Sunday, October 31, 2010


Lately I've enjoyed getting reacquainted with old friends in different ways and places, and each time I've stretched a little to do this it's proven very satisfying. I end up wishing I'd been better about staying in touch -- especially with early friends. That's what's on my mind here.

by Gideon Burton

The things that circle back to us, as though,
imperfect, time repents in spiraled shame,
embarrassed that forgetting isn't tame
enough: some things will stay although they go.
As time accelerates a ballast slows
ephemera, the scale of loss reframes
and we are offered more than just the names
of losses; something pushes back the flow
as though a smothering blanket over sleep
is kicked away: old friends are friends again
but separated from the claws of place,
unfixed and fluid, living at a pace
more rhythmed to a better rhythm's end,
the tidal shallows dredged to layers deep.

Photo: flickr - Ed Yourdon

Saturday, October 30, 2010


by Gideon Burton 

In ripping ribbons melted into mist,
to clotted cloths that stanch the evening's wound--
these quiet clouds delay the sense of soon,
then vanish into blackness, slippery-brisk.
There's virtue in the waiting, and there's risk:
I could forget the shaping of the dunes
whose crackled craters pock the gliding moon,
indifferent to the smoothing eons' tricks.
It circles round to us in quiet waves
that press our porous blushing memory
in furrow folds upon the bending back
of aching atmosphere. Just what behaves?
The sky is metaphor for memory:
so vast, so fluid, bruising blue with black. 

Photo: flickr - shutupyourface

Friday, October 29, 2010

In Mighty Prayer

In Mighty Prayer
by Gideon Burton

In mighty prayer, soft-pleading past what voice
what kneeling hours in soft petitions task,
my mouth gone dry rewetting all I ask,
my mind in wonder at each mindless choice.
Yet I recall that surging silence, moist
with gracious rain, dissolving every mark
and pretense: peace so full it could not last.
But I remember still thy stilling voice
in mighty prayer not desperate, a beam
of laser-lancing focus, tight, intense,
returning, sober, seeking, thanking, mouthed
and slurred and shouted, spun across my dreams
and waking, waiting for my Healer Friend,
my God, so sudden visible, so loud.

Photo: flickr - Kara Allyson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Man of Sorrows

Man of Sorrows
by Gideon Burton
after Isaiah 53:3-5
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
A man of grief, my God, a man of sorrows.
Despised, rejected, stricken, unesteemed.
My God, my every pain He borrows;
My fault, my wounds with lashing stripes redeemed.
I hide my face; He finds the peace I've broken.
Iniquities in thickening array
Chastise my peace like damning words I've spoken
With lips rough-red from scraping what to pray.
Yet He, afflicted, opened not his mouth;
Yet He, gush-wounded, speaks to pray for me,
Black-bloody shocked, forsaken, bleeding out,
I see Him, I can see Him seeing me.
     My peace chastised, my sorrows growing tame;
     My Jesus whispers quietly my name.

Photo: flickr - teejaybee

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Well, I'm teaching my Civ course about Modernism this week, so in the spirit of T.S. Eliot, I offer this little bit of broken glass.
by Gideon Burton

My new compulsions, splines along the wet
enamels chinked with squares of rust. The bells
like scabbards rattled by the tongues we set,
a bolt of ringing muscle, firming, swells
the consequence. And yet the skin of drums
grows supple, bending to the water’s thrum,
the wake of resonance both red and dumb
and anywhere more wordless, silence spun
of coffee pot tableaux, a pear or two,
a cloth crocheted to link a web of holes
against the varnish, buffed and glowing through
the murky crags that clog the cooling shoals
along the banks that edge the yellow sky,
so well machined the tides both sing and sigh.

Photo: flickr - morgantj

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet #133 - Multimedia Remix

One of my students, Ariel Szuch, introduced me to a version of one of Shakespeare's sonnets that was so compelling that I wanted to share this on my blog. It's sonnet #133, whose central image of a prison is taken as the master metaphor of this animated simulation. Here's the poem, followed by the video.

