Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Window

Winter Window
by Gideon Burton

I have been watching at the window, still
enough for tides of moonwash moistening
the cooling glass, the slowing hours, the still
arranging silences. I'm listening.
Above in bloodied trails hot comets score
the flimsy fabric, screaming light. But no
unwintering, no auguring the core
of cold, no pause against the piling snow--
this flow of every evening, evening
to one, to waiting at a window framed
with stains of weary wonder hovering
in something said, in something pure and named
and washing me or watching me or spilled
and spelled with mercies tendered as He will.



Image: Creative Commons licensed through Flickr - Randy OHC

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Provided For


creative commons licensed by James Jordan

Provided For
by Gideon Burton
after D&C 78:17-18:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
What copious abundance, ready, set,
awaiting and prepared by Father's hands
but hidden to your little eyes: the grand
and great, the fishes heavy in their net.
Too little, children, yet to see or bear
the rush of grace, the hush of others' pain,
the cresting crush of deserts' sudden rain,
the blooming flush of flesh in fresh repair.
Yet I will lead and cheer you, find your way,
will clear the tangled knots and smooth the road,
will coach and calm and cry and seek and pray.
In joy await: the kingdom keeps for you,
eternities that surge and swirl and flow
in blessings, riches -- quiet, promised, true.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Long Division: A Story in Sonnets #1

Well, I let myself have a bit of time off after completing a year's worth of daily sonnets. The inertia of that regular composing created a rhythm that was hard to break, though, so the last couple weeks I've been in withdrawal. I'm still toying with the idea of trying to tell a story through a series of sonnets. Maybe this could be the start of one.


Long Division: A Story in Sonnets #1
by Gideon Burton

"It's different now," she said, her downward glance
confirming everything: her shift of tone,
as though a sounding bell shook loose their trance;
her calm, as though time bleached a desert bone.
He reached for words, but not for words, he trawled
the murky shallows for a passing trace
of certainty to anchor to. He called
upon a past or future in her face,
a plot line rising from that almond curve
her closing eyes defined, though shutting, wet;
an answer or a question that could swerve
toward assurances; some golden net
to braid new bravery. "I'll take you home."
Then he would wander, sinking, mute, alone.

Photo: flickr - Michael Heilemann

Monday, February 28, 2011

Finishing my 365 Sonnets Project

Well, today I'm finishing a year of posting one sonnet a day. This is something I did once before (not posting them to a blog, but composing one sonnet daily for over three years, between 1998-2001).  I've drawn upon some of those earlier sonnets to supply this round, and I've also occasionally featured a classic poet's sonnet, or a sonnet by one of my students. But by and large, it's been my own new creation every day since February 28, 2010. (Here's the full index in case you're interested).

Many of these sonnets have been imitations (43, in fact), with my major topical categories going to religion (75) and nature (46). Some 19 have been written to or about my wife (my "uxorious" category) and another 5 about marriage. Many of my sonnets are reflective (25), philosophical (32), or even abstract (21). But there are also some 25 humorous sonnets, often about food (21). You can see the full list of tags on the side of the blog.

I just added the Popular Posts widget, something that if I'd put up earlier might have changed some of my writing choices. How do people find and read this little niche blog? Hard to say. Why do some sonnets get read more than others? A puzzle.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Squeezed Muse

Squeezed Muse

by Gideon Burton

I've taxed her limit; this I will admit.
Each day I've wrung her robes for drops of light,
for music (when I wasn't feeling it),
for anger (when I didn't have the fight).
At times she has refused me, made me walk
in blind unrhythmed prose, inert, and blank.
At times the waters burst my writer's block,
then calmed their froth so I had strength to thank.
I've found that one can tame the flighty sprite,
can summon depths and heights that she had hidden.
If I am brave to fail in black and white,
she takes me up the paths that once she didn't.
     A year of writing sonnets, one each day,
     I've squeezed my muse until I've heard her pray.

