“A Tanka Trio (1)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley



My empty heart holds
More of you than I can bear
There is no more room
For mem’ries of mountain song
Sorrow-blossoms weep for you



In chill morning air
I wake up the sun and set
The breeze in motion
Wafting heaven’s incense through
Sleeping earth and drowsing sky



In the depths of night
I reach through the years for you
With each passing day
Time takes you away from me
Dying echoes in the dark

“My Jade Remembrance”

“My Jade Remembrance”
(c) 2019 by Michael L. Utley

I used to know you
9,000 tears ago
A tear for every mile
That kept me from you
A tear for every moment
Not spent with you
A tear for every hope
Not shared with you
9,000 tears

A jade remembrance
For my brown-eyed love
A dusky green heart
On a silver chain
I keep in my pocket
It was for you
Everything was for you
Everything I had
Everything gone except
My jade remembrance

You were already dead
Before I ever met you
Your path etched in stone
I was just a detour
A distraction on your way
Into darkness
A temporary reprieve
An unplanned respite
For the lost girl
The girl who would learn to fly
Or die trying

And I was the lost boy
The boy who had
Never seen the sun
Until I saw you
The boy whose shattered heart
Had one last beat for you
A final crescendo for my
Brown-eyed love

I couldn’t fix you
You weren’t broken
You were destroyed
Crushed by the weight of
Hounded by demons
Unknown to me
Yet you smiled at me
And pulled me from
My own abyss
And I loved you

My jade remembrance
Are you still there
Did you close your eyes
And take that leap of faith
Did you learn to fly
Or did you die trying
You didn’t just take your life
You took mine too

I keep your heart in my pocket
On a silver chain

(for Lizzy)


(c) 2017 by Michael L. Utley

There are no ripples
On this frozen pond
The puk-puk-puk of
The pebble
Skittering on iced skin
Dampened by
Frost-thick air
Breath caught short
In lung-numbed gasps
Silent words
In wintry sighs
Eyes pools of
Frigid tear-prisms
Bitter empty gelid rainbows
Where are you

You missed our flight to Tokyo
The cherry blossoms whispered your name
As Fuji, incurious and remote
Gazed white-helmed
At my solitary shadow
My empty hand
Holding more of you
Than my heart could bear
We did not walk
Beneath flicker-flamed
Paper lanterns
On blood-red bridges
Spanning koi ponds
Under the spring moon
The rising sun
Sought to kiss your cheek
But was denied
As I was denied

You missed auroras
Over Iceland
The Arctic colder
In your absence
The night sky draped
In shimmering iridescent
The emerald musings of some distant god
Snagged in dark desolation
My own thoughts of you
Caught in my own

You missed the candent sands
Of Morocco
Capricious zephyrs
Erasing my footprints
In a desert bereft of
Your footprints
We did not dance
In the summer swelter
Beneath date palms
And stars that sought
To light your way
But failed
Your body absent
In my arms
The scent of your hair
A distant memory which
Hot breezes scatter
In the night

You missed our train
To the Rockies
Where larkspur and columbine
Awaited you with open arms
And later mourned in silence
My singular form without you
By my side
We did not hold hands in
Flower-burst mountain meadows
Azure lakes reflected only
My lone countenance
As conifers murmured
Demurely in cool breezes
Wondering if you
Would ever arrive

You missed our drive
Through New England hills
Autumn maple and hemlock
A conflagration burning for you
Yearning for you
The birches and beeches smoldering
In my heart
Red-orange-gold leaves
Suiciding in silent sadness
Loneliness wearing my face
Stalks these woods
You are nowhere to be found

You missed my arrival
In Singapore
The airport a swarm
Of faces
A blur of oceanic humanity
As I searched for one safe harbor
One stormless island
In this storm of chaos
Your face
A lighthouse to guide me home
Your beacon never appearing
No fog horn guiding me safely
Through treacherous surf
Your bottomless brown eyes
Your smile cut roughly from this mural
A ragged hole where you should be
In my life

Perhaps you were a
All along

No ripples on this frozen pond
Not enough pebbles remain
To last until springtime thaw
One ripple is all I ask
One ripple to finally reach you
I’ll save a pebble
Just in case

(for Lizzy)

“In Time to Come”

“In Time to Come”
(c) 2017 by Michael L. Utley

She had that look about her again
Eyes like chips of coruscating amber
Caught in the westering sun
Her over-there gaze snagged
On some distant memory
Like thorn-caught thread
Hands prim and pale
In her denim lap
Amid foxtails and dandelions
And oak shadows

Things move too fast
When they move too slowly
The heat that summer was unbearable
A bludgeon wielded by a chrome sky
Its merciless swath pounding
Everyone everything into submission
We were not spared

I could reach toward her forever
And never touch her
I’ll tell you in time to come, she’d say
Her tired smile dying before
It reached her eyes
Time to come never coming
Never time enough
Time running out

Let’s sit and enjoy the shade, she’d say
The sun slipping languidly
Into oblivion
Her face haloed
In a warm orange aura
My ephemeral love
Ensconced in flames

Broken pieces of her
Litter the oak-shadowed grass
One touch and she’d shatter
One embrace and she’d be
All over the place
Delicate balance was
The ruse of muses who
Knew nothing of reality
Who knew nothing of
Love and sickness
And the terrible nectar
Of the tainted honeysuckle

Even the birds are quiet

There is no darkness
As black as love
No pit as plumbless
As that filled with regret
Her brown eyes
Smiling and weeping at once
Succumbing to demons
Unknown to me
So much of her slate blank
Her portrait only half-finished
Before the paint dried out
And the canvas rent asunder

Broken pieces of her
Litter the oak-shadowed grass
I used to collect them
Their razor edges
Slicing my hands bloody
Only a few remain
Among the foxtails and dandelions
Her voice only an echo now
I’ll tell you in time to come

(for Lizzy)