“A Few Haiku (54)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


the trees believed once
before they lost everything
the lies of winter



for whom do you seek
there’s no one here but me
long night moon



fetch the sickle moon
let us harvest ice blossoms
winter star fields



sorrows of autumn
kindle the warmth of winter
the blazing hearth



this bitter cold
reminds me I’m alive
and why I wish I weren’t



in each flake
a brief eternity
the grief of winter

“A Few Haiku (53)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


my world begins and ends
at my window
lonely winter moon



blood and feathers
the sky falls into my palm
a young boy’s shame



calligraphy of sorrow
etched on her wrists
autumn’s demise



fast asleep
in the heron’s belly
the stilt hut



one cup one bowl one spoon
and a thousand silences
winter’s bitter feast



when it’s time to laugh
I will laugh; until then
let me cry

“A Few Haiku (50)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


in konara copse
ferns beckon
with come-hither fingers



white chrysanthemum
she sleeps in the cool embrace
of oak shadows



in the garden
corn silk and laughter
my mother’s memories



her impression left
on hand-made rice cakes
and my heart



I’ll cross the footbridge
soon enough but for now
let me enjoy the stream



live long enough
even the mountain will betray you
the forked path

“I Did This”

“I Did This”
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
I did this
A handful of fear and feathers
The black eye of God
A handful of blood and feathers
I did this
A tiny universe
Gasping for breath
Grasping for death
Stopped cold
By the golden orb of fate
I have seen myself
In the black eye of God
The dulling
Eye of God
And there I stood
An empty eternity
Before me
My marbled form
My ivory eyes
Yet full of knowledge
A handful of bones and feathers
I did this
I cried
As the sparrow died
In my hand
Its blood a tracery
In my palm
A crimson filigree
My life line stained
In its death
I cursed myself
Railed at the sky
At the earth
At all things
There is no why
There only is
And this was bitter
The dead bird
Was still warm
When I buried it
A handful of nothing
A heart crushed by everything
I did this


© 2013 by Michael L. Utley

I saw Odysseus sprawled on the sidewalk between
The squalid little deli and the boarded-up
All-night video place whose weather-stained
Posters advertised GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS
Amid obtuse indecipherable graffiti and
A fallen constellation of multi-hued shards of
Broken glass that crunched underfoot like
Bone fragments
The patina of snow about him
Pristine in its absence of footprints from
Passers-by as if the stench of his
Existence had formed an unseen barrier
A half-moon DMZ buffering
His world from ours
And ours from his
And seemed to accelerate those who passed
As if sling-shotting them along their snowy
Midnight trajectories by means of his own
Anomalous gravity
And he was invisible
This shivering, coughing Odysseus
This Odysseus of ancient rheumy eyes and
Filth-caked garb of indeterminate color and
Dirty twitching fingers destroyed by age and arthritis
That latched onto
Nothingness in the inhuman chill
Of this strange distant land
Far from home

I saw Odysseus standing on the corner
Across from the new shopping mall with
Hundreds of stores and a garish
Sign filling up half the blazing summer sky
The color of which no one noticed as they
Funneled mindlessly into the parking lot of sticky asphalt
Eager to rid themselves of their wealth
Like lemmings compelled by the inexorable call
Of the briny deep
This sun-stroked Odysseus’ sign
Garnered far less attention
And like some weird contrary magnetism it
Served only to avert the eyes of eager shoppers
Whose cash-bulging wallets held no alms
This day or any other day for anyone
With the temerity the gall the nerve
To spoil the festive mood of capitalism
And he was invisible
This gaunt, silent Odysseus
This Odysseus of haunted eyes the shade of
Tortured youth and abandonment
An aura about him that described an intimate ken
Of the black brackish hearts of fathers
Who show their children love by means of
The belt the closed fist the bruise the shattered bone
His outstretched hand unseen, voided
In the swelter and exhaust fumes
Of this strange distant land
Far from home

