Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Name is Darja

So I got a spam letter today, and I don't usually spend even a millisecond on that sort of thing, but a line jumped out from it: "I could not find here a man who will make me blossom like flower." That is just so wrong! Maybe I'm just a sucker for imagery, but it got me to keep reading, and the letter just had this terribly sad tone -- almost elegiac, like some of the Old English poems I teach to students. So I thought I would turn Darja's plight into a proper sonnet. I kept very close to her words and idiom. Good luck finding that man, Darja. That is, if you really are Darja, if you are really looking for a man, and if you are really real at all. (This was the picture that came with the email -- cropped a bit for modesty). And no, despite feeling for the poor gal, I just couldn't hit that reply button. Sorry, Darja.
My Name is Darja
by Gideon Burton

Does my letter find you in good mood?
My name is Darja. Will you answer please?
The loneliness has come; it isn't good.
Filles life with sadness won't let go of me.
I just want partner, help take off my soul
of sadness given birth by loneliness.
I'm looking for a man to share with, goal
of friendship and the life road happiness.
I know that many can't find common joy,
but maybe in this way, I do not know.
Right here I cannot find the kind of boy
to make me blossom like a flower, though.
     Not either of us knows this path is true;
     But I will walk awhile and wait for you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Sonnet's Complaint

Well, those of you who follow my sonnet blog -- and I mean both of you -- you really need to come out of the woodwork and give me some suggestions for what to write about. It's not as though I have a dearth of subjects. But I'd like this blog to become a bit more interactive. So, have at it.  
I'm also wondering about whether I could do something narrative with my sonnets. A few people have tried doing this, most notably Vikram Seth, whose novel,
The Golden Gate (1986) was written completely in sonnets. Well, was it? He wrote in iambs, but only four beats to a line: tetrameter. I think it would drive me crazy either to read or write at length poetry that came in even beats per line. Still, you have to hand it to him. Hmmm. Should I attempt a short story or longer piece, completely done in sonnets? I've tried my hand at writing some drama in blank verse (an aborted prequel to Hamlet, a high school love story set in metaphorical domain of cold war rhetoric, etc.). I don't know. Well, a starting place might be to write in the voice of a character. Here, I impersonate the sonnet itself. What would the sonnet say about my uses of the form?

The Sonnet's Complaint
by Gideon Burton

Abuse. You call it what you will, a test
of form, a witness to the stamina
of poetry compact and at its best.
But I've known your perverse contaminants:
whole stanzas thrown to subjects such as cheese,
those pithy final couplets cinched with puns
(and not the thoughtful witty ones to please
the mind; just clunky jests jest overdone).
And where is the Dark Lady, where is Laura?
Those distant muses driving poets crazy?
You've lost the sonnet's sweet and bitter aura;
Those poems on married bliss? You're getting lazy.
     Untrue to what a sonnet's voice must carry--
     what's next? A poem for Curly, Moe, and Larry?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Notepad Sonnet

Notepad Sonnet
by Gideon Burton

On certain days of jagged, rusting hope
when hours sour in the vinegar
of shredding expectations, and the scope
of grace withdraws before the predator
of freshened failures, snarling, heavy, thick
and viral, coughing mockeries of me--
On twilight noons when purposes lie sick
and halting, fetid in their own debris,
and those I have petitioned stay exempt
from all persuasion, struggle as I might--
This whisper-spell of words, this scrawled attempt,
this inky, bluish, bloody, scrabbling fight--
     A tiny room of dignity, released
     by rhythmed language to a stream of peace.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


by Gideon Burton

The trick is too dismantle what remains,
that sturdy infrastructure mutely strong
against your best revisions: soul and brains
and muscled managing to purge the wrong,
bend back the wayward will to good, for good.
From wounds to wisdom rising day by day,
by every measure bettering as one should,
escaping damp anxieties of gray.
Yet like a virus sleeping in the spine,
those rugged remnants biding out the time,
prepared for when a darker rhythm chimes
all clear, the better part of him's resigned.
     I cannot rust that rubble, raze that hell;
     But greening growth unchokes me from the spell.

