“Anchor”

“Anchor”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

she sat there
9,000 miles away
on the edge of her bed
or the ledge of her building
I never knew which
and talked about anchors
and the black depths
of depression
and what it would feel like
to fly

“You’re my only reason
for being,”
she said
and was she laughing
or crying?
it’s hard to tell while
text-chatting
(damn my deaf ears)
“You’re the only anchor
I have left,”
she said
and there was a long

pause

and I thought I heard the
wind whipping past
my ears
and felt my heart
in my throat

“I’ll always love you,” she said
smiley face / crying face
emojis

my fingers wouldn’t work
my keyboard was mute
my mind as blank
as the empty miles
between us

“I had the dream again,” she said
I squeezed my eyes shut
while she typed
I didn’t want to read it again
but I was helpless against
the machinations of my own heart
and she pried them open
from across the sea

we walked hand-in-hand
in a flower-burst
mountain meadow
the colors like something
out of a kaleidoscopic acid trip
the sky the hue of ancient oceans
the capricious breeze
flirting with her obsidian hair
her caramel eyes closed
her face
enraptured
turned up to the sun
and we passed
through columbines
lupine fire-weed
monkshood sun flowers
while conifers and aspens
susurrated, whispering secretively
in the language of the trees
amid strange atonal birdsong

then the wind arose
intensified
and her feet left the ground

panic smudged the smile
from her face
and she looked at me
wide-eyed
horrified
as she floated up
toward the howling sky
as though she were
being drawn by some
anomalous gravity
and she cried out in terror
her eyes bulging
her hand crushing mine
in a death-vise
and she screamed
“Don’t let me go!”
over and over
as she was wrenched
from my grip
and sucked up
into the sun

I turned my head
her text a saline blur
my heart pounding
ears ringing

and a string of
crying face emojis
snaked across my screen

a few moments passed

“I’ll always love you…”
she repeated
and ended the chat

and I felt the dead weight
of a severed anchor
crush my heart

“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

“A Few Haiku (15)”

(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

(#85)

Fruit rots on the ground
In unattended orchard
Our love slowly dies

…..

(#86)

I plant hopes and dreams
In the fertile soil but I
Still must pray for rain

…..

(#87)

Sly kitsune slinks
Among magenta kiku
Shrewd white-tip-tailed imp

…..

(#88)

Thirsty tamarisk
In its drunken reveling
Drains oasis dry

…..

(#89)

Let the bitter plum
Remind you to cherish the
Sweetness of the pear

…..

(#90)

Those old stars above
Whisper of antiquity
And enduring hope

“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

“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

“The Footbridge”

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

That derelict footbridge
Has finally failed
Stranding us on
Opposite shores
Of the abyss
Words
Like rotted planks
Litter the gorge
Below
Desires and dreams
Dashed
Upon indifferent rocks
Silence is all
I hear from you
Subdued echoes
Of regret
Perish
In opaque mists
Impenetrable
To starlight
And hope
The absence
Of closure
Rooting me
In place
Heart seized
By fear
And uncertainty
Did you turn
And walk away
Or did you
Plummet
Like our words
Into the
Sepulchral gulf
And must I
Remain here
Forever
Waiting for
The answer which will
Never come

“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
Damnation
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)

“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
Flickering
Flickering

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)