“The Barn”

“The Barn”
© 2013 by Michael L. Utley

On weed-strewn verge of fallow field
The barn still stands, a silent revenant
Of ages past, a mournful sentiment
Amid the dying elms concealed

Its boards the hue of ancient bones
The wind has long since scoured paint away
As season after season rendered gray
Once brilliant lively crimson tones

Dead teasel husks caress its skin
A memory of lilac, wild rose
And hollyhock a melancholy prose
No longer whispered in the din

Of bitter zephyrs in the loft
That magnify each sorrow-laden groan
Each pensive sigh and every hopeless moan
Of dreams denied and yearnings scoffed

On cupola atop the roof
The antiquated weather vane points north
In rusted rictus, ever drawing forth
That demon wind on cloven hoof

Inside, the haymow lost to time
Illusory, a phantom from the past
Whose gilded straws have disappeared at last
An unseen grotesque paradigm

The ladder to the loft on high
Clings stubbornly amid the swirling motes
That dance in hellish pace to eldritch notes
The song of death, fey herald’s cry

And from the loft extends the beam
That transits barn so high above wood floor
Above the stack of hay that is no more
And from this, like some ghastly dream

There hangs a rope no longer there
Recast ephemeral by passing years
Whose insubstantial form allays no fears
Whose memory I’m doomed to bear

All silence now, sere winter’s grasp
Has stilled the air, the motes drift in the night
In moonbeams pale, and from the rope drawn tight
About my neck, my dying gasp

Lilts softly in the midnight frost
As it has done each night for years gone by
Eternal recompense to rectify
All that I’ve done, all that I’ve lost

(Author’s note: I debated whether to post this piece for quite a while. Some of the imagery could be considered disturbing, particularly in the last two stanzas. I used the narrator’s suicide as a metaphor for guilt, shame and loss and how those emotions can haunt us for a lifetime. I considered inserting a trigger warning at the beginning and spent several days researching studies and opinions on such tactics, with the results varying widely and no real general consensus met on how to handle sensitive or disturbing material. In the end, I decided against a trigger warning for several reasons, and chose to add this note instead.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please talk to a healthcare professional, call your local area suicide hot-line or discuss it with a friend or family member. Above all, know you’re not alone. There is help available to get you through this difficult time.)

“Eleven Days”

“Eleven Days”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

The wind blows
Those shadows deeper
Into gloaming recesses
Of pine corridors
As aspens
Denuded and shamed
By autumn’s fickle fury
Huddle shivering
In dim dusk

In my heart
Those eleven days
Of silence tore me apart
Like carrion birds
My soul chipped
Away like frost-cracked
Rock on frigid granite tor
Mind numbed by gelid

How could I
Have foreseen my gift
For you would shatter your heart
Send you spiraling
Into your
Personal abyss
Disrupt delicate balance
Leave you retreating
In the dark

How could I
Have foreseen my love
For you would turn you away
In anger and fear
When all I
Wanted was to say
I would wait for you as you
Sought to find yourself
Once again

I was so
Afraid that you would
Disappear into the void
Of black depression
Lose yourself
Among demons that
Barred you from the healing flame
Of lucid mind and

I was so
Afraid all was lost
All we built on tenuous
Foundations destroyed
Fragile trust
Dashed upon the rocks
Of hopelessness and despair
Fledgling dreams of joy
Now sundered

And how could
I foresee that when
You returned to me at last
Those eleven days
Of heartache
Gone in cautious hope
Never to return were but
A harbinger of
Our demise

That the next eleven days
Would last a lifetime
Without you

The wind blows
My sorrow deeper
Into gloaming recesses
Of my heart and mind
Denuded and shamed
By regret’s fickle fury
Huddle shivering
In dim dusk

“The Trunk”

“The Trunk”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

There is a place for things
That don’t belong in
Other places
That sere and weathered
Trunk that hunkers lupine-like
Amid dust-addled attic shadows
Wood split and gouged
With time and neglect
Iron bands and fittings
A crumble of rust
Lockless clasp broken
From endless breeches
And pryings
I should have
Replaced that lock
Eons ago
The ill-fitting lid
Is too loose
More decoration
Than function
And tends to rattle
Of its own accord
Much too frequently
For what’s inside wants to
Pop knuckles
Champ teeth
And feed
And only I can
Contain it

I am the guardian
Of my thoughts
The gatekeeper
Of my soul
The sentinel
Who slumbers
Far too often
And I have the scars
To prove it
Pandora knew nothing
Of depression
Of the sticky ichor
That coats minds
Chokes souls
Rends hearts
Ends with
Restless bones
In paupers’ graves

There is no light
In this trunk
It devours light and life
Siphons energy
Drains minds of clarity
Its bitter harvest
A wretched bounty
Of lies and darkness

I have discarded
This trunk hundreds of times
Thousands of times
Banished it to
The furthest reaches
Of the void
And when I turn around
It’s still there
Lurking stealthily in
Tenebrous attic shadows
A dead-blue
Feral glow
About it that
Bespeaks of
Baleful knowledge
Best kept under
Lock and key

