R.A. Burleigh

R.A. Burleigh Poems

We sit while children crawl about happy
Toys are scattered like leaves
Red and orange and brown from my old house at 407
I never saw so many leaves, or so many children

Do you understand why
The ancient people had so many gods
For air, water, love, warfare, fire, afterlife, storms
For home, hearth, travel, conception, weather

I was frightened with every step the babies took
It wasn't right, it wasn't fair
It was my mother's old nightmare, not mine

I am walking through a distant land
The drumbeats of a great fractioned crowd
The incorporation of time and scattered blood

There was nobody like Gayle Sayers
Nobody who could cut a field like it was a piece of paper

There was nobody like Jim Thorpe who could run all day

I have wiggled away from death, walked away from fighting
Not since high school football have I longed for violence
Finally the mud tired me, I felt confused, even in victory

For Colin
Glad to hear from you
Although I thought it was someone else

He would not go, not cease, not die
Despite the pain that he had seen
Despite the brutality he had seen
Despite his body cuts and boisterous bruises

for your Highschool graduation
in the deepest silence of my fooldad heart
eureka, Yreka, Wilderville, I shouted
at times lost in memories

The boy and the man are climbing the tree
hands holding to th neck-
laughing at the lower earth

When I was eighteen and madly in love with a hundred images
They were beating you until you could not stand
When I was nineteen and overjoyed with Willa Cather and Scott Fitzgerald
They were humiliating you and chasing you into corners

(For Mary Schegel)

I was ready for your birthday
I conceived a poem in my eye

The daughters ran away into the hills
after boys with wild, limp arms
leaving the last of the apples to burn
while he wrote


Slide and glide
Through the corn field
Behind the house
To feel the shade of 'the old ladies' home


(For Becky)

my daughter visiting after almost a year
chew her pancakes

I sat beneath this old professor once
who wore a horned skin and coal smudged suits
I sat with ease and dreamed his sunken eyes saw
and held more than the truths of mild daylight

(For Mariano)

Lying on elbows in the tiring, sweet sun
warm by the Spanish mountains

(For Toby and Colin)

Just north of the estuary of the Reora River
swirling below Hamond Falls by more than a mile

I search for you everywhere
In small towns and markets
In old photos in the box near my bed

The haunting weeds pursue;
the hollow corners moan;
the sad lady is well away.

The Best Poem Of R.A. Burleigh

All About Time

We sit while children crawl about happy
Toys are scattered like leaves
Red and orange and brown from my old house at 407
I never saw so many leaves, or so many children
In my future, in your room

There you are, the boy in the tree
And we have.come down, suddenly

I am corrupt with time
All my eyes are full of ghosts
All the ghosts join us in the leaves
and someone has lit the leaves on fire
O I do so love the smoke of all the leaves

And mother said
Don't stand so close

And Kate's mouth was so, wonderful
With kisses and songs
and that is all I could wish you, kisses and songs
Profound decisionis about babies
Kipling for supper, Yeats for breakfast

And father said: freedom is a breakfast food
He'd heard that somewhere and it pleased him

And your brother read me Langston Hughes over the phone
And I replied with Ken Patcher
O lord the leaves are burning magic smoke
And you and I begin to dance
Like the time in Washington you showed me Ti-Chi

If I have not said it enough
I am so loud and proud of you

And your sister said your son needs to work on his spelling
She and you among the leaves dashing near the goat pen
All these maple leaves near my old chestnut tree
And the smoke fills my eyes
Round prairie is a beacon of fire

There you are the boy in the tree
And we have come down suddenly

Ray Burleigh

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