“Exhale”

“Exhale”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

A handful of words hastily shaken
Thrown like dice against a filthy brick wall
Skittering across deserted sidewalk
Bouncing into foul gutter rill
Profound thoughts from a tired mind

Is this all I have to say and if so
Does it even matter when no one cares
These words buoyant as a waterlogged corpse
Sink slowly beneath the surface
Of a world bereft of conscience

I mix metaphor and stark imagery
Insert heart and soul, blood and torrid tears
Craft a paper boat to launch on oceans
Of antiquity and futures
Yet to be and watch as it sinks

Words fall like proverbial autumn leaves
Raked into pretentious piles of damp dross
To become compost to feed the dull worms
Of bitter earth and mindless murk
Where nothing echoes but darkness

I have shouted from the tops of mountains
I have whispered in sepulchral shadows
I have groaned in blackened pits of despair
I have lost my voice so often
I can no longer hear my thoughts

Sharpened edges of serrated starlight
A thousand vapid cuts my soul bleeds out
I offer up my penance to the gods
Ragged blood-soaked sheaves of parchment
Etched with runes of my existence

It is not sufficient for redemption
For what are words but empty utterance
The fetid breaths of wretched souls exhaled
As dying light slips languidly
Beyond aloof eternity

18 thoughts on ““Exhale”

    1. This poem came almost all at once. I had the image of the dice (guys kneeling on the sidewalk shooting craps), only I had a handful of words instead of dice. I hurried and opened up a new document and started typing, not really having any idea where it would take me. The tone and images are so dark in this one. It’s really about the futility of life, trying hard and failing, fear of the state of this country and the world, rejection, loneliness, mental/spiritual fatigue, a sense of powerlessness and more. I do feel as though I’ve lost my voice many times (from 1992 to 2012 I didn’t write anything), and at times it seems like I’ve run out of thoughts, that there’s just a dull roar in my mind from so much I’m dealing with on a daily basis. Just a lot going on, I suppose. Thanks as always for reading, David, and for commenting. It really does mean a lot to me. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. What a powerful piece, Mike. The visuals are incredible . Love this verse. Amazing as always.💕
    “Words fall like proverbial autumn leaves
    Raked into pretentious piles of damp dross
    To become compost to feed the dull worms
    Of bitter earth and mindless murk
    Where nothing echoes but darkness”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, Grace. This was a strange one that caught me off-guard, as I mentioned in my reply to David above. The verse you mention describes how I feel about my attempts to get through to certain people, whether it’s family members or friends or politicians or anyone, really, and how those words always just fall on deaf ears. Words have power, but only when someone is willing to listen, and too often nowadays no one is either willing to or capable of listening due to ignorance, fear, radicalization by extremist groups, cowardice or exhaustion from being exposed to so many lies for so long. That feeling of futility is so difficult to accept and ends up exacerbating my already too-reclusive life. I suppose some stuff just needed to come out in this one. Thank you as always for reading and for such a kind comment, Grace. I truly appreciate it. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Every word, every line and every stanza , and finally the whole poem paints a hidden yet concise picture of what it feels like to try and fail in the midst of hardship.

    This stanza, for instance, wrapped it up well:

    I have shouted from the tops of mountains
    I have whispered in sepulchral shadows
    I have groaned in blackened pits of despair
    I have lost my voice so often
    I can no longer hear my thoughts

    I must say, Mike, that you’re a writer who has mastered well the power of words, and the use of imagery in poetry. You know how to reveal the non-physical using the physical. Moreover, your usage of stylistic and thematic devices is a notch higher. What else counts better than these? Keep writing, keep spreading the love 💖💕❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Lamittan, for such a gracious and thoughtful comment. Feedback such as this means so much to me. I’m glad my words spoke to you. This piece was both rather easy and quite difficult to write. It came quickly, but the emotions are dark and painful. However, I’ve found that the best writing sometimes comes from the worst experiences. It is cathartic, and when it speaks to others, it becomes more than just words on a page or screen. Honestly, I’m humbled by your words. Thank you so much for your kindness. I’m happy you enjoyed this piece. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the best writings come from the heart. And this, is indubitably a great one. It spoke to me directly and I could resonate with it quickly and quietly. Thanks for always lighting up our faces with such compelling and insightful poems, and other amazing writings too.💖💖

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, sir. Those dry spells where the words either fall flat or cease falling altogether are scary. Like I mentioned in a comment above, I went twenty years without writing anything (1992-2012) and those are twenty years I can never get back. There was just nothing in the tank. Too many rejection slips, a surrendering to what I felt was the inevitable end of my writing dreams. Since then, I’ve written in grunts and spurts (and some of what I’ve written can certainly be considered gruntworthy…heh… *rolls eyes*), but hopefully this time I can keep it going. When that well runs dry, you get really thirsty after awhile. Thanks for the kind comment and support, Rhyan. Always appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re preaching to the choir. Many is the story or project that I’ve jumped into full of enthusiasm just to have my gas tank run dry and force me to run on vapors. Even now with the Christmas stories I’m struggling to keep up the daily pace.

        The writer’s lament.

        Anyhoo, good job.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very kind, Reena. Your comment really means a lot to me. It’s a wonderful compliment from someone like you who writes so beautifully and skillfully. I’m so glad my verses speak to you. Thanks so much! 🙂

      Like

  3. I do not even know what to say! I read it and felt that no compliment could do this piece justice. You write so honestly and it shows. Utterly sublime, Mike! You are gifted. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world. I look forward to buying your books.😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Aaysid. I’m sort of fumbling for words here, too. This is such a kind thing for you to say. Honestly, I’ve never been good at accepting compliments–I always feel really awkward and wonder if I actually deserve them (the ol’ battered self-esteem, you know?). But this really touched me. I’m so happy you liked this piece. I really do put my heart and soul into my writing, which always leaves me sort of cringing whenever I click the Publish button. Will anyone read it, and if so, will anyone like it or even understand it? It’s that fear of letting a piece of myself escape into the world, not knowing how the reception will be. So, when I receive a comment like yours, it really makes me feel good as well as accepted. So, thanks, Aaysid, for your wonderful compliment. It really made my day! *feeling extremely humbled* 🙂

      Oh, and if I’m ever fortunate enough to publish a book, I’ll save a copy for you free of charge! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me to know my words have resonated with people. I really appreciate your taking time to read and leaving such a nice comment. I’ve visited your blog a few times now and you have some brilliant poetry. 🙂

      Like

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