Photo: flickr - WilWheaton

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Untied

Untied
by Gideon Burton

as well as things already loosened, this
among the others, doesn't matter how
precise, how even, every word's a kiss
I've blown in tattered threads of here and now
and anyway so little time contained
(one hundred forty syllables, in fact)
and every one dissolving, unretained,
a sieve of slipping symbols, squared and racked
and raked into a sort of order, signs
and seasons, times and moody moods, complaints
and praise all knotted in the bones and spines
of stanzas, rhymes, and reasons-- so much paint
to gloss the larger rhythms out of sync,
the what and how of how and what I think...

Photo: flickr - mbgrigby

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wilderness

Wilderness
by Gideon Burton

Against these pools of matted dust, this crush
of wet and sliding light, anatomized
by tongues of broken rock, betrayed by lush
anxieties, so many terms revised
in sallow solace, tiled thick with grout--
Among these errant molecules devoid
of plain geometries, the spoils of doubt,
congealed to alkaline too well deployed--
Within this wilderness, this silent wreck
of cactus skin, unspined and greening smooth--
It's simple, really, once the backward trek
to gray conclusions furrows out the groove
of coarse reproaches, edging with their gild
whatever frame of insolence we build.

Photo: flickr - IceNineJon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moguls

So here's the thing: I'm a skier. I ski better now than I did 20 years ago, and it's because I make time for it and I get better each season. I used to stay away from mogul fields like this one, but now I can't wait to take them on. Today I skied some moguls just like these. They were afraid of me -- or so I like to think...
Moguls
by Gideon Burton

The mountain wall a powdered canvas, white

and waiting for the skiers' serpentine
impressions. Every turn a stroke, a light
suggestion framed in crystals frozen, fine.
As deeper grow the grooves across the day,
the moguls come, like sleeping beasts whose backs,
exposed, emerge as though to block the way.
A challenge I accept, and I attack:
with scissored switching, sharp, between the mounds,
I turn, I turn, descending, faster, bounce
and carve, push off, rotate, reverse around,
then pause a breath before I downward pounce.
     What once were obstacles of danger, dread,
     now pound my heart with blood a richer red.

Photo: flickr - random_matt

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fall Faster, Night

Fall Faster, Night
by Gideon Burton

Fall faster, night, whose breathing, breeding stars
arrest the pride of over golden day.
The liquid cinders' crimson fades to dark
agreement as the final embers fray
then tear, dissolving to an indigo
of silence, sealing up the tardy west.
Resume at once your vast procession, slow
and arching from the ocean to the crest.
Suspend the pendant moon for just awhile,
as though to let the oily tinder light
the mat of lesser stars. Their threads compile
to thatch with silver hair the spinning night.
     This long rotation eases east and slow
     when I would faster feel the heavens grow.

Photo: flickr - ezz_eddie

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sing to Me

I'm very lucky because I'm married to someone who cheers many people with her beautiful voice. Sometimes, it's the only thing I want to hear.
Sing to Me
by Gideon Burton

Build evenly with phrases made of sound
more pure than silent moonlit winter nights.
Construct with smoothest linen tones, with round
and moistened vowels your reply. In bright
hosannas or in humming whispers make
for me redeeming chords to crash and flow
as rivered springtime runoff coldly breaks
in halo sprays. Give me this way to know.
Let words dilate to thinnest wisps of vapor,
for it is but your voice I will attend.
Give up all eloquence, all pen and paper;
your melody sustain until the end.
     Perform this service, sing to me in song;
     compose me whole, with music, softly strong.

Photo: flickr - karenmburton
(used by permission)

Monday, February 21, 2011

There Will Be Fries

There Will Be Fries
by Gideon Burton

Tonight there will be fries, and fries aplenty.
I'm driving to McDonald's with my craving.
I'll get three orders, four -- or maybe twenty.
In vats of ketchup soon we will be bathing.
Don't talk about the salt, the clogging fat,
my arteries constricting with each bite.
Shut up about the carbs, enough of that!
I'll gobble up some more just out of spite.
So savory crisp, deep fried to beige nirvana,
each one a blessing from the fast food gods.
Like bits of meat tossed to a starved piranha,
I will devour all these starchy rods.
     Wolfed down while driving, lest their heat is lost,
     there will be fries, or Daddy will be cross.