Friday, August 27, 2010


by Gideon Burton

The retina cannot retain the flow,

the fuchsia-ochre-teal-vermillion millions,
the torqued geometries, the crystal's cracks,
the holy heights or blurry-blotched civilians.
And even if some fragments loosen, lift
and shift and warp, released by dreaming's drift,
the pupils widen in that hollow rift,
and weave fresh fantoms; such is vision's thrift.
Too many prophets got the scene they begged.
"Behold": be old before the awe subsides,
the freight of light, not light, and razor-edged.
It can't contract, not once the vision's wide.
     The strobe and stroke of photons stains and twists.
     To see: to sink in vistas void of mists.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


by Gideon Burton

A sword of hardened fire, blue with heat,

with scars of ash along its molton throat;
his arm upraised, his weapon, hissing, floats
in aiming hesitation. When the meat
is hacked is hacked in butcher brutal beats,
beneath the steely yielding shield the coats
of sweaty fear in reddened rivers smoke
the torn and tearing tissues of defeat.
Am I the warrior, leaning on my blade,
then heaving slaughtered bodies into piles?
Am I the anvil, ringing from the blows,
my sometime spirit fading into shade?
Inflicting and deflecting in the flow;
I only know to stop defeats, defiles.

Photo: flickr - Andy Saxton2006

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not Infinite

Not Infinite

by Gideon Burton

It isn't infinite. I've touched the edge,
the outer boundary, its fraying threads;
I've plumbed the mud that eons couldn't dredge
and found the fissures' fissures where they spread.
Can one abyss enfold more darkened mists?
An ocean's wrapped a cosmos in its flow;
the galaxies enclose in bulbous cysts
beneath a skin so vast one cannot know
the limits circulating, network red
returning down the corridor, benign.
How cold to hold the dryly caking mud,
until a golden thread expands its line.
     We spin, we spin and turn our heads on cue,
     unable to confess the mess that's true.

Photograph: flickr - thelastminute

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I, Nephi

I, Nephi
by Gideon Burton 
after 1 Nephi 1

Well taught, well tried, well fed by the divine,
I make a record, true, by my own hand.
My father trembled as the heavens shined,
and tasted God descending, brightly grand.
He shouted to Jerusalem, "Repent!"

He named their evils, spoke what he'd been shown.
He joyed in God, although his strength was spent.
He prayed for them until his spirit groaned.

For nothing. He was threatened, mocked, and scorned
(So much within so little space to tell!)
No matter a Messiah would be born;
He was rejected, threatened, as their anger swelled.
     I'll tell of our deliverance from this hate,

     For tender mercies follow those of faith.

Monday, August 23, 2010


by Gideon Burton

As waking, after long and troubled sleep;
as Spring, when cruel Winter once relents;
as thirst is answered well by drinking deep:
this little resurrection, to repent.
For as the Lord will raise us on that day,
assembling all our scattered, broken cells,
creating us again in every way,
yet better than our tiny tongues can tell--
So when we summon heaven, knee to floor,
confiding in his patience, seeking grace,
and yielding to the One who can do more
and will, when we accept his guiding trace--
     Renewal comes, our spirits are released;
     the darkness dims as we awake in peace.

Photo: flickr - Darrren Hester

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Slow Miracles

Slow Miracles
by Gideon Burton

To count, it seems, a miracle is sudden,
so deviating from what we expect;
spectacular, our doubting senses flooded,
immediate and palpable, direct.
For these, we wait, and when they come, we bow
before divinity among us strong.
Some miracles, however, are not now;
amazing, still, though their arrival's long:
nine months, a human life assembled new;
a golden wedding's victory over self;
a habit, years dismantled, till it's through;
a softened heart that's measured for its wealth.
     To live in constant awe before His face
     requires a pace in sync with constant grace.

Picture: flickr - Nathan O'Nions

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Burning Sugar

Burning Sugar
by Gideon Burton

I won't pretend those marshmallows aren't mine.        
For one thing, sticky-fingered, I'll confess            
That something gooey sounded mighty fine.                
Forgive me for that smell and awful mess                 
Inside the microwave. You see, I thought                 
With heat I could make smooth and luscious cream         
From hardened sugar balls. You're right, I ought               
To check with you next time. At first it seemed               
They were invincible. But then I heard                        
A pop, a splatter. Sweetened rivers streamed
Right out the oven door. I think it burned.              
    I promise, next experiment I'll ask;
    Some taffy just might be a better task.