Sonnet 133
by William Shakespeare

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in my gaol:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Sonnet 133 | The new Media with Shakespeare from on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reading Rekindled

Reading Rekindled
by Gideon Burton

Though books have been my constant friends these years,
and sit as sentinels upon my shelf,
their payments rich yet fall into arrears
as I've discovered other realms of wealth.
Though sober with their thought and steady weight,
though filled with sentiments and speeches sound,
my books are monologues whose steady gait
runs even over life's uneven ground.
And yet if I will share the things I read
before the world of readers found online,
I find that their responses plant new seeds
and make my reading socially refined.
     Alone, we come to much but often trouble;
     I'm grateful there's escape from reading's bubble.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Thresholds

The Thresholds
by Gideon Burton

Events conspired to carry me toward
that seam of sky hemmed tight along the crest
where heaving greens touch cloudscapes. Can I soar
above the summer, let my breathing press
fresh indigos and stain my waiting eyes?
And as the sunward-reaching foliage stakes
its weight along the red-black earth, unsize
the curved horizon as the eager ether cakes
with sedimentary mists until the break,
the edge, the terminus of airy space?
Could I return, unable not to shake
from all that's charged my skin and stinging face?
     I watch. I'm still. It rushes to my reach:
     the thresholds, gusting time to close the breach.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


by Gideon Burton

Attending to the wounds again. The sky
undressed unclotting, losing moons. The sea
congealing, thatching thick its womb, its sluice
of sudden signs disgorging magma sighs,
the gorged and gouging constellations speed
to dissolution, marked and marking loose
parentheses, apologies unfit
for numbered sparrows, preening pawns, for us.
This bandaging the hemispheres, this small
absorption, mist along the cheek, this spit
and clay and mealy middle blindness, truss
and timber, crucifix and shepherd's stall
and all the sodden sympathies again.
Be this, be here, be whole, the veil is rent.

Photo: flickr - murphyeppoon

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sovereign Sea

Sovereign Sea
by Gideon Burton

It rules us all: the ocean. Thick with hair,

with oily condensations of the moon,
with tides that rise and ebb and rise as soon
again as soon as molten mortars can repair,
oblivions of viscous tissue, red
in tooth and time and claw. And yet the breath
of certain mornings (cool against the crest
of sharper whispers) bind the brackish dread,
undrown the buried skies, unfold in piece
by sudden piece the wrinkle-pattern rain,
enough to stitch a garment over pain,
to summon sailing ships to thread the breeze.
     As heavy as the settled mountains’ sleep,
     it governs, widens, cold and dark and deep.

Photo: flickr - Mohan S

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Night Sea

Night Sea
by Gideon Burton

Compose a fresh redundancy for me
as I await the weaving of the hues
that play along the quiet ocean's smooth
opacity. I think I'm ready to agree
to such rehearsals and the odd degree
of leniency: the hours find their groove,
their pulsing pulses till it doesn't move.
And suddenly, the night swells up the sea
until the tide's horizon bursts the edge --
perimeters transgressing and transgressed --
crustaceans, galaxies, and sandy shoes
enmeshed in cooling currents, summer wedged
between my yawning and your cotton dress.
It all repeats, the evening with its ruse.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


by Gideon Burton

This wobbling mass, the wandering way of it,
the spinning, whirling on this windy wet
and island place, this globe, this fleck of spit,
perfecting what the vacuum can't perfect,
revolving through the comets' arcing lanes.
The Local Group, the spread of sputtering lights
too distant, quiet to collect remains
of errant gases, rocks. These are the rites
effected, bead thumbed after bead, the chant
of rhythms muter than the oldest span
of cooling lava underneath the land
oblivioned beyond our woman-man.
The ration carved, remainders multiply;
a future past our waking, though we try.

Photo: flickr - Brian Finifter

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Night Belief

Night Belief
by Gideon Burton

The tide of night must spill its inky brine
across the bleaching desert, conjugal
with rivered vinegars of rain. As time
unbinds, as darkness sends the animals
back to the inner caves, as blank
horizons blanch our certainties, as grains
of oxygen now dampen, heavy, rank
with humid resignation, as the stains
begin their sluggish peristalsis, wet
against our broken skin, as dust and mud
amalgamate, conspiring past regret
while stars attempt to navigate the blood
that films the upper bubble -- we believe
a little, sleeping as the desert grieves.