Photo: flickr - shazam791

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Squinting

Squinting
by Gideon Burton

Where ends the world or where it all began,
disorder thick with order, dark with light, 
from primal chaos, womankind and man.
How tardy comes our story, squinting sight,
but eagerly we chart the eons, scan
the atoms, reading genes and comets, dazed
at each continuum, minute or grand.
More magnitudes extend the cosmic maze.
And yet, however vast our growing scope
we close parameters by reasoned thought.
What are those worlds we've chosen not to note
insisting systemed knowledge as we ought?
     Our ignorance compounds as knowledge grows;
     for good or ill, for now, nobody knows.

Photo: flickr - kingarthur10

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Unencumbered

Unencumbered
by Gideon Burton

Our things are weights, are tethers, hobbles, dense
and mute and brutally inert. They keep 
beyond their keeping, adding new expense
to store, maintain, or lie about in heaps.
I love a home, an auto, or a sweater,
but only as they serve and not enslave.
And letting go, I've found, is often better,
prepared by less to ride the rising wave.
The art of living well is living lean,
preserving an agility for change,
a willingness to clear the clutter clean,
to nothing spare so God can all arrange.
     The tools and tangibles that we require
     are throttled more by purpose than desire.

Photo: flickr - The Hamster Factor

Friday, February 18, 2011

Safe Rage

Safe Rage
by Gideon Burton

Be angry, find and spill your blackest bile.
Complain as though I wished you were more shrill.
Burst into tears and beat my chest at will.
Condemn, accuse, while shouting all the while.
The storm will thunder, then its winds will pass
You and I will still be lashed together.
Best lovers love who weather every weather.
And I am ready: let your lightning crash.
I do not need a reason for your rage--
the world is thick enough to vex the best.
And as emotion rises to its crest
Return and act your Oscar on this stage.
     Our marriage is your harbor, refuge, port
     where we will turn each tragedy to sport.

Photo: flickr - incubos (adapted)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chance and Choice

Chance and Choice
by Gideon Burton

A world of chance and choice, a plane not planed
of splintered barbs except by dragging skin
along the slow progression of the limned
and matted surfaces that are the main
and staple places where we wait, we glare,
we weep for items lost to time or dust
with all the other traffickers in rust.
I'm hopeful that my children may still dare
another course less crooked than the one
I fell to with such hungry, biting blows.
And yet I can still sense the saving snows,
still sort the tangled rays of distant suns
that speak to me in pulses not so mute
as careful to reward my patience crude.

Photo: flickr - scott.tanis

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love and Saturn

Saturn's moon, Daphis, tugs at particles in Saturn's ring and creates ripples. The moon's shadow is that spike at lower right, but the disrupted particles, above the plane of the rings, leave shadows too. The rings are only about 30 feet thick, Daphis is about 5 miles across. (Tom Harnish)
Love and Saturn
by Gideon Burton

As though an errant comet came so close
to Saturn that it skimmed its glowing rings,
then plowed a rippling wave across those rows
of fragment moon shards-- hear the gases sing
as methane ice and iron scramble bands
of colors into graying clots of rubble,
igniting sparking embers in the grand
rotation which for eons knew no trouble.
So you have come, disrupting all my patterns,
disorbiting me with your fiery force.
I dart about like Mercury, not Saturn,
and everything is suddenly off course.
     Astronomers in gaping awe are jealous:
     if only those who loved them were as zealous.

Photo: flickr - TailspinT

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gravity: A Love Story

Gravity: A Love Story
by Gideon Burton

Attraction, bodies, falling -- and a force
one can defy but nothing can resist.
The pining moon, she loves the earth, of course,
and tides will moonward move as though to kiss.
What is that secret substance: matter, mass,
that static stays and yet exerts its draw
upon all other matter, either vast
or microscopic? Gravity is law,
and yet is irresistible, as though
its firm inertia were a godly love,
no matter all the crushing deadly blows.
It knows the depths, full measured from above.
     I sink in grave compression on the ground,
     and muse upon this pebble I have found.

