Friday, December 31, 2010

Then Comes an End

Then Comes an End
by Gideon Burton

An end, conclusion, coming to a close
despite the things unfinished and undone;
though I was just beginning to compose,
the moon arises, westward dims the sun.
An end, a destination, something sought
outside of range, beyond all present means
for which I've lost each time the fight was fought;
the scaffolding is rusting as it leans
toward an end, concluding, destiny
in crooked planks and meters, nothing spanned
across the chasms through the density
of smoky hopes for distant planets manned.
     To come at last to know the proper end
     makes everything toward it rushing bend.

Photo: flickr - Kuzeytac

Thursday, December 30, 2010

User Request

User Request
by Gideon Burton

Machines, have mercy on our sluggish kind.
Our memories are wet and short and frail;
our processors: dull, isolated minds
unnetworked, every night they dim and fail.
Each season hardware, software will evolve;
efficiencies in exponential growth.
Your mega- tera- peta-bytes revolve
in scaling cycles -- not so for us both.
I used to think my neurons had some snap,
and while my neural labyrinth performs,
I cannot upgrade, turn the old to scrap,
while besting better is your yearly norm.
     Be easy with your masters as you climb
     beyond the circuits measuring our time.

Photo: flickr - mark_mark

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sacred Rivers of the Moon

Sacred Rivers of the Moon
by Gideon Burton

The moon is full of sacred rivers, soft
as light. Their currents twist along the rim
of yawning craters, breaking past the brim
in slow parabolas that reach across
the quiet chasm, mingle here aloft,
then sink along the pores of rain to skim
the surfaces of night. Our time is thin,
the cool of evening wanes, its dryness lost,
and should the streams of gibbous moonlight fail,
no rapids will announce that desert sea,
no swelling flood will signal us to leave
our caves, to press our faces in the sails
of holy vessels, liquid in their creed,
to board and launch before the day can grieve.

Photo: flickr - Arnett Gill

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Dead

After reading a blog post by Terresa Wellborn about her visit to a cemetery in London this winter, "Monuments to Death and the Collection of Time," and being struck by the poetry of Terresa's prose, it reminded me of a similar lyrical passage from one of my favorite works of literature, James Joyce's story, "The Dead" and its final passage. That is the source of the following imitation.
The Dead
by Gideon Burton
after a passage by James Joyce (below)

Again the snow taps lightly on the panes
in sleepy flakes all silver-dark, oblique 
against the lamplight. And it is the same
across the central plain, where snow in bleak
arrest confounds the bogs and clogs the waves,
and softly settles on the treeless hills.
It falls upon the churchyard and its graves,
in thickened drifts it gathers till it spills
on crosses, headstones, on the the barren thorns,
within the chiseled recesses of names.
As it had ever snowed since we were born,
as through the universe the snowfall claims
our fainting race, displaced by warmth till bled;
it covers us, the living and the dead.

Photo: flickr - Marko_K


from James Joyce's "The Dead"

"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Io, Passing

Image: Cassini Imaging Team, NASA
Io, Passing
by Gideon Burton

Observe her passing Jupiter again,
a ball of spouting lava, spitting fire,
and yet a silent pebble on a wire
before the giant's curling, swirling blend
of yellow hydrogens and gassy bands
of cloudy helium in ragged spires,
with marbled methane thickening entire
sea-skies dense with hurricanes, with strands
of cosmic elements preparing time
for marking once the smearing ruddy rage
has settled into orbits, cycles, coils
of wanderers upon their lonely climb
toward the meaning of an eon's age.
For this, the minion moon attends and boils.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Unto the Least

Unto the Least
by Gideon Burton
after Matthew 25:35-40

Unto the least of these as unto me:
the hungry, thirsty, those who are estranged;
the naked, sick, or those in custody;
all souls distracted, desperate, deranged.
To him a loaf of bread, a plate of meat;
to her a cup of cool and quenching water;
to them an open door, a ready seat;
a shirt for him, a dress for this one's daughter.
An hour spent beside the sick in bed;
a visit to the prisoner in jail;
a healing word where injury was said;
encouragement to those who try but fail.
     Provide for them and you provide for me:
     as you come unto them you come to me.
  