Photo: flickr - Gary Hayes

Monday, October 18, 2010

By Darwin's Grace

By Darwin's Grace
by Gideon Burton

Survival of the fittest has survived,
but is it fittest? Does it fit the facts?
For isolated species, watch it thrive,
explaining how selection plainly acts
to favor some, while others' numbers thin.
Yet other things survive besides a species,
and many things expire though they win.
The theory fits if fitting things in pieces.
An adaptation presupposes change
is challenge. Is it? And mutation holds
that there exists a standard well arranged,
despite the lack of a priori molds.
     How natural that Darwin made selection;
     that "fittest" facts survived by his election.

Photo: flickr - w.wabbit

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Resolve

Fall Resolve
by Gideon Burton

I have too many days, too many skies
let go (attuned to antiseptic walls
or gaudy pixels easily despised) --
whole sunsets, clouds in pastel waterfalls
that etched in silence canvases of awe;
the silken weave of waning summer nights.
How could I face away? What wicked claw
has snared me in its clutches, as the bright
fluorescence of an August evening passed
into the mellow hues of breezy dusk?
So quickly fades the summer season, fast
upon us falls the winter, empty husk.
     The western sky has summoned with its shades;
     I’ll compass its dark glow before it fades.

Photo: flickr - joiseyshowaa

Saturday, October 16, 2010


by Gideon Burton

Sometimes –– I cannot reason how it comes

to this when all is wind within the wind,
a swirl of molding leaves as I sit dumb
inside the knotted storms of time or sin ––
and yet sometimes it comes to me, a whole
no noise dividing can undo, no crack,
no bruise, no splitting chaos to the soul ––
a something pure, no sagging split, no lack.
Is it a song? A wisp of air come clean?
My parents with their arms of peace and strength?
For no embrace could be so firm, so lean,
to have, to hold, till sleeping comes at length.
  No questions will I shore against this gift
  That heals me, chasms spanned to breach the rift.

Photo: flickr - Mooganic

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kiosk Fiends

Kiosk Fiends
by Gideon Burton

A rack of scarves, a little cell phone bling,

a bank of sandals, bumper stickers, dolls,
some rows of cute stuffed animals or rings.
These used to be the kiosks in the malls.
No longer, now that convicts are employed,
who dare you to decline their free massage,
accosting you until you are annoyed
with stuff you wouldn't hide in your garage.
I've seen poor shoppers caught within their snares,
compelled to be strapped down in torture chairs
for dental whitening in their kiosk lairs
while teens and neighbors pass with smirking stares.
     Stay back, you hucksters with your spritzers cocked;
     the next troll that approaches will get clocked.

Photo: flickr - wisefly

Thursday, October 14, 2010


by Gideon Burton

The clouds erase. With every breath or gust

they scrub the oxygen, their tendrils plumb
the height of light, inhaling sailing scum,
their dark armadas roar with blunting thrust
against the mountains where they spill the dust
in rainy sluices, mashed with dirt and dung,
their thirsting hunger licking land with tongues
of thunder flushing raw earth's rattled crust.
The clouds erase. Not cotton rags with moist
persuasion, dabbing loosened airborne crumbs
in lazed surveillance, coasting to a clean:
sky-scourers, deft in vinegars unvoiced.
I'll face these hoverers till I succumb
to their ammonias, glazed in laundered sheen.

Photo: flickr - QuietDangst

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


by Gideon Burton

He brings Mr Briggs into my Lord's chamber, where almost one quarter of an hour was spent, each beholding other with admiration, before one word was spoken. At last Mr Briggs began, -"My Lord, I have undertaken this long journey purposely to see your person, and to know by what engine of wit or ingenuity you came first to think of this most excellent help unto astronomy, namely, the Logarithms ..." [source]

Those geometric series are insane!
Unlike the simpler arithmetic sort,
where patterns of addition stake their claim,
these others soar in exponential sport.
But through the engine of his native wit
John Napier contrived a handy cheat:
with ratios he discovered he could fit
one's multiplying into adding, neat.
The products that were daunting in their mass,
deflated in simplicity of sums.
More calculations now within their grasp,
astronomers could map the cosmos' suns.
     A few simplicities so clear the ground,
     that worlds emerge where none before were found.