Photo: flickr - katiew

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rebound

Today on her blog my wife posted a sweet valentine's story about her failed love and her true love. I'm the second one, happily. Her story is an interesting one. She was engaged to a fantastic guy; but it just wasn't right. I'm the rebound.


Rebound
by Gideon Burton

what happens is you find the world is hard,
that things you thought would stay dissolve and leave,
that people you have loved can leave you scarred,
that there is always time enough to grieve.

what happens, if you let it, though it's slow
and indirect, is providence, is grace,
divinity so subtle, yet He knows,
and finds you as your hoping starts to waste

what happens is imperfect, yet enough
to stoke the embers of your dimming light,
another comes whose had his share of scuffs
yet when you are together, dark grows bright.

Rebounding all our lives from constant shock,
resilient as our fingers interlock.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alchemical Romance

Alchemical Romance
by Gideon Burton

Dark transformations of the primal matter:
through water, air, through fire and through earth,
from lead to tin to silver, up a ladder,
through mercury, iron, copper -- golden birth.
Much more than metal: archetypes and glyphs,
or aqua vitae from alembic stills,
hepatis liquor with its mystic whiffs --
experiment's arcane and cosmic thrills.
From blackness, primal matter, chaos wild,
the yin and yang of substances to jar;
according to the cosmic Emerald Tile
comes quicksilver through roasting cinnabar.
     With secrets alchemists help nature's pace:
     while she perfects in slowness; they, in haste.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Precessions

Precessions
by Gideon Burton

A liquid in the liquid, flow on flow
on gossamer, the dark and cooling milk
in circling syllables of winding silk,
the current's currency and what it knows
of dissolution, hot and fainting snow
of disaffections, loose and layered silt,
a ribboned helix, smoke and softened guilt,
a distillation of the planet's glow
along meridians and waning primes,
the transpositions sifted in the slowed
precessions, dimly thickly wet.
The liquid's liquid, moistening the time
in lapping paradoxes crudely mowed
in patterns now repeating past regret.

Photo: flickr - Horrgakx

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Marriage is a Mystery

A Marriage is a Mystery
by Gideon Burton

A marriage is a mystery,  a ruse
of one-as-two and two-as-one, a rune
inscribing and deciphering, a loose
complexity, a symmetry attuned
to order and disorder, bending time
apart and back together as we sink
and rise in changing rhythms, sense the climb
of years and children, feel the ways we think
combine, contract, and overlap, and yet
in knowing more the knowing morphs to fresh
amazements: Have I ever known you? met
the woman-mother-friend when these all mesh?
     I cannot fathom either us nor you.
     I only know the mystery is true.

Photo: flickr - jnarin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dawn

Dawn
by Gideon Burton

Oh, yes, but even quieter: a tone
composed of woven starlight, dim and old
and slowed between the galaxies; a zone
not silent but just warmer than the cold,
a place of waiting, patient, like the stone
that sleeps within the pyramids; a fold
across the atmosphere, a broken cone
of twilight where the vespered prayers are told.
Oh, yes, the beat of aging hearts, the bone
that keeps the tissues whole, the liquid gold
of porous hours as you walk alone
along the seashore as the tide is rolled
     toward infinities you number, sewn
     with every vision tasted, touched, and known.

Photo: flickr - hsunaqua

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Out of Prism

Out of Prism
by Gideon Burton

As though I were a dark and sandy waste
that pressured proof had furnaced -- watch me melt
into a fragile glass, unshaped, unfaced,
but knocked to shards. It is the way I've felt,
as though this scrap of brittle crazy glass
lay muted till the quiet, steady rays
of sunlight touched my edge and through me passed,
in prism colors wedging through the haze.
What's this? Somehow unwoven, whitest light
refracted in the fragment, spilling blue
and orange, ivory and green. My sight
dispersed across a spectrum, seeing through.
     Opaque with peace, this had not been my course,
     without the heat, the melting, breaking force.