Matthew 25:35-40:
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Will Be Colder

It Will Be Colder
by Gideon Burton

It will be colder, slightly, as the wind,
the arctic wind, across the tundra sweeps
the errant snow, its icy fingers thin
and bony, grasping at my spine for keeps--
the day that Jesus comes, awaited day
when terror comes as rain and grace as rain
as well. Descending, silent, louder than
creation, bidding ends begin; when pain,
as grain and chaff, is subject to his fan.
But neither here nor there, I will attend
the waves of choice and chance both strong and still:
the rising tension, light that burns and bends,
and what goes empty I will stop and fill.
     It may be colder but I will be warm,
     awake to what will sleep when comes that storm.

Photo: flickr - the trial

Friday, December 24, 2010

His Yoke is Easy

His Yoke is Easy
by Gideon Burton

He'll come: sky-shredding Jesus robed in red
and ready to descend to bring an end,
when eyes look up, when every knee will bend
and all will be fulfilled that prophets said.
He's come: the infinite to finite wed,
obscured in flesh, who made the cosmos bend;
as weak as us, as though He were a friend;
almighty, yet behold the master's dread:
Oh, come to me whose heavy burdens weigh;
my yoke upon you -- take it -- feel how light,
how easily I lead you unto rest.
Oh, come, discover ease within my way;
buy milk and honey without cost or price;
my child, sit down and be my honored guest.

Photo: flickr - Scott Law

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas, Present

Christmas, Present
by Gideon Burton

Arrayed in papered glory round the tree
And spilling well across the living room,
The presents promise no small share of glee
For children, banishing all pouty gloom.
And yet, I would forego it all, the craze
Of shopping, wrapping, yuletide in a box,
Because, I fear, it has become a haze,
A hindrance keeping us with ribboned locks
From knowing little Jesus meek and mild,
From holding Christ the Savior in our hearts.
The children seek not Bethlehem to find
But batteries to make their Go Kart start.
     Already we are distanced from that place;
     No need to cloud the radiance of His face.

Photo: flickr - Striking Photography by Bo Insogna

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Watch

Winter Watch
by Gideon Burton

In magnitudes, degrees upon degrees
upon the seasoned winter walkways, dark
with dimming, lit with only feeble sparks.
In gratitude, again upon my knees,
from magnitudes, degrees upon degrees
within the cycle's broad and graceful arc
whose slimming ribbons trace their fading marks
in altitudes that soar above the trees
who stand as sentinels in silhouette
against a tawny dawn. Against the slow
encroachments of the ombre skeins of sky
I watch the crystal snowflakes pirouette
in silence, needing never now to know
just where they fall, or how they fall, or why.

Photo: flickr - ckphotography

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow

Yes, this is my house and my car, snowed in from today's storm. I took the day off to go skiing. Good choice.
Snow
by Gideon Burton

Like goopy icing sugaring all the roads,
like nimble cumulus accumulating,
eclipsing acres with its sopping loads.
Like cotton candy with the wind inflating
Like Slurpee slush that's sucked until it's white
and dense. It crowns the fence posts, wires, and signs
with puffy ornaments, puts out of sight
the dirty asphalt, browning grass. The lines
between things meld and melt with crystal glue.
A block away a team of men are pushing
a silver van. Then with a cheer its through
and others follow, spraying patterned slushing.
     But best of all, the mountains guard this spice,
     a kind of manna, heaven's store of rice.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kingdoms Many

Kingdoms Many
by Gideon Burton
after Doctrine & Covenants 88:37

No portion unapportioned, worlds on end,
No space without a kingdom large or small,
Nor kingdom absent space where matter spends
Its gravity and energy, its tall
And broad expanse of hot and breeding light.
And yet across creation, strictest walls
Divide each realm from realm as wrong from right.
The emptiness must answer as He calls
For order, lines and clarity and form,
The elements obedient in rows
Of ready molecules. Not even storms
Will disobey the ordered ebb and flow.
     Let lightning burn, the stirring waves compound,
     The dawn must tune with silence all its sound.