Photo: flickr - Marcin Wichary

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Things of God

The Things of God
by Gideon Burton
"The Things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." --Joseph Smith

If in my two score years and few one thing

(perhaps of all my thoughts the soundest yet)
I'm certain of: the ignorance I bring
in widening arcs -- yet nothing to regret.
As wiser I become I lose my place
so often in those softened theorems I 
had thought were permanent. So little trace
remains of mastering the earth or sky.
I am a walker underneath the waves
of eons intricate with lore untried.
I hardly know how anything behaves --
much less the cosmos boundless, black and wide.
     The things of God -- I shudder to behold;
     too green to fathom fathoming so old.

Photo: flickr - Carl Jones

Monday, October 11, 2010

Throttling the Digital

Throttling the Digital
by Gideon Burton

When I consider how my life is spent

in tasks and topics no one ever guessed
(and no one now can really circumvent)--
I wonder if I'm cursed or if I'm blessed.
Displays of liquid light whose flowing rush
of images and words confound my eyes,
perplex my time and vex me with their crush
of wonders mixed with much that I despise.
If it were simply simple to unplug
(and doubtless this could serve a healthy turn),
but printed paper's champions are too smug,
to think the factory's better when it's burned.
     No doubt to throttle digits is an art.
     So I will pause, reflect, revise, restart.

Photo: flickr - Filin Ilia

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Art of Prayer

The Art of Prayer
by Gideon Burton

The asking that outlasts the asking, knock

and seek and wait and search the cracks of day
for remnant revelations in the spray
of minutes measuring the spinning clock--
The burn of yearning, learning how to lock
that ache to see to know to feel to pray
in underwhispers pressing through the grey
and weighted waiting for the lifting fog--
The purge and clean of desert hungers set
and settled, finding sweet each droplet spare
and clear enough to know that in the air
so sharply dry suspended moisture mists
if we are still, if we are small, if wet
with thirsting we can feel the Spirit's kiss. 

Photo: flickr - Nikky Stephen

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

Two sources of inspiration for today's sonnet. First, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's classic sonnet #43 ("How do I love thee, let me count the ways..."). I've copied it farther down. It is a tour de force. Look at how Browning makes you breathless as you careen from "depth and breadth and height" into those next lines, then pulls you into the aching of religious longing. Sweet. But as I began to write the imitation, Browning's sonnet got bumped as I began thinking of my own love. Today we spent time together, and life was very good.

How Do I Love Thee?

by Gideon Burton
after Elizabeth Barrett Browning (below)

Oh, I could start to count the many ways:
make breathy lists that spill into the ache
and awe of elemental longing; wake
my master metaphors whose spangled rays
I have reserved for rousing purest praise;
arrest all eating, sleeping, working, break
the beat of daily business for your sake--
Oh, I could start to count so many ways.
But as I pause my pen to gather strength
I hear you humming, as you often do,
and I remember how you love to sing.
and I forget the width and height and length
of all the counting I might do for you,
if words could summon what your singing brings.

Sonnet 43
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Air Sweet and Thick

Air Sweet and Thick
by Gideon Burton

The air is sweet and thick, like mangoes juiced
and pulpy, orange-red, the clouds like strands
of sugar dangling hot and laced and loose
along the farthest mountains, tracing grand
solemnities in silence and in rust.
The air is warm and oily like the crush
of ripened olives salty with the rush
of Italy. The sky is haze and must
and tired breathing, sticky on the face.
The autos swim, they push the currents’ flow
around the sluggish globe as breezes trace
new patterns condensations couldn't know
in this retreat. I tongue the metal wind,
absorbing acids thick as time is thin.

