Poetry: Inevitable

Not like the way lovers waited
for the end of the war
but like the motorcycle brake
waited for the tire,
the way the tire wanted to feel
itself struggling not to get stuck in the sand
and the way the asphalt craved summer’s heat
at the same time as the tire’s compression.

Even the rain desires to be wanted.
Gravity falls short of satisfying its thirst
but the world needs both whether or not either is fulfilled.
The rain makes the road wet in the middle
of the night, but I needn’t open the window
to know the special sounds of the tires compressing it,
for I have spent many sleepless night listening
as the inflated rings failed to engrave it with sonnets.

A girl once said “I guess” when I asked her to date me.

In that moment I knew exactly how the asphalt felt at night.

Wedding Season, Part 1

I guess you could say it’s my favorite time in my life.

Sure, I’m between moves, and sure I’m technically homeless until I land my next job as a journalist (though I am staying with my parents, it doesn’t count as “home.” More on that some other time).

But tomorrow, I get to attend a wedding.

It’ll be only the second one I’ve been invited to and the first I’ll have attended because of prior work commitments which kept me from attending the other one.

The wedding is between two great people I know, one a dear friend who I took multiple English classes with. The other is her hilarious future husband, who’s comments on the wedding’s Facebook page crack me up to no end.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a wedding.

To me, as a practicing Christian, there’s really no celebration more meaningful except perhaps a baptism ,but I’ll leave that one up for debate for now. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, these two amazing people have been led to each other, whether that be by God, the stars, or “mere circumstance” and have decided to commit to being life-long best friends. Tomorrow, when they take their vows, they will commit to that, before God and country and witnesses.

Two people have fallen in love.

Despite all of the chaos in the world. Despite all the evil and darkness humanity sometimes seems to bring upon those who seek to be or do good. Despite the tendency of so many people to serve as naysayers to nearly everything. Despite it all, they have found light in each other.

They have fostered themselves as people, fostered themselves spiritually, and started to learn to foster each other. And, what is more, tomorrow they’ll commit to keep working at it. They’ll commit to keep enjoying it sure, but even more, they’ll commit to keep working at it.

That’s a special thing. It isn’t a commitment everyone can make, not one everyone does even when they have the opportunity. But tomorrow, Lord wiling, the world will become a little bit better because of the joy they have found in each other and the courage they now exemplify.

Can there be a more joyous occasion?

I somehow doubt it.

Poetry: The Specter Of The Tarantula Wasp.

Keanu Reeves once as a character said
his biggest fear was quicksand: At first everything
is going fine then you make one mistake.
And another. And another.
You try to fight back
but the harder you fight the deeper you sink until you can’t
move, can’t
breath.
Like quicksand.

Such it is with love.
A beauty of metaphor that allows me no peace.

The specter of solitude haunts you.
Follows you. Lurks
in the shadows behind you.
As you take the solitary walks of shame
you’ve always taken,
whether at the base of Fort Bliss or the side streets of the Little Apple.
The ones you still take with alarming regularity.

You feel it: Solitude’s breath.
but you can’t do anything about it.

Love’s optimism beats through your veins
like a tarantula’s blood.
Love is the heartbeat.
Faith in Solitude’s eventual banishment is the organs.

Solitude itself is the tarantula-wasp.

You fight it when it first attacks
in your youth. You try not to let it get a hold.
You feel your first kiss like the tarantula feels when its jaws
grab hold of the deadly insect. You feel your heart flutter
with joy, with excitement, with the youthful optimism you might
live. And not just live, but life carelessly.

Love: the noble but flawed aspiration to simply take care and cherish another
is all that’s ever mattered. That solitary desire
has clung to your DNA like the spider now clings to the hope of life.

But just as quickly as you feel your first kiss
you feel yourself let go. You feel the wasp
wriggly free with haunting power. Your jaws slip
though you know you’ll die if they do. You try to will them
into holding. Into not make the single mistake
of insecurity.

