Those Brits excelled in casting out their unfit;
their malcontent were sent off overseas;
and debtors learned to sing Waltzing Matilda
some rather faced the tomahawk than Old Bailey.

The more the Brits cast out, the more they enfeebled;
and stronger still we contraries became –
till when our foulest felon-President and lush
led their poor Chief into worse crime and blood,

his yipping lapdog, voting - in all his shame –
when – Refusing! Tony might well have foiled the Bush…
and the Tepid Willing too had all said No,
thus sparing our century for decency –

Now is past time for us to cleanse our stables –
no pastime – for us it is now:  Root, Hog or Die.

By JK Burnham


Time Capsule

There is a crucial instant in the affairs of men
which, caught at its peak, discloses
the essence of all that is to come
a time capsule
that brings the full truth into focus: 

like the dire wolves sucked into the California tar pits,
lured in by a trembling antelope
earlier trapped, and sinking slowly, terrified,
and then all sinking together
and all their fierce cross-purposes placed on permanent hold
like a living diorama of fate
hunters and hunted doomed, alike, together –
reappearing in a different time, another reality. 

Like Bush trapped in his topgun pilots togs
at his supreme moment, proclaiming triumphantly
his mission accomplished
when his destruction of Iraq was yet barely begun
and its ultimate million deaths still unsuspected
and the civil and moral defilement not yet up to speed,
when hope still lingered, for what was not to be:
there is his moment, frozen in time, forevermore.

By JK Burnham



How impassively God views a tidal wave
and all the scurrying of beasts and people,
cowards heroes stoics; love panic desperation;
time flows onward evenly; they struggle; they drown;
some live; insufferable pain and loss-
this is the cold random real world at its work. 

And where was He?  Was that His Work?  Ask not.
(The faithful marvel – He didn’t lift a Finger!
to save His own, under those broken walls.)
It is a Warning, to fear and tremble, to bow, pray,
to mortify the flesh, and purge our sin:
our wickedness has surely brought this Trial. 

The faithful nestle in the grace and comfort,
in the assurance, and the warmth, of faith
where not the least sparrow falls unnoticed,
small comfort to the sparrow, but it does count.
And they find strength, each, in secret communion
from whence they take a sense of peace and worth,
and that communion, like a sparkling symphony,
addresses each richly, but not with word or reason,
just as the eager breast assures the newborn
the world is good and made for him to suckle;
just as the wind, rounding and fattening sails,
shows to the sailor there is power to capture.

 Yet comes a time, that good is gone from sight.
The howling wind blows onto reefs and crags,
and the sailor is his own chaplain and shaman
saying, as we go down with all hands – yes,
even so, like the sparrow, we are of some account.

From The Long Shadow of the Bush
By JK Burnham


A reading by the poet

No, Mary.  Martha is right, most right
you do well to celebrate our occasion
even with shekels you saved up for the poor,
and to give to lepers, and slaves, fleeing by night, 

for of such you will always have in abundance
more than you can die to feed and cure –
and so you will – but for tonight:  Tonight
shall be the night beyond all other nights… 

and when you see me gaping hooked to that timber
my feet split open with those fearsome spikes
and my mind gone in bleats and gasps and darkness
you will think back to our triumph of tonight; 

so it is well that we drink down this wine
that stirs us to feats and song and speech,
to cry out downfall to pharisees and coke kings
for we treat brother as god and god as brother

while they in their arrogance take us for dirt,
we speak truth, let them grovel in pearls;
so let us wildly drink away this night
and think us some kind of dim hope for all the world.

Our sacrifice, in our bypassed place and time
and wastage of multitudes, pain without measure –
may in a distant eden come to flower
persons not mindful of us will live our vision.

By JK Burnham


Bachelor  -       Her wild allure- eight lovely legs –
                        with all her eyes watching you –
                        and you sense her message –

Ottogam  -       What of thy sex?
                        Art thou a full-grown spider too?

Bachelor  -      So suddenly your bachelor haunts
                       lose their appeal; your point of view
                       switches; incensed, you feel the taunts:
                       sure I can; I will give life anew.

                       True, there are risks.  Our wisdom wanders
                       -   do I misjudge her? - could I be wrong?
                       the more you hesitate, and ponder
                       if to chance your future for a song.

                      Then again, you think – only the brave
                      deserve the pheromone, this way.
                      Who flee this challenge are the craven,
                      but they come back another day
                      in vain to yearn for that temptation…

                      My time is here!  My lust inspires:
                      I shall achieve my consummation…
                      Now!  Now – consumed!