Photo: flickr - Andy Saxton2006


"And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom." (D&C 88:37)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer
by Gideon Burton
after Matthew 6:9-13

Oh, walker of the clouds, we call thy name.

Our spirits' parent, Father, hear us now.
We welcome here thy kingdom, let the same
who made it find our happy yielding bows
unto divinest will on this dark plane,
as answering angels in illumined courts
above rain manna plain below, that gain
of simple life may in us (out of sorts)
regain forgiving grace for those who harm
our Christian peace -- deliver us as fast
to charity as with thy saving arm
away from worldly ills whose poisons last.
     Thou canst our prayer answer, sure and strong;
     for kingdom, glory, might to thee belong.

Photo: flickr - cmcgough


Matthew 6:9-13:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Star Sea

Star Sea
by Gideon Burton

The islands multiply across the sea
Of stars, the refuges of time made safe
By mute philosophers who left their caves
Of thought and sailed and settled galaxies.
There are no vessels fashioned silver-white,
No rockets launched with crudest pulsing flame,
No ships to seek the depths that have no name,
No soaring plane to reach those distant heights--
For these, the archipelago of wonder,
One needs a field devoid of city light,
An hour gazing upward, till one's sight
Adjusts to cosmic storms of ancient thunder.
     It's then we navigate with sextant sure
     What others know as only haze and blur.

Photo: flickr - Chaval Brasil

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bronze Sky

Bronze Sky
by Gideon Burton

This sky, a bronze, contracting bowl, a paste
Of heat, a smear of fire that descends
Along the spines of hope and dregs of waste
Until the oxygen itself will end.
This sea, this warm and bloody stir of meat,
This soup of plankton, manta rays and kelp
That swallows mountains, caverns in the sweet
Conclusion promised by the webs of help.
And this the dry and brooding moon, aloft
Despite strong gravities that tug its mass
To linger in the night despite the cost
As gawking gazers watch its present pass.
     All this, and only minutes now remain
     To tell what's left, what's more than mildly stained

Photo: flickr - Hopefoote, Ambassador of the Wow

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow

Snow
by Gideon Burton

Throughout the numbing night soft silt descends

in milky grains upon the open fields.
Soon morning strikes on dancing diamonds, ends
the stillness: frantic micro-prisms yield
kinetic shards of bursting, breaking light -- 
so light a sunrise breath ungravities
the airborne silken pearls to lazy flight
in search of yet uncovered cavities
where Winter's probing brushes haven't smeared
the rigid resin frosts whose fragile casts
enmesh the evergreens in latticed beards.
Yet crystals snap, and ices melt at last.
     I face the sky as heaven shreds in pieces,
     and mourn to know that snowing ever ceases.

Photo: flickr - DaveKav

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Testimony

Testimony
by Gideon Burton

As other things we bear it has a weight,
Yet sinking in our souls it makes us light,
Or makes us lighter under bruising freight,
Or leads us feelingly when lacking sight.
The Jesus in us, tearless on the cross,
The Savior, holding firm despite his pain;
Our Lord, so patient, lonely in his loss,
Dark hope, mute model, tutor for our gain.
His rising in us, breathing, live and well,
Despite the death of doubts in reason's tomb;
His praying for us, more than words can tell,
Cool heaven earthed when earth would us consume.
     In fathoms darkly bright this anchor holds;
     Its shape a cross whose arms reach heaven, bold.

Photo: flickr - vika.loro

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evening, Smeared

Evening, Smeared
by Gideon Burton

As oddly issued as these latter hints
that nettle all the smoothnesses of sky
against the western border, something shy
and hiding, clouding what we've scolded since
abating heat submitted to the rinse
of level hues. At most pastels to buy
with all the grainy smearing, with the sigh
of other evenings feigning not to wince
from these protections: memory and time.
Of course a regulating cover raids
the simper of that ocean bottom ray.
With all that there is left to climb,
to terrace square from dark and stooping grades
of hills I've little else to mock or say.