But the wasp is already free.
And just like that it’s over.
Solitude stings you, and begins to drag you
paralyzed but still with a long life ahead
To its dark layer.

You already know what’s coming next. You also know you’re powerless
for all your strength, to prevent it.
So you try not to resent yourself for your failure
and brace yourself for the pain you’ve caused yourself.

The tarantula was drags you to its hole.
It stings you a second time, this time, leaving in your abdomen an egg.

You count your mistakes during the initial fight
like the lonely count their failed relationships. You feel
its larva: the idea of never being all you’ve ever wanted
start to consume:
Your optimism.
Your idealism.
All from the inside out
even while you’re still alive.

You chase away friendships as the larva starts to grow,
you lose confidence when you get a divorce,
knowing that for a split-second you had all you ever wanted,
and all you had to do was stop yourself from chasing it away
and you failed to do so.

You feel your heart, nerve, and sinew start to betray you
the way Kipling warned you never to do if you wished
to be have all the world, and everything in it and what was most
to be a man.
You lose all of it.

Until one day, one minute, one instant,
as you feel solitude’s larva about to consume the heart of your belief,
you realize God is watching, and you must be stubborn.
You decide to savor each breath and simply enjoy that you can breathe
however painful and tiring that may now be.

You take long walks
alone. Enjoy the architecture and the clouds.
You look longingly
at the wedding processional at Saint Isidore’s,
at the old couple, hands embraced, taking their own walk.

You look longingly at them, remind yourself
of the lyric you once learned, even though you didn’t have to, from Aida:
“I shall not envy lovers, but long for what they share.”

Then slowly, like the tarantula as it takes its final breath
you close your eyes. But where the spider now accepts its death
you set your heart to accepting your life
and somehow decide to keep eagerly waiting.

Poetry: The Heart’s Memory

Absent friendship is bittersweet
at nighttime.
The way the sun feels in summer in the middle
of the night, with the humidity, the warmth, and the echoing sounds
of darkness, and silence interrupted
only by police sirens.

These things tantalize us, remind us:
of our frailty, of our vulnerability,
of our desperate need to courageously embrace
solitude.
Yet they remind us love can exist
even when friendship ceases, is chased away, is awkwarded
into nonexistence.

Long after the sun has set,
Long after the protection of presence
has faded like the sun over the horizon,
and the elegant hue of intellectual, loving conversations
should have long ago faded from memory,
still Love can remain.

Still Love can echo what the heart wishes it could remember.

Unpacking Baggage, and Celebrating Swiftmas

In my senior year of high school, we performed a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice. It was called “Aida,” and its score entranced me so much that I ordered the bloody thing.

I have it to this day.

Song number one of the musical is called “Every Story Is A Love Story,” and this morning, I can’t stop thinking about that line.

I hear the recording of the original Broadway cast singing it. I haven’t actually heard the song in what must be at least six years. Still, it won’t be silenced within my head.

A couple of nights ago, I lay in bed in the dark. I had been doing something occasionally common of late: dwelling on my frustrations at romances lost.

I was deep in thought. About all the times I had messed things up. About all the times I had lost friendships by suggesting they become romantic. About all the times I let romantic relationships go too far only to eventually fail for other reasons entirely, and about all the times someone had simply chosen someone else.

The hobby of trying to figure out where I went wrong or what it was about me that made people shy away had become a favorite hobby, on par with dancing, and far surpassing poetry.

Yet as I lay there that night, in an empty room on a queen-sized bed in a basement apartment, a softer, gentler voice from somewhere deep within spoke up for the first time in a while.

“When are you going to finally let me unpack?”

It was the better part of me speaking, the hopeless romantic and optimist who I’d long ago exiled somewhere accidentally, and it was finally back, returning from exile like Napoleon.

As I lay there, I remembered something: carrying around baggage doesn’t help anyone, least of all us.

And that’s why I have to write this today.

