Burns Night

Tonight, let memory’s pyre burn bright,
Throw these words to the air like pages to flame, and we’ll honour the life, the work, the name
of Burns.

A legend ever ongoing, a continuous historical flow,
written in ink with sentimental syntax,
searing sighs of Highland lovers and the whisky soaked lows onto time’s whispering papers everlasting.

To our ploughman poet,
Born 1759, the son of a poor Ayrshire farmer
you knew hard work to the letter before you knew a letter of Latin. You knew labour enough to break a man’s back
before you ever cracked the spine of a book.

And because of this, you always kept to the plain and simple,
you saw beauty in the ragged air of breath expelled in hard work,
Burns, you grew up to side with the underdogs.
Champion of the poor, the French Revolution,
the poets, the drunkards, the broken hearts– even if you broke more than a few yourself.

You were Romantic before they gilded it with a capital R
and your prowess with drink and women are what pop music wishes it could be.
In fact, you said you never saw yourself as a writer
with a noteworthy word until you fell in love for the first time– Nelly Kilpatrick at the age of 15.

Your love was a red, red rose, and you had a garden full of roses, Nell only the first in a lavish line of lasses
that ends with Jean. There were many others in between,
but it always came back to Jean,

who bore you nine children, only three of whom survived infancy.

Hard work and pain marked you, but
You left your marks all over this country,
then and there, and here and now,
Burns, your words set fires, spread heat, like a tryst with a good whisky carving small moments
making poetry real and relevant in crowded rooms
in the amber glow of winter nights
honouring everything you were and still are.

Twelve years after love seduced that first stanza from your broiling brain, you were published. July 31st 1786, “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect by Robert Burns.”
They called your success immediate, like a over a decade of
putting the soul of a nation to paper was light handed work for the faint of heart.

You were anything but.
You said, “dare to be honest and fear no labour”
and you lived that.
You scratched your thoughts into windowpanes with a diamond point because you believed in transparency and truth had a place in poetry.

And truth is, when you died, ploughman poet, you did it like an artist
––young, at 37 years old, to heart disease.

Your lifetime could be measured
in your 559 poems and songs,
the 559 reasons I’m standing here, the 559 pieces to remember you by.

We honour you tonight, with a toast.
To the wit, the women, the whisky and the words that keep the man alive to outlast them all, On his 256th birthday–

To Scotland’s favourite son
To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.

Salt Water

The vision of him appeared like the maybe
of drowning, to a soul in the shocking embrace of an undertow and
I broke the surface of the dream in a gasp of being lost,
wretching, that traitor pumping salt water, not blood.

Fathoms deep,
beyond splintered shipwrecks, in ink-pitch chasms,
lurking with spinal taps of teeth and pinpricks of phantom light
which writhe and glide on nothing, as nightmares do,
there, I knew then that 
hope was cradled in the sunken caverns of my skull

Pandora’s prize as a chest,
In veins, 
In lips pooled like neon bright reflections in seaside rain puddles
In the rusted copper piping of my waterlogged guts
–It all leads back to the ocean.

Hope.

Hope that someone will succeed in the 
bathtub drowning domestic that he didn’t
because I’ll be damned to live like this
scared to swim, 
and coughing up salt water. 

Sonnet #3

To know it, you must know starlight
Be acquainted with night’s face, the deep of dusk’s insistent lips
And put your hands not put to waste, stroke forth indigo night
unafraid of ink stains, rusty pen tips.

Brave the haunted gleam, but sweet from afar
Proves dead when seen in closer space
Life’s breath stays each burning star,
Some things unwiped from the moon’s tired face.

Endure atmospheric tension, burn to raze skin
Sear worth and joy to weary bone
Yet beneath the vast ceiling of night, dulcet sin,
When dawn pale grows, will find man alone.

Dusty pinpoints upon which lovers’ eyes rely.
We wait for dusk’s return, once again to try.

Sonnet #2

An insult, feeling life a spill
To hearts which sang but lungs that never gasped
The belly of Earth turns, though some, consistent still
A locket ultrasound unclasped

And Roman strength, here her tender surplus thrives
We struggle, three, over rust hued stone
Wondering if I’m more or less limbs of wasted lives
Each exhale mine, thine, belongs not to me alone

A debt owed, uncollected
Fixed betwixt my beloved gemini stars
And though we will never meet, we are connected
Despairing at life, these short cut memories mars.

Brothers, sisters, if your silent selves I have betrayed
Know that my soul will carry on, loud, in this charade.