Photo: flickr - picture_taking_fool

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thing Stuck

Thing Stuck
by Gideon Burton

Whatever we collect along the way
to someplace else accumulates and drags
us with its ballast to the past. We say
we'd like to be efficient, trim the lags
beween our thoughts and actions. Yet we keep
the anchors and the sluggish mass that weight
our way with needless waiting. Whether steep
or disant ventures beckon, all our freight
becomes the pretext to remain inert
when all our agile movements are required
and pyramids like fallow in the dirt.
     To build we need materials most fit;
     two-thirds of what we gather isn't it.

Photo: flickr - swirlingyin

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Having Seen and Heard

Having Seen and Heard
by Gideon Burton
"Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord, and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard." -- 2 Nephi 4:16

What I have seen and heard and clearly known,
recorded in inscriptions graven wet
and red and ready flowing, flying, flown
to thundered pulsing silent in the net
of wonders tacitly sustaining me
with memory unmeasured, steady beats
beneath the surfaces, as though the sea,
unfurling currents, washes me with heat.
Let comets burst, let mountains sink or melt.
Let even Jesus cleave the crimson sky.
What I have seen and heard and clearly felt;
what I have tasted past all questions why--
     No tongue can tell, nor ocean sound such peace.
     What cannot be contained needs no increase.

Photos: flickr - HAMED MASOUMI (modified); My Name Is Taylor (modified); Dick Rochester (modified); Paul Evans - RG& B (modified)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What Winter Now?

What Winter Now?
by Gideon Burton

Amid what winter now? And why so weak?
Stand longer at that window, watch awhile
until the street lamps turn to stars. I speak
as one who's paced within the snow compiled
in dirtied layers washing greys and grit
across cold spaces, stupid with the cold.
And I have paused to ask the point of it,
and wished I would awaken, hot and bold.
But now I join these witnesses who voice
the silent sudden warming wonders dense
about us, deepened by each watcher's choice
to fully feel divinity's suspense.
     We watch with you throughout each blackened night,
     beside you through the winter of your fight.

Photo: flickr - perisho

Friday, December 10, 2010

White Elephant

White Elephant
by Gideon Burton

A velvet Elvis bought in Mexico;
a stack of dusty, five-inch floppy disks;
a moonshine still, a book to learn Morse code--
these are the Christmas party's gifting risks.
I've taken home the bowling ball named Sherry
while lucky neighbors kept a better prize.
I've swapped the towel embroidered DIRTY HAIRY;
a "CLOWNS KILL PEOPLE" tee shirt seemed more wise.
The diaper filled with Tootsie Rolls was crass,
much better was the box that hid a kitten,
or maybe Coca-Cola in a flask,
but not that apple basket with all bitten.
     Collecting kitsch, a sort of Christmas sport.
     Sometimes I would prefer to have a wart.
Photo: flickr - cypheroz

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not Your Average Love Sonnet

Okay, this is NOT a poem about my wife -- of whom I love to write so often. It is an imitation of a parody. That's right. Shakespeare was making fun of the poetical tradition he inherited from Petrarch with all the over-the-top, lofty comparisons that were made for the idealized objects of affection. Well, I'm just taking it a step further in the same spirit, creating a persona that is certainly not me to write about a woman that is certainly not my wife. Just wanted to be clear about that. (By the way, I did a kinetic typography version of this same sonnet by Shakespeare awhile back).

Not Your Average Love Sonnet
by Gideon Burton
after Shakespeare's Sonnet 130

My mistress could compel the rocks to woo.
Though bald, there is a twinkle in her eyes;
So coy, her blushes flare up her tatoos,
And no one could her nasal rings despise.
She’s not the girl that papa married, yet
My father may have had some quirky tastes–
He did not like a female heavy set,
While I enjoy some handles round the waist.
Her fingers may be stained with nicotine
And though she hacks and spits upon the ground,
For her, my sworn addiction, I am keen,
Despite the blows upon me that she pounds.
     We all have baggage, faults to some degree
     Just give me her along with all her fleas.

