Put on your shoes

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

      Laozi

Our journey has finally begun road1.jpg
there have been
fits, starts, delays
in getting here; now
finally underway, I am ill at ease

The irony, not lost on me

An inveterate wanderer, –
‘Mr. Spontaneity’ to friends, family
I do not like not having an even
rudimentary itinerary
I find myself in the driver’s seat,
riding unwilling shotgun

Where this road takes us, unclear.
I know where we are going  –
in abstract theory
our route is well-traveled,
mapped out and useless
“This way” our only directional cue

Traveling companions
our conversations more and
more disjointed, repetitive
yet replete with always new insights
wisdom, perspectives – shared,
dispersed like random gumballs

I wanted the yellow, got the red
still a gumball.
Something innocuous to chew onroad3

People sometimes remember
in order to forget;
not by choice, yours a different tack
forgetting to not remember
remembering the obscurity of what was
oblivious at time to what is

except when you aren’t.

Your navigational skills
no longer reliable
I steer conversation to a time of
your place and choosing
where with alarming alacrity
you can recall, recite
the mundane and profound
as I work to remember
to try and not forget, while keeping
my eyes on the road ahead,

utilizing little more than stray
magazine articles and brochures,
well-meaning advice,and gut instinct
all the while striving to keep us moving
forward, using the rear-view mirror

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2018
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Old growth

birchbark1At age seven I nearly killed the pubescent
birch tree anchoring our Minneapolis backyard
stripping it of all its bark, roots to four feet up –
the physical limits of my fanciful reach

As Mrs. Kime’s most intrepid first-grader
I planned to build a birch bark canoe, ala
the Chippewa we were studying, but
my grandiose vessel never took float
paddling confined to parental retribution
albeit with forgiving landlord-absolution

not George Washington, there is no notoriety
from well-intentioned arbor-indiscretiontreerings2

Half a century later, the birch tree still stands
defiant, smugly secure in its survival: Midwestern
winters, drought summers, visionary first graders

I too, still stand – resilient and unfazed, rooted in
long-forfeited yard, having weathered erratic seasons
dubious choices, those who tried to remake me
I remain a curious, risk-taking, idea-prone dreamer

Neither of us ever produced a working canoe yet
our respective rings share a distinctive trait; denser,
late, wood – thick ring dating us to a particular summer
the growing season that solidified respective chronologies

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2018
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

33 (For Johnny)*

Twenty-one years was not nearly enough;
we had just embarked when you left.
Thirty-three years is not nearly enough
to erase what is indelibly sketched

not a pencil caricature, a dimly recollected
photographic snapshot or grainy home movie
just you, at nineteen, before illness
rudely smudged and dog-eared the picture

you are smiling, damn it

you always smiled – warranted or not – but
really, when was it not, for us?
I cannot for the life of me conjure up
you at forty, thirty but especially not now

I imagine your asphalt black beard still thick,
neat, coarse…tinged gray, framing sly grin
your perpetual smile-induced squint turned
permanent as well-earned crow’s feet

‘imagine’ is all I can do

I have aged gracefully, so I’ve been told,
a goal you will never attain, a good-natured
insult I will never get to hurl your way

you left, life went on

The plans, hopes, dreams, big ideas we
discussed to death oddly survived yours
some of mine came true, differently than
we could’ve ever dreamed, but still true

the shared versions departed with you as
my road strangely and happily diverged from
plans made, starting with your leaving,
life taking me along for the journey much as
I have taken your spirit within me

The calendar now ironically tells me that
the years since you left match the numerals
you wore on your South High football jersey
the same numbers I have always worn for
company softball teams, and just because

I see you so clearly now – slashing through the
defensive line of time and memory, breaking
into the clear, smiling and always running free

*Johnny Wilkins 6/11/58 – 8/9/79

 

  – Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Put on your shoes

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

      Laozi

Our journey has finally begun
there have been
fits, starts, delays
in getting here; now
finally underway, I am ill at ease

The irony, not lost on me

An inveterate wanderer, –
‘Mr. Spontaneity’ to friends, family
I do not like not having an even
rudimentary itinerary
I find myself in the driver’s seat,
riding unwilling shotgun

Where this road takes us, unclear.
I know where we are going  –
in abstract theory
our route is well-traveled,
mapped out and useless
“This way” our only directional cue

Traveling companions
our conversations more and
more disjointed, repetitive
yet replete with always new insights
wisdom, perspective shared,
dispersed like random gumballs

I wanted the yellow, got the red
still a gumball.
something innocuous to chew on

People sometimes remember
in order to forget;
not by choice, yours a different tack
forgetting to not remember
remembering the obscurity of what was
oblivious at time to what is

except when you aren’t.