Photo: flickr - Mike Joa

Thursday, October 7, 2010


by Gideon Burton

White bullets rain from angry clouds whose grays
give way to frozen earthbound drops of rain.
No cousin to the softer flake, its ways
are sudden, shearing, aiming well for pain.
Observe their frantic dance upon the grass,
as though the pellets landed in a rage
that they had pierced no steel nor broken glass.
Each dart a devil, earning Satan’s wage;
the petals of petunias shred and tear,
and all those cars now pocked with tiny dents,
and people bruised who do not denim wear,
and even pharaoh softens and repents.
     A storm of hail, the heavens drop the sky;
     With little, icy jaws our flesh can die.

Photo: flickr - peppergrass

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


by Gideon Burton

In time there isn't measure, though we square

oblong infinities with stark precisions:
the nesting seconds, minutes, hours -- bare
and clean as mathematic's cold divisions.
Machines keep time so well that we pretend
that sequenced order orders very little.
The spiral-cycled years both flex and bend,
elastic in their folds, or thinly brittle.
As I return I find the things that time
declared were evanescent, lost as mist
against the sunrise or that steady climb
of heartbeats calming in a moment's twist.
     A bright tableau defined with finite names;
     time is an organ that reorders change.

Photo: flickr - Andy Saxton 2006

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Crickets' Code

Crickets' Code
by Gideon Burton

I hope you'll wait with me; there's more to tell:
Each pulse and hush of Autumn rhythms down
the Wasatch canyons, breezing aspens swell
their flat medallions, amber evenings drown
the western facing mountains rippling red
in crevices of leaving leaves, the cool
of air sustains the time we thought had bled
to Winter weariness, unwinds the spools
of muscled hurry, welcomes us to slow
reception of the crickets' code conveyed
across the dozing decades in their flow
of seasoned seasons, quiet and unswayed.
     I told you it would come. Now watch it pass:
     a fallen golden world strewn on the grass.

Photo: flickr - //amy//

Monday, October 4, 2010


by Gideon Burton

A world appears and disappears. Observe

the cosmos blush and crest and burst alight
with radiance and night. The comets swerve
and circle, suns grow dim in embered flight;
they turn, returning, churning fresh the coal
reluctance of the waving curtains' mass, 
deep wells of gravity and time. A bowl
of water quivers, blue and brooding, vast
enough for microbe mammoths, insect whales
and here and there an eon like a tide
flows ebbing, ups the ante and the scale,
geographies and centuries collide.
     Then man appears and lingers for his day,
     and in a hiccup vanishes away.

Photo: flickr - TimOve

Sunday, October 3, 2010


by Gideon Burton

Like crabs with pincers pulling others down,
the fashion is derision: none survive
who rise to stand for God. Oh, see them drown!
Authority, through mockery, is scarce alive.
But I have known them, heard them: quiet, strong.
The steady ones whose firm convictions need
no polish. They are they whose prayers long,
whose hushed obedience, whose constant speed
to minister (and in the Savior's name)
have fashioned keen conviction, eyesight clear;
whose diligent repentance, single aim,
conditions them to seek and see and hear.
     And I have witnessed wonders in their eyes,
     And carry this conviction as my prize.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


by Gideon Burton

Be plainer as you state what you desire.
Go deeper than a wish to feel relief.
What are those things that stoke that inner fire,
which shine with simple joy of pure belief?
Say everything, then sort out all that glows
with purpose, heated by the peace and calm
of recognition. Something in you knows
the handle isn't far; stretch out your palm
and let directions drive you as you act,
not puzzle you with thinking over-thought.
No need for maps to be all that exact;
no worry if you're headed where you ought.
     He will not let your earnest striving waste,
     for God respects decisions made in faith.

Photo: flickr - Rob Warde

Friday, October 1, 2010


by Gideon Burton

I met a man who told me once that he
had met his highest aspirations. All
he'd ever wanted he achieved. To see
the dimness in his eyes, I knew some fall
some tragedy had undercut the joy
he should have had in his accomplishments.
I hoped my asking him would not annoy,
attempting just a modest blandishment.
Confessing quietly, he said he'd lost
the trust of someone dear through some betrayal,
and nothing he had won was worth that cost,
despite appearances in his portrayal.
     All things to lose and yet keep sacred trust:
     a treasure that's immune to thieves or rust.