To some degree, every story really is a love story. Every interaction we have, regardless of sexual preference or affiliation with the other person, is a page in the way we treat others. When the Bible tells us “Love your neighbor as yourself” it does not mean “as long as you can be with that person romantically.” It means period. It means “take care of one another.” It means “trust one another, build one another up.” “If I don’t love, I am nothing” does not mean that the person who dies single at age 120 lived in vain, unless they never took care of those around them.

Every story is a love story, with or without romance.

Still, on a more personal level, I realized the other night it was time to unpack. I was sick of carrying around regret and sorrow at things that had failed.

I will no longer remember the wrongs or the failures. I choose to remember only the lessons and, above all, the hope of finding her, my “one,” who these lessons have prepared me to love every bit as gracefully as she deserves.

Muddled together in the suitcase of my past life had been clothes I ruined on the chaotic seas of my previous adventures into romantic love. Clothes of personality traits that I wore until they no longer served to assist or protect me from the hard winds and cold rains I had battled and, at times, danced in.

But mixed among the ruined clothes of my memories were the mementos of the lessons I took from each. Not sorrow-filled or sadness-affiliated ones; just… happy ones. Sure, my heart had been sore at those I lost, chased away, or had to be left behind by, but hidden among all of those memories, once I decided to unpack them all and stop dragging them everywhere with me, were little gems of hope.

My first girlfriend in college introduced me to the soundtrack of the musical “Spring Awakening.” I’ve never seen it, but one lyric from one of the songs comes to mind:

“Those you’ve paid, they carry that still with them. All the same, they whisper ‘All forgiven.'”

This week, as we look ahead to the holiday season, I encourage you to take a second and unpack. We all have it, and though I’m certain I’ve unpacked all of mine, I know someone reading this likely has baggage they aren’t ready to unpack yet.

That’s OK. All I’m saying is remember to go easy on yourself if you haven’t found your “one” yet, especially in a season during which everyone around you might appear to have everything you’re still looking for.

In a season full of holidays that include probably getting new clothes, let us wash the clothes of our memories clean and hold on only to the helpful lessons, the mementos, of that which we’ve left behind.

It’s “Swiftmas” everyone. On this day 27 years ago, a girl was born who, as a child, would write some of the truest literature about love to ever be written in any language.

Don’t forget to love a little childishly today.

Let me know if you need anything.

Influenced Into Life

I watched this

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fanonews.co%2Fvideos%2Fvb.997108126967413%2F1207466685931555%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

Then wrote this. 🙂 Enjoy.

A Poem

Someone told “You write great
love poems.” Today she said this.
Doesn’t count much for the memoir
sitting unwritten, demanding
my attention on my desk.
My teacher won’t allow it.
Too recent.
But can a person write well
about love anyway? Can they
encounter something so frail,
so delicate, so failing, so easily amused
yet so easily threatened and distracted
and threatened by distraction? Can we
write so well, even in lines of verse
or American vernacular?

But I’m a romantic. How could my memoir be about anything
else.

🙂

Proclamation.

On the morning of the opening performance of Springdance 2016, I woke up with a horrifyingly sad, exciting, terrifying realization. The date: April 1st, 2016.

The realization: I can’t let this end.

This camaraderie. This teamwork. This rush you get from it all.

Forget the performing. Every true performer feels that. The way you feel when the lights are off but the curtain comes up with you holding your shape like a statue, eyes burning with energy in the darkness while the audience waits eagerly to see you and your teammates, your peers, your fellow goddesses, illuminated by the lights from the wings of the stage. Forget the performing. Forget the way you wait on the lights to rise, to ignite the fuse of desire that runs from them straight into your soul, causing it to leave your body and transpose itself on the stage through your movements.

Forget that. Everyone feels that.

The rush I’m talking about is very different, it’s the rush of the process. Of auditioning, of making it, of struggling through choreography that you’re determined to get but that you never really nail until the final two dress-rehearsals; as if your mind possesses the same blazing hot competitive fire the best professional athletes are known for. The fire that dictates that, when the moment is crucial and everything they’ve ever worked for falls upon their shoulders and a single, solitary moment, they come through seemingly effortlessly.