Your navigational skills
no longer reliable
I steer conversation to a time of
your place and choosing
where with alarming alacrity
you can recall, recite
the mundane and profound
as I work to remember
to try and not forget, while keeping
my eyes on the road ahead,

utilizing little more than stray
magazine articles and brochures,
well-meaning advice,and gut instinct
all the while striving to keep us moving
forward, using the rear-view mirror

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Recalculating

only another turning point
crossroads of cliché and same ole
what to do which way to turn
got here without GPS will
navigate as always, following stars

gut instinct not infallible co-pilot
riding shotgun, no desire to shoot
let alone take aim even with
windows down, wind in my hair
freedom promised by open roads
just a more panoramic void
ahead or behind checking the shifter
my only clue as to direction
I can’t move it to R going fifty-seven
so I must be moving onward

hard to tell: the road nothing
but a dot in the distance
thinking back to ninth grade art,
lesson on perception and perspective
the farther you are away fromsign2
something means the brush strokes
need to be lighter, not so bold
in coloring or thickness or was
that a different lesson entirely?

I always got yelled at for never
cleaning my brushes properly
leaving them dry, stiff but I made them
starkly, erratically pliable again, using
my own technique of pushing down,
flattening bristles out, painting again
much coarser lines, less nuance

I am no impressionist
haven’t touched a canvas
in years yet time is just blots of color
I need a picture or map to
follow or grab vague directional hints
as I decide to flip a mental coin
heads left, tails right using my blinker –
always instructed to warn those
following my intentions

laughing to myself ruefullyonewayoneway

any fool who tries to follow
will be as lost as I
not knowing what I know
how not to get where I am going
and how many ways there are
to go there or not go there

pedal-to-the-metal-time
squealing rubber, leaving tracks
just drive, baby. Just drive.

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2016
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Newlyweds ago

burnedpizza3Loft apartment,
late Saturday afternoon
spontaneity interrupted
by shrill, continual

oven timer buzz

“Pizzas done” says she
“But I’m not” replies he

not-rhythmic, static
range-buzzer drone not
disrupting tempo of early
life-together moral

they learned how easily
heat, afterglow can
turn three-dollar frozen
pizza to charcoal

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2015
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

 

Patching things together

pumpkin1Growing up on a small farm, rural Minnesota
space was scarce, times were lean and the land was life
ma and pa granted my brother, sister and I a small plot
every spring in which to plant and nurture pumpkins;
sibling sharecroppers, we repaid mom by growing
enough extra pumpkins for her to fulfill familial
pie making duties through Thanksgiving, Christmas
and in good years, four or five quarts of canned squash

Indentured, we were, for the privilege of creating
toothless, carved fright for amusement every October
we grew two big pumpkins each, thinning the runts as
we saw fit, channeling growing energy into the larger,
bumpier, more potentially grotesque orange oddities
just for a month of autumnal family horror-ticulturepumpkin3

Becoming teenagers meant slowly relinquishing our
yearly pumpkin patch anticipation, subsequent budding
interest in jack-o-lantern growing slowly gave way to
preoccupations with sports, romance, cars, – disdain for
all else childlike or childish and definitely not cool
as mom slowly transformed our pumpkin patch into
feeble nasturtium arboretum, ringed with galling petunias
leaving us no room to protest as we had long since given
up any claim to the small plot of backyard fraternal field
of Halloween dreams leaving us with nothing but the
field stubble of memories, remnants of harvests past
long since completed, yet still vainly cultivated for
any rogue seedlings that may again someday sprout

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2015
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Shackled

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

 

Wood-post modernist

pencil2thrills are to be had

secrets need revealing
wonders beg unraveling
truths urge to be told

revelations

dark and light
constrained in the
pristine symmetry of
new, freshly sharpened
shiny-yellow pencil

just above the perfectly
honed greyish tip
peach-fuzz wisps of wood
cling gently, smell of pine
tickle fingers excitedly

anticipation

cylindrically contained
wisdom waits for dispensing
tales of life crave to regale;
ideas yearn to be rendered
philosophies chafe
to be revealed

slices of life,

snapshots in time
narrow, wooden
repository of wisdom
covenant ark of perceptions
woven tightly between
two fingers, thumb

pristine, freshly sharpened,
primal and fearless
my shiny yellow pencil

poet selfie stick.

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Rider less

What goes around
tiltawhirl2comes around
life more
Tilt-A-Whirl than
Merry-go-Round

Symmetry, overrated
repetition needs
expected spontaneity no
matter how it goes downtiltawhirl3

up…?

Nobody waits in line
just anticipating the thrill
of getting strapped in
and staying grounded

save the poeticallytiltawhirl4
unenlightened dreamer
on the rumbling
quarter-a-ride,
in-front-of-the
grocery-store horse

– Mark Lucker