.
Instead, let us rest here on this ravaged shore.
The sea is still boiling; the air is wan, thin...
lay down your pamphlets; now no one will 'win.'

Lay down your hymnals; abandon all song.
If God was to save us, He waited too long.
A new world emerges, but this world is through...
so lay down your hymnals, or write something new.

This is one of my early poems, written as a college sophomore or junior.



there is peace where i am going...
by Michael R. Burch

there is peace where i am going,
for i hasten to a land
that has never known the motion
of one windborne grain of sand;
that has never felt a tidal wave
nor seen a thunderstorm;
a land whose endless seasons
in their sameness are one.

there i will lay my burdens down
and feel their weight no more,
and sleep beneath the unstirred sands
of a soundless ocean's shore,
where Time lies motionless in pools
of lost experience
and those who sleep, sleep unaware
of the future, past and present

(and where Love itself lies dormant,
unmoved by a silver crescent) .

and when i lie asleep there,
with Death's footprints at my feet,
not a thing shall touch me,
save bland sand, lain like a sheet
to wrap me for my rest there
and to bind me, lest i dream,
mere clay again,
of strange domains
where cruel birth drew such harrowing screams.

yes, there is peace where i am going,
for i am bound to be
safe here, within the dull embrace
of this dim, unchanging sea...
before too long; i sense it now,
and wait, expectantly,
to feel the listless touch
of Immortality.

This is one of my early poems, writtenaround age 15, after I watched a TV documentary about Woodstock.



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.

'Sea Dreams' is one of my longer and more ambitious early poems, along with the full version of 'Jessamyn's Song.' To the best of my recollection, I wrote 'Sea Dreams' around age 19 or 20.

Keywords/Tags: Early, Juvenalia, Young, Youth, Teen




Flight
by Michael R. Burch

Eagle, raven, blackbird, crow...
What you are I do not know.
Where you go I do not care.
I'm unconcerned whose meal you bear.
But as you mount the sunlit sky,
I only wish that I could fly.
I only wish that I could fly.

Robin, hawk or whippoorwill...
Should men care if you hunger still?
I do not wish to see your home.
I do not wonder where you roam.
But as you scale the sky's bright stairs,
I only wish that I were there.
I only wish that I were there.

Sparrow, lark or chickadee...
Your markings I disdain to see.
Where you fly concerns me not.
I scarcely give your flight a thought.
But as you wheel and arc and dive,
I, too, would feel so much alive.
I, too, would feel so much alive.

I don't remember exactly when this poem was written. I believe it was around 1974-1975, which would have made me 16 or 17 at the time. I do remember not being happy with the original version of the poem, and I revised it more than once over the years, including recently at age 61!



Ode to the Sun
by Michael R. Burch

Day is done...
on, swift sun.
Follow still your silent course.
Follow your unyielding course.
On, swift sun.

Leave no trace of where you've been;
give no hint of what you've seen.
But, ever as you onward flee,
touch me, O sun,
touch me.

Now day is done...
on, swift sun.
Go touch my love about her face
and warm her now for my embrace,
for though she sleeps so far away,
where she is not, I shall not stay.
Go tell her now I, too, shall come.
Go on, swift sun,
go on.

I seem to remember writing this poem toward the end of my senior year in high school, in 1976, around age 18.



Premonition
by Michael R. Burch

Now the evening has come to a close and the party is over...
we stand in the doorway and watch as they go—
each stranger, each acquaintance, each unembraceable lover.

They walk to their cars and they laugh as they go,
though we know their forced laughter's the wine...
then they pause at the road where the dark asphalt flows
endlessly on toward Zion...

and they kiss one another as though they were friends,
and they promise to meet again 'soon'...
but the rivers of Jordan roll on without end,
and the mockingbird calls to the moon...

and the katydids climb up the cropped hanging vines,
and the crickets chirp on out of tune...
and their shadows, defined by the cryptic starlight,
seem spirits torn loose from their tombs.

