Michael Wayne Hampton

p o e t r y 

Next Life

In the next life   After

we’ve been threaded through blades

of sawgrass  After samsara rebirth

Garden snake to field mouse to molting

larks tiny enough to cradle

in a nest of cracked workman hands


We will watch the rays of daybreak count

under open windows      bare as born   knotted

on sheets damp from our backs  eyes

tracking the ceiling fan  lips to paper where

smoke flowers  and every mote of dust  

lost cell   is poetry  is life unfolding


In the sweetness that comes when

there’s nothing to say




Before Your Parents Were Born

To begin    a simple koan

What was your face before

your parents were born?



These sheers in syllables  deliberate

to sever the fetters   trust that

logic has purchase   time is constant



before my parents were born I was

a stack of blank pages and a pencil

draw any face you want  call it was mine



In that space before I swam to the

bottoms of bottles   through yellow

pharmaceutical hues nascent   ancient


before an ache to love fierce enough to

fear love


before spur to cradle every last touch

born to mind motherless




a soul   microscopic

an atom sailing a waterfall   stilled

for the next coming when


with wet eyes drowned in first light

chest arched  soft mouth gaped wailing life

Born to unlearn once more





The girls you love stay buried

in viscera like shrapnel  edges

tensed against parasympathetic

nerves where threads of charity

remain interred too close to arteries

to risk surgery


Wild haired girls, ink-stained and

chin down  Chewing lips born

for photographers to sequence

between grey clouds haunting

shuttered grocery store skies

and the skeletons of factories


Let them go  let them stay

in towns whose names you’ll forget

behind highways where road crews

jackhammer six months of summer

roll machines over tar and gravel

until the only taste left

is dust

On Silence

Rain-soaked daylight hours  counted off

by finger taps on hardwood are

Dangerous  too easily they spark faith

Lead to reaching into gaps of yesterdays  

To warm the grey blankets of now living

In regions of wandering desperate to trust

Another’s voice  or one message three-lines-long

can wrap spirit-hand around your wrist bones  and

Heave your own missing above rising tide  they  

touch the hard part where ribs join   palm visions of

intimacy past into rigid calcified center   whisper

I am with you  Look up!  I never left



But the unsaid is the sincere lodestone of

gravity born in affections abandoned  manna for

Hungry ghosts who stitch themselves through

abandoned devotion like syllables folded between larynx and hyoid

are swallowed  while letters curled into journals are

crossed-out  and dreams pass like promises   only fog banks

Drifting toward horizon  next lonesome key  unstruck



Worship each unsent letter  a secret child

grace of mute  heartbeat of the cursor on white screen

Secure your true self behind echo  crowd speak  static

Mark the boundary water of attachment  leave

hope and definitions unsent   They are cheap currency

currents of care grounded as bare wires shoved deep

beneath the soil of history sealed in

folders   in undedicated pages  



The strong are wordless are

Mountains  are the farthest stars and   offer no prayer

for consolation  for affection to matter

Offer no sacrifices to Mnemosyne  or language

There is peace in pause everlasting



Silence     the final providence

finds each soft place   single

occult human hurt haunting dead hours

misspent on meditations of what of why  and

delivers them whole to the coming of

tomorrow’s private trance of yesterdays



Where you will be too rugged  or wise

or old  or blind  to wish words

made whole  or brushed the edge

of telepathy  of meaning  of lingering

Had chance to hang on the wind  scented

spirits for those who  for a flash

cast visions out on the nightfall perimeter

Listening for a voice to join their   safe in



Michael Wayne Hampton is the author of three books, as well as numerous shorter works which have appeared in publications such as Rust+Moth, McSweeney's, and The Southeast Review. He can be reached via his website michaelwaynehampton.com or on Twitter @motelheartache