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The Perfect Knot


Last night I uncovered poems

hid so well it took me fifteen years to find them,

a ribbon tied around a packet of blue linen

as if whoever bound those sonnets

wanted whoever unwrapped them

to appreciate that some words ought to deserve more

than ordinary paper. It’s my father’s handwriting. His

rhymes grasp each other so earnestly

it’s hard for me to keep reading.

I long…I yearn…I crave…I burn…

You sizzle…you spark.

Everything you touch turns bright.

Every day I am away from you is night.

You are my only light. My only dark.

Every noun is a tear, every verb a goodbye,

With each adjective I am preparing to die.

At first I can’t tell if these are suicide notes

Or love poems. To whom is my father speaking?

My mother? A mistress?

Someone so beautiful even the adverbs had to be beautiful

too, adjectives chosen

so every letter glides into the next,

every vowel nestles in a consonant’s arms.

Why can’t those we love be only

what we want them to be and perhaps only

what they wished to be?

These are secrets you whisper to your son

when you are dying, but there are other secrets

you wrap in dark purple ribbon

and hide — words too revealing to be published,

too important to throw away,

the kinds of poems old men write.

They know no one’s going to read them

while they are alive

but they write them anyway. And save them.

See, I am writing one now.

Previously published in “A Car Stops and a Door Opens,” 2017.

Christopher Bursk, teacher, father, son, husband, and grandfather passed away in 2021. His contributions to poetry in Bucks County cannot be overstated. He was a mentor to so many poets during his 40+ years of teaching. A recipient of PEW, NEA and Guggenheim fellowships and author of 18 books, his writing has been recognized by the AWP Donald Hall Prize, the Allen Ginsberg Prize, the Green Rose Prize, the Patterson Prize, Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Awards, the New Letters Prize in Poetry, and the Milt Kressler Book Award. Most importantly, he was the proud grandfather of eight.

Note from Poet’s Corner Curator Tom Mallouk: “Today’s poem completes the first year of Poet’s Corner and the poet being featured, Chris Bursk, deserves special recognition for his immense contribution to Bucks County poetry during his prolific life and career. The enthusiasm for poetry and the extent of poetic talent of our community owes much to Chris. Sadness and gratitude in equal measure accompany his poem.

Next week through the generosity of Marv and Dee Ann Woodall Foundation and the support the community has demonstrated through letters and donations, Poet’s Corner will continue for another year. Thanks for the support. It is my honor to continue curating Poet’s Corner.”

To submit a poem for consideration, email it to If the poem has been previously published, please say where it first appeared.

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