“A Few Haiku & Senryu (57)”

(c) 2023 by Michael L. Utley


childhood’s end at seven
I’ve been nothing but a ghost
since then



through dark watches of the night
a young boy’s burden



all these long years
the monster dead and gone
yet the fear remains



thunder and brimstone
the profane currency
of childhood



in the end
he felt no remorse at all
my father’s death



how to feel again
when all I’ve ever known is fear
how to live again

“A Few Haiku (47)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


my soul’s tourniquet
staunches words but not the pain
I weep in silence



strip me of my layers
to my core of nothingness
then you’ll understand



an errant snowflake
drifts through my paneless window
and freezes my heart



yuki no hana
coldness blossoms in my heart
my endless winter



I am not afraid
to say I am terrified
of what lies ahead



I am shamed by fear
my coward’s heart quails in the
shadows of my soul

“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

“The Farm”

“The Farm’
© 2021 by Michael L. Utley

Nighthawks scream
With evening’s descent
They know the truth
Black god’s-eyes
See everything
From salmon-hued
As wings fold
Bird-bombs dive
Preying on the
A mindless alien-avian
Turn back
There is no hope here

Across the fallow field
Elk bugle mournfully in
Twilight cacophony
A hundred dim smudges
Herding in
Paranoid precision
Against the dusty dun of
Evening’s solemn soliloquy
Amidst dusk ground-mist
Trumpet-cries betray blind fear
A prose of unearthly moans
As pinyon-sage-scented breeze
Lifts this omen skyward
Turn back
There is no hope here

Dead-yellow foxtails
And cheatgrass
As I pass
A sickly meadow of
Thin-boned weeds
And cloying sage
Crackling underfoot as
Stickers pin-cushion
Socks and shoelaces
Ground beetles
And spiders flee
Dissolve into
Cracked earth
Each footstep
The shrill trill of crickets
They know, too
Turn back, they sing
There is no hope here

A skeleton crew of
Haggard, stunted trees
Stands sentinel
Against the coming darkness
Pinyons felled by
Insidious Ips beetles
Sap-dried cones
Long dead
Among carpets of
Desiccated yellowed needles and
Sparrow-emptied pine nut shells
Tinder awaiting a wildfire
Fragrant junipers stand
Amidst dead-berry piles in
Shaggy bark-suits
Peeling like scorched dusty
Sun-burnt skin
Swarming with black ants
Pungent piss-scent
Overwhelming as
Paper-bark crawls
In the shadows
The subliminal hiss of an
Errant breeze
Wheezes dark portents
Among barkless boughs
Turn back
There is no hope here

Muffled yips and
Strangled howls
Ride chilly currents from
Far obscure fields
As coyotes practice
Weird secret sorcery
In the gloaming
The cries of the damned
Of pain
Of madness
Of red-eyed tricksters
In shadow-garb
Preparing for midnight hunts
And the tearing of flesh
Yellow grins reeking of
Fear and dead meat
Champ and drool as
Festivities draw near
Their primal chaos-chorus
Announcing to all
Turn back
There is no hope here

In hushed
Sepulchral silence
Muted coos of
Mourning doves
Float softly in
Penitential pleas
Stillness magnifying
Lilting lamentation
Grief too much to bear
Their sorrow-song
An ache that
Never ends
Rends hearts
Cleaves souls
Tears flow
Purity and
Immeasurable loss
A calming balm
Inadequate to heal
All that ails
Ineffectual against
Forces of fear
Reduced to a
Whispered admonition
Turn back
There is no hope here

The broken garden gate
Aslant on rusted hinges
Unleveling the horizon
Of faded, ephemeral corn stalks
And rotting squash-husks
A tangle of ancient weeds
And briar bushes
Encases this bleak place
Age-drained of all
Color and scent
Poisonous soil
Long since emptied of life
Only dead things grow here
Rows of sorrow
Trellises of despair
A forlorn bounty of
Loss and regret
A stilled silence
Turn back
There is no hope here

