“When Field Work is Done”

“When Field Work is Done”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

When field work is done and soil tells
A tale of fragrant earth in russet tones
When ground-mist hunkers in secluded dells
And eventide descends upon the swells
Of solemn and discordant distant bells

I follow god-beams west, these tired bones
Sun-gilded in the cool remains of day
As fields pass beside the cobblestones
And honey-hives a-swarm with buzzing drones
And cudding cow in pasture lows and moans

The neighbor’s barn, a faded sun-bleached gray
Leans sleepily as I approach the bend
Where cobblestones succumb to moistened clay
And farm cats mouse-hunt stealthily in hay
And foals and piglets gambol as they play

Ripe apple trees stretch roadward to suspend
Their fruits to all who amble past below
And conifers at orchard’s distant end
Stand sentry as if ready to defend
This past’ral scene from all who might offend

And I, as evening stars begin to glow
And insects tune their instruments and sing
Their night-song, wend my way beside the slow
And clam’rous brook that gleams not far below
As moon peeks through the pines and winks hello

And pausing, I can’t help remembering
The lonely hearth that waits at home, the still
And barren house, silent, unwelcoming
The empty bed, no candle beckoning
No one who waits upon my homecoming

I watch the moon as noisy waters rill
Then close my eyes and breathe in willow-air
And stand alone in darkling evening’s chill
And tell myself through iron force of will
To swallow yet again this bitter pill

Then turning back the way I came, I stare
Into the gloaming’s ever-deep’ning hue
As tired feet propel me through the glare
Of starlit tears that blind and shame, and there
In dim distance the fate I’m doomed to bear

I run as moonlit field comes into view
For nothing’s left but field work to do

“It’s Much Too Late”

“It’s Much Too Late”
(c) 2017 by Michael L. Utley

Autumn rain
Cannot slake
Summer’s thirst

It’s much too late
For yellowed grass
And barren field

Leaves which fall unseen
Litter ground in mounds
Scarlet memories

It’s much too late
For mountain leas
Devoid of hue

Flowers fade
Petals drift
On chill wind

It’s much too late
For drought-cracked earth
And bitter weeds

Which cling to parched dirt
Brittle claws succumb
Snap like frail bones

It’s much too late
This autumn rain
Which rills the ground

Sweeps away
All that’s left
Of summer

It’s much too late
To heal the wounds
Of all that’s lost

All that’s left behind
All that’s left of life
All that’s left of me

It’s much too late

“Ripples”

“Ripples”
(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
Suspended
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
Thought
The emerald musings of some distant god
Snagged in dark desolation
My own thoughts of you
Caught in my own
Desolation

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
Nowhere
Your smile cut roughly from this mural
Missing
A ragged hole where you should be
In my life

Perhaps you were a
Phantom
All along

Puk-puk-puk
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
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)