Photo: flickr - jessamyn

Friday, August 20, 2010

Too Much Information

Too Much Information
by Gideon Burton

So many books, so many years immersed

within their labyrinths of inky thought.
So much remains unread. Perhaps I'm cursed
to know I haven't read all that I ought.
So many movies, years of hours passed
in front of dancing screens both large and small.
So many yet to see. They come so fast--
of just the best, I'd never catch them all.
So many sites and blogs, the data rush
of updates, feeds, of music, pictures, more,
surrounding me like hosts of locusts, slush
and slag and shiny things sprayed out like spores.
     Deluged, I cannot skim or surf or think.
     I want to thirst again before I drink.
Photo: flickr - Philippe Put 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vegas Buffet

Vegas Buffet
by Gideon Burton 

Enough. You've had three plates and it's enough.
A caravan of carbohydrates washed
in gravies, sauces, sloshing over puffs
of pastry; kilocalories accost
your system, pancreatic panic sends
along the lubricating insulin
outpaced by fresh eclairs stuffed end to end
as meats and buttered breads try to fit in
your gasping gastric track that chokes and squirms
accommodating seconds' seconds, thick
in naughty, knotty fats not making firm
your figure as desserts arrive in sucrose bricks.
     Great bargain, endless courses till you cough;
     Whatever -- oink your way back to the trough.

Photo: flickr - Librarian Avengers

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

They Say It Burns

They Say It Burns
by Gideon Burton

They say it burns, and I have felt this heat
as though within me reddened embers glowed,
or warming blood unchilled my frozen feet,
or cocoa comfort shielded me from snow.
They say it burns, and burning can destroy,
lay waste to timber, buildings cities, homes.
I've felt it burn in ways I don't enjoy,
its choking ash, flames licking through my bones.
The Son of suns who fashions worlds with fire
will squeeze the bellows tight with smoky air,
will weld and hammer, as we both perspire,
to cauterize my hemorrhaging despair.
     The Comforter discomfits and lays waste
     consumes me wholly in God's holy haste.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Meadows (las vegas)

The Meadows (las vegas)
by Gideon Burton

The Spanish called this place "the meadows," green
with springs within a desert. Meadows wait
in silence for the grasses' growth, the sheen
of rain to gloss their tiny flowers great
with sticky pollen for the floating bees,
loud visitors, to carry to the wind.
Vast quietness prevails, unlike the seas,
which boil and shift as though their conscience sinned.
I have seen churches built on meadows, tall
with steeples poking heavenward, and doors
ajar to let the congregation sense that all
the structure is a kind of bottom floor.
     The earth can rest and wait in seasons clean
     Las Vegas, restless, browns its native green.

Monday, August 16, 2010


by Gideon Burton

I've praised her beauty one too many times,
I fear, the rolling earth, her many lands and seas,
And overworked my meter and my rhymes
Attempting awkward portraits. Though she please
Me new each season turned, I have not learned
To sing as well as this her stream or breeze.
And if the sun some desert place has burned
Into a bitter dust by day to freeze
At night, I have some cloudy wetted verse
Allowed her or with heated stanzas set
Her right, as though with poetry to nurse
What centuries have marred and eons set.
         Do I invoke the spell or give it voice?
         My earthly home, so grand, I have no choice.

Image: flickr -Lady Bug

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Night Walk

Night Walk
by Gideon Burton

Thick flames, as thick as long and ruddy hair,
Entwine the evening sky with smoky mist.
The sweetened stars are dropping everywhere,
As though they sighed from being lightly kissed.
Around this house, this city, lying still
Beneath the windy canyon’s haunting breath
I walk, as though by walking I might fill
Much more than lungs, chase back the death
Of seasons changed and changing, twining flames
Within a common night. Before I can
Inhale the warming air, it cools. The same
Enchantment bleaches white each colored plan.
     Before I can one season hold and feel
     It buckles, breaking, soft as milk or steel.

Image: flickr - Grufnik

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Moon Woman

Moon Woman
by Gideon Burton
after KenkoTsurezuregusa ["Essays in Idleness"] #32 (below)

One night I wandered out to view the moon,
and in a garden thick with chilling dew
an evening breeze delivered faint perfume.
This home must hold some recluse that it drew
into this garden with a spell.
And as I gazed, I heard the door creak wide.
She too would know this moon, and know it well.
Could she have sensed I watched her from outside?
A gentleman, my friend, had walked with me.
Had said we ought to stop to see this place.
But he has stepped aside, has left me free
to watch the moon, the watcher, each their face.
     I wondered, when I heard that she had died,
     if she had joined those moonbeams, cool and wide.