I’m talking about the rush of casual, sweet conversations with the beautiful dancers backstage. The casual jokes about the week or the way the assistant stage-manager looks “adorable” running across the stage. The joy of dancing with people. Of doing something that at times can be so solitary but is inherently social, even to the point that you know you never actually dance alone, even if you have a solo, because people in the wings and people around you love what you do because you do it.

In such a competitive world, that’s a beautifully dissonant concept. And it’s one I’ve been so blessed, to the point of being spoiled, to be a part of.

On April 1st, I woke up and realized how bitterly sad it was that I only had these two, and next year’s two, Springdance performances left. I woke up and realized that, ok fine, these things have to end eventually. Time, after all, waits for no one. But damn it if that means I have to stop performing, or at least stop trying to.

Because here’s the thing: Such sadness, matched with the joy of making so many friends through rehearsals and short conversations, can overwhelm the heart. It can do so to the extent that you realize you need to change how you live because of how special it all is.

Even if it changes, even if what we feel is just the naiveté of college dance and in the real world it changes to the point of being totally unrecognizable, the very fact that it existed at all makes it worth seeking for all eternity. Makes it worth fighting for for all eternity.

Makes it worth creating anew in the case it has gone extinct or been forgotten.

In a way, I suppose that’s what Love is, isn’t it?

I guess what I mean to say is simply this: I want to dance for the rest of my life. Not just as something that supports my running-life, but maybe even professionally.

And I know my dancing peers would say that might be a bit “ambitious,” maybe outright “insane.” I get that, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against me. All I’ve got is passion, the desire to work hard, and some of the best friends and teachers on the planet who are willing to put up with my inexperience and help me mosey along.

Yet so many have told me they disagree that I’m “wasting my time.” So many have told me to go for it, from those I have known closely to those that I haven’t known at all but who I have still bounced questions off of randomly (like I did to one former professional-ballerina who lives in the Boston area). I get it; I’m not a great dancer yet. I started old (at age 24). I’m a dude in a girls’ sport. Hell, I’m a straight dude in a predominantly girls’ sport, which can make things even more complicated. There’s a lot to navigate both socially and physically (as an athlete). I have so far to go to get to any professionally-respectable level.

But when I woke up that morning, I realized that what we’ve done, and what we were doing, and what we did, were all I wanted from life.

So I’ve spent the last few days contemplating. Now, I’m ready to say it:

I’m going to get good.

Not only will I keep dancing, I’m going to push myself athletically and make that my focus so that maybe one day, I’ll be good, or, even crazier, “great.” And, by “great,” I mean good enough that I can land a low-level gig performing. Certainly teaching, but maybe even performing.

If nothing else though, I’ll never stop auditioning. My love and passion for it, my unquenchable craving for it that I can’t restrain, won’t allow it.

Athletically, I’ve always been a long-distance runner first. Today, I’m announcing that I’m going to change that up and become a dancer first, and a runner second. Not because I don’t like running, and not because I don’t love runners, because I love both.

But my soul burns with icy desire to be a better dancer, to help those dancers around me, to inspire the world that way.

I was put on this earth to tell stories. I can serenade everyday citizens with my poetry and can seduce poets into reading long writing segments with my prose.

Now though, I want to learn to do it with movement as well. I always did, but the other day, I learned that this is inescapable, and, because it is, I need to give it absolutely all priority outside of my writing, even to the point of sacrificing my emphasis in something I’m good at, like running.

So perhaps I should reintroduce myself. I am Shelton Matthew Burch. I am a Writer, and I am an aspiring Tap Dancer.

I train to be the best storyteller and athlete possible, both through writing and dance. Athletically, I choose to be a dancer first. To support and thrive at running, but to use it to support the endurance needed to dance so that I might inspire the world not just with my words but with my movements. I strive to become as flexible and strong as an olympic-level athlete, but with the endurance of a competitive half-marathoner.

