Michael Burch
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The Hypertexts.com
Bio: Michael R. Burch is the poetry editor of The HyperTexts. He has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in over ninety literary journals in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and India, including: The Chariton Review, Poetry Magazine, Verse, Unlikely Stories, Light Quarterly, Writer’’s Digest –– The Year’’s Best Writing (2003), Numbat, Poet Lore, The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003, The Aurorean, The Lyric, Lonzie’’s Fried Chicken, Black Bear Review, Poetry SuperHighway, Icon, ByLine, Writer’’s Journal, Penumbra, and Nebo.
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 in ByLine]

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"And what rough beast ... slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" -- W. B. Yeats

They laugh and do not comprehend, nor ask
which way the wind is blowing, no, nor why
the reeling azure fixture of the sky
grows pale with ash, and whispers "Holocaust."

They think to seize the ring, life's tinfoil prize,
and, breathless with endeavor, shriek aloud.
The voice of terror thunders from a cloud
that darkens over children adult-wise,

far less inclined to error, when a step
in any wrong direction is to fall
a JDAM short of heaven. Decoys call,
their voices plangent, honking to be shot ...

Here, childish dreams and nightmares whirl, collide,
as East and West, on slouching beasts, they ride.

[Originally published in The Neovictorian Cochlea Vol VII, No. 2]

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 alike--diminutive 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 grows a rose no man shall ever pluck
till he beds there, and bids the world "Good Luck."

[Originally published in The Neovictorian Cochlea Vol VII, No. 2]

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 lax--their circumstance
as humble as it is?--or readers wince

to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
of Nero's death, and mourn the Cavalier?

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

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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 that brief flurry’s: thirteen months   
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death.

Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of “ergotherapists” that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful’s merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath’s transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine–scalding eyes,
and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.

[first published in 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.

"The Harvest of Roses" is not quite as "early" as most of the other poems on this page. I'm not sure how old I was when I wrote it, but I remember having become disenchanted with poetry journals that were full of "concrete imagery" which I found mostly unmoving, and with the bizarre idea that meter and rhyme were somehow "bad." "Torsioning" is one of my rare coinages.

Autumn Leaves

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—

Many of my early poems were about aging, loss and death. Like "Death" this poem is the parings of a longer poem. Most of my poems end up being sonnet-length or shorter. I think the sounds here are pretty good for a young poet "testing his wings."


Have you tasted the bitterness of tears of despair?
Have you watched the sun sink through such pale, balmless air
that your heart 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 is one of the first poems that made me feel like a "real" poet. I remember reading the poem and asking myself, "Did I write that?"