wild honeysuckle
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Isolde's Song by Michael R. Burch

After the deaths of Tristram and Isolde, a hazel and a honeysuckle grew out of their graves until the branches intertwined and could not be parted.

Through our long years of dreaming to be one

we grew toward an enigmatic light

that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?

We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite

the lack of all sensation—all but one:

we felt the night’s deep chill, the air so bright

at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.

To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.

We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt

spring’s urgency, midsummer’s heat, fall’s lash,

wild winter’s ice and thaw and fervent melt.

We felt returning light and could not ask

its meaning, or if something was withheld

more glorious. To touch seemed life’s great task.

At last the petal of me learned: unfold.

And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.

The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,

and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.


Michael R. Burch’s poems have been published by hundreds of literary journals, taught in high schools and colleges, translated into fourteen languages, and set to music by twelve composers.

Author's note

I found Carmina Magazine's theme of myths and legends appealing because I have been a lover of the genre from my boyhood. I read everything from Homer to Tolkien with great gusto and relish. But my favorites were always the Arthurian legends. Then one day Merlin & Co. helped launch my career as a published poet. As a young poet I had become discouraged by so many literary journals publishing poetry that, for me, lacked the magic I had found in the masterpieces of poets like John Keats, Emily Dickinson, e. e. cummings and the Gandalf of American poetry, Walt Whitman. In my discouragement, I had given up submitting poems to publishers. But then one day I discovered the ancient Celtic myths that predated the Christianized tales of Arthur, his knights, the enchanting Guinevere, and the magical Merlin. Under their spell I wrote a cycle of poems and when I had finished, I said a prayer to Merlin and mailed out some submissions. A number of the poems were published, received good reviews, and I went on to be published over 6,000 times, including poems that have gone viral. I have now had poems translated into fourteen languages, taught in high schools and colleges, incorporated into three plays and two operas, and set to music more than thirty times by composers. But if I'm being honest, I owe it all to Merlin!