He sits in a rural Midwestern jail cell,
his thoughts known only to God
maybe himself. Just maybe.

Two people are dead.

Multiple lives altered irreparablycell1
cold, legalese narrative intones
burglary gone more than bad
stolen shotgun, car, arson. Death.

Warrant, charges read ‘evil’
with no backstory just
the facts, ma’am, just the facts…

I was once his Scout leader.

Six years. Tiger Cub to Star Scout
Tuesday night arts & crafts, juice and
cookies to winter survival camping

his is now a far different
mode of survival;
harsher, colder, never to end

I should write, but say…?
old leader manuals offer nothing
I never received the addendum

He is nineteen now – chronologically –
much more in some ways, less so others
too soon because he never really was

‘good kid gone bad’ cliché fits, doesn’t
too simplistic, vague inkling totreewinter
absolutely meaningless truth excuses

I am years, a thousand miles removed
from his life, whatever follower-mentality
led him from touring that very jail one
wide-eyed evening to caged residency

The boys were eleven then
eager, impressionable, intimidated
now our outing’s abject failure stings

I remember vividly, leaving little
for me to have to imagine
so much to try to not recall

I remember boys who saw no comfort
in stainless steel beds, toilets
vowing their first visit their last

Did he lie, or forget?

I have seen the mug shot, know the face
but don’t recognize the dazed boy intreewinter2
starched, orange jumpsuit – a pitiable
trade-off from rumpled khaki, perpetually
lopsided scarf, ornamental sash
he filled with colorful, earned patches

There is no merit badge to be earned

patches and pins cannot be
used for barter at jail canteen
there are no promotional ranks
awards ceremonies, campfires;
no team-building projects
car races, or demo derby builds

the camaraderie is not affirming
nothing to kill now but time

“On my honor, I will do my best…”
Inexplicably, he didn’t.

~ Mark Lucker


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I am a poet, writer and teacher who moved from Minnesota to New Orleans in 2008 to help rebuild the worst public school system in America. It is a huge challenge to say the least. Now, after ten years, I have returned home to my native Midwest. Writing - in many different forms and ways - has saved me untold thousands in therapy bills throughout the years. Reading my writings may do either the same - or just the opposite - for you. Read at your own risk, as I do not offer writer malpractice insurance. ;-{) I hope you enjoy what you read here.