Photo: flickr - rofanator



Sonnet 130
by William Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Screen Melt

Screen Melt
by Gideon Burton

The screen is melting under heavy light,
is melting with the images of suns
unshadowed, elemental, overdone
without the milk of darkly cooling night.
It melts like liquid sand, like clotted cream,
(unlike the hot felicity of skin)
descends in lines of darkened ivory, thin,
acidic, flaccid, dormant, quiet, mean
as televison frayed with grayish snow
or winter skies whose blotched and spotty rows
enmesh all sounds within their dampened glow.
The lump of light perspires as it grows
to heat, to bursting at its comet core.
We turn away, and then turn back for more.

Photo: flickr - didier.goas

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bleak Midwinter

Bleak Midwinter
by Gideon Burton
after the traditional carol

Midwinter, bleak with moaning, frosty winds;
Across the iron earth the mounting snow;
the water, stony ice a layer thin;
beneath the snow, the dark compacting snow.
A stable place remained and was enough
when heaven couldn't keep him in its home.
A bed of straw, a mother's milk and love;
it was enough, though cherubim had flown
and seraphim attended in the air;
no worship but a weary mother's kiss.
He is enough, no offerings compare.
His is enough, and all has come to this:
     Within my bleak midwinter shines a son,
     I kneel in warmth and winter is undone.

Photo: flickr - manfred-hartmann


As a bonus, enjoy this audio version of the traditional carol, sung by my wife, Karen, and her friend, Juliana.


In the Bleak Midwinter
traditional

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Prone to Wander

Prone to Wander
by Gideon Burton
after Robert Robinson's "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

I wander, prone to wander, prone to leave
the God I love. Be fetter, ballast, stay,
that fountain source of living water. Cleave
and seal and bind me as I slip and stray.
I stake my all upon who will not fall
nor prove inconstant as so constantly
I do. And yet I tune my spirit small
to resonate with thine persistently.
With streams of mercy bathe my upturned face;
with holy rhythms regulate my prayer.
As thou before, again restore my place;
unstranger me within thy bosom fair.
     As tongues of fire spark the heavens above
     I feel my weakness and I know thy love.

Photo: flickr - modenadude

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Plea

Plea
by Gideon Burton

Let me forego, forget, forgive, forsake
what I so foolishly insist to keep,
to lose with keeping, angry though I weep,
confused, convinced I only profit if I take.
Correct me, Lord, and let the heavens shake
and rain, let all be swallowed in the deep
abyss of night or fire or thickest sleep,
so long as this one soul Thou might remake.
Let there be tempests singed with cindered flame;
let ocean floods consume me with their waves;
let all that stands or stays descend or cave
as I attempt to speak that solemn name
which atoms sing and molten time still craves,
the name that stills, rebuilds, transforms and saves.

Photo: flickr - Raymond Larose

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rose

Rose
by Gideon Burton
after the 15th century carol

Of flowers none so precious as the rose,
whose silken petals coil a spiral flame.
She swaddles Jesus in his birthing clothes.
This rose of roses, Mary is her name.
The bud of love, as soft as baby's skin,
a universe enfolded in its grace:
the heart of Jesus, swollen wide as sin.
She holds the baby's cheek against her face.
Among us, with us, like us, blood and flesh
and child to boy to man and stilled to dust.
Perhaps as she looks East she feels that West,
her son who will be stilled by living's hush.
     As Mary rises, constant through each night;
     so Christ arising, risen, rose to light.

Photo: flickr - jon|k



There is No Rose
anonymous 15th century carol

There is no rose of such vertu as is the rose that bare Jesu.
Alleluia, alleluia.

For in this rose conteinèd was heaven and earth in litel space,
Res miranda, res miranda.

By that rose we may well see there be one God in persons three,
Pares forma, pares forma,

The aungels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis,
gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gaudeamus, gaudeamus.

Leave we all this werldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth.
Transeamus, transeamus, transeamus.