Historian -     Not by the fires
                      of passion, but in the intimate
                      embraces of this quite charming witch:
                      loving the very mate she ate
                      in their tete-a-tete whilst they conjugate,
                      so each does serve their fondest wish.
                      Now sated in every way, at rest
                      she lulls her efficient anatomy
                      drawing those legs inside her nest
                      and justifies the fait accompli:

Ottogan -       All slay, to live.  I too.  I slyly tricked him!
                      Who else is half so generous with their victim?

Historian  -     Thus she who dared out-spin a goddess
                       now lures with mysteries in her bodice.

From The Long Shadow of the Bush
By JK Burnham


A reading by the poet.

lie scattered abroad
(along with so many they caused to die)
on the way to Moscow, Saigon, Baghdad,
to the Khyber of old, and this day still.

“When you’re lying out there on the Afghan plain”
said the soldier-poet, and said it true,
was it for Action! Devotion? Gain?
the lure that brought you has earned its due.

Lord God of all Battles, You, Insatiable!
what You scheme for us all is our final pyre,
as we’re driven, like lambs, to Your slaughter-table.
How shall we disown You?
By our love of life.

From A Peck O' Poems for the 99%
by JK Burnham


Wealth of the Worthless
A reading by the poet

Gold is so awfully golden; heavy;
with more, yet heavier it grows;
the caught bend, under its obligation,
bound utterly to bear it, borne down.

Shame, and dope, and cancer can be cast off
with effort enough and will and failure unfailing –
but not that seizure of gold in the damned-man’s heart:
no sufficiency; not ever; pelf begets pelf.

Avid man is lost; wholesome though he may seem:
Yet he is not, with that live parasite of gold in him;
He measures his worth in gold, but his own: he is owned by it.


Robert E. Lee Chooses His War
A reading by the author

I am the General, Robert E Lee;
I am the humble protagonist for all Southerners;
the Sword is my calling; the Sword is my profession;
with the Sword we shall set all things to rights.

We fought, and we took the half of Mexico
as land for slavery for the Old Dominion -
the abolitionists stole that land from us,
this time, what we win, by the Sword, will not escape us.

Our South is a great, new, Nation, just being born,
with all the pangs, and hopes, of breaking free:
and with our peculiar institution firm in place.
They call on me to lead, and I cannot fail them,
it is good to hear folk cry out for 'Bobby Lee'.

Oddly, Mister Lincoln offered me
command of all the armies of the North!
So now, it is mine to choose: whether I lead the Feds
against my own people! or if I stick with Dixie.

There is honor, and glory, in choosing which army to lead;
and either way there is some forfeiture, and shame.
So, I will decide it with a coin toss: heads or tails -
and I toss many times to get it right.

How could I go against everything I've got?
my little realm of Arlington; my friends
warlike and daring, every one of them,
and how could I be but eager for the fight?

And all the men who follow me into battle,
and those who oppose me too, for their bit of land,
will worship me forever from their death-bed;
For I am the leader born, the fated: I am the War.

A ghastly plague of killing sweeps over all,
brother eagerly cuts down brother in blind battle
in an unseparable embrace of faceless hate;
man and boy, still: harvested not yet.

When all is destroyed, desolate, and waste,
Lee graciously yields up his army, at the last,
and retains, gallantly, his untarnished sword
as if his steel had wavered or faltered ever
before the bared throat of his own country.


Point of View
A reading by the poet

It was shameful, and vile, and wrong, for the Great Tactician
to say, "Oh, my troops: in another thirty years,
they would all have been as dead as they are now;
but they overthrew the most evil kingdoms going!
-- to which I have named my siblings for sovereign rule;
so it is all worthwhile, and more, just as it stands.
And what a time we had, all over Europe!" --
A wicked thought recurring down the ages . . . .

From A Peck O' Poems for the 99%
by JK Burnham


A reading by the poet

I slew Goliath! And nobly done;
just where he fell, from my slung stone,
I struck off his head with his own great sword,
I took his life, because I feared.

I took from another man his life,
enjoyed his woman; I gave him as prize
to fight my battle, and die for me:
that was my will, my finest hour.

I might well have let Goliath live,
beaten, brought low, in praise of me;
but Uriah, never! in his wife’s eyes
only the clean break commends the king.

The kill, decreed for every rebel,
I would forego, on my own son, defiant.
But fleeing, entangled, they brought him, dead.
And my joy in my harsh will turned to gall.

Only my son Absalon overthrew me.

From A Peck O' Poems for the 99%
by JK Burnham