“A Few Haiku (38)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


sorrow begets joy
from the ashes of my soul
a columbine



what can harsh words rend
that kind words cannot assuage
the healing rain



under starless skies
my heart sings a silent dirge
night wind in the trees



my regrets are mine
my shame wears my haggard face
my soul weeps alone



vagaries of life
my heart’s buoyancy in doubt
on my soulless sea



what my heart demands
my mind cannot comprehend
and my soul rejects

“A Few Haiku (37)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


clarity sundered
in the swelter and the din
of scorched memories



fitting denouement
thoughtless birds and bitter breeze
signify the end



I behold the stars
through the blurred prisms of tears
hope is beyond reach



holes in the pockets
of my soul; I lost myself
somewhere on the way



aloof stars shine on
while constellations of lives
perish on the earth



take my hand, my friend
do not cry, do not despair
you are not alone

“A Few Haiku (36)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


the empty cistern
my poetry garden dies
in this wordless drought



that cur depression
skulks on the periphery



thoughts bereft of words
prisoners inside my head
silent penitence



desiccated soul
slakes its thirst from murky meres
roams my sunless mind



mental exhaustion
I can no longer pretend
everything is fine



parts of me have died
that no one will ever know
nor will ever mourn

“A Few Haiku (35)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


in the forest
nothing matters but the sound
of my quiet mind



my heart finds its home
where the sparrows congregate
the vernal canopy



time and wind and rain
soften edges of harsh stones
my sorrows assuaged



once I saw the sea
there was no more wandering
my home had found me



glowing stardew laves
dozing midnight columbines
celestial dreams



these numb fingers
have lost their feel for life
my grip weakens

“A Few Haiku (34)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


domestic abuse
my seven-year-old self
learns to hate



sunflower song
a dirge for those
who shall never bloom



tank tracks in mud
scrawl across sunflower fields
calligraphy of war



spent brass shell casings
golden glitter in the streets
currency of death



we watch and wait
while children cry and die
thoughts and prayers are not enough



judgment day
we have no excuse for
what we have done

“The Bonfire”

“The Bonfire”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

in our exuberance to burn the words
Bradbury sagely nods and Orwell sighs
as shock-troopers corral the motley herds
and churlish masses watch with sullen eyes

bonfires glow red in every city square
eight thousand million names recited there
black smoke and fetid fumes assault the air
as filthy faces flicker in the glare

the Keepers of the Words arrive anon
in every town and burg in all the lands
and silence drops like cluster bombs upon
the billions gathered, and within their hands

the Keepers of the Words display The Tome
wherein all words of man have found their home
brought forth from dark cob-webby catacomb
a vade mecum in the darkling gloam

and with the fall of night the Keeper speaks
to all assembled round the burning pyre
“The time has come for every man who seeks
to purge his mind and cleanse his soul in fire.

“To speak one’s mind is tantamount to sin;
tomes with the thoughts of others writ within
shall lead you to the darkness and the din
of hellfire and the madness found therein.

“And so, to save your soul and cleanse your heart
Dear Leader, in his love and lenity,
has offered you a choice: from words depart
and rollick in silent indemnity,

“or immolate your filthy craven mind
and burn to ashes your pathetic rind–
obedience is bliss; the fire unkind
live silently, or fry in flames refined.”

smoke from the bonfire eddies in the night
as nervous glances dart among the crowd
and hands grip slips of paper, knuckles tight
where words are scrawled to soon be read aloud

the Keeper of the Words begins the rite
and summons forth the first name of the night
and from the crowd a man steps toward the light
his gait unsure, his face an ashen white

“Your word, comrade,” the Keeper’s voice demands
“or else the fire…it’s up to you, good sir…”
and from the paper held in shaking hands
he reads a single solitary word


then with a cry the guards drag him away
and Keeper of the Words calls out to say
“The word ‘freedom’ is stricken forth this day
from mankind’s lexicon…small price to pay…

“…for one’s life, is it not?” and with a grin
announces the next name, and from the pack
a ragged woman, elderly and thin
approaches bravely, never looking back

“Your word, comrade…” the Keeper starts to say
“You’ll have no word of mine, not on this day
or any day!” the woman says, a fey
expression of defiance aimed his way

and crumpling her paper in her ire
she drops it on the ground and cries aloud
then launches her old body toward the fire
and burns as horror overwhelms the crowd

“Her word was “love,’” the Keeper says, amused,
“and though this woman steadfastly refused
to sacrifice this word, someone will choose
to strike it from existence,” and bemused

he calls another name, and then the next
and on it went throughout the endless night
as words like hope and peace fell from the text
of Keeper’s Tome, and love faded from sight

and in the end, at breaking of the day
we all depart and make our solemn way
into a silent world of empty grey
with nothing left for anyone to say


(This poem is inspired by the recent rash of censorship being pushed by the republican party here in America, where books are being banned and even burned as right-wing radicals promote fear, lies and hatred aimed at people of color and marginalized groups. Also, in many places across the globe, freedom of speech is under siege as authoritarian regimes crack down on those who speak truth and expose their evil deeds. As writers, we cannot allow this to happen. We have voices; we must use them to ensure all people are free to speak their minds.)

“She was Six”

“She was Six”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

she was six
and on the wrong side
of a tyrant’s bomb sights
her small broken body
no match for
the shells and the hell
that befell
her country
her blood the price
of freedom
she was six

she was six
and on the wrong corner
of the wrong intersection
at the wrong time
as gang-bangers
threw lead
and fled
as she bled
just a typical night
in a typical city
she was six

she was six
and in the wrong classroom
at the wrong school
as a true patriot
flexed his might
and exercised his 2A right
to murder school children
another day
in the USA
she was six

she was six
and the wrong color
at the wrong border
snatched from her parents
caged like an animal
lost in the system
as racist thugs
praise god and county
and build their wall
one sin at a time
she was six

she was six
and the wrong religion
in the wrong village
her captors didn’t care
she didn’t last long enough
to stain their conscience anyway
all in the name of god
she was six

she was six
and on the wrong side of town
hollow eyes and empty stomach
the manic cackle of inhumanity
the soundtrack of her life
bruised body and soul
this dark alleyway to hell
her only escape
she was six

we have lost our way

“A Few Haiku (33)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


ursine winter’s claws
rend and tear and desecrate
yellow petals fall



this endless winter
memories of sunflowers
as the cities burn



children shall run free
in gilded sunflower fields
when this winter ends



glowing sunflowers
where there is light there is hope
we stand with Ukraine



sunflower seeds
plant the gardens of healing
watered with tears



cowards who start wars
shall die in ignominy
putin’s legacy

“A Few Haiku (32)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


the forsaken vase
still stands where you left it
waiting for your flower



in the end
my heaven could not redeem
your hell



memories of you
litter the oak-shadowed grass
I tread carefully



coy spring tarries
just beyond my winter heart
how I yearn for her



strawberry spring
the false hope of redemption
as the storm draws nigh



my destitute mind
is as barren as my heart
all the words have gone

“A Few Haiku (31)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley


three chickadees…
winter’s ellipsis as earth
pauses in thought



winter cattails
frozen tiki torches glow
in silver moon-fire



in night’s cold silence
old snow-laden branch succumbs
too many winters



warmth and light and love
all the world’s hope resides
in my glowing hearth



messenger moon
conveys hope to my lost love
through the years and tears



light in the darkness
dawn of hope or setting sun
I cannot decide