Mark Burgh

I Go to the Galilee to Lead the Rebellion

Jerusalem’s slopes fall to umber hills,
Roman stones harden His light on onyx
set into lintels. His Temple glows on
despite those graven eagles, white holy
walls pure.  I lope North to lead the rebels.
Traders, farmers, merchants, not royalty,
technons, wandering in dust to a town
seeking loads to lift or some dirty floors.
Fishermen stinking of their ripe catches,
ragged teachers half-bereft of the law,
these would fight Rome to keep us from idols.
I wind on paths through glades, a lazy hawk,
cool under shades, scents of pine & wild spices,
They wait, knives bare, for me to ruin all this.

In the Arena

Sand, I have seen.  Stretches of sand that reaches fingers
into the fist of mountains prying away
the sword from the grip. My grip. I remember
cries, screams, the blood rain. The spear arresting in the
chest. Square Roman arenas fill on execution
days. Rabirius frowns when I won’t enter. Noise
bleeds from walls, ringing steel.  The voice of the prophets
roars into the pit: live or die by our measure.
Unclean blood everywhere. The horse cries in pain,
the lamb sighs in sacrifice. Rabirius
sighs. You Jews can’t wait to fight anyone who tries to
make you civilized. But you can’t stand when blood’s spilled
in the arena. One is for purity, the other
for pleasure. I went into the wilderness to
find the clean water & years later I fought there,
led men to kill on the sands that soaks up all blood,
stains do not mar that fabric, no. Only wind
streaks ink into the dunes. Jackals live on the bones.

From the Insufficient Psalms


In the wilderness, I danced over dry bones,
furnaced air wrinkled His horizon,
where meanings bleed like wet letters,
forgotten laws,
maybe the most important ones,
smeared on this day-long parchment.

I stare at the thorn,
the law is Your gift,  honey-sweet to the willing tongue,
torment to the finger pierced;
a voice rises among the grove of penitents,
refuses the assault
from the Universe’s king of kings.

Like the walls of Gesala,
thick as a scar with stones,
or the palace of Vespasian, where I read
in his atrium,
so the Law is the Law,
the thorn is the thorn.
These hold in any weather,
conditions of this contract.


Mark Burgh was born to a ancient baking family in Trenton, NJ. He fled away to study history, writing and poetry. He has won ten literary prizes including The Transatlantic Award, and his poetry has appeared in numerous journals, the latest being Poetry Salzburg Review.  

About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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