And I know their brief lives are just eddies in time,
that their hearts are unreadable runes
to be wiped clean, like slate, by the Eraser, Fate,
when their corpses lie ravaged and ruined...

You take my clenched fist and you give it a kiss
as though it were something you loved,
and the tears fill your eyes, brimming with the soft light
of the stars winking sagely above...

Then you whisper, 'It's time that we went back inside;
if you'd like, we can sit and just talk for a while.'
And the hope in your eyes burns too deep, so I lie
and I say, 'Yes, I would, ' to your small, troubled smile.

I vividly remember writing this poem after an office party the year I co-oped with AT&T (at that time the largest company in the world, with presumably a lot of office parties) . This would have been after my sophomore year in college, making me around 20 years old. The poem is 'true' except that I was not the host because the party was at the house of one of the upper-level managers. Nor was I dating anyone seriously at the time.



Am I
by Michael R. Burch

Am I inconsequential;
do I matter not at all?
Am I just a snowflake,
to sparkle, then to fall?

Am I only chaff?
Of what use am I?
Am I just a feeble flame,
to flicker, then to die?

Am I inadvertent?
For what reason am I here?
Am I just a ripple
in a pool that once was clear?

Am I insignificant?
Will time pass me by?
Am I just a flower,
to live one day, then die?

Am I unimportant?
Do I matter either way?
Or am I just an echo—
soon to fade away?

This is one of my earliest poems; if I remember correctly, it was written the same day as 'Time, ' which appeared in my high school sophomore poetry assignment booklet. If not, it was a companion piece written around the same time. The refrain 'Am I' is an inversion of the biblical 'I Am' supposedly given to Moses as the name of God. I was around 14 or 15 when I wrote the two poems.



Time
by Michael R. Burch

Time,
where have you gone?
What turned out so short,
had seemed like so long.

Time,
where have you flown?
What seemed like mere days
were years come and gone.

Time,
see what you've done:
for now I am old,
when once I was young.

Time,
do you even know why
your days, minutes, seconds
preternaturally fly?

This is a companion piece to 'Am I.' It appeared in my high school project notebook 'Poems' along with 'Playmates, ' so I was probably around 14 or 15 when I wrote it.



Ambition
by Michael R. Burch

Men speak of their 'ambition'
and I smile to hear them say
that within them burns such fire,
such a longing to be great...

But I laugh at their 'Ambition'
as their wistfulness amasses;
I seek Her tongue's indulgence
and Her parted legs' crevasses.

I was very ambitious about my poetry, even as a teenager. I wrote this one around age 18 or 19.



Analogy
by Michael R. Burch

Our embrace is like a forest
lying blanketed in snow;
you, the lily, are enchanted
by each shiver trembling through;

I, the snowfall, cling in earnest
as I press so close to you.
You dream that you now are sheltered;
I dream that I may break through.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 18. The lily symbolizes purity and virginity.



As the Flame Flowers
by Michael R. Burch

As the flame flowers, a flower, aflame,
arches leaves skyward, aching for rain,
but it only encounters wild anguish and pain
as the flame sputters sparks that ignite at its stem.

Yet how this frail flower aflame at the stem
reaches through night, through the staggering pain,
for a sliver of silver that sparkles like rain,
as it flutters in fear of the flowering flame.

Mesmerized by a distant crescent-shaped gem
which glistens like water though drier than sand,
the flower extends itself, trembles, and then
dies as scorched leaves burst aflame in the wind.

I believe I wrote the first version of this poem in my late teens. The flower aflame yet entranced by the moon is, of course, a metaphor for destructive love and its passions.



Ashes
by Michael R. Burch

A fire is dying;
ashes remain...
ashes and anguish,
ashes and pain.

A fire is fading
though once it burned bright...
ashes once embers
are ashes tonight.

This is a companion poem to 'As the Flame Flowers, ' written the same day, I believe.