Photo: flickr - jcburns

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grades: A Vituperation

Grades: A Vituperation
by Gideon Burton

I'm measuring the measuring today,
and find it falling short; it doesn't pass.
For grades are monuments of brittle clay,
and yet, a sacred idol for my class.
A sign, a sign, some certainty I'm good
or right or done with what one needs to do.
For once I know I've done all that I could,
I'm positive that I can say I'm through.
A teacher must give feedback, true enough,
must gather data that he can report.
But grades are weak; true learning is more tough,
yet students seem to prize the lesser sport.
     How much I wish to give far more than grades.
     As they grow great, too often learning fades.

Photo: flickr - Dread Pirate Jeff

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cold Cereal

Cold Cereal
by Gideon Burton

Cold cereal, my morning's grainy ration,
why must you sog so quickly in your bowl?
Your sugar melts, your fiber loses passion
(unless dyspeptic hurry is my goal).
Allured by spongy marshmallows or frosting,
I yearn to savor flavor, feel the rush
of icy milky sweet, each crunching costing
a heightened timeliness for fear of mush.
Nabisco's shredded, Cheerios expire,
and Special K limps dull and ordinary.
For milk's a solvent, taming crunch and fire
with strength to squander, terror in the dairy.
     If ever I can feel it firm and fresh,
     I'll know at last I've bought the very best.

Photo: flickr - jek in the box


A former student of mine has done his own remix of this sonnet. Check it out , "A Grainy Test" on his blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Before Newton

Before Newton
by Gideon Burton

Before we knew the measuring, before
the calculus of gravity, when mass
was celebrated, not inert, when more
was known through silent mysteries unasked--
The cosmos turned along the axis, earth,
the sable silent ether held the stars,
which smiled or frowned at every human birth,
and few there were who dared to pause and parse.
Astronomers have architected breadth
and depth, unclasped the boundaries of space,
and to old verities have handed death,
with dust and radiation in their place.
     How easily the heavens lost their grasp
     When little man thought he was big to ask.

Photo: flickr - Lynn (Gracie's mom)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Stream

Stream
by Gideon Burton

The pebbles underneath the quiet stream,
like coins, like treasure, paving cold the length
of whispering water from the brook. It seems
I cannot touch them. I don't have the strength
to pass a hand between the curtains back
to childhood, wading in that water's surge,
just slow enough to place a leaf and track
its nimble voyage till it crossed the verge,
that grate that swallowed everything within
the corrugated throat beneath the road.
I slipped and fell there once, a taste of sin,
bone cold beneath the water as it flowed.
     And yet, the sunlight winding through those trees.
     And yet, I taste that water by degrees.

Photo: flickr -Mandie-

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Perfect Bodies

In Perfect Bodies
by Gideon Burton

The morning of our common rising -- new
again to muscles, organs, breathing, bones,
and all about us those the ages slew
and greater powers raised from sandy loam,
immortal, freed from time's severe demands.
How old am I if wrinkles cannot gauge
my decades? Will grandfathers be as grand
when hobbled into youth's more shallow age?
Perhaps in mercy we will still retain
the aches, the handicaps, the marks of grace
through which we learned to speak a Savior's name,
through which we worked, and wept and ran the race.
     Oh, do not wake me young and strong and fresh;
     perfecting only works through faulty flesh.

Photo: flickr - HelpAge

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love and Time

Love and Time
by Gideon Burton
after Shakespeare's sonnet 73

Though great with green the trees were sheared to bones,
their knobby joints in silhouette like ash
against the greying winter sky, cold dome
of twilight. Time, for me, is cruelly cached
behind horizons, cooling in the seas
that empty to oblivions beyond
the west of night -- now sinking by degrees,
now sealed in rest, now slowing till its gone,
no more in fiery-embered springtime spark,
no more in citric tongue-tart liquid flow,
expiring as a single day turns dark,
now faint, now fainter than all mists we know.
     No way to stop the time nor stem its flow;
     we love with passion all we must let go.

