Elizabeth Burk – Five Poems



It seemed as though
a window slid open
onto a buzzing void, singing
songs as fresh as seedlings,
sprouting stars as old as dust,
in dreams that drifted, lost
in a pirogue, dreams
that slumbered, remained
in dusk until we were born.
There was an ember,
a reverie debut, a déjà-vu
that continued and then a sandbox
whose grains mingled and cherfed
and there were birds and burdens born
each instant reveling in and reviling
the muddy earth, grouty mountains,
ice that slid from mittens
knitted and carefully knotted
to not unravel on tiny hands. And
lizards and ants and the holy family
of step uncles and cousins who came
to celebrate the mournful tide,
the oceans sweeping the sand with—
was it joy?


Highway To Hana

The road is a mountain ledge
carved into lava rock
lashing out beneath our wheels
like a python’s tongue.

We snake our way
over one-lane bridges, skidding
through overgrown jungle
dark leaves glistening
like boxers in a ring
jostling for space.

Huge white lilies open wide
to drink in rain. Blood-orange
blossoms hang, yellow stamens
bobbing. From highest peaks
waterfalls crash down
on boulders, loosening rocks.

His hands grip the wheel
as we navigate hairpin curves—
sport for him, Louisiana native
to tropical rainstorms while I,
city girl, gaze out the window
gripping the arm rest.

At the gateway to Hana
yellow-slickered sergeants
appear at a wooden bridge
brandishing flares.
Better turn back, they warn,
the roads are flooded, filled
with debris.

But having come
this far, there’s no
turning back. Beyond
the bridge an azure ocean
spills foam onto red sand
under an unblinking sun—

black rock, dry desert,
green fields emerge
at each dizzying turn,
and the silvery sound
of ukuleles falls like tinsel
on Hawaiian pines.


Black On White

–After a photograph of the Dunes of Coro by Leo Touchet —

Lay your body on mine
let your colors seep

into me, eclipse me
with your forbidden skin

Bend, blend, dissolve me
into beige shadow limbs

as one grain of sand lies down
with another

before it drifts on, shape shifting
what it leaves behind.


In Memory Of Little Joe Gomez

Who smiled and nodded through the night
eyes shining in walnut puckered face
while we passed the bowl of bitter plants
in silence around the circle, sitting inside

the New Buffalo teepee from the time
the sun disappeared over blooded-orange Sangre
de Christo Mountains to vertigo tipped dawn
fringed with purple stripes in desert skies

who chanted in tongues unknown but words
the heart understood, passing rattle and drum
from hand to hand so we could beat rhythms,
sing songs of lives we brought from all corners

of the earth to the clear New Mexican night
where we heaved the contents from our bellies
and the fireman shoveled out the sick
leaving us with our pure peyote dreams,

who built his adobe hut brick
by muddy brick studded with straw
on the sage desert with the hippie woman
from the east who married Little Joe

so she could pray with the Pueblos,
work the land, sing the songs
of the Native Americans who taught us
how to live with the earth and each other,

who died silently in our midst
who we buried in our hearts
who lives now and forever
in the vast New Mexican sky.



Arrived three months ago,
Lucy Jo encounters her fingers
attached to her very own hands—

how they grasp and let go
her rattle, how they caress the air
as a conductor leads a symphony.

She rolls onto her back, acrobat,
her alabaster toes in her mouth
and watches, wondrous,

a silver ceiling fan, as riveting
as watching yellow leaves that fall
from a tree, scamper along

gray stones, autumn proceeding
before her hazel-eyed gaze. Later
seated, wobbly, but balancing

in her high chair, she grabs the spoon
her mother offers, directs it in a hopeful
zigzag aimed towards her mouth,

eyes lighting up with her first taste
of solid food. Flashing a wide
toothless grin, she reaches out, greedy,

coveting only the creamy texture
of rice cereal, her mother’s smile,
and one loving spoonful after another.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty exists everywhere, but the perception of it is a profoundly personal experience. We know beauty when we encounter it, in whatever form, because it enlightens us, speaks to our souls, it both soothes and enlivens us. It nourishes and opens us to new possibilities and old truths, both in our internal and external lives. Beauty exists not only in breathtaking landscapes in nature, glorious works of art and music, exquisitely written poetry and prose, it is also present when compassion shines through someone’s eyes in the face of tragedy, in watching a doting mother feed an infant, in the wrinkled face of a 90-year-old woman making her way home from the marketplace, and in the emotional experience of connecting deeply with another. Beauty is present when snowflakes swirl, when green leaves turn an orange-rust, and when barren branches stretch out  stark against a gray sky. There is no one definition of beauty, it is both personal and transcendent, but we all recognize the awakening that occurs in its presence.


Elizabeth Burk is a psychologist who currently divides her time between a practice in New York and a husband and home in southwest Louisiana. Her chapbooks, Learning to Love Louisiana (2013) and Louisiana Purchase (2014) were published by Yellow Flag Press. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Calyx, Southern Poetry Anthology, About Place, and other journals and anthologies. Her work has been read and performed at various venues in New York and Louisiana.