Because You Came to Me
by Michael R. Burch

Because you came to me with sweet compassion
and kissed my furrowed brow and smoothed my hair,
I do not love you after any fashion,
but wildly, in despair.

Because you came to me in my black torment
and kissed me fiercely, blazing like the sun
upon parched desert dunes, till in dawn's foment
they melt, I am undone.

Because I am undone, you have remade me
as suns bring life, as brilliant rains endow
the earth below with leaves, where you now shade me
and bower me, somehow.

I wrote the first version of this poem around age 18, then revised it 30 years later and dedicated the new version to my wife Beth.



Beckoning
by Michael R. Burch

Yesterday the wind whispered my name
while the blazing locks
of her rampant mane
lay heavy on mine.

And yesterday
I saw the way
the wind caressed tall pines
in forests laced by glinting streams
and thick with tangled vines.

And though she reached
for me in her sleep,
the touch I felt was Time's.

I wrote this poem around age 17 or 18.



Gentry
by Michael R. Burch

The men shined their shoes
and the ladies chose their clothes;
the rifle stocks were varnished
till they were untarnished
by a speck of dust.

The men trimmed their beards;
the ladies rouged their lips;
the horses were groomed
until the time loomed
for them to ride.

The men mounted their horses,
the ladies did the same;
then in search of game they went,
a pleasant time they spent,
and killed the fox.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 18.



El Dorado
by Michael R. Burch

It's a fine town, a fine town,
though its alleys recede into shadow;
it's a very fine town for those who are searching
for an El Dorado.

Because the lighting is poor and the streets are bare
and the welfare line is long,
there must be something of value somewhere
to keep us hanging on
to our El Dorado.

Though the children are skinny, their parents are fat
from years of gorging on bleached white bread,
yet neither will leave
because all believe
in the vague things that are said
of El Dorado.

The young men with the outlandish hairstyles
who saunter in and out of the turnstiles
with a song on their lips and an aimless shuffle,
scuffing their shoes, avoiding the bustle,
certainly feel no need to join the crowd
of those who work to earn their bread;
they must know that the rainbow's end
conceals a pot of gold
near El Dorado.

And the painted 'actress' who roams the streets,
smiling at every man she meets,
must smile because, after years of running,
no man can match her in cruelty or cunning.
She must see the satire of 'defeats'
and 'triumphs' on the ambivalent streets
of El Dorado.

Yes, it's a fine town, a very fine town
for those who can leave when they tire
of chasing after rainbows and dreams
and living on nothing but fire.
But for those of us who cling to our dreams
and cannot let them go,
like the sad-eyed ladies who wander the streets
and the junkies high on snow,
the dream has become a reality
—the reality of hope
that grew too strong
not to linger on—
and so this is our home.

We chew the apple, spit it out,
then eat it 'just once more.'
For this is the big, big apple,
though it is rotten to the core,
and we are its worm
in the night when we squirm
in our El Dorado.

I believe I wrote the first version during my 'Romantic phase' around age 16 or perhaps a bit later, circa 1974. This poem was definitely written in my teens because it appears in a poetry contest folder that I put together and submitted during my sophomore year in college.



absinthe sea
by Michael R. Burch

i hold in my hand a goblet of absinthe

the bitter green liqueur
reflects the dying sunset over the sea

and the darkling liquid froths
up over the rim of my cup
to splash into the free,
churning waters of the sea

i do not drink

i do not drink the liqueur,
for I sail on an absinthe sea
that stretches out unendingly
into the gathering night

its waters are no less green
and no less bitter,
nor does the sun strike them with a kinder light

they both harbor night,
and neither shall shelter me

neither shall shelter me
from the anger of the wind
or the cruelty of the sun

for I sail in the goblet of some Great God
who gazes out over a greater sea,
and when my life is done,
perhaps it will be because
He lifted His goblet and sipped my sea.

I seem to remember writing this poem in college, just because I liked the sound of the word 'absinthe.' I had no idea, really, what it was or what absinthe looked or tasted like, beyond something I had read somewhere.