________________________________________

Sonnet 73
by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Photo: flickr - JimmyMac210

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Garbage Truck Apocalypse

Garbage Truck Apocalypse
by Gideon Burton

A parable: You lie there in your bed,
half-sleeping, half-awake beneath the sheets,
a distant birdsong breaks the fog, it spreads
in broader swaths along the morning streets--
no bird, perhaps a train, the far off rumble
in rhythms punctuates your waking drift.
Then suddenly, you flee your bed, you stumble
in instant panic, just next door the lift
and slam of trash truck limbs has emptied all
the neighbors' refuse while your can remains
unmoved beside your house. In shame you haul
your can across the street. Ah, waste, ah shame.
     This is the sinner's end, or so it seems:
     jerked waking, unrecycled, unredeemed.

Photo: flickr - katypearce

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sign Seen

Sign Seen
by Gideon Burton

Then comes the signal -- not the one you'd hoped
would beacon something better -- yet it comes,
as though you hadn't watched and waited, scoped
the landscape, felt the seasons tightly spun,
the layered hours numbing you, your eyes
gone dry and red and stinging, blurring, wide
in fright to miss a comet crossing skies.
And yet what comes is what you want to hide,
to dampen, chasten, fasten, bring to rights.
Where is the fog uncurtaining the land?
The sunrise cresting hills with sudden light?
The trumpets heralding arrivals grand?
     You mark it, know it, wishing otherwise,
     the sign that you must welcome and despise.

Photo: flickr - exoskull

Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Light

Snow Light
by Gideon Burton

I think this time the snow was made of light
itself. Perhaps, if I may speculate,
when sunrays linger in the starry height
between the moon and time grown late,
they shudder in the cold of blackened time,
then shakes themselves to crystaled shards of ice,
to frost more delicate than autumn rime,
to flaking whispers, grains of hollow rice.
For as the quiet snow began to fall
today, it seemed to have no weight, no mass,
no juicy core to squeeze into a ball.
No sooner held, it disappeared as fast.
     This snow was never water if I'm right;
     it came from star fields dense with shadowed light.

Photo: flickr - IceNineJon

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seeking the Good

Seeking the Good
by Gideon Burton

All lovely things and virtuous, the white
inside of light, the sting of sweat, designs
that angle gravity, the binding bite
of interlocking fingers, laughter lines--
All things of good report: a budget kept,
a double-windsor tied on first attempt,
a flaky crust, a long jump deftly leapt,
a child from heaven's mercy not exempt--
I see the more I seek the more I see
that everywhere and everything and more
is more: the world in messages for me,
a refuge, message, comfort, pleasure, store.
     I look to see fresh subjects for bright praise,
     and warming oceans wash me in their waves.
    
Photo: flickr - Phil Strahl

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Perfect Language

A Perfect Language
by Gideon Burton

So tense with time, conjoined to circumstance,
whatever nouns you name or verbs you voice.
We feel in chaos, think by music, dance,
in subtle hues, in sudden shades of choice.
Then come these crude stiff knobs, these waypoint cues
made up of rough-hewn syllables, designed
to traffic code, but we all know the ruse.
We know, and yet to words we are resigned.
And yet, though thin and spent, though prone to fraud,
to fashion and to fashioning-- they work.
They play, they pay fresh dividends though odd,
and often something holy in them lurks.
     The perfect language is the one you use
     in faith that somehow, something will ring true.

Photo: flickr - Joris Machielse

Friday, January 28, 2011

Will I Remember?

