Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Basic Programming - Megan Burns (Lavender Ink)

Today's book of poetry:
Basic Programming.  Megan Burns.  Lavender Ink.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  2018.

"there is no fairness in our world/ only lessons
that teach us how to be."
                                                                                                    from "200 Next Endings"

Megan Burns is operating at a level that Today's book of poetry is unfamiliar with.  Somehow Today's book of poetry has arrived in 2019 with nearly no computer skills or knowledge.  Burns knows everything and has decided to try and write new code for us all.

Burns loves Bob Dylan like a Saint, and shouldn't we all.  She lists thirty-four different Dylan tracks at various time throughout Basic Programming.  And then there's the Wuthering Heights influence, Emily Bronte gets her say but Megan Burns does not stop there either.  Burns is attempting to write a new code that will move us forward, help us understand.

Burns lists an entire troop of influences from Eknath Easwaran's translation of The Bhagavad Gita to Kathy Acker & McKenie Wark's I'm Very Into You: Correspondence 1995-1996.  There are a couple of dozen more.  

What does it all mean?  It means Megan Burns knows where she wants to take the reader and her poems and she is writing the code to do it through her poems.  The resulting rocket ship beauties soar.


always being first to text (giving), attention whore (everything to do with it), believing
universe brought us together for special purpose (everything to do with it), confusing
healthy, safe partners for boring (everything to do with it), consult Tarot cards for advice
(everything to do with it), days of being ignored (receiving), dissecting text messages for
subtext (giving), empty (everything to do with it), exchanging sexual pictures of videos w/
a stranger (everything to do with it), fantasize future w/ lover (giving), ignoring intuition
about partner choice (giving), imagining perfect sexual scenarios w/ strangers (giving),
insert sexual language or flirt as a wall (everything to do with it), loving people who can't
love back (giving), mistaking anxiety for love (everything to do with it), mistaking coldness,
emotional unavailability or general disinterest for mysterious or deep unrequited need
other can't express (everything to do with it), playing role of perky, eccentric girl who
has no deep intentions (giving), pretending not to care (giving), not caring (everything to
do with it), rehash all details of minor interactions w/ friends for subliminal clues missed
(everything to do with it), relishing in rejection (receiving), scared (everything to do with
it), sex one time w/ a stranger (receiving), texts t/o day w/ strangers who want to meet for
sex (giving), waiting for others to make contact (receiving), unable to quell compulsion to
make contact to see how long until s/he responds (everything to do with it), unprotected
sex (receiving), ways of a devil sleeping in a lion's den (everything to do with it)


Make no mistake, there were aspects of Basic Programming that confused the hell out of Today's book of poetry.  Our younger staff laughed, laughed, laughed.   They dialed into Megan Burns opus like they were laser sighted.

Of course it didn't matter because Megan Burns' Basic Programming delighted Today's book of poetry right down to our toes.  Electricity, like the kind that must flow in Megan Burns veins, is a rare commodity.

Today's book of poetry was listening to Laura Nyro in the office this morning.  That means everyone was listening to Laura this morning.  And somehow that seemed a good fit.  Nyro was genius personified, so ahead of her time that her work is timely now, fifty years later.  

Today's book of poetry is in a conundrum with Megan Burns name.  You regular readers of Today's book of poetry will recognize that "burns" is the verb of choice when describing poetry we like.  We threw it around the office, "Burns burns!"  But it was unsatisfactory.  We love, love, love Megan Burns last name and won't be deterred.  Burns does exactly that, Megan Burns burns.  

Electric and splendid.


shaped & unshaped by those who first care take
how did you learn a language of skin
I have irrepressible ideas about what I want
limits to love           we mean time and attention
learning to become what can be trusted
watch our world burn

don't corpse me     I eat dead   she said men    but delirament
ate her whole headed   I came back fiery sorry
for fallout from my fury
tell me what position you want me to take
sometimes I can't be patient or gentle    I need you
in my mouth/ my mouth needs to say things I can't choke back
how to screw an epistolary form into an object

poetry is the perfect lover / hardly anyone wants it
sounds symphony inside me
falling out of mouth / tongues move to produce
delitescent / patter of need / after he cums in my mouth
can't catch breath / taken by surprise / against other people
press your palms into me / do you know / how seductive timing is /
to take slowly what we want to coalesce
life always acting like that riddle
with corn, chicken and a fox
boating across and you can only carry two
I'm never good enough for myself
life breaks heart / daily
fighting for smallest / peace   count me in          whole
fucking haul / slippage, a state I solid against

that is what love promises

let me know what I am
when it all goes dark


May 1, and we're expecting either snow or an ice-storm.  The rivers that run through Ottawa are over-flowing their banks.  The weather Gods are making an example out of us.  In a city that hasn't seen a tornado in all my 62 years, we had five in one day last year.  This year, for the second time in the last three years we are having "a 100 year event" flood.

The Today's book of poetry offices are safe and on high ground.  Unless the Rideau River overflows and then we'll have bigger problems.  All our staff are safe and dry.  And today Megan Burns brought down the house with her monster Basic Programming.  Another possible one hundred year event.

Basic Programming is an infectious read, once Burns gets into your system you want more.  Just like Laura Nyro.

And don't even get us started on the sexual firestorm Burns can bring down on the house.


once I ask Kali to consume us
mouth shaped to nothing

storied as any wuthering height
a traveling rogue runs off with a golden prize
a poet wakes up and pulls a world along beside her
touch this stone/ carved names are remembered
words to soothe/ lullaby hours

look, sit where you are to watch stories unfold
look, deeply enough until love
do you know how to brave
do you know about really cracking your heart open
to receive/ what are you afraid of/ stories will always call us back

you have nothing/ to fear/ nothing/ but fear/ to fear/ you/ nothing/ you/ love/ everything

how we are blind to a reciprocity of love as we narrow on one to one/ and forget that it
vibrates between all of us/ what you put out is your world/ a world

our world a mirror/two sided/flipped one way: good/evil:love/hate/hate:despair/joy: con-
flict/ resolution:blessings/ curse: throw them both away
throw them both away, a toss towards never being chained down again

one line of code is all it takes to run a completely different program/poetry is a constant
reaching / an only truth that matters

in coming generation: you must learn to live without these shackles
if you let go, what fills void: out universe abhors absolutes & is absolute
what fills is beyond a container
beyond worded


Today's book of poetry gets very excited when poetry this fine scampers through our lives.  Emily Bronte told me to tell you to "buy this book."

Well, have you ever known Emily to be wrong?

Megan Burns is welcome here at Today's book of poetry any time.  This poet burns, burns, burns.

Megan Burns

Megan Burns is the publisher at Trembling Pillow Press ( She also hosts the Blood Jet Poetry Reading Series in New Orleans and is the co-founder of the New Orleans Poetry Festival ( She has been most recently published in Jacket Magazine, Callaloo, New Laurel Review, Dream Pop, and Diagram. Her poetry and prose reviews have been published in Tarpaulin Sky, Gently Read Lit, Big Bridge, and Rain Taxi. She has four books, Memorial + Sight Lines (2008), Sound and Basin (2013), Commitment (2015), and Basic Programming (2018), published by Lavender Ink. She has two recent chapbooks: Dollbaby (Horseless Press, 2013) and i always wanted to start over (Nous-Zot Press, 2014). Horse Less Press released her Twin Peaks chap, Sleepwalk With Me, in 2016.

"Velocity" by Megan Burns (Poem Reel 2)
Video: Lisa Pasold



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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