Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch is the editor of The HyperTexts, where he has published three Pulitzer Prize nominees alongside recent winners of the T. S. Eliot, Richard Wilbur and Howard Nemerov awards. Mike Burch's poetry has been translated into Farsi, Russian, Italian, Macedonian and Gjuha Shqipe (Albanian). He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, and his work has appeared over 800 times in literary journals and sundry publications around the globe, including Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Writer's Digest—The Year's Best Writing, The Best of the Eclectic Muse, Poet Lore, Black Medina, ByLine, The New Formalist, The Raintown Review, Verse Libre and Unlikely Stories.  He has also served several literary organizations in either an advisory capacity or as a financial contributor, including New Native Press, Romantics Quarterly, The Raintown Review, The CommonPlace, Multicultural Books, Rigorous Analysis, Triplopia and the Net Poetry & Arts Competition.

Autumn Conundrum

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Piercing the Shell

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

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Epitaph for a Child of Darfur

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

Originally published by The HyperTexts

For All That I Remembered

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

The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could ...
I'd reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush
my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

For All That I Remembered

Russian Translation by Yelena Dubrovin

И все что помнил я забыл:

Зачем любил, ее лицо, ее глаза,

Но только памятью вросла

Она мне в душу,

Но как же паметь я разрушу,

Когда, как запах абрикос,

Приносит цвет ее волос

Мне ветер памяти и я

Смотрю на бледное лицо

Чрез света лунное кольцо,

Ты, мой погасший ангел.


И я стемлюсь вернуться в ночь,

Где мы сливались воедино,

И память не уводит прочь,

И не проходит больше мимо.

Я сердцем в эту память врос.

Я прикоснусь, твоих волос

Я прядь отброшу с глаз,

Но как могу я удержать

Тех черт твоих печать,

Которые забыл. И вновь,

Как сохранить твою любовь,

Как распознать пока жива?

Лучом палящего огня

Касаюсь губ твоих и глаз,

Чтоб сохранить твою печать,

Не в снах, а наяву,

Пока я жив, пока живу.

Ты, мой погасший ангел.


In Praise of Meter

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 is left to chance?
Should poets be more laxtheir circumstance
as humble as it is?or readers wince
to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
of Nero's death, yet mourn the Cavalier?

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

Leaf Fall

Whatever winds encountered soon resolved
to swirling fragments, till chaotic heaps
of leaves lay pulsing by the backyard wall.
In lieu of rakes, our fingers sorted each
dry leaf into its place and built a high,
soft bastion against earth's gravitron
a patchwork quilt, a trampoline, a bright
impediment to fling ourselves upon.

And nothing in our laughter as we fell
into those leaves was like the autumn's cry
of also falling. Nothing meant to die
could be so bright as we, so colorful
clad in our plaids, oblivious to pain
we'd feel today, should we leaf-fall again.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Isolde's Song

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

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

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

Originally published by The Raintown Review

Auschwitz Rose

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I love her and would not forget desire,
but keep her memory exalted flame
to justify the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles;
they sleep alikediminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons."
                                                    Sleeping, all.
Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                              Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck;
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

Originally published in a slightly different version by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful

She was very strange, and beautiful,
as the violet mist upon the hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in a pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still,
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave me all,
I had nothing left.
Long I smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea


Now darkness ponds upon the violet hills;
cicadas sing; the tall elms gently sway;
and night bends near, a deepening shade of gray;
the bass concerto of a bullfrog fills
what silence there once was; globed searchlights play.

Green hanging ferns adorn dark window sills,
all drooping fronds, awaiting morning’s flares;
mosquitoes whine; the lissome moth again
flits like a veiled oud-dancer, and endures
the fumblings of night’s enervate gray rain.

And now the pact of night is made complete;
the air is fresh and cool, washed of the grime
of the city’s ashen breath; and, for a time,
the fragrance of her clings, obscure and sweet.

Published by The Eclectic Muse  and The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003

The Locker

All the dull hollow clamor has died
and what was contained,
adulation or sentiment,
left with the pungent darkness
as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

The Watch

Moonlight spills down vacant sills,
illuminates an empty bed.
Dreams lie in crates. One hand creates
wan silver circles, left unread
by its companionunmoved now
by anything that lies ahead.