And, above all, I seek to glorify God through my excellence in both. This is what I chase. This is how I serve, and this is who I will be. 🙂

Have a great day everyone. 🙂

My Perception Of Love Is My Character’s Flaw, Not My Poetry’s

I have seen a princess charge toward the G.I. who knelt before her, grab him by the collar, pull him to his feet, and say “No! We are equals! You will stand WITH me.”

I have often seen the tenderness of love exemplified this way.

Something that bothers me is how often my poetry is criticized for being “overly sentimental,” or “cliche” or “ignorant of the way those you’ve lost have hurt you” regarding the idea of love and those I’ve been that close to.

Blame me, not my poems, for that.

For it is a flaw in my character ladies and gentlemen. It is not limited to my poetry. Poetry merely translates the tongue of the heart. If that’s the language of a fool, then so be it.

For I am mature enough to know how tender and vulnerable love can be. I have been hurt through it in ways I hope none of you ever have to go through. I have put my heart through a lot by caring for people as freely as I do. Make no mistake: I know full well how painful and destructive the aftermath of love can be.

But I refuse to blame love for that.

Morning Reading Nov. 24: Ghosts and Going Barefoot

Normally, when I get to the poetry in my morning readings, I start with the final poem of the day before. This gives me another chance to digest it, in case I missed something or was too overwhelmed by the beauty of its ideas. Normally, I’ll read 3-10 poems in a morning after that.

Not today. Today, I only got through two.

The first poem of today’s reading is fantastic! I think I may need to take a few days in the winter just to analyze it and focus on it alone. Anyway, after that happened, I read the next one, expecting something lighter and less mind-blowing. 

Instead, I got a shorter poem that rocked my world even more. I think tomorrow I’ll go back and just read these two poems again. There’s so much to each, I may be able to spend three legitimate days just quoting and thinking about these two alone, which I will probably do, because that will be fun. 🙂

Expect nothing from diligently doing what you love, and it will give you more than you ever imagined possible. :). Here are some of the quotes I loved the most :).

(Note: /’s denote line breaks, which I include out of respect for the poet since I cannot figure out how to single-space text here manually at the moment).

“I try to see in what is left of the light down there / the two I was. The ghost of the boy in high school / just before I became myself. The other is the ghost / of the times later when I could fall in love: / the first time, and three years after that for eight / years, and the last time ten years after. I feel / a great tenderness for all the dozen ghosts down / there trying to remain what they were.” — from “Becoming Regardless” by Jack Gilbert

 

And the other, which is interesting to consider, though I promise I’m not even thinking about going barefoot style running just yet lol:

“No wonder your feet are so sensitive,” Ted mused. “They’re self-correcting devices. Covering your feet with cushioned shoes is like turning off your smoke alarms.” — from “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall

“Unrealistic Expectations About Love”

Dear Reader,

I write this post with a warning that I’m not in any way lonely or in any way sad or in any way upset at how things are. In this post, I’ll say things that I mean to be observations, but that may, admittedly, sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. But for the vitality of transparency, for the goal of presenting my heart in the most true and honest way to my beloved reader as possible, I leave this worded in just such a way. My intention is not to complain or seem down at all, but rather to show my honesty with myself, and display the overwhelming hope that comes from knowing I’m not all I’ll become yet. I’ve got a long way to go, this is my admission of both where and how. But I’m not upset about where I am now. I just am excited for where I’ll go, and for how I grew in my heart this morning a little bit as I wrote this. Please keep that in mind as you read.

 

 “Unrealistic Expectations About Love”

I lay here. In the imperfect dark of my apartment, where light intrudes through the gaps in the blinds. I lay here in bed early on the morning of Christmas Eve, and a thought comes to mind.

Being familiar with social media and the variety of websites out there, I’ve come across many memes, usually posted by women, talking about how “Disney gave me unfairly high expectations about love.” Yet as I lay here in the early morning hours, I have a message for anyone who’s ever posted that:

…It wasn’t Disney movies that did it.

I say that because I, too, am overcome by a thought as I try to wrestle my mind back to sleep. At 1:30 today, I woke up for no apparent reason. I just couldn’t sleep. So I made some ramen soup and some tea and watched a couple of episodes of New Girl on Netflix. But as I lay back down, the question seeps into my brain and fills my head:

Do I expect too much of love?

