“A Few Haiku (38)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#223)

sorrow begets joy
from the ashes of my soul
a columbine

…..

(#224)

what can harsh words rend
that kind words cannot assuage
the healing rain

…..

(#225)

under starless skies
my heart sings a silent dirge
night wind in the trees

…..

(#226)

my regrets are mine
my shame wears my haggard face
my soul weeps alone

…..

(#227)

vagaries of life
my heart’s buoyancy in doubt
on my soulless sea

…..

(#228)

what my heart demands
my mind cannot comprehend
and my soul rejects

“A Few Haiku (37)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#217)

clarity sundered
in the swelter and the din
of scorched memories

…..

(#218)

fitting denouement
thoughtless birds and bitter breeze
signify the end

…..

(#219)

I behold the stars
through the blurred prisms of tears
hope is beyond reach

…..

(#220)

holes in the pockets
of my soul; I lost myself
somewhere on the way

…..

(#221)

aloof stars shine on
while constellations of lives
perish on the earth

…..

(#222)

take my hand, my friend
do not cry, do not despair
you are not alone

“A Few Haiku (36)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#211)

the empty cistern
my poetry garden dies
in this wordless drought

…..

(#212)

that cur depression
skulks on the periphery
hyper-vigilant

…..

(#213)

thoughts bereft of words
prisoners inside my head
silent penitence

…..

(#214)

desiccated soul
slakes its thirst from murky meres
roams my sunless mind

…..

(#215)

mental exhaustion
I can no longer pretend
everything is fine

…..

(#216)

parts of me have died
that no one will ever know
nor will ever mourn

“A Few Haiku (35)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#205)

in the forest
nothing matters but the sound
of my quiet mind

…..

(#206)

my heart finds its home
where the sparrows congregate
the vernal canopy

…..

(#207)

time and wind and rain
soften edges of harsh stones
my sorrows assuaged

…..

(#208)

once I saw the sea
there was no more wandering
my home had found me

…..

(#209)

glowing stardew laves
dozing midnight columbines
celestial dreams

…..

(#210)

these numb fingers
have lost their feel for life
my grip weakens

“A Few Haiku (34)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#199)

domestic abuse
my seven-year-old self
learns to hate

…..

(#200)

sunflower song
a dirge for those
who shall never bloom

…..

(#201)

tank tracks in mud
scrawl across sunflower fields
calligraphy of war

…..

(#202)

spent brass shell casings
golden glitter in the streets
currency of death

…..

(#203)

we watch and wait
while children cry and die
thoughts and prayers are not enough

…..

(#204)

judgment day
we have no excuse for
what we have done

“The Bonfire”

“The Bonfire”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

in our exuberance to burn the words
Bradbury sagely nods and Orwell sighs
as shock-troopers corral the motley herds
and churlish masses watch with sullen eyes

bonfires glow red in every city square
eight thousand million names recited there
black smoke and fetid fumes assault the air
as filthy faces flicker in the glare

the Keepers of the Words arrive anon
in every town and burg in all the lands
and silence drops like cluster bombs upon
the billions gathered, and within their hands

the Keepers of the Words display The Tome
wherein all words of man have found their home
brought forth from dark cob-webby catacomb
a vade mecum in the darkling gloam

and with the fall of night the Keeper speaks
to all assembled round the burning pyre
“The time has come for every man who seeks
to purge his mind and cleanse his soul in fire.

“To speak one’s mind is tantamount to sin;
tomes with the thoughts of others writ within
shall lead you to the darkness and the din
of hellfire and the madness found therein.

“And so, to save your soul and cleanse your heart
Dear Leader, in his love and lenity,
has offered you a choice: from words depart
and rollick in silent indemnity,

“or immolate your filthy craven mind
and burn to ashes your pathetic rind–
obedience is bliss; the fire unkind
live silently, or fry in flames refined.”

smoke from the bonfire eddies in the night
as nervous glances dart among the crowd
and hands grip slips of paper, knuckles tight
where words are scrawled to soon be read aloud

the Keeper of the Words begins the rite
and summons forth the first name of the night
and from the crowd a man steps toward the light
his gait unsure, his face an ashen white

“Your word, comrade,” the Keeper’s voice demands
“or else the fire…it’s up to you, good sir…”
and from the paper held in shaking hands
he reads a single solitary word

“Freedom…”

then with a cry the guards drag him away
and Keeper of the Words calls out to say
“The word ‘freedom’ is stricken forth this day
from mankind’s lexicon…small price to pay…