I watch the minutes test the limits
of ornamental movement here,
where once another hand would hover.
Each circuitincomplete. So dear,
so precious, so precise, the touch
of hands that wait, yet ask so much.

Originally published by The Lyric

Flight 93

I held the switch in trembling fingers, asked
why existence felt so small, so purposeless,
like a minnow wriggling feebly in my grasp ...

vibrations of huge engines thrummed my arms
as, glistening with sweat, I nudged the switch
to OFF ... I heard the klaxon-shrill alarms

like vultures’ shriekings ... earthward, in a stall ...
we floated ... earthward ... wings outstretched, aghast
like Icarus ... as through the void we fell ...

till nothing was so beautiful, so blue ...
so vivid as that moment ... and I held
an image of your face, and dreamed I flew

into your arms. The earth rushed up. I knew
such comfort, in that moment, loving you.

Originally published by The Lyric

To Flower

When Pentheus ["grief'] went into the mountains in the garb of the baccae, his mother [Agave] and the other maenads, possessed by Dionysus, tore him apart (Euripides, Bacchae; Apollodorus 3.5.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.511-733; Hyginus, Fabulae 184). The agave dies as soon as it blooms; the moonflower, or night-blooming cereus, is a desert plant of similar fate.

We are not long for this earth, I know
you and I, all our petals incurled,
till a night of pale brilliance, moonflower aglow.
Is there love anywhere in this strange world?
The Agave knows best when it's time to die
and rages to life with such rapturous leaves
her name means Illustrious. Each hour more high,
she claws toward heaven, for, if she believes
in love at all, she has left it behind
to flower, to flower. When darkness falls
she wilts down to meet it, where something crawls:
beheaded, bewildered. And since love is blind,
she never adored it, nor watches it go.
Can we be as she is, moonflower aglow?

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Fahr an' Ice

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker),
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.

Originally published by Light Quarterly

I Pray Tonight

for Peri

I pray tonight
the starry light
surround you.

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

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

Originally published by Kritya

The Divide

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
was man born to sorrow that first day
with the moona pale beacon across the Divide,
the brighter for longing, an object denied
the tug at his heart's pink, bourgeoning clay?

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
but grew bitter, bitterman's torrents supplied.
The bride of their longingforever astray,
her shield a cold beacon across the Divide,
flashing pale signals: Decide. Decide.
Choose me, or His Brightness, I will not stay.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
imploring her, ebbing: Abide, abide.

The silver fish flash there, the manatees gray.

The moon, a pale beacon across the Divide,
has taught us to seek Love's concealed side:
the dark face of longing, the poets say.

The sea was not salt the first tide ...
the moon a pale beacon across the Divide.

Originally published by Sonnetto Poesia


Oh, you are gentle now, and in your failing hour,
how like the child you were, you seem again ...
and smile as sadly as, when, nine or ten,
the meadow sparrow with the broken wing
lay calm, unblinking, trusting in your power
you could not mend. And so the world renews
old vows it could not keep, false promises
that whisperedNothing lovely perishes,
but comes again as springlike flourishes,
out of the grave
wild rose and violet hues,
like rainbows' eerie pacts we apprehend
but cannot fail to keep. Now in your eyes
I see the end of life that only dies
and does not care for bright, translucent lies.
Are tears so precious? These few, let us spend
together, as before, then lay to rest
this sparrow's heart aflutter at your breast.

Originally published by The Lyric

What the Poet Sees

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.

Originally published by Mandrake Poetry Review


Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,

Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,

Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,

Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,

Originally published by The Lyric


See how her hair has thinned: it doesn't seem
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there and burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features arethat time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.

For loveliness remains in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book's.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.

Originally published by Writer's Digest'sThe Year's Best Writing 2003

Ordinary Love

Indescribableour loveand still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way

and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled
, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.

Your hair's blonde thicket now is tangle-gray;
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Beneath the sheets our hands and feet would stray
to warm ourselves.
 We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say

we're older now, that "love" has had its day.
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.

Winner of the 2001 Algernon Charles Swinburne poetry contest; originally published by Romantics Quarterly


A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight ...
This is what I remember
now that I cannot forget.

And tonight,
if I have forgotten her name,
I remember:
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh ...

our soft cries, like regret,

... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase ...
now that I have forgotten her face.