I mean, besides the movie “UP” a few years ago, the last Disney movie I can remember watching falls to Pocahontas more than a decade ago when I was in my early youth. I haven’t had the influence of Disney that so many girls out there proclaim as why they believe lobe can be more.

Yet still I believe that it can, and in my darkest hours, when I’m home and the business of the day is done or has yet to start, I find myself questioning. A subtle tear rolls down my left cheek as I lie here in the darkness but I know not if it’s from what my body feels or what my soul feels.

The thought of somehow dreaming of living alone comes to mind, something I’ve never considered because I’ve always believed there’s a woman out there who will fulfill what I believe love is and what it can be, a woman who will be somehow even crazier about me than I am about her. A woman who’s heart won’t fight her when her mind asks it if I’m worth considering. A woman who’s mind I might have to convince but who’s heart will crave to be convinced, rather than the other way around as it usually seems to go with my recent relationships.

Normally, if I were being my historically under-confident self, I’d ask if that’s too much to ask, but even as I consider asking, a hidden and unrealized voice in my heart speaks up and says “No! Damn it! No! That’s not too much to ask, in fact you’ve been letting me down not requiring that before!”

Secretly, hidden from even my own awareness, is a stubbornness that suddenly makes me so confident in my belief system, that the idea of just being “old uncle Shelton” to my little brother’s kids, and “the guy who has a big but cozy house that he designed on his own and that he lives in alone,” doesn’t seem so bad. Out of nowhere, I realize that there’s tremendous truth to the words of the late great, Robin Williams, who said “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” And while I don’t feel “alone” at all, and I know I can call on any of a hundred people on a whim if I need to, I do feel that I haven’t given the complexity and true essence of love proper respect until this very morning.

I’m a hopeless romantic, and an idealist. A respected professor in English here at K-State told me that five years ago. I believe love exists and that it isn’t too much of us to expect it to be beyond our wildest dreams. I believe there really is more to it than just liking someone enough to stay with them for years. I believe true love transcends what the mind knows or what the eyes see, and comes from the heart. I believe a loving relationship goes beyond being great friends with someone and goes beyond being physically attracted to them, and I believe that is apparent earlier on in relationships than we as a society tend to look.

And above all, I believe love is worth waiting for. Attraction, ladies and gentlemen, can lead to heartbreak, but true love, all forgiving love, never does. The problem is, too often Attraction’s failures hurt us enough that we eventually give up or become less picky, less sturdy on what we know love needs to be. That, my friends, is where people run into problems.

Love is everything you expect it to be. If you believe any of these things, or all of these things or all of these things and additionally other things about love, then I tell you that you are absolutely correct, and I say this because your heart knows what love is.

We can blame it on Disney movies if we want to, we can blame it on our faith or how our moms taught us. We can blame how we define love on anything we want. But the truth is that it’s our heart knows, Disney movies just sometimes put words to it before our minds do. The heart, the essence of what we are that guides our feelings before we even know why we feel them, is the only part of you that knows exactly what love is, and it will tell you when you find it.

I lay here, thinking about all the things I need to improve about myself. One day, I’ll have my act together. Financially, I’ll be in rhythm. One day, I’ll dress nice and cause women to do a double take in their minds when I encounter them. Right now, I feel like too much of me (from my under confidence to the way I dress) stands in my own way of finding true love, keeping women from even considering me. And I’m okay with that, that isn’t a complaint in any way, so I pray my beloved reader won’t take it as that. It’s just an admission and to myself that maybe right now I’m not ready in some key ways.

But my heart knows it’s almost there. It’s started to believe in itself, slowly but surely, and 2015 might just be the year it finally stops worrying about what other people think.

And I know that, because of one thing and one thing only: the fact that this morning, for the first time in my life, my heart told me it will actually settle for being alone instead of loving just to love.

That’s a really important distinction to make.