Image: flickr - prayerfriends

Kenko, Tsurezuregusa ["Essays in Idleness"]  #32

About the twentieth of the ninth month, at the invitation of a certain gentleman, I spent the night wandering with him viewing the moon. He happened to remember a house we passed on the way, and, having himself announced, went inside. In a corner of the overgrown garden heavy with dew, I caught the faint scent of some perfume which seemed quite accidental. This suggestion of someone living in retirement from the world moved me deeply. 
In due time, the gentleman emerged, but I was still under the spell of the place. As I gazed for a while at the scene from the shadows, someone pushed the double doors open a crack wider, evidently to look at the moon. It would have been most disappointing if she had bolted the doors as soon as he had gone! How was she to know that someone lingering behind would see her? Such a gesture could only have been the product of inborn sensitivity. 
I heard that she died not long afterwards. [source]

Friday, August 13, 2010


by Gideon Burton

A sepulcher of metal: slow descent
toward an underworld, entombed, unsure
how long how far how soon the air will vent,
the darkness close, as seconds, hours blur.
A rocket, launching through its scaffold tube
toward uncertain height: the stages jolt,
the fuselage is creaking; will this cube
survive the forces, keeping every bolt?
A lottery, six strangers huddled tight,
an intimacy minimal and safe,
until it dawns on you with primal fright
that nothing makes the other ones behave.
     The Bible speaks of chariots and sky;
     no word of elevators when you die.

image: flickr - f-l-e-x

Thursday, August 12, 2010


by Gideon Burton

the other thoughts the ones that get away
from you like tadpoles slipping from the jar
and wriggling out of reach in marshes far
from grasping fingers just too hard to stay
some things as slippery as the frightened prey
that scuttles from its predator bizarre
how some things stain and stick like smoking tar
while others turn to ash and float away
in rhythms of emotion through a code
I cannot start to crack but how I think
I think I know enough to sense the flaws
how some of it though cooked is always raw
despite my charcoal vigilance it winks
at logic routing through its golder nodes

Image: flickr - tom.hensel

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sinking Metaphor

Sinking Metaphor
by Gideon Burton 

The ocean like a ragged fabric scrapes
the passing vessels, coral-clawed and cold.
It's just a running metaphor that shapes
the currents of my thoughts as they are rolled
from stem to stern, at odds with what is level,
with anything that's docked and roped and sure.
Oh, I could try another one less beveled,
and it would work until its edges blurred
into cliche or quaintness. Look, the storm
approaches (outside, inside, both). Am I
prepared to leave comparisons so warm
with frigid drownings, whales and birds and sky?
     Whatever freight of figures sinks inside,
     you grapple it for all drowning ride.

Image: flickr - Lrn2Go

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unscrambling Chaos

Unscrambling Chaos
by Gideon Burton

However tightly I compose these lines
of verse, however densely sewn the meter–
though sealed hermetically, the thought confined–
the center stuff breaks free, its soul far fleeter
than I can compass with a sonnet's rope.
But still these rhythmed strands I weave again,
and yet, escaping well beyond my scope
of rhymes, clean past the fences of my pen
quite out of bounds, like water sunrayed free,
the sense defies the "water" "sun," and "ray."
The words I use I find are using me,
and nothing, like a breath, will pause or stay.
     Like iambs I will breathe with even stress,
     unscrambling chaos with this wordy mess.

Image: flickr - alles-schlumpf

Monday, August 9, 2010

After Angel

After Angel
by Gideon Burton

It's not the way the angel startles you:
you wake to wonder how long she has waited,
her envelope of gossamer, of blue
aurora borealis, flowing, weighted;
her eyes as patient as the bright abyss
that opens, light as hair across a cheek.
It's not her message, nor the hum nor hiss
of silence afterwards. It is the bleak
and crude attempt to fix her in the mind,
to memorize the scent of rushing waters,
to set her down in symbols so confined
to pygmy pigments, syllables that slaughter.
     The ceiling sinking upward as I stare;
     my breath too fast to guess how to compare.
Photo: flickr - flash200

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Suspended Rain

Suspended Rain
by Gideon Burton

Unevenly, perhaps, but in the wet
of darkened summers comes a thrumming beat
beneath the evening crickets–not a threat,
a coming nearer, as though heavy feet
would stamp the moistened petals, shred the air
with thunder breaking, dying on the hills
beyond our vision and beyond repair.
And yet it balks, it falters, loses will,
exhales innocuous in pattered drops
to tickle sidewalks, freshen flowers full.
We'd hoped to feel the rushing without stop,
the charging of a hundred hungry bulls.    
     Bring back to me the edge of summer rain,
     each cloud a liquid martyr, bleeding, slain. 