The house
A gray thing
Hunched against
The gloom of
Bruise-tinted sky
Like some
Feral beast
Skull-socket eyes
Through diseased elms
As cement tongue lolls
Cracked and pitted
From front door
To yard gate
Lawn only a distant memory
Littered with
Shattered window glass
And random roof shingles



It’s been years
Since I was here
Since I fled
Since that day
The monster was real then
The fear was real
And it’s been with me
All the while

Concrete dust crunches
Bone-like underfoot
I reach the front door
Push through a
Latticework of spider-silk
Filled with memories
So many memories
Dust and the scent of
Ancient mildew
Rotting wood
Hang in mote-filled air
It’s smaller now
Ceiling plaster
Coats rotting carpet
In a patina of snow
Water-stained drywall
Bent and bulging
My room is there
Dark and cobwebby
Sisters’ bedroom
Parents’ room
Everything accounted for
Except the monster

There is no hope here
Dead monsters leave
Memory echoes
Down the years
A legacy of pain and fear
And while there is
No monster here
Neither is there reason
For rejoicing
This place is dead
Just like my father
The monster
Nothing will ever be
As it was
So much lost
Still more buried in
Dark locked crates
In my mind
I look around
One final time
Then make my way
Out the door
And into the night

It’s time to leave
The farm behind

“That Road Don’t Go Nowhere”

“That Road Don’t Go Nowhere”
© 2013 by Michael L. Utley

That road don’t go nowhere mister

Raspy sigh of too many cigarettes
Grease-blackened claw points in the general direction of
Stench of gasoline and sweat
Indecipherable name emblazoned on
Filthy coveralls
Gas pump chugs and stutters
Connected to my car by an umbilical cord of
Ancient dinosaurs
His eyes lost in pools of wrinkles and regrets
As my eyes follow his finger
Nothing but rock and sand and the howls of
The lost
In this desolation

Road and horizon merge in a
Fitful seizure of mirage
The heat a coda to all things here
Dull and dusty sage and creosote bushes
A wretched effigy of life
In this hardscrabble wasteland
Not real
Not real at all
Nothing lives here
Nothing can live here
Nothing at all

That road don’t go nowhere mister

In the distance
A phantom zephyr on the highway
A sinuous dust devil
Snakes from earth to chrome-hued sky
This eldritch thing
It dances and writhes and bespeaks of
Ancient knowledge
An augur of blind terror
In the breakdown lane
Of this faded ribbon of
Cracked and sticky asphalt

It can’t get me here
My mind whispers
Here in this run-down
LAST GAS FOR 255 MILES sanctuary
This final outpost of sanity
Sun-bleached boards and
Rusted gas pumps
Stand sentinel against
What lies beyond
Against what should not be
But is anyway

That road don’t go nowhere mister

The gas pump rattles to a stop
His trembling hands disconnect the hose
In post-coital silence
Hi-test fumes cloying in the
Furnace heat
The old man takes my money

The world has stopped on it axis
The day is perfectly still
There is no sound
There is only the sterile heat
Of the desert
And the blackness of what is to come

He grabs my shoulder through the car window
His ancient hand a talon digging deep
His pleading eyes rheumy and weeping
He swallows
His Adam’s apple bouncing in his
Grimy neck

That road don’t go nowhere mister

There is lunacy in his weeping eyes
And there is truth
And I smile at him
And something passes between
The two of us
A last vestige of humanity
Before the coming storm
I glance in my rear-view mirror
There is nothing behind me
There is everything behind me
There is no going back

I swallow a knot of panic
I look at the man
This road doesn’t go anywhere
I say
But it’s the only road there is

And I pull away from the station
The old man a scarecrow in the mirror
Arms akimbo
Sweat-stained cap askew on his head
And then he is gone
Devoured by the nothingness behind me

I am alone on the road

There is no going back