“…for one’s life, is it not?” and with a grin
announces the next name, and from the pack
a ragged woman, elderly and thin
approaches bravely, never looking back

“Your word, comrade…” the Keeper starts to say
“You’ll have no word of mine, not on this day
or any day!” the woman says, a fey
expression of defiance aimed his way

and crumpling her paper in her ire
she drops it on the ground and cries aloud
then launches her old body toward the fire
and burns as horror overwhelms the crowd

“Her word was “love,’” the Keeper says, amused,
“and though this woman steadfastly refused
to sacrifice this word, someone will choose
to strike it from existence,” and bemused

he calls another name, and then the next
and on it went throughout the endless night
as words like hope and peace fell from the text
of Keeper’s Tome, and love faded from sight

and in the end, at breaking of the day
we all depart and make our solemn way
into a silent world of empty grey
with nothing left for anyone to say

…..

(This poem is inspired by the recent rash of censorship being pushed by the republican party here in America, where books are being banned and even burned as right-wing radicals promote fear, lies and hatred aimed at people of color and marginalized groups. Also, in many places across the globe, freedom of speech is under siege as authoritarian regimes crack down on those who speak truth and expose their evil deeds. As writers, we cannot allow this to happen. We have voices; we must use them to ensure all people are free to speak their minds.)

“She was Six”

“She was Six”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

she was six
and on the wrong side
of a tyrant’s bomb sights
her small broken body
no match for
the shells and the hell
that befell
her country
city
neighborhood
block
home
her blood the price
of freedom
she was six

she was six
and on the wrong corner
of the wrong intersection
at the wrong time
as gang-bangers
threw lead
and fled
as she bled
just a typical night
in a typical city
she was six

she was six
and in the wrong classroom
at the wrong school
as a true patriot
flexed his might
and exercised his 2A right
to murder school children
another day
in the USA
she was six

she was six
and the wrong color
at the wrong border
snatched from her parents
caged like an animal
lost in the system
as racist thugs
praise god and county
and build their wall
one sin at a time
she was six

she was six
and the wrong religion
in the wrong village
her captors didn’t care
she didn’t last long enough
to stain their conscience anyway
all in the name of god
she was six

she was six
and on the wrong side of town
hollow eyes and empty stomach
the manic cackle of inhumanity
the soundtrack of her life
bruised body and soul
this dark alleyway to hell
her only escape
she was six

we have lost our way

“A Few Haiku (33)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#193)

ursine winter’s claws
rend and tear and desecrate
yellow petals fall

…..

(#194)

this endless winter
memories of sunflowers
as the cities burn

…..

(#195)

children shall run free
in gilded sunflower fields
when this winter ends

…..

(#196)

glowing sunflowers
where there is light there is hope
we stand with Ukraine

…..

(#197)

sunflower seeds
plant the gardens of healing
watered with tears

…..

(#198)

cowards who start wars
shall die in ignominy
putin’s legacy

“A Few Haiku (32)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#187)

the forsaken vase
still stands where you left it
waiting for your flower

…..

(#188)

in the end
my heaven could not redeem
your hell

…..

(#189)

memories of you
litter the oak-shadowed grass
I tread carefully

…..

(#190)

coy spring tarries
just beyond my winter heart
how I yearn for her

…..

(#191)

strawberry spring
the false hope of redemption
as the storm draws nigh

…..

(#192)

my destitute mind
is as barren as my heart
all the words have gone

“Breakers on Rocks”

Breakers on Rocks, near Port Orford, Oregon Coast (c) Mike Utley

W17(S)–Breakers on Rocks, near Port Orford, Oregon Coast
I spent the morning photographing breakers crashing like cannon-shots onto huge boulders just off the coast south of Port Orford in southern Oregon. These booms were incredibly loud. During a lull in the action as I was examining tiny fossilized shells in a nearby boulder, I glanced back at the ocean and saw the water rising rapidly. The Oregon Coast is notorious for its sneaker waves, which are like mini-tsunamis. I had climbed down a ten-foot dirt embankment to get to the vantage point for this image, and suddenly I realized I had to scramble back up immediately. Luckily, I was able to find some rocks to climb up and made my way to safety. When I looked again at the water, it had completely overwhelmed the spot I’d been standing on seconds earlier. I learned a valuable lesson that day: never turn your back on the ocean at any time, for any reason. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)