Let yourself become living poetry.

~ Rumi

Poems, by Sarah Elizabeth Burns


True Love Never Dies

(For when I'm Dead)

Please come play at my grave site,
oh how I love annual parties
and now that I'm dead
this one most of all.
Let's celebrate all the things
we love in this life: family,
friends, romance, toasts, food,
laughter, nostalgia, memories,
everything, everything!
Let's talk about every single moment
I was alive and savor each one.
Bring a picnic and armfuls of flowers,
light candles, sing, chat,
tell stories, read poems,
look through photo albums, see my
many loved ones with me
when I was young and beautiful,
and here when I was old
and elegant, all my
grand babies in my lap.
Bring cold bottles of champagne
and hot chocolate in thermoses.
Laugh until you cry as you take
turns doing impersonations of me.
Snuggle children, hang out,
wrap yourselves in blankets,
be comfortable and happy.
Write in my commonplace book -
may there always be blank pages
for jotting notes, love letters, quotes
to add to our conversation into eternity.
Light more candles,
open more champagne
Stay all night long and please
come again next year.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns


Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor


Remember the time

we followed hand-printed signs

to buy live spot prawns

out of that fisherman’s garage?

At Heart O’ the Hills campsite

you twisted their heads off,

skewered them, grilled them,

and with your fingers

fed them, slick with butter,

to me.


The next morning we hiked

Hurricane Ridge, the

Olympics rolling at our feet,

begging us to come play

among marmots, lupine and

tow-headed babies.

Our madly-in-love-with-each-other-ness

and optimism in the future

after improbably finding

each other among

billions on this planet

made the day pulse

fragrant and



Laughing, blood zinging

in the twilight, we drove

down the mountain eager

to nestle in the ferns

beneath the flashing

marquee of stars.

My hand rested lightly

on the back of your neck

for a private performance of

Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor

blasting through the open

car windows, the music

sweeping magnificently

up the scale of the world,

this universe we were creating,

just as Sir Edward William

Elgar, 1st Baronet

pulled this grandiose concerto

out from that dark place

right after WWI

where it hadn’t existed



I smile at you now

and go turn Elgar up



Sarah Elizabeth Burns





From Bahia Blanca,

Graciela followed

her first husband

to Canada.

When his drinking

killed that love,

cousin Alicia advised


Don’t come back.

Argentina is a mess.

Go live your life.


Which is why we are now

gathered around the table,

a beloved old tradition,

long after finishing desayuno,

in her garden on

Vancouver Island.



to my father-in-law,

Abu (as my children call her)

refills our coffee cups and

we talk of all the usual things:

relatives, friends, work,

travels, memories,

and love.

Always love.


My son runs around the table

with his pretend baseball bat

replaying hits, strikes

and home runs

in slow-motion.

Watch Abu! Watch this!

Watch, Mummy, watch.



The baby sits in my lap

blowing raspberries

and interrupting us

with happy shrieks,

showing off her two teeth.


It is July.

A ruby-throated hummingbird

chases a rival.

A yellow-wingtailed butterfly

hovers nearby,

drinking her breakfast,



We have nowhere to be.

We have more to discuss.

We linger.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns


Evelyn All Brand New

Bringer of great happiness,

radiant little Evelyn

all brand new,

you chose a fragrant July evening

to arrive, rising to the world just

before the Super Moon,

illuminating this bright world

even more.


Add your light

to the sum of light,

wrote Leo Tolstoy (someone

you will want to read later and

we can discuss over tea and sugar

cookies). You have already

accomplished this in your first

hours, radiating joy

to all of us

who already love you

with the kind of love

perfectly impossible to quantify.


The light-heartedness you must

feel after the long journey, blinking

your brilliant eyes in the

sun of your first morning. As you

taste the air, touch your mother’s

skin, listen to your father and sister

coo over you, just think of

all the summertime adventures

ahead -


cousins to chase,

raspberries to pick,

trees to climb,

lakes to swim,

rocks to skip.


You bright summer star,

all the world beams

back at you.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns



Forster Family Portrait, 1919


Grandmother, you are two, barely,

the darling baby in a family of –

count them—eleven children,

plus who knows how many

additional miscarriages

or young deaths your clear-eyed

mother may have suffered quietly;

her German fortitude betraying

no struggles, she is all serene

and proud with her hearty brood.

Here, one of your sisters wears the

habit of Catholic nuns, in a few years

another sister would too.

