Martin Burke










Suggested by Gérard de Nerval’s sonnet “El Desdichado”



And remember, you shall suffer all things and again suffer, until you have sufficient sufferance to accept all things





To the point of irreparable beyond any consolation

Like some second-rate prince abandoned in a tower

Above which the stars are dead and within which

All instruments are tuned to melancholia


Grave-dark, yet no grave will console me

Nor memories of mountains facing the beloved sea

Nor can flowers offer the merest healing

And the rose upon the trellis displeases me


Give me one of four names –I don’t care which

For none of them matter –only that she….

There, in the grotto, where the mermaids swim


As for death’s river –well, I’ve crossed it

A second-rate Orpheus imitating songs learned from the dead

That the living might live on in my heart



Ah, so this is the much-vaunted freedom.

Endlessly reading the same book only the bees have questions about

My answers as if they were answers

Words meant to block out words and invite others words in

And time laughing take as much as you want

Take what the flowers take and be as they are-

Open to the winds of a speechless moment

That has so much to say.




I do nothing else

The living, the dead, the thousand details which are only the beginning of existence

The days of love and the days of loss

Latitudes crossing into longitudes

Something about a white hat on a certain beach on a hot, very hot day

The jovial women, the jocular boys, the laughter of the sexes at their inter-play

Then the ambulance speeding by with siren and flashing blue lights

The quick interpretations of such details, assigning them categories of good or bad, or evil

Death entering because there is no way it can be excluded


Intractable, implacable, and not even the refuge of a cliché allowed

Praising and cursing coming out of the one mouth

That mouth open with an animal cry

That mouth open with an unending howl.



Nor have I given the world anything to remember me by nor even to regret not knowing me.

Sociable to an excellent point so that even those who know me frequently scratch their chins and ask each other who was that fellow I was just talking to?



Fire and darkness have gathered against me

See – life’s’ conspirators are on more than speaking terms!

Venom has entered the race

Even the sun has proved itself to be false when most needed

First the promise then the betrayal of that promise –why should I be surprised?

Fire and darkness have achieved what they set out to

A dark moment germinated in their dark hearts and this is it

From a stone-slit in a tower of stone I see the fire and hear the gathered thunder





Yet for a living utterance like a meteorite, bright but not inherited, I’d scuttle every province under my command


I’d throw my cities and possessions into the assault against darkness

And if there only remained one moment fit for a troubadour song

I’d insist I’d got the better of the bargain


This is as close to prayer as I’m likely to come

A form of understanding not dependent on knowledge but only on being exactly what it is without wanting to be something else


Where even to say this is to achieve a passive lucidity


Ah yes, to live in the moment so as to live beyond it –the universe like a paternoster endlessly passed over by fingers counting the beads to their certain conclusion of acquired grace even if not felt nor understood


Ah yes, my homeland –constructing its borders but leaving a gap in its stone wall, the bleeding tree at the center, not a word of which I’ll interpret for you but allow you to enter or leave as you please


At the most one or two cryptic citations will mark the route for you –words not my own but words like shards or shrapnel from the sky


So walk but walk slowly because wherever it is you started from you cannot say where you’ll arrive



Yet as irreparable as this world is what else can I love with any certainty?

And if creation is no more than a deity’s best dream of itself

I’ll none the less release all the caged birds of this tower


As if from an impure dream I might waken to shards and blobs of the sky

Falling like meteorites of fire upon my lips.






















Martin Burke is Irish but has lived in Belgium for over twenty years. His work has appeared in World Order, Analysands, The Lilliput Review, Drunken Boat, Snakeskin, Poetry about Poetry, Other Poetry, Transference, Arts Dialogue, Virtual Writer, and others. This year he has published two books: The Other Life and The Weave That Binds Us.

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