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - Voyageur Solitaire-mladjenovic_n

Saturday, August 7, 2010


by Gideon Burton

With shredded halos sunrise dews the grass.
The crickets sleep; the starlight yields to mute
pastels that curtain earth with airy mass
as yawning birds uncase their throaty flutes.
No hovering moon to freshen lovers’ sighs,
no cloak of blackness hides their furtive hands.
Whoever wakens early, wakens wise,
yhey say, as though a partner to a plan
as flowing cool as milk between the berries,
the ones that tartly wake me with the juice
of finished rest. The haze of sleeping tarries,
enough to put imagined worlds to use.
        The blurry threshold's vapored with the dawn;
        yet slowly from the night to day I'm drawn.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - aussiegal

Friday, August 6, 2010

Vox Dei

Vox Dei
by Gideon Burton

I know He uses whispers, quiet signs
that give both space and time to take it in,
to weigh the word, or let its weight begin
to ballast me, to tether me with lines
of patience woven through His odd designs.
I've known that voice, a breathing on the skin,
a steadiness when other forces spin,
His prints of peace by which my world aligns.
But there are forces in His throaty calls,
however placid surfaces appear;
deep wells of thunder underneath the calm,
and I am riveted by molten spears,
and worlds unweave, and every heartbeat stalls
until my face feels scars within His palms.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - the trial

Thursday, August 5, 2010


by Gideon Burton
an imitation of Shakespeare's sonnet #30 (below)

The memory is not so dear a friend.
What's passed, not past, but scoring fresh the skin
of tender thoughts, disquieted and bent
to know the present scabs to be so thin.
For I have laughed with friends who now are mute
and wasted in the greedy earth. However close,
receding, sinking down beyond the roots,
beyond the teary mist that from me flows.
And I have mourned, not only for their passing,
but that I let a moment's hesitation
divert me from forgiveness I was asking.
There might have been a reconciliation.
   And yet one friend I brazenly did seek,
   who brings me back from reveries so bleak.


Sonnet 130
William Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - Lohb is back...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Language of the Sky

The Language of the Sky
by Gideon Burton

Forget the patterned ink that stains your books;
you need to learn the language of the sky,
to read the streaming evening as it cooks
the creamy cloud banks till they steam and fry
in silent streaking amber, clots of felt,
inverted seas of textured, tissued fire.
You need to parse the colors as they melt:
the code for ochre as the light retires,
the cues for blue vanilla made opaque,
for indigo, for charcoal's smeary smoke.
You need the signs and syntax for the ache
remaining, how to throttle absence cloaked
by moonless midnight, tightened like a scroll
in hieroglyphics only God controls.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - burnblue

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


by Gideon Burton

With rowing force she oars across the sea
Of twilight, launches toward the deeper dark
That cannot mask a visage pocked and free
Of beauty’s hues, vast surface pale and stark.
And yet she swims in freedom, single, pure,
This roaming eye commanding watchful looks
That hangs so barren, navigating sure,
A sextant sage, no need for map or books.
She is so open, demigoddess bright
Yet coyly in her phases hides her face.
She asks to be first in, then out of sight.
In love with her, we fear her witching gaze.
        Perhaps to stare too long might drive me mad;
        If so, in her insanity I'm glad.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - d.norwood

Monday, August 2, 2010


by Gideon Burton

Creation was five billion years ago,
and it is yesterday, today, this minute.
No grand explosion needs to start the show--
not when this crafting force is infinite:
this pulsing yearning ordering desire
arrayed in elemental air and fire
or grounded in our food or our attire,
cascading deeper, spreading wider, higher.
The code for DNA, a napkin sketch;
a galaxy of lights, a microchip;
an ecosystem's flow, a mason's etch;
a dance, a waterfall, a robot's grip.
     Bring element, bring order, bring design;
     we stitch or draft in shades of the divine.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo: flickr - katiescrapbooklady

Sunday, August 1, 2010

After Miracles

After Miracles
by Gideon Burton

The spectators of miracles divide:
the ones who reason everything away;
the ones in fearful awe who run and hide;
and others who, beholding, sink to pray,
who tell their children, Wait, remember this,
remember on those cold and bitter days,
or when confusion casts its numbing mists,
or sun or moon withholds their warming rays--
that we were present when He showed His face
and raised our feeble spirits from the dead;
that we have known unmeasured tender grace
from what was seen and heard and softly said.
     To treasure light, to share its burning peace,
     compounds the wonders that have never ceased.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Photo:flickr - cayusa