All My Children
by Michael R. Burch

It is May now, gentle May,
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon the blousy flowers
of this backyard cemet'ry,
upon my children as they sleep.

Oh, there is Hank in the daisies now,
with a mound of earth for a pillow;
his face as hard as his monument,
but his voice as soft as the wind through the willows.

And there is Meg beside the spring
that sings her endless sleep.
Though it's often said of stiller waters,
sometimes quicksilver streams run deep.

And there is Frankie, little Frankie,
tucked in safe at last,
a child who weakened and died too soon,
but whose heart was always steadfast.

And there is Mary by the bushes
where she hid so well,
her face as dark as their berries,
yet her eyes far darker still.

And Andy... there is Andy,
sleeping in the clover,
a child who never saw the sun
so soon his life was over.

And Em'ly, oh my Em'ly...
the prettiest of all...
now she's put aside her dreams
of lovers dark and tall
for dreams dreamed not at all.

It is May now, merry May
and the sun shines pleasantly
upon these ardent gardens,
on the graves of all my children...

But they never did depart;
they still live within my heart.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 15-16.



I Am Lonely
by Michael R. Burch

Oh God, I am lonely;
I am weak and sore afraid.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when my heart is torn in two?

Oh God, I am lonely
and I cannot find a mate.
Now, just who am I to turn to
when the best friend that I've made

remains myself?

This poem appeared in my high school journal the Lantern. I believe it was written circa age 16.



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 late teens or early twenties.



Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore
shall the haunts of the sea—
the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore—
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her breasts and hips
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never claim her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure...
She sleeps forevermore.

She sleeps forevermore,
a virgin save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely smothered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way!
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea...

their skeletal love—impossibility!

Published by Romantics Quarterly and Penny Dreadful



Morning
by Michael R. Burch

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

And everywhere the flowers
were turning to the sun,
just as the night before
I had turned to the one
for whom my heart yearned.

It was morning
and the sun shone in the sky
like smoldering embers in the eyes of my lover—
another night gone by.

And everywhere the terraces
were refreshed by bright assurances
of the early-fallen rain
which had doused the earth
and morning's birth
with their sweet refrain.

It was morning
and the bright dew drenched the grasses
like tears the trembling lashes of my lover;
another day had come.

I believe I wrote this poem around age 14, then according to my notes revised it around age 17. In any case, it was published in my high school literary journal.



You didn't have time
by Michael R. Burch

You didn't have time to love me,
always hurrying here and hurrying there;
you didn't have time to love me,
and you didn't have time to care.

You were playing a reel like a fiddle half-strung:
too busy for love, 'too old' to be young...
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

You didn't have time to take time
and you didn't have time to try.
Every time I asked you why, you said,
'Because, my love; that's why.' And then
you didn't have time at all, my love.
You didn't have time at all.

You were wheeling and diving in search of a sun
that had blinded your eyes and left you undone.
Well, you didn't have time, and now you have none.
You didn't have time, and now you have none.

This is a song-poem that I wrote during my early songwriter phase, around age 17.



'Of You' was the first poem of mine that appeared in my high school journal, The Lantern, and thus it was my first poem to appear on a printed page. A fond memory, indeed.

Of You
by Michael R. Burch

There is little to write of in my life,
and little to write off, as so many do...
so I will write of you.

You are the sunshine after the rain,
the rainbow in between;
you are the joy that follows fierce pain;
you are the best that I've seen
in my life.

You are the peace that follows long strife;
you are tranquility.
You are an oasis in a dry land
and
you are the one for me!

You are my love; you are my life; you are my all in all.
Your hand is the hand that holds me aloft...
without you I would fall.

I have tried to remember when I wrote this poem, but that memory remains elusive. It was definitely written by 1976 because the poem was published in The Lantern then. But many of those poems were written earlier and this one feels "younger" to me, so I will guess a composition date in 1974, around age 16.