Mere vigilance is futile
Hyper-vigilance exhausting
This night never-ending
The callous sun
Cannot penetrate
The claptrap slats
Of my mind
I must stand
On my own
In this blackness
And fight to keep
This trunk shut
To render impotent
Its contents
To save myself
Or die trying


(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

Those who fade away
Dust-covered and forgotten
Hushed in melancholy thought

Those of us denied
Peering through the river reeds
Watching joy drift out of reach

Who will remember
Those abandoned on the path
Those who fall by the wayside

We the silent ones
Mournful ones invisible
Just a burden nothing more

Will our lives echo
Down the road you travel on
Will our mem’ries be erased

As easily as
Closing your eyes and your hearts
As you pass us on your way

To something better
One day you’ll be one of us
Old infirm alone and weak

One day you will weep
Reach out bony fingers as
Youth and beauty pass you by

As you fade away
Dust-covered and forgotten
Hushed in melancholy thought

“On Kestrel’s Wings”

“On Kestrel’s Wings”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

Must everything have
Pedantic meaning
Must I be ground-bound
By the numbing gravity
Of grim solemnity
Must unrelenting
Earnestness be
The boot heel
Upon my neck
Must I suffocate
On the cloying
Of grave sobriety

These shackles
Which rub wrists raw
With the weight
Of morose introspection
And fetters which
Render my
Hardened heart
Captive to my
Saturnine mind
Have exhausted me
I am so tired
Of the weight of worlds
Upon my broken shoulders
Of an eternity
Of anguish and woe
My soul begs for respite
A cessation of fear and worry
So that I may open
My sorrow-blinded eyes
And see the sun again
As I saw it as a boy
Golden and eternal
And life-giving

I grieve for that
Little boy
Who lost his way
Who only wished
To be a child
And breathe freely
Of fragrant morning dew
To fly through cobalt skies
Of imagination on
Titian-ashen kestrel’s wings
To feel both wind
And tears of joy
On summer-gilded face
To traverse universes
At the speed of thought
To savor all things
At all times
To live and grow
And play
Sleep the sleep
Of innocence
Dream the dreams
Of truth

Where is he
Where is that boy
Who wears my face
And if I call him
Will he answer
Will he come running
Will he throw his arms
Around my neck
And rejuvenate my
Heart and soul
Will he
Can he
Is it too late
Do I even
Dare to try

“It’s Not Lost”

“It’s Not Lost”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

It’s not lost on me
How this coral-tinctured eve
Tempers morning’s joy
With sadness and coos of doves
Grieve dying light’s somber end

It’s not lost on me that I
Never got to bid farewell
As sun languishes
On melancholy verge of
Day’s bitter demise

It’s not lost on me
That no matter how I tried
I could not reach you
My arms were not strong enough
To save you from siren’s song

It’s not lost on me that I
Could not give you what you sought
To slay your demons
Could not be your shining hope
In your darkest hour

It’s not lost on me
That I mourn what never was
What could never be
How I wish this night would end
How I wish for you again

“A Tanka Trio (5)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


It is only blood
Just a cut on father’s head
Battered mother weeps
I have slain the beast for now
Ten-year-old son dies inside



In the backyard ball
Bounces against shed all day
Louder louder must
Drown out monster’s roaring voice
Dusty tears streak child’s face



There are things that I
Should not know but can’t forget
No child should be forced
To defend his mother’s life
Against father’s flying fists

“A Tanka Trio (3)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley


My eyes hear what my
Ears cannot see I wash my
Mouth of bitter taste
Of memories long past and
Chase scent of elusive hope



Distant memories
Hide like frail columbines
Shade-bound ‘neath the firs
Fragile petals woe-dappled
In the meadows of my mind



To open my heart
Is a mighty task I am
Not prepared to do
I no longer hold the key
To what’s locked inside of me

“What the Sun Denies, the Moon Divines”

“What the Sun Denies, the Moon Divines”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

This light that burns
Through bone-hued slats
As serpentine sun
Sheds its pretense
And glissades through
Fey reeds of twilight
Cuts razor-lines
Across eddying galaxies
Of dust motes
Infinities of minutiae
Indifferent spirals
A feckless requiem
For rise-and-fall futility
Ley lines annulled
As monuments crumble
Broken cities dissolve
In caustic deserts
Of ebon sand
Lifeless seas
Heave and sigh
And evaporate
Under red alien suns
There is nothing here
For light to illumine
Nothing remains
To set eyes upon
No ear-to-ground echoes
No cryptic communiques
Just dust and rust
And eternity

This light that chills
Through paneless frame
As bulbous moon
Worms slug-like
Across the night-void
On star-trail secretions
Casts a blue-white pall
Upon the multi-verse
Of frozen motes
A languid lethargy
Of sub-cosmic energy
Dust specks in moonlight
Aglow in spectral hues
Shadows of ancient arcana
Flicker in surreal death-light
Tumbled monuments
Glimmer restlessly
Under dead stars
Ley lines shimmer
In quicksilver urgency
There is something here
That hovers
Beneath the spectrum
Felt not heard
Sensed not seen
Permeates bedrock with
Profane vibrations
Sets somnolent cities
Imbues oceans with
Eldritch dreams
And eternal