Will I Remember?
by Gideon Burton

Will I remember? Gushing waters burst
in splintered roaring force, the firmament
reverberating, echoing, disbursed
in seismic shuddering, in permanent
expansion, rushing winds that heat and spin
the layered atmospheres, the heavy weight
of silent certainty. Can I begin
to name the hour, wield the flux and freight,
the liquid ministrations poured in thick
remissions? Tides of burning waters wash
away the blackened sands, a whitened wick
threads evenly, a filament, a floss
too fine to see, new salt in newer seas.
Will I remember, hushed, on bended knees?

Photo: flickr - stuant63

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thy Mind, Oh Man

The fifth of five sonnets based on the life of Joseph Smith. See the headnote to the first sonnet for details.

Thy Mind, Oh Man

by Gideon Burton
after a passage from Joseph Smith

Thy mind, oh man, must stretch to every height,
toward the thrones of gods that are these stars,
beyond the mountain splendor in our sight,
to touch that destiny He promised ours.
Thy mind, oh man, must widen to that depth,
that press of salt and blood that Jesus knew
within the core where heat and cold are kept,
beside the beast that dying Jesus slew.
My mind, oh God! salvation to behold,
eternities to span and lives to bear,
in vivid vision, truth to truth enfold
upon these vast expanses mutely stares!
     So Joseph, searing prophet, suffering light.
     So we, in burning vision, darkness white!

Photo: flickr - Rosemary McKevitt


Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. —Joseph Smith

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Faith of Joseph

The fourth of five sonnets based on the life of Joseph Smith. See the headnote to the first sonnet for details.


The Faith of Joseph
by Gideon Burton

How dread those powers gathering the night
around the groaning globe! as though to slow
the rolling waters (quiet in their might)
of truth restored. How Joseph knew the blows
of hateful Satan hissing at his light,
betraying him, assaulting him! Below
indignity, defamed with spit, with spite,
he kept his sight despite the starkest woes.
He kept his vision while he kept his cell,
his liberty within the prison bars.
The Savior, suffering long, had taught him well
the blacker night is, brighter shine the stars.
     "My God!" he cried at Carthage from that hell;
     the faith of Joseph, rising as he fell.

Photo: flickr - More Good Foundation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Smith of Souls

The third of five sonnets based on the life of Joseph Smith. See the headnote to the first sonnet for details.

The Smith of Souls
by Gideon Burton

If nothing more, Elijah in our hearts!
He turned to God and God to him returned
the promises, the fate for which we yearn:
our generations never need to part,
our fathers' fathers, sons beyond our sons;
our daughters' daughters, mothers to the end;
divided families unbreaking bend,
all life returning where it had begun.
A prophet, sealer, binding us in time
for us to profit, welding hoping hearts
to an eternity of joy, to start
on earth our backward-forward forming line.
     The smith of souls, our Joseph, freely taught
     that families link by link are kneeling wrought.

Photo: flickr - 4nitsirk

Monday, January 24, 2011

Translator

The second of five sonnets based on the life of Joseph Smith. See the headnote to the first sonnet for details.

Translator

by Gideon Burton

The gold was grayed and cold; the plates were thin.
What mystery lay captive in their runes?
His fingers, asking, traced them to begin.
Would history unlock its darkness soon?
Embalmed within the metal, robed in glyphs,
the absent millions whisper from the past;
He scans the ancient scrawlings thick with mist
until their shadows dawn in him at last:
Each thought, unwieldy first, he hefts with sweat,
as though ideas were metal: heavy, dense;
He assays words in dozens, weighed then set,
as heaven trains His prophet, seer, and lens.
To craft the words, to tell each symbol's pith,
the seer-apprentice fashioned, Joseph, smith.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Vision

A few years ago, at the bicentennial celebration of the birth of Joseph Smith, I was commissioned to write the libretto for a series of five tenor solos composed by David Sargent. This was performed in late 2005 with Lawrence Vincent, tenor soloist and Scott Holden, pianist. I enjoyed working with the composer, who was more than happy to deal with a five-beat line. So, over the next five days, I'm going to post the five sonnets that I did for that occasion. If I can dig up the recorded music, I'll post it here, too.

