January 18, 2009

Your Land

This is the place that is given to you
because you have found it yourself

because you stayed long enough
to move your gaze fully to the south

because you returned at times
to accept the ritual: to care

and be cared for by rock
and bush, creek and bird.

This is the place where your gaze
took hold, found words and moods

for words, where others will come
for your small sound when you are gone,

to listen for the door you left
swinging, just out of reach,

on immense hinges.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 06:32 PM

January 17, 2009


                                        No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
                                        On the blank stones of the landing...
                                        —Sylvia Plath

From our distant, glistening port we see
your splendorous wreck twist with tides
ebbing through the gap to a wilder channel.
We steam by on harder hulls, watch you there
awash in your dark hemisphere, parallel
and heavy beneath a soaking sea,
cargo gone to memory with the sway
of wave and word.

of wave and word.  Sometimes, a call reaches
the rail of our passing ship and we leap
to the waves breaking inside the skeleton
of wreckage cloaking the rocks of the final coast.
We surge delicately in rotting ribs
still bleeding a strange resin through the rocking
of wet salt. Bobbing within, we raise our cold hands,
bloodied by sharp lips of barnacles and rust,
reach out to your brow like a sister.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 02:32 PM

January 16, 2009

In the room where I never wrote

there is a window, a mile view
of a beach I never walked
and sea stacks corkscrewing
up through surf I never heard

In the room where I never wrote
there is an oval wood table
piled with poems I never wrote
about desert sky,
and leaving my son

In the room where I never wrote
on that same table sits
the canyon book
that never sings
of my year in the hills,
the apple orchard,
cows trampling the spring,
lynx on the road,
yellow columbine

In the room where I never wrote
there are poems
that never speak
of a tent by Pacific volcanoes,
by the Stillaguamish River
with Magister Ludi in my hand
and no money

In the room where I never wrote
fall is eternal and its long light
fills the room gold,
and the keyboard sings,
from hands that never tire
molding poems stolen
from the dead, gifted
from the living

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:29 PM

January 15, 2009

Caressing Sadness

                                        Don Juan had told me that there is no completeness
                                        without sadness and longing...
                                        —Carlos Castaneda
                                        The Fire From Within

Pills swallowed to keep it down:
that snake writhing in the thigh
or in some dusty vein forgotten since
childhood when a climb to the tops
of cedars meant breathing rarified air.

Hands and arms, all the body’s
kinetics, moved toward the dancing world
kept it part of the dance, kept
the feet thinking downward
to the earth’s breathing and song.

That complete whispered cloak of air
discovered behind the garage
or in swaying grass by the lake.
Back then, even eyes wandered
behind peaks, floated free and hungry
to an unbuilt horizon that had to be known.

Age grows distance
from breathing ground.
Bodies surge downward, forgetting
long summer heat, a tune
on the radio telling us to go on and on

with all that is rich and sad.
Brittle and assured, wallets heavy and unkind,
the old gather under garages in hastily dug
bunkers filled with dry food and silence.
Who can find kindness in this terror, rushing
down to a failing and freakish dream of undying?

Stop, sweep the eyes up,
let the heart take down
on its free and surging slate
the dawn sun’s blaze of pink
on scudding clouds.

Take a clear look at the day:
make the eyes and hands constant,
make the breath complete.
In its small pause, take in radiance,

exhale over legs and arms
meticulous blooms
fragrant with affection.
Change the lexicon:
let words deepen with a sadness

as ontological as air.
No matter what anyone says,
keep missing it,
keep coming back,
step from one momentousness to the next

long to speak what is near,
what is looming.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:20 PM

January 14, 2009


Torn between friends and desire,
adulation and truth,
life as legacy or spinning earth,
poems that turn you and lift me up
or drill uselessly to the residues of heart.

My wall papered with reminders
about spirit, brigades of poetry
books bleed ruthlessly
beneath my window, potential
and pain lying on the rug.
Massing gray clouds pull the sun
to pieces and below me
a dirty, slick, and dying winter.

Surprised by my appetite
for what’s hard, beyond, distant,
pushing at the pulse of the planet’s strings
when the world should be full enough
with light this morning,
with more than enough earth
covered by mysterious trees.

I want to scorch my path across America
with my one book under my arm,
women murmuring “beautiful” and men “true.”
I want to run past rich immediate morning,
the sun breaking through gray clouds,
and for a moment

make it an embrace of words
and find something out.

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 01:28 PM

January 13, 2009

An Experiment with Kelp

                                        —for Eva

Brown-yellow ribbon, draped on gray, rounded stones,
boils of air trapped in its skin,
glistening salt-wet as the surf bumps and rolls it,
folds and flips it toward my feet.
This wrinkled khaki tube opens on one end,
closes on the other to a pointed reddish-hued tail.
Placed on a drift log, it jumps like paper
as the wind dries it, leaching color and sand.

A fisherman blasts my meditation:
“Sir,” (he says, sir), “What are you doing?”
“I’m doing a writing exercise.”
“About what?”
“About his,” I say, shoving
the naked brown strip to his face.
He’s confused for a moment, then grows serious,
“Sir,” he says again, “Whatever you do,
Don’t put that in your sandwich.”

—Mike Burwell

Posted by dwaber at 02:50 PM