“A Few Haiku (23)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


winter blizzard
mountain’s clouded mind confused
avalanche of thoughts



my life stains the page
complicated crimson kanji
too obscure to read



arctic kitsune
little blizzard stalks the drifts
crimson raicho plumes



darkest winter night
echoes of abandoned prayers
dwindle in the void



wind and sea and sky
permanence of change
impermanence of life



snow on footbridge
heron tracks the only sign
of life that matters

“A Few Haiku (22)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


serrated sea shells
flay unfeeling fleeing feet
my numb soul bleeds out



bits of blue shell
and broken soul mark my fall
from heaven’s nest



old pond and ocean
renewed with each thunderstorm
my soul begs for rain



your name etched
on every cobblestone
this road leads nowhere



frost on suisen
sheen of wistful memories
melts too quickly



buds on barren twigs
kanji writ on sleeping trees
promise of the spring


(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

“Winds of Sorrow”

“Winds of Sorrow”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

My beloved kiku lay in withered waste
Yet their ivory tears still fall
Drift against the sides of my heart
Winter’s woeful weeping

In the northernmost climes
The bitter wind howls in my soul
Frigid lamentations haunt me
Hokkaido’s kanashimi no kaze

Winds of sorrow have frozen me in place
My mind flees on grey heron’s wings
Far away from this futile life
From this land of sadness

There is only whiteness
The aimlessness of a long life
Poorly lived, poorly loved, a life
Bereft of meaning, bereft of color

I can no longer remember the sun
The green of konara copse gone
Faded as the ferns have faded
Spring grass now dusky dun

Memories of flowers
Cause my heart to seize in my chest
There are no more lotus blossoms
Only shifting shadows on lifeless pond

Past the willows, past the stream, bamboo groves
Stand dead and haunted as yurei
Beat strange tattoos on hollow husks
Disappear in darkness

My hut is deserted
Now a silent chill resides there
Only empty bed and one chair
At the table where I broke bread alone

No matter where my mind takes me there is
A sense of a world in mourning
Earth comes to a stop, all life gone
Naught left but winter’s tears

And yet I still endure
Wake each day to a barren world
Pass my time in haze of regrets
Wait for callous night with its numbing dreams

And yearn for winter’s end
Which never comes

“The Snow That Never Falls”

“The Snow That Never Falls”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

The snow that never falls cannot assuage
The sorrow of the autumn’s grim defeat
There is no balm
For open wounds
No gilded cup
To slake the dying season’s thirst
No whispered words to quell the fear
Of failing heart
Forsaken soul
Abandoned hope
There is no honor in autumn’s demise
In absence of the snow that never falls

The tears that never fall have silenced me
Left desiccated bitter memories
Of desert sand
And alkali
That sting my eyes
Abrading zephyrs scour my soul
Abrasive hardpan sears my soles
I walk through life
An empty husk
Of what I was
There is no succor for these blinded eyes
In absence of the tears that never fall

The love that never comes has passed me by
And stranded me along the mountain path
The chilly wind
Bereft of warmth
Has sundered life
There is no trace of hart nor hind
Nor shadowed copse in which to rest
Treacherous scree
And empty tarns
And granite bones
Epitomize my solitary life
In absence of the love that never comes

The spring that never comes can never heal
The grievous pain inflicted on the earth
By autumn’s death
And winter’s drought
And dearth of care
For those who walk the silent path
Through torrid flats and frigid slopes
In search of what
They’ll never find
And stumble on
In darkness spurned by sun and moon and stars
In absence of the spring that never comes


(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

In the winter hour
Of my broken soul
This fragile vase cannot contain
My essence

It sits cracked
On the cornerstone of my hut
Catching melting snow
From which my heart drinks

My soul, old and plain
Cannot match the pace
Of setting sun or rising moon
Or brisk stream

Nor can it
Rival beautiful sakura
Kiku or fuji
But it is my soul

Born in raku fire
Tested by the flames
Etched and pitted by the glaze of
Toil and tears

Has found me at last as long years
Pass by on the trail
Up the mountainside

Misty mysteries
Hidden from my eyes
As I watch my sorrowful tears
Melt the snow

I have lost
Many pieces of myself through
Seasons of regret
Too many winters

How can I replace
All that has perished
All my soul has cannibalized
In my pain

Who can find
A way to patch this vase that leaks
My life on the ground
Draining my essence

Who will knead the clay
Who will brave the snow
To gather golden suisen
Seal the cracks

Make my mournful soul whole again
Gild my wounds and heal
Me with tender care

Fill my soul with hope
Set me on the path
Up the mountainside so I may
Find my way

“I Cannot Ask the Mountain…”

“I Cannot Ask the Mountain…”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

I cannot ask the mountain
To carry my burden
For it shoulders the
The cumbrous glacier
The forsaken tor
The desolate scree slope
It weeps already
At its heavy load
Remorseful streams
Of alpine tears
Flow into tarns of regret
Secret cirques of sorrow
Hidden in its granite heart

I cannot ask the forest
To assuage my fears
For it attends to
The capricious breeze
Gathers thoughtless birds
To empty nests
Shepherds hind and hart
To twilight copses
Shelters hares among
Sword fern shadows
Its vigilant whisper
An exhausted sigh
I must let it sleep

I cannot ask the meadow
To save my soul
For it is laid to rest
Its cacophony
Of summer essence
Drained of hue and humor
Unkempt autumnal whiskers
Of dried grasses and weeds
All that remain on its
Forgotten countenance
It has no voice left
To perform last rites
For a dying world
No solemn hymns
Drift from dusty lea
To offer salvation

I cannot ask the sky
To forgive my sins
For it cares not
The callous sun
The fickle moon
The incurious stars
Time itself
Oblivious to all
They are occupied
With eternity
Not the pedestrian pain
Of one lost soul
Standing on the edge
Of a clearing
On a random
Autumn evening
Watching the universe
Spin silently overhead
Through burning tears

“A Few Haiku (14)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


Under darkened skies
Of depression even my
Shadow flees from me



Light devoid of warmth
Casts the moon as villainous
Skulking through the trees



Myths of ancient days
Etched in runes on ruined wood
Worm trails on old trees



Those cicadas know
What lies ahead is better
Than what’s left behind



Desiccated husks
Of bad memories remain
Rattle restlessly



Mem’ries of lilac
Wild rose and hollyhock
Melancholy prose

“A Few Haiku (13)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


Those who lost their way
In Aokigahara
Must be remembered



In the sea of trees
Koto and shamisen play
Sorrowful dirges



When the mist is thick
I can’t see the whip-poor-wills
Calling out to me



The cold moon sails on
A black sea of bitter stars
Wake of cosmic tears



Early morning mist
In the green konara copse
Forest holds its breath



Autumn has no shame
Strips away the world’s facade
Exposes our sins

“A Few Haiku (12)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


Regret stills haunts me
Even though my heart tells me
I did all I could



When I am in need
God responds to all my prayers
“Return to sender”



The days come and go
But sometimes inside my heart
The night never leaves



Summer sun has gone
That impostor in the sky
Only leaves me cold



Autumn’s thievery
Has left more than trees barren
Summer leaves no heir



Seasons’ edges blurred
Snow on flowers, freezing rain
I seek clarity