First Vision
by Gideon Burton
from "In Burning Vision: Sonnets on Joseph Smith" (2005)

It had been raining, softly, through the leaves,
as though to clean the elms, the forest floor,
to douse again the April earth that heaves
its greens to bluest heaven--pleasant chore.
Unlike the sweat and dust of farming days,
the breaking of the sharp, unyielding soil,
to plant again, to hope for warming rays
that sleeping seeds may feel them and uncoil
to burst from shriveled darkness into light,
as though to answer heaven's calling sun
who visits us with columns of his might,
who gives us knowledge pure where there was none.
     It fell to Joseph Smith as light, as rain:
     First, vision, tiny root of godly gain.

Photo: flickr - Aquistbe

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rays

Rays
by Gideon Burton

Like sun rays angled in the water, bent
within the denser medium, aslant
in uniform refraction, sideways sent--
so stirs the breath that hovering heaven grants.
I read the rays outflowing, flooding mass
of lighted warmth as clear as they are grand,
but stumble to retrieve them when I ask
to feel them gathered in my outstretched hand.
Yet to my left and right (as ripples flow
in spiral webbing, pulsing through a pond)
the liquid light connects me in its slow
and even echoing of things beyond.
    I still my voice, make small the din around;
    I listen, touching silence, where He's found.

Photo: flickr - Marty.FM

Friday, January 21, 2011

Illumine Me

Illumine Me
by Gideon Burton
after opening lines from Milton's Paradise Lost

Within this soundless depthless darkest waste
beneath an icy ocean's ashen tide,
a turning, mute, and just enough to taste
the casting moonlit motions shifting wide;
a cry, redrafting in the half light, please,
a dare to open skyward one desire,
the foam up rushing, downward by degrees,
reflecting amber in wet-embered fire--
illumine what within me lingers dark
or anchors low raise up, support and steady.
I've watched in waiting, stoked this hunger stark,
I've faced the broad abyss, and I am ready.
     Oh, God, creator, stir again thy might
     and raise my verse, my eyes, above this night.

Photo: flickr - bbluesman

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Drowning

Some friends of ours lost two adult children to drowning not so long ago. I still can't wrap my head around it all. It is haunting.

A Drowning
by Gideon Burton

you wake you gulp slap surface sink you kick
just why the dark the salt the cold the cramps
you bend below cough up the sand the prick
of sickness seizes cloudy pressures clamp
and shake you kick and sink and slap you tire
how long remains how long so far no fight
no shore no more you cramp convulse the mire
of melting mud and muck ascends to bite
your numbing limbs slow treading sink and churn
the froth and seaweed strands that slide and wrap
what's left you choke you heave the throaty burn
and just how you got here what ship what map
you are that distant dimming swimmer tossed
to fetal fatal falling chilling loss


Photo: flickr - andy castro

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Veil

Veil
by Gideon Burton

For eons an existence without end
until an end, a goal, a destination,
and to that spinning wanderer descend
toward fantastic futures, higher stations
the other side of birth and work and sense
and senselessness by groaning grace and strife.
Condition: we would not have the defense
and comfort of that rich, receding life.
For modesty, a veil, a way to hide
all beautiful security -- our past,
our billion friends. The smoky cosmos glides
before our planet, bound by forces vast.
     Eclipsed, cut off, oblivioned in flesh,
     we face the veiling sky, we pray, we press.

Photo: flickr - .Andi.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Impatience

Impatience
by Gideon Burton

This bore, this augur, drilling down to tap
a primal vinegar, a bile, a dread.
Infinities stretch out across the map
confused with aching, black inside of red.
It starts with a fixation: this I want
and only this and these my only terms.
The thing then proves to be an endless font
of disappointment burrowing, a worm.
How keen the mind: secure and insecure,
to never waver, spiraled rhythms down
to what is dark and hard and yet so sure
to haunt, to trap, distract you till you drown.
     If we can name the thing for which we wait,
     it proves and idle idol, switch, and bait.

Photo: flickr - tobym