Two Poems by Charlie Burttram

Seeing a Stranger

Memorized conversations,
laughing in all
the right places;
pretending
that the faces you see
are what
you’ve been looking for.

Another night of
treading time and water,
drowning in the clink
of beer bottles and cheap whiskey;
in the far corner
fists are swinging. . .
be hearing the sirens soon.

With a nod at no one
and a wave at the band,
I leave as quietly
as a moon-rise.

Outside, flashing lights
burn the air,
and I can’t help but gaze
at my reflection
in a car window;
staring back is some stranger
that once was me.

And as I cross the street,
something between the beats of my heart
calls out to me like a memory
or a voice I’ve never heard;
but I can’t make out the words,
nor tell what direction
it is begging me to go.


The Final Song

I hope Death is a smiling woman
in a sun-colored dress;
who wants to stop
and mess-around
as we travel through
that forest of stars.

I hope She brings
a couple of guitars
and a bottle of wine. . .
I’ll teach her the old songs
and she’ll sing for me
the ones the birds love in spring,
And the bears dream in winter.

And then she’ll sing the one
for all those souls like me,
who were happy just to
walk down this road;
trying to learn
the secrets written in
the water, the trees,
and the clouds riding the wind.


Charlie Burttram is a retired writer/editor for the Birmingham News.

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