“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

“Kintsugi”

“Kintsugi”
(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

Loneliness
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

Kintsugi
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
Again

“A Tanka Trio (9)

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

(#25)

Old stones squander heat
In the fire pit at night
After flames have died
Wrapped in fading embers’ arms
Love succumbs to apathy

…..

(#26)

I pick up the eggs
Fallen from a sparrow’s nest
Observing the cracks
There is silence as the earth
Contemplates what might have been

…..

(#27)

In the summer lea
Fluted vessels spill their mead
Amid buzzing drones
Yellowjackets drink their fill
Humming raucous tavern tunes

“Hana no Niwa (Garden of Flowers)”

“Hana no Niwa (Garden of Flowers)”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

In the restless nights
In the small flower garden
Spider lilies weep
Mournful beneath midnight moon
Dreaming higanbana dreams

They cry in silence
Do they know for whom they grieve
Do they remember
It was you who planted them
It was you who gave them life

They are not alone
In the soil of memories
In their moonlit tears
In my hana no niwa
In my place of remembrance

Magenta sweet peas
Bow their heads and bid farewell
To the one whose hands
Long-fingered and delicate
Caressed suitopi blooms

When the frost has come
Ivory chrysanthemums
Lay to rest your name
In autumnal kiku tombs
In dark chambers of my heart

In the pallid glow
Of tsuki and winter stars
Camellias die
Shed their crimson petals in
Snowy tsubaki lament

In the spring voices
Of sakura sing of you
Cherry blossoms mark
Your fleeting days in the sun
When skies were forever blue

In opposing climes
Doleful daffodils remain
Solemn sunflowers
Suisen, himawari
Pay respects with humble hearts

There’s a hidden place
In my hana no niwa
In my broken heart
Where my love for you still grows
Flowers bloom eternally

You are always there
Kneeling in the fertile loam
Under summer sun
Tending our flower garden
Where skies are forever blue

“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
Confusion

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
Sanity

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
Memories
Denuded and shamed
By regret’s fickle fury
Huddle shivering
In dim dusk

“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
Atmosphere
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 (3)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

(#7)

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

…..

(#8)

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

…..

(#9)

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

“Fade”

“Fade”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

Dusk has fallen as
Stars scream heavenward and doves
Murmur mournfully
Evening-song has come and I
Cannot hear day’s parting cry

Night blooms above as
Insects whisper mysteries
And wolves share solemn
Oaths on phantom breeze and I
Cannot hear dark’s somber sigh

Dawn symphony births
Strident morning melody
As birds wake the sun
And earth speaks to me and I
Cannot hear the singing sky

I have lost so much
My earth my sky autumn odes
Winter dirges spring
Soliloquies summer chants
Fading in silent echoes

And I
Cannot bear to hear them die