Originally published by Poetry Magazine

At Wilfred Owen's Grave

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 chlorinescalding 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

Because Her Heart Is Tender

for Beth

She scrawled soft words in soap: "Never Forget,"
Dove-white on her car's window, and the wren,
because her heart is tender, might regret
it called the sun to wake her. As I slept,
she heard lost names recounted, one by one.

She wrote in sidewalk chalk: "Never Forget,"
and kept her heart's own counsel. No rain swept
away those words, no tear leaves them undone.

Because her heart is tender with regret,
bruised by razed towers' glass and steel and stone
that shatter on and on and on and on,
she stitches in wet linen: "NEVER FORGET,"
and listens to her heart's emphatic song.

The wren might tilt its head and sing along
because its heart once understood regret
when fledglings fell beyond, beyond, beyond ...
its reach, and still the boot-heeled world strode on.

She writes in adamant: "NEVER FORGET"
because her heart is tender with regret.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Water and Gold

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy is an illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.

You came to me as riches to a miser
when all is gold, or so his heart believes,
until he dies much thinner and much wiser,
his gleaming bones hauled off by chortling thieves.

You gave your heart too soon, too dear, too vastly;
I could not take it in; it was too much.
I pledged to meet your price, but promised rashly.
I died of thirst, of your bright Midas touch.

I dreamed you gave me water of your lips,
then sealed my tomb with golden hieroglyphs.

Originally published by The Lyric


I did not delight in love so much
as in a kiss like linnets' wings,
the flutterings of a pulse so soft
the heart remembers, as it sings:
to bathe there was its transport, brushed
by marble lips, or porcelain,
one liquid kiss, one cool outburst
from pale rosettes. What did it mean ...

to float awhirl on minute tides
within the compass of your eyes,
to feel your alabaster bust
grow cold within? Ecstatic sighs
seem hisses now; your eyes, serene,
reflect the sun's pale tourmaline.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

For Rhonda, with Butterflies

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails and thunder howls
and hailstones scream and winter scowls
and storms compound the frost with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
and stars such vacuum fail to fill?
Where does she then her bloom bestow,
and where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review

To Have Loved

Helen, bright accompaniment,
accouterment of war as sure as all
the polished swords of princes groomed to lie
in mausoleums all eternity ...

The price of love is not so high
as never to have loved once in the dark
beyond foreseeing. Now, as dawn gleams pale
upon small wind-fanned waves, amid white sails, ...

now all that war entails becomes as small,
as though receding. Paris in your arms
was never yours, nor were you his at all.
And should gods call

in numberless strange voices, should you hear,
still what would be the difference? Men must die
to be remembered. Fame, the shrillest cry,
leaves all the world dismembered.

Hold him, lie,
tell many pleasant tales of lips and thighs;
enthrall him with your sweetness, till the pall
and ash lie cold upon him.

Is this all? You saw fear in his eyes, and now they dim
with fear's remembrance. Love, the fiercest cry,
becomes gasped sighs in his once-gallant hymn
of dreamed "salvation." Still, you do not care

because you have this moment, and no man
can touch you as he can, and when he's gone
there will be other men to look upon
your beauty, and have done.

Smilewoebegone, pale, haggard. Will the tales
paint thisyour final portrait? Can the stars
find any strange alignments, Zodiacs,
to spell, or unspell, what held beauty lacks?

Originally published by The Raintown Review

Ince St. Child

When she was a child
 in a dark forest of fear,
   imagination cast its strange light
     into secret places,
     scattering traces
   of illumination so bright,
 years later, they might suddenly reappear,
their light undefiled.

When she was young,
 the shafted light of her dreams
   shone on her uplifted face
     as she prayed;
     though she strayed
   into a night fallen like mildewed lace
 shrouding the forest of screams,
her faith led her home.

Now she is old
 and the light that was flame
   is a slow-dying ember ...
     What she felt then
     she would explain;
   she would if she could only remember
 that forest of shame,
faith beaten like gold.

Originally published by Songs of Innocence

Brother 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 towers in man’s early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that’s my plan,
civilization’s first flower, Brother Iran.