I saw Odysseus posed beneath the arc-sodium glare
Of streetlights in stilettos and not much else
As vehicles prowled the night like hungry panthers
Purring as they edged up to the curb to test their prey
Whose prayers, if any, went unanswered day by day
Whose god was the black tar of forgetfulness
Purchased nightly with the currency of her body
And she leaned hesitantly into the maw of the predator
A deal done through open-windowed anonymity
Then undone moments later amid an avalanche
Of raucous laughter and filthy epithets
As the panther sprang from the curb in search of other prey
Stranding her alone in the antiseptic wash
Of the indifferent streetlights that left her feeling
All the more dirty
And she was invisible
This trembling, empty Odysseus
This Odysseus of painted eyes the shame of which
No amount of camouflage could veil
The craving in her veins an all-out roar
Obliterating everything
Tears gone eons ago
Fear driving her like some twisted dynamo
Toward the blackness of the next fix
Or the grave
In this strange distant land
Far from home

I saw Odysseus pronated on the center stripe
Of a dark desert highway
Leather-gloved hands folded neatly on leather-clad breast
As four cops stood chatting idly above him like distracted pallbearers
His motorcycle a hundred feet away in a thousand pieces
His helmet still attached and useless
As the shield of a fallen warrior
A mere formality at this point
The silent ambulance en route with idiot lights flashing
To scoop this thing off the road and deposit it
Somewhere else
And he was invisible
This stilled, hushed Odysseus
This Odysseus of black leather and broken body
Who would soon cease to be a nuisance to the cops
And become a nuisance to the coroner
And then to the earth itself
And then forgotten
Just some meaningless blip on the back page
Of the next day’s paper where the anonymous
Go to die
In this strange distant land
Far from home

I have seen Odysseus at the hospital stitched with tubes
A human loom
I have seen Odysseus in the dim hallways of high school
Eyes glued to the floor in a gauntlet of cat-calls
I have seen Odysseus unconscious in the shade of an oak in the city park
Reeking of cheap booze and excrement
I have seen Odysseus on dusty shoulders of forgotten highways
Faded signs in hand that say Albuquerque or Denver or Phoenix
I have seen Odysseus in the bleachers of baseball games
On county road crews in supermarkets in churches
In unemployment lines in bars in prisons
In the mirror

Everywhere I look he is there
Trying to find his way back

In this strange distant land
Far from home


“Grandfather” (Part 1)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The twitching thing that lay upon the bed
Was not my grandfather.  It wore his face
And smelled of him, old coffee and a trace
Of cigarettes.  Its eyes were rimmed with red
And rheumy and they twinkled in its head
Like distant dying stars.  And in that place
Deep down inside where man and mind embrace
My grandfather had lost his mind and fled.
Where did he go, that man I once had known?
What horrors did he see, what eldritch lies
Ensnared him in the darkness and the din
Of lunacy?  And was he all alone?
He was; I saw it in his weeping eyes
And in the tremble of his wretched grin.


“Friction” (Part 2)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The friction between
Two blades of grass
In a breeze
Is enough to
Shatter continents
The old man said
Look there—
And he blew his
Old man’s breath across the
Dead-yellow backyard lawn
Antarctica—it were nice knowin ye!
And his bib-overalled belly
Shook with seismic tremors
Of raspy cigarette-scented
And his age-dimmed eyes
Almost sparkled in their
Crevasse of wrinkles
And I grabbed his sandpaper hand
And choked back tears
The flavor of oceans
And I held my breath
Too afraid to breathe


“Five Seconds” (Part 3)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The old man speaks to me
Across the decades
Soundless words
Forever trapped in
Ninety frames of
Grainy Super-8
He walks away
Then turns at my
Teenaged beckoning
Hey, Grampa!
The shutter whirs
Like hummingbirds
Stealing a flower’s soul
Stealing my grandfather’s soul
The arcane machinations
Bending time and space
He is here in my machine
He is here
His Viking grin
His weathered overalls
His sweat-stained cap
His cologne of coffee and cigarettes
He stops
He speaks
I can’t hear his voice
Five seconds
He is alive
Five seconds
He is alive
I can’t hear his voice
He speaks to me across the decades
The silent film
Damning him
Damning me
I read his lips his eyes his smile
I will die soon
He seems to say
The strokes will be
Only the beginning
He seems to say
Everything will change
He seems to say
Everything but these
Five seconds I have with you
And you with me
And I am saying
Anything you wish
Anything you need me to say
Anytime you see me here
He turns
He smiles
He speaks
He walks away