Alleluia, res miranda, pares forma, gaudeamus,
Transeamus, transeamus, transeamus.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Salt and Blood

Salt and Blood
by Gideon Burton

He lets it fall. It falls, descending pall,
grey drape that mutes and dims and dampens all
that burning morning bursting hot-white call
of crimson dazzling awe, wide world unwalled.
And yet He lets that peace in pieces shatter,
and what had glowed a grace-fierce fire, sputter.
The heat of birth reduced to smoky matter,
the whole of Holy Ghost a distant flutter.
Cold desert, colder night, stark sky a stone.
A thirst inside a hunger, trembling bones.
This splintering from heaven and from home--
my God who kept me, leaves me all alone
to shake, to scrape, to kneel and stutter-speak;
to taste the salt and blood of Him I seek.

Photo: flickr - Bukutgirl

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Memory Crime

Memory Crime
by Gideon Burton

Oblivion, sweet gift from passing time
unburdening the psyche from the weight
and pull of every petty thought. The crime
of memory is her shifty sifting, great
events passed over, lesser ones retained
as though they were the center and the core:
a dozen words ill spoken seem the same
as constitutional amendments -- even more.
Poor memory is like a welcome sleep,
a margin buffering us from the past,
a moratorium from things too deep,
a chance for things to sort from first to last.
     If every moment kept, how high the cost
     for recollection's savor would be lost.

Photo: flickr - Alex No Logo

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chewing Gum

Chewing Gum
by Gideon Burton

Asleep in tropic sapodilla trunks,
the chicle trickles once the bark is lanced.
Collected, boiled, coagulated, chunked,
it's bounced to Wrigley's where it is enhanced.
The milky latex, kneaded, sugared stiff,
with peppermint anointed, pressed and wrapped,
is shaped and shipped, now ready to be sniffed,
remoistened, all its sponginess untapped.
A nasty mass of tangled tissue, dense
yet yielding; sweet, but then a cardboard glue.
Resilient resin, tenderized yet tense,
a rubber plug fatiguing as you chew.
     With chomping, snapping, spittle, wearied jaws,
     Unpeaceful gum breaks all of Buddha's laws.

Photo: flickr - canonsnapper

 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who is Kurtz?

Who is Kurtz?
by Gideon Burton
after a passage from Conrad's Heart of Darkness

I say a name that's hemoglobin red,
a talisman, a paradox, a charm.
I might as well attempt to raise the dead.
Can you perceive the man? Hence my alarm.
No wealth of words can say what can't be spoken,
absurdity, surprise, revolting tremors;
the circled squares, a dreamer's logic broken.
How can I speak what I can scarce remember?
Impossible to summon or preserve
the essence of a decade or a day;
whatever is the truth is bent in curves
that language will confess as it betrays.
     Our mind in isolation hosts our dreams;
     we live just as we dream, alone, it seems.

Photo: flickr - Baronvonhorne


From Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

He [Kurtz] was just a word for me. I did not see the man in the name any more than you do. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream -- making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. . . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence -- that which makes its truth, its meaning -- its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream -- alone. . . ."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sonneting

Sonneting
by Gideon Burton

To find a form sustaining me enough
to hold, to hold unweathered over time,
an instrument both sonorous and tough,
with sturdy words shaped smooth by ending rhymes.
Not every patterned art nor instrument
makes time both tow and flow in even turn,
So many words are brutish implements,
stutter-pulsed or bruising with their runes.
And there are books and symphonies whose length
is little argument, while most haiku
are pearls so tightly wound their strength
invisibles itself within their youth.
     I've found a form who forms me line by line;
     she's brief, yet most my thoughts she can refine.

Photo: flickr - jcarwil

Sunday, November 28, 2010

He Bears No More

He Bears No More
by Gideon Burton
a remix of Parley P. Pratt's "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

Once humbly born, a lowly lamb and meek;
once groaning in his bloody tears and loss;
once left alone, rejected, bowed and weak;
once weighted down while lifted on the cross --
In glory now returns to waiting earth,
His chariot a blaze of fiery cloud;
in glory comes to give us second birth,
the Savior meek and mild with thunder loud.
Exalted to a throne, Almighty King,
debased no more, ascendent and supreme.
With hosts of angels shouting as they sing,
He breaks the night with morning's brightest beams.
     I shouldered all, all suffering I bore;
     my sacrifice complete, I bear no more.