Farsi Translation of “Brother Iran” by Dr. Mahnaz Badihan


برادر ايران


حس مي ˜نم تو را

نان حس مي ˜نم ونان زماني

˜ه تر˜ از اسانيا ريخت

و يهودنيز ريخت، لحظه هاي فشرده


من درد تو را حس مي ˜نم، برادر ايران

و ميدانم تو نابي

  من نيز از هيروشيما و رنوبيل وحشت دارم

و هرند قلبم تر˜ بر مي دارد، در سراما نقشه اي دارم.

مي دانم تو نابي برادر ايران

درود من بر شاعرانت

بر رياضيدانان و همه ي دانايي عظيمت


آه بيا به ˜اروان بزر زمين بيوند

آنجا ˜ه ما شاعران تو را در آن مي نجانيم

برادر ايران ، من عاشق شعرهاي توام

حالا بيا دست مرا بير تا با هم

بخوانيم رباعيات عمر خيام را.

زيرا من شعرهاي تو را دوست دارم


برادر ايران، اي ل تمدن!

ه نهايتي دارد رواز روح تو

در ساعات اوليه ي انسان

بيا تا اوج  بيشتري دهيم رواز را

اي ل تمدن !، برادر ايران

The Gardener’s Roses

Mary Magdalene, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."

I too have come to the cave;
within: strange, half-glimpsed forms
and ghostly paradigms of things.
Here, nothing warms

this lightening moment of the dawn,
pale tendrils spreading east.
And I, of all who followed him,
by far the least . . .

The women take no note of me;
I do not recognize
the men in white, the gardener,
these unfamiliar skies . . .

Faint scent of roses, thena touch!
I turn, and I seeYou.
My Lord, why do You tarry here?
Another waits, Whose love is true.

Although my father waits, and bliss;
though angels callecstatic crew!
I gathered roses for a Friend.
I waited here, for You.

The Folly of Wisdom

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow ...

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes—
I can almost remembergoes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me

rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly


... Among the shadows of the groaning elms,
amid the darkening oaks, we fled ourselves ...

... Once there were paths that led to coracles
that clung to piers like loosening barnacles ...

... where we cannot return, because we lost
the pebbles and the playthings, and the moss ...

... hangs weeping gently downward, maidens’ hair
who never were enchanted, and the stairs ...

... that led up to the Fortress in the trees
will not support our weight, but on our knees ...

... we still might fit inside those splendid hours
of damsels in distress, of rustic towers ...

... of voices of the wolves’ tormented howls
that died, and live in dreams’ soft, windy vowels ...

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll

Will There Be Starlight

Will there be starlight
while she gathers
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
while she gathers
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?

Published by Grassroots Poetry, Poetry Webring, TALESetc, The Word (UK)

The Peripheries of Love

Through waning afternoons we glide
the watery peripheries of love.
A silence, a quietude falls.

Above usthe sagging pavilions of clouds.
Below usrough pebbles slowly worn smooth
grate in the gentle turbulence
of yesterday’s forgotten rains.

Later, the moon like a virgin
lifts her stricken white face
and the waters rise
toward some unfathomable shore.

We sway gently in the wake
of what stirs beneath us,
yet leaves us unmoved ...
curiously motionless,

as though twilight might blur
the effects of proximity and distance,
as though love might be near

as near
as a single cupped tear of resilient dew
or a long-awaited face.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Charon 2001

I, too, have stood
                                paralyzed at the helm
watching onrushing, inevitable disaster.
I too have felt sweat (or ecstatic tears) plaster
damp hair to my eyes, as a slug’s dense film
becomes mucous-insulate.
                                                Always, thereafter
living in darkness, bright things overwhelm.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

The City Is A Garment

A rhinestone skein, a jeweled brocade of light,
the city is a garment stretched so thin
her festive colors bleed into the night,
and everywhere bright seams, unraveling,

now spill their brilliant contents out like coins
on motorways and esplanades; bead cars
come tumbling down long highways; at her groin
a railtrack like a zipper flashes sparks;

her hills are haired with brush like cashmere wool
and from their cleavage winking lights enlarge
and travel, slender fingers ... softly pull
themselves into the semblance of a barge.

When night becomes too chill, she softly dons
great overcoats of warmest-colored dawn.