In the back row: Hilda, Ella, Leo,

Sister Luke, Otto, Bruno, Laura

(later Sister Marcella) and Julia.

In the front row: Rudy, your father Frank

then you, little pixie, front and center,

your mother Mary, then Genevieve.


Grandmother, was it from your mother

or father’s line that you inherited

your wry sense of humor? Which sister

taught you to sew? Did your mother

make pickles with you each summer?

Which of these siblings was the prankster,

which the athlete, which the artist, which

one shy? What did your father like to do

in the evenings? Was your home filled

with music, baseball, stories round the fire?

Did your mother play cards like you?

How did you celebrate birthdays?

What did you do for the 4th of July?


I study the faces of your family--my family –

I hear the click of the camera,

the whoosh of the flash bulb.

A momentary pause

then in the next instant, I hear

you all jostling, laughing, heading off to lunch

into each individual and

infinitely detailed life.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns


You Can Always Change Your Mind


This meant as encouragement

from my father, to stride forward

confidently into the unknown

as we kids balked, indecisive

at certain key

or not-so-key points,

the luxurious heaviness of



And so I often did:

swapping universities,

frequently jumping cities,

moving breezily

from man to man,

sampling jobs,

begging friends to

lug my belongings to yet

another apartment.


I am grateful

for his permission to risk

and the practiced ease

to morph when necessary

or simply desired,

although I have often been

a rock skipping lightly on the

waters of the world



two small people materialized

and it comes as a relief, rather,

to be held fast to a choice.


This morning

my three-year-old son announces

I don’t want oatmeal

I changed my mind.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns


I Conjured You


I asked the doll maker

to give you blonde hair

and make you a girl

dressed in shades of blue,

my own best color.

Shall I stitch her name on?

she asked.

Oh yes, please

I did not hesitate


I was barely pregnant

yearning for a little girl

this time.

The doll arrived

in the mail

just perfect.

You arrived months later

exactly as requested

with only a slight




Sarah Elizabeth Burns




I had always imagined it as an elegant

country house in Cornwall or Galicia

with a library, extensive gardens and a

long dining table to seat many friends.

But now I think surely it is a small beach house

just like this with plastic buckets, shovels and balls

strewn about the yard, sea kayak and beach

cruisers leaning against the fence, colorful

bathing suits drying on the line. Our children’s

small tanned bodies sleep beneath

ceiling fans after a day in the bright air

running in and out of the ocean. Just down

the loop, waters a hue of turquoise I can never

fully believe lap sand the exact texture of

brown sugar. Two picturesque islands wait, close

enough to reach in a fifteen minute paddle. 

Plumeria, jasmine and red hibiscus bloom

in the garden and we treasure the palm trees. 

Neighbors drop by with avocados, strangers smile,

old friends visit. More than content, we live here

far from the noise of cities. You and I sit beneath

a canopy of stars sipping cold glasses of wine.

We breathe together, happy knowing all this

will be here tomorrow when we wake

and weeks before we have to leave.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns


Edge of the Known World


Where exactly do blue

whales swim? How is it

no one knows, she



Also part mystery,

this boulder, velvet

with moss and lichens



Listen! The hushing rustle

of monarch butterflies

resting during migration

in a eucalyptus

grove. Are they sighing



She sits near nesting

Black-browed albatrosses,

feeling their energy,

attempting to listen.

What do they murmur

to their lifelong mates

as they dance, what goodbye

song before taking flight

over the open sea?


That familiar story,

oh so personal and yet full

of marvels. Birth,

growth, maturity,

courtship, mating, nesting,

raising young, dying,

death, rebirth,

over and over and



What knowledge we

have, what mystery yet!

She herself vast,

a still mostly




Sarah Elizabeth Burns





From Peru, I brought him a small wooden bull

painted dark blue and gaily adorned with bright

flowers and golden horns.

He was a Taurus and I explained

this was a fertility symbol. I was

flirting, but quite serious.


I am not well-versed in astrology

but apparently a Taurus can be

independent, persistent,

devoted, thorough,

stubborn, uncompromising,

tactile, practical,

sensual and stable.


“If you like strong, loyal, dependable and generous men,

you’ll love a man born under the Taurus Star sign.”


And this:

“… a person of very few words” who

“can be slow on the uptake.”


The gift was a good choice.

Our son was born

under the sign of Taurus.


Sarah Elizabeth Burns