49th Street Serenade
by Michael R. Burch

It's four o'clock in the mornin'
and we're alone, all alone in the city...
your sneakers 're torn
and your jeans 're so short
that your ankles show, but you're pretty.

I wish I had five dollars;
I'd pay your bus fare home,
but how far canya go
through the sleet 'n' the snow
for a fistful of change?
'Bout the end of Childe's Lane.

Right now my old man is sleepin'
and he don't know the hell where I am.
Why he still goes to bed
when he's already dead,
I don't understand,
but I don't give a damn.

Bein' sixteen sure is borin'
though I guess for a girl it's all right...
if you'd let your hair grow
and get some nice clothes,
I think you'd look outta sight.

And I wish I had ten dollars;
I'd ask you if you would...
but wishin's no good
and you'd think I'm a hood,
so I guess I'll be sayin' good night.

This is one of my earliest poems; I actually started out writing songs when some long-haired friends of mine started a band around 1974. But I was too introverted and shy to show them to anyone. This one was too racy for my high school journal.



130 Refuted
by Michael R. Burch

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red...
— Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

Seas that sparkle in the sun
without its light would have no beauty;
but the light within your eyes
is theirs alone; it owes no duty.
And that flame, not half as bright,
is meant for me, and brings delight.

Coral formed beneath the sea,
though scarlet-tendriled, cannot warm me;
while your lips, not half so red,
just touching mine, at once inflame me.
And the searing flames your lips arouse
fathomless oceans fail to douse.

Bright roses' brief affairs, declared
when winter comes, will wither quickly.
Your cheeks, though paler when compared
with them? —more lasting, never prickly.
And your cheeks, so dear and warm,
far vaster treasures, need no thorns.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

I believe I wrote this poem as a college freshman; if not as a freshman, then definitely by my sophomore year. I composed my refutation in my head as I walked back to my dorm from an English class where I had read Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130." This was my first attempt at a sonnet, but I dispensed with the rules, as has always been my wont.



With my daughter, by a waterfall
by Michael R. Burch

By a fountain that slowly shed
its rainbows of water, I led
my youngest daughter.

And the rhythm of the waves
that casually lazed
made her sleepy as I rocked her.

By that fountain I finally felt
fulfillment of which I had dreamt
feeling May's warm breezes pelt

petals upon me.
And I held her close in the crook of my arm
as she slept, breathing harmony.

By a river that brazenly rolled,
my daughter and I strolled
toward the setting sun,

and the cadence of the cold,
chattering waters that flowed
reminded us both of an ancient song,

so we sang it together as we walked along
―unsure of the words, but sure of our love―
as a waterfall sighed and the sun died above.

This poem was published by my college literary journal, Homespun, in 1977. I believe I wrote it the year before, around age 18.


INCOMPLETE POEMS

This is one of my very earliest poems, one that was lost when I destroyed all the poems I had written in a fit of frustration and despair. The opening lines and 'the strangest shade of orange on gold' are all of the original poem that I have been able to remember. I believe I wrote the original poem in 1972 around age 14.

Gone
by Michael R. Burch, circa age 14

Tonight, it is dark
and the stars do not shine.

A man who is gone
was a good friend of mine.

We were friends.

And the sky was the strangest shade of orange on gold
when I awoke to find him gone...

Thursday, August 8, 2019
Topic(s) of this poem: childhood ,youth,boy,early,son,sun,sunset,tears,years,time
POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
These are poems that appeared in my high school literary journal, theLANTERN, or were written soon thereafter.
COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Jane Campion 08 August 2019

A poet on his way. has appeared today.

1 0 Reply
Michael Burch 08 August 2019

Are you by any chance the Jane Campion who directed " Bright Star" ? If so, I have two poets I'd like to recommend as possible subjects. They both died young but qualify as geniuses in my opinion.

0 0 Reply
Michael Burch 08 August 2019

Well, I'm 61 and have been published around 4,500 times, including poems that have gone viral. But I think I did display a bit of talent as a teen.

0 0 Reply
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