Originally published by The Lyric

In Flight Convergence

Serene, almost angelic,
the lights of the city attend
upon lumbering behemoths
shrilly screeching displeasure;
                                     they say
that nothing is certain,
that nothing man dreams or ordains
long endures his command.

Here the streetlights that flicker
and those burning steady
seem one,
from a distance.
they abruptly part ways,
so that nothing is one
which at times does not suddenly blend
into garish insignificance
in the familiar alleyways,
in the white neon flash and the billboards of convenience.
And man seems the afterthought of his own brilliance
as we thunder down the enlightened runways.

Originally published by The Aurorean


Walk here among the walking scepters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that G-d is good, and never mind the Urn.

A lentil and a bean might plump their skin
with mothers’ bounteous, soft-dimpled fat
(and call it “health”), might quickly build again
the muscles of dead menfolk. Dream, like that,

and call it courage. Cry, and be deceived,
and so endure.  Or burn, made wholly pure.
One’s prayer is answered,
                                               “god” thus unbelieved.

No holy pyre thisdeath’s hissing chamber.
Two thousand years agoa starlit manger,
weird Herod’s cries for vengeance on the meek,
the children slaughtered. Fear, when angels speak,

the prophesies of man.
                                          Do what you "can,"
not what you must, or should.
                                                       They call you “good,”

dead eyes devoid of tears; how shall they speak
except in blankness? Fear, then, how they weep.
Escape the gentle clutching stickfolk. Creep
away in shame to retch and flush away

your vomit from their ashes. Learn to pray.

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

The Octopi Jars

Long-vacant eyes
now lodged in clear glass,
a-swim with pale arms
as delicate as angels’ ...

you are beyond all hope
of salvage now ...
and yet I would pause,
no fear!,
to once touch
your arcane beaks ...

I, more alien than you
to this imprismed world,
notice, most of all,
the scratches on the inside surfaces
of your hermetic cells  ...

and I remember documentaries
of albino Houdinis
slipping like wraiths
over the walls of shipboard aquariums,
slipping down decks’
brine-lubricated planks,
spilling jubilantly into the dark sea,
parachuting down, down through clouds of pallid ammonia ...

and I know now in life you were unlike me:
your imprisonment was never voluntary.

Originally published by Triplopia

Ali's Song

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Black Medina

Free Fall 

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

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

toward some draining revelation. Air:
too thin to grasp, to breath. Such pressure. Gasp.
The stars invert, electric, everywhere.
And so we fall, down-tumbling through night’s fissure:

two beings pale, intent to fall forever
around each otherfumbling at love’s tether . . .
now separate, now distant, now together.

Originally published by Sonnet Scroll


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 their 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

The Harvest of Roses

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.

Nor am I am here for the Fabulous Fleece,
the clashing of Symbols,
new Neros, old Romes ...
for all I’ve found here is the dark smudge of Greece,
the blankest of verse,
the obscurest of poems.

The Forge

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 itwater 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


"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."

Originally published by Unlikely Stories

At Cædmon’s Grave

“Cædmon’s Hymn,” composed at the Monastery of Whitby (a North Yorkshire fishing village), is one of the oldest known poems written in the English language, dating back to around 680 A.D. According to legend, Cædmon, an illiterate Anglo-Saxon cowherd, received the gift of poetic composition from an angel; he subsequently founded a school of Christian poets. Unfortunately, only nine lines of Cædmon’s verse survive, in the writings of the Venerable Bede. Whitby, tiny as it is, reappears later in the history of English literature, having been visited, in diametric contrast, by Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker’s ghoulish yet evocative Dracula.

At the monastery of Whitby,
on a day when the sun sank through the sea,   
and the gulls shrieked wildly, jubilant, free,

while the wind and time blew all around,
I paced those dusk-enamored grounds
and thought I heard the steps resound

of Carroll, Stoker and of Bede
who walked there, too, their spirits freed
perhaps by God, perhaps by need

to write, and with each line, remember
the glorious light of Cædmon’s ember,
scorched tongues of flame words still engender.

Here, as darkness falls, at last we meet.
I lay this pale garland of words at his feet.