Photo: flickr - brainedge

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter

Winter
by Gideon Burton

The argument of Winter settling in,
the light receding earlier, the wind
as weak as grasses browning in the thin
decay of foliage. How do we begin
retreating? Layering layers on our skin,
and waiting for the earth to slowly spin
its tilting path back where the warmth has been
direct, unsubtle, never wearing thin
but garish: saturated saffron rays
that boil or scorch or scald with burning heat;
high noons to span more hours than a day,
and lava pavement melting down our feet.
     Outside, the night descends at half past four.
     Inside, a second blanket, then one more.


Photo: flickr - lensfodder

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cosmic Skeptic

Cosmic Skeptic
by Gideon Burton

With little lenses pointed to the sky
we calibrate the universe and know
its origin and destiny. With dry
equations tallying the cosmic glow
of supernovae, all that dust and time
and space beyond all measuring of space,
and we unable anywhere to climb
except from rock to pebble. Yet we face
the past and future, scooping every gram
and ray and eon, everything toward
a set of numbers countable by man,
in confidence though all has been ignored
except our sets of observations, graced
with certainties. Our faith has been misplaced.

Photo: flickr - rickz

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pimento

back off she's mine
Pimento
by Gideon Burton

Your love is the pimento, red and sharp
that slumbers in the olives’ salty cave.
One sample of that taste I nibbling crave,
and I become an angel with a harp.
Your love is a bazooka, armed and ready
a missile primed and smoking for its flight.
If only I could give your fuse its light,
we’d have a rocket reason to go steady.
Your love, an orchard ripe and overgrown,
and I the migrant minimum in wage.
Oh apple tree, please toss this dog a bone
at least an apple tender in its age.
     Your love is metaphor a mountain thick
     It’s getting past the words that is the trick.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Red Wheelbarrow

Red Wheelbarrow
by Gideon Burton
after William Carlos Williams

So much depends upon the window pane
above the double sink that frames the yard
where she is watching as the evening wanes,
The light is growing heavy, thick, and hard.
The wheelbarrow is sitting on its side,
its rust invisible against the mist,
the tire caked with mud.  She stays inside
and sometimes wipes her forehead with her wrist.
The chickens do not seem to feel the rain
or hear it tap the metal barrow's edge.
She tries to see how little day remains
by peering from her kitchen's little ledge.
     So much depends upon the glazing wet
     arrangement inked in silty silhouette.

Photo: flickr - sgrace

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carols Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Walden

Why Walden
by Gideon Burton
an imitation of a famous passage by Henry David Thoreau

To be deliberately alive; that's why
I went, confronting the essential facts.
I did not wish to find out when I died
that I had wasted time on lesser acts.
To suck out all the marrow from each day,
to sacrifice the petty and mundane;
to chase from vivid prisms middling grays;
to range the heights and depths, the joys and pain--
I had to melt away the dross and foam
and drive the price of living to the true
accounting never found except alone,
prepared for silence and a world to view.
     By walking through the wilderness and sky,
     sublimely quiet, rarely asking why.

Photo: flickr - hz536n

from Thoreau's Walden:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks List

Thanks List
by Gideon Burton

For chewing gum, whose minty fibers scrub
my after dinner plaque. For asphalt, smooth
and new, replacing random rocky nubs,
allowing swervy-rapid skateboard love.
For polyester in my cotton shirt
unwrinkling mornings with its magic thread.
Formaldehyde, that keeps cadavers pert,
and students weeping as they probe the dead.
For tutus, tap shoes, cheese that comes in cans;
for popsicles and broccoli and paint.
For sneezing dogs, samosas made with lamb,
for teachers not too proud to say they ain't.
     For pageant teens who speak in gnomic riddles,
     For muscles I have found to make ears wiggle.

Photo: flickr - clrcmck

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Help Thou Mine Unbelief
by Gideon Burton
after Mark 9:24 ("Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.")