Originally published by The Lyric

The People Loved What They Had Loved Before

We did not worship at the shrine of tears;
we knew not to believe, not to confess.
And so, ahemming victors, to false cheers,
we wrote off love, we gave a stern address
to things that we disproved of, things of yore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We did not build stone monuments to stand
six hundred years and grow more strong and arch
like bridges from the people to the Land
beyond their reach. Instead, we played a march,
pale Neros, sparking flames from door to door.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

We could not pipe of cheer, or even woe.
We played a minor air of Ire (in E).
The sheep chose to ignore us, even though,
long destitute, we plied our songs for free.
We wrote, rewrote and warbled one same score.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

At last outlandish wailing, we confess,
ensued, because no listeners were left.
We built a shrine to tears: our goddess less
divine than man, and, like us, long bereft.
We stooped to love too late, too Learned to whore.
And the people loved what they had loved before.

The Century's Wake

lines written at the close of the 20th century

Take me home. The party is over,
the century passedno 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.


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

The poems that follow are love poems dedicated to Elizabeth Harris Burch, affectionately known as Beth, by her adoring husband, Michael R. Burch, along with poems he has written for their son, Jeremy Michael Burch, and his mother, Christine Ena Burch. The final poem is dedicated to his first true love, and his mistress to this day . . .

She Gathered Lilacs

for Beth

She gathered lilacs
and arrayed them in her hair;
tonight, she taught the wind to be free.

She kept her secrets
in a silver locket;
her companions were starlight and mystery.

She danced all night
to the beat of her heart;
with her tears she imbued the sea.

She hid her despair
in a crystal jar,
and never revealed it to me.

She kept her distance
as though it were armor;
gauntlet thorns guard her heart like the rose.

Love!awaken, awaken
to see what you’ve taken
is still less than the due my heart owes!

Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea

Warming Her Pearls

for Beth

Warming her pearls, her breasts
gleam like anachronisms.
Her belly is a bit rotund . . .
she might have stepped out of a Rubens.

Originally published by Erosha


for Beth

Once when her kisses were fire incarnate
and left in their imprint lipstick, and flame,
when her breath rose and fell over smoldering dunes,
leaving me listlessly sighing her name . . .

Once when her breasts were as pale, as beguiling,
as wan rivers of sand shedding heat like a mist,
when her words would at times softly, mildly rebuke me
all the while as her lips did more wildly insist . . .

Once when the thought of her echoed and whispered
through vast wastelands of need like a Bedouin chant,
I ached for the touch of her lips with such longing
that I vowed all my former vows to recant . . .

Once, only once, something bloomed, of a desiccate seed
this fragile white blossom her wild rains of kisses decreed.

Originally published by The Lyric

At Once

for Beth

Though she was fair,
though she sent me the epistle of her love at once
and inscribed therein love’s antique prayer,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would dare
pain’s pale, clinging shadows, to approach me at once,
the dark, haggard keeper of the lair,
I did not love her at once.

Though she would share
the all of her being, to heal me at once,
yet more than her touch I was unable bear.
I did not love her at once.

And yet she would care,
and pour out her essence . . .
and yetthere was more!
I awoke from long darkness,

and yetshe was there.
I loved her the longer;
I loved her the more
because I did not love her at once.

Originally published by The Lyric

Are You the Thief

for Beth

When I touch you now,
O sweet lover,
full of fire,
melting like ice
in my embrace,

when I part the delicate white lace,
baring pale flesh,
and your face
is so close
that I breathe your breath
and your hair surrounds me like a wreathe . . .

tell me now,
O sweet, sweet lover,
in good faith:
are you the thief
who has stolen my heart?

Originally published as "Baring Pale Flesh" by Poetic License/Monumental Moments


for Beth

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

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

Originally published by Tucumcari Literary Review

She Spoke

for Beth

She spoke
and her words
were like a ringing echo dying
or like smoke
rising and drifting
while the earth below is spinning.

She awoke
with a cry
from a dream that had no ending,
without hope
or strength to rise,
into hopelessness descending.

And an ache
in her heart
toward that dream, retreating,
left a wake
of small waves
in circles never completing.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly

Let Me Give Her Diamonds

for Beth

Let me give her diamonds
for my heart’s
sharp edges.

Let me give her roses
for my soul’s

Let me give her solace
for my words
of treason.

Let the flowering of love
outlast a winter

Let me give her books
for all my lack
of reason.

Let me give her candles
for my lack
of fire.