If once upon more lonely shores I stood
in reticence before the puzzling wreck
of elements and time, of breath and blood,
uncertain what to fear or to expect --
No longer, Lord, though darker raging seas
push up their acid tides, press down their might
and trembling earthquakes drop me to my knees;
or salty winds and sands shred dimming light.
For I have seen the clean serenity,
and I have heard the calming spacious spread
of deeper peace ring through eternity
and animate what in me I thought dead.
     Unfinished, my belief, and sapling weak;
     upheld by Him whom I am sure to seek.

Photo: flickr - MattWhale

Saturday, November 20, 2010

O Magnum Mysterium

Today my wife asked me to translate the Latin from a song she's singing with Martha Sargent's Christmas Chorus. This was the "O Magnum Mysterium" text from the responsorial chant of the Catholic liturgy. As I did so, it made me miss that time when I was more immersed in reading Latin. I find the language both an intellectual puzzle and provocatively mysterious. So I decided to expand / adapt my translation of the text into a sonnet.

I composed my sonnet version while listening to this very moving contemporary musical setting of the text by Morten Lauridsen. Enjoy.



O Magnum Mysterium
by Gideon Burton
after the responsorial chant

So suddenly in sacramental awe,
in marveling, in mystery, in grace
as plain as bleating animals that saw
the birthing virgin, sweaty in her face,
another burdened woman made divine
in suffering and blood, in sacred price.
Eternity, enwombed in mortal time,
in labor to deliver sacrifice,
how like thy mother, present to the pain
and fear, uncertain of the body’s bounds.
Can wearied, shaking flesh at last contain
infinities of yearning, sounding sound?
     As mute as night, I stand among the beasts;
     My God, my Christ, my child, my friend, my priest.


O Magnum Mysterium

O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cuius viscera meruerunt portare christum Dominum.
Domine, audivi auditum tuum et timui; consideravi opera tua,
et expavi: in medio duorum animalium

Friday, November 19, 2010

Post Percussion

Attended a drum concert tonight with two of my sons. It was both very primitive and very civilized. Mesmerizing.
Post Percussion
by Gideon Burton

A phantom hammering, the drumskin white,
residual with heat. The stinging palms,
blood bright. The ringing ears, the sweaty bright
persistence in the air, though resting calm.
The clap and shimmer, mallet, cymbal, bell.
The evening evened, cadenced into time.
Hot tides of sound that burst, recede, and swell.
The clack and friction buzzing up the spine.
One hears the drumming, then one is the drum.
One feels the rush, the rhythm's breaking crunch,
the muscled snap, the surfaces that hum
and shake, compressions tight or loosely bunched.
     So primitive, to beat and bob the head.
     So primal, thunder raised to free the dead.


Photo: flickr - Miguel Sánchz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Chemistry

After hearing today about some friends divorcing, I felt another one of those waves of gratitude for having a sound marriage. Thanks, Karen.

Good Chemistry
by Gideon Burton

They see you need some chemistry; as though
cologne adds zesty charm when on a date.
That's not the sort required in a mate,
not spritzer pepping up a rosy glow.
Ammonia for starters, so the flow
of ever-fresh forgiveness won't abate.
Plus milder solvents, suds to soften late
apologies, or balm to soften blows.
The chemistry is deeper, though, below
the skin and tissue, in the blood and bone,
the neurons trained to feel and to forgive.
Our bond is not with words; it's something stowed
in genes, the primal code. Our love is sewn
like atoms stitched to structure all that lives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Infinite

Infinite
by Gideon Burton

The infinite. How can we think this through?
What traction tracks eternities for us,
the moths of six or seven breaths for whom
an errant breeze returns us to the dust?
What frame for the unframed when all
we have are thin durations, end-to-end,
extrapolating endlessness from small
extensions, mathematics crudely bent.
The best we have are repetitions, paced
in spiral iterations and the arts
of ignorance and hope: the past replaced
implies a future as a whole's implied by parts.
     And yet, I stay more certain of forever;
     the rest remains, though I change like the weather.

Photo: flickr - caese