Let me kindle incense,
for our hearts

the breath-fanned
flaming perfume
of desire.


for Beth

O, terrible angel,
bright lover and avenger,
full of whimsical light and vile anger;
wild stranger,
seeking the solace of night, or the danger;
pale foreigner,
alien to man, or savior.

Who are you,
seeking consolation and passion
in the same breath,
screaming for pleasure, bereft
of all articles of faith,
finding life
harsher than death?

Grieving angel,
giving more than taking,
how lucky the man
who has found in your love, thisour reclamation;
fallen wren,
you must strive to fly though your heart is shaken;
weary pilgrim,
you must not give up though your feet are aching;
lonely child,
lie here still in my arms; you must soon be waking.

La sua grazia vola libera

Italian translation of "Her Grace Flows Freely" by Comasia Aquaro

7 luglio 2007

Il suo amore è sempre casto, e puro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Se mi mostra la sua grazia, le farò onore.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
La sua grazia vola libera, come i suoi capelli.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Per la sua generosità, la venererò.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Non la maledirò per ciò che soffro
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
come il più prezioso desiderio d’incenso per lei,
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
non chiamarla “sgualdrina” laddove io cerco di aggiustare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.

Io non strizzerò l’occhio, non riderò soddisfatto, non fisserò lo sguardo
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Come un bambino sciocco ai piedi di una scala
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Laddove io desidero andare, ci sarebbe forse un altro.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.

Mi rallegrerò nella sua libertà, e sempre sfiderò
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
la sorte che lei mi sfuggirà—il mio raro storno
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
E dopo, se lei resta, senza stare, io lo garantisco
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.
Gioirò nella sua grazia al di là del confrontare.
Lo giuro. Lo prometto.

Her Grace Flows Freely

July 7, 2007

Her love is always chaste, and pure.
This I vow. This I aver.
If she shows me her grace, I will honor her.
This I vow. This I aver.
Her grace flows freely, like her hair.
This I vow. This I aver.
For her generousness, I would worship her.
This I vow. This I aver.
I will not damn her for what I bear
This I vow. This I aver.
like a most precious incensedesire for her,
This I vow. This I aver.
nor call her “whore” where I seek to repair.
This I vow. This I aver.

I will not wink, nor smirk, nor stare
This I vow. This I aver.
like a foolish child at the foot of a stair
This I vow. This I aver.
where I long to go, should another be there.
This I vow. This I aver.

I’ll rejoice in her freedom, and always dare
This I vow. This I aver.
the chance that she’ll flee memy starling rare.
This I vow. This I aver.
And then, if she stays, without stays, I swear
This I vow. This I aver.
I will joy in her grace beyond compare.
This I vow. This I aver.

Mother’s Smile

for  my mother, Christine Ena Burch

There never was a fonder smile
than mother’s smile, no softer touch
than mother’s touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than “much.”

So more than “much,” much more than “all.”
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother’s there, nor how we reach

from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father’s back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,

then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother’s tender smile
will leap and follow after you!

Originally published by TALESetc

The Desk

for Jeremy

There is a child I used to know
who sat, perhaps, at this same desk
where you sit now, and made a mess
of things sometimes.  I wonder how
he learned at all ...

He saw T-Rexes down the hall
and dreamed of trains and cars and wrecks.
He dribbled phantom basketballs,
shot spitwads at his schoolmates’ necks.

He played with pasty Elmer’s glue
(and sometimes got the glue on you!).
He earned the nickname “teacher’s PEST.”

His mother had to come to school
because he broke the golden rule.
He dreaded each and every test.

But something happened in the fall
he grew up big and straight and tall,
and now his desk is far too small;
so you can have it.

One thing, though

one swirling autumn, one bright snow,
one gooey tube of Elmer’s glue ...
and you’ll outgrow this old desk, too.

Originally published by TALESetc

A True Story

for Jeremy

Jeremy hit the ball today,
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away

a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!)

Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across his neighbor’s yard.
So very hard across her yard

the bat that boomed a mighty “THWACK!”
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.

Originally published by TALESetc


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

Originally published by The Lyric

Here's a link to a mildly naughty poem called "Scoop Her Pooper
" about what happened when one of our puppies ate one of my wife's amethysts.

And to see more of what I've been up to, please visit
The HyperTexts