Trivium

I

It was here that I found
myself – as much as
one teenager can

It was here that I
tallied a notable string
of personal firsts,
nails hammered
logs split
fish caught
girl loved
cars driven
stick shift, mastered
full beer drunk
jukebox played
girl kissed

Held her hand, first

Pristine milieu for my
development
woodland womb the
summer I was six til the
summer I was
eighteen –

personal
Enlightenment
reasoned, resonant

individual philosophy
innately seeded
naturally cultivated

more Spinoza
than Descartes

relying ever on
the observable
self-trained as such

Warm solstices
aggrandized my youth

This is where I learned
to grasp Thoreau
years before reading him

an inquisitive, pint-sized
Audubon-by-osmosis
whatever flew, crawled,
hopped
reflected the sun
echoed through woodlands

entranced me

II

This is where I
learned the skills
still serving me the most, best

freedom, autonomy
appreciation of their limits
love, curiosity
without reservation, regard
hearing nature’s call
finding personal refuge
transformative magic

of the woods, on foot or
in being on the water

contemplation, reflection,
reverence. Peace.

Inner and outer.

Self-taught
while others tutored
by my teens I had well earned
Ph.D. in me

Coming to my senses still
sounds of dry leaves
underfoot
feels of bare feet on
warm sand
tastes of falling rain
looks like misty sunrises
filtered through
towering pines

Tranquilizing spirituality:
effects
of lake-bottom sand
oozing up between toughened toes

meditative trill of loons
calling
exhilarating rhythm of surprised
sunfish
flopping on boat floor

falling asleep to gentle, swishing
drum-brush cadence of small
waves on lakeshore

sweetly-scented breezes
sifted through
wire-mesh screened windows

there was hard wisdom
to be earned in
every harsh, shrill grind of
missing gears
learning to drive a pickup

sawing a board crookedly
once
missing the nail but not
thumb with
awkwardly swung hammer

the mangling, tangling of new
fishing line

falling to dirt road off the
back of a truck
spilling a can of paint
digging the wrong hole

stinging futility in trying to
chop wood
with a dull axe

There was great wonder in
small creatures
scampering loudly unseen
through leaves, up trees
gentle thud of
pinecones, butternuts, even
acorns
falling to birth

onto moss-carpeted
forest floor

joyous splash of a bass
jumping
loons, pelicans diving
croaking toads, grunting frogs
sing-song crickets
chattering chipmunks
full orchestral variance
of birds

Your own footsteps
on gravel road

Getting drunk holds little
allure for one who knows well
intoxicating pull of

fragrant wildflowers, wild raspberries
carried on July breezes
musty aura of lakeshore algae, mud
freshly dug nightcrawlers
exhaust from
sputtering outboard boat motors
charred birch logs in
dormant wood stoves

earthy, overflow-foam from
freshly-opened
bottle of beer

Pines, at night.

It was here that I
found myself, return to still
when lost
no matter where I am

III

The Lake

Grandparent’s home where
every summer
I spent my days learning life via
languages, dialects
of others

plumbers, and painters
lumberjacks, and carpenters
storytellers, and lovers
immigrants, all
far off lands, languages
smoothly blended with
richer, more colorful English

quirky, vernacular nuances
my elders takes on
nature, fate, faith

with applications practical,
trivial
memorable
wisdom-soaked
absorbed by me with relish

Summers at The Lake

taught me what I needed then
still use
understanding complexity of
simple things
basic truths in the complex

still lessening fears
still helping me grasp that at
the heart of each failure
is cultivated, harvested wisdom
deep understanding that grew wild
in me
my summers at

The Lake.

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2019
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Frogs

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

No French Cuffs

Plaid flannel shirts
of my Northwoods youth
smelled of
beer and pine cones
boat motor gasoline and
fresh caught sunfish
wood smoke
and filtered Winstons

when I was a kid the
intertwined, pungent
aromas of cervelat salami
plumbers’ grease, house paint
mingled freely, locked
in square-patterned fibers,
always-rolled-up sleeves

no amount of
Fels-Naptha soap
could smother those
godly auras

When I was a kid
plaid flannel shirts smelled
wonderfully worn by heroes –
old men with accents and dialects
eye-winks and odd habits
mentors who I know understood,
that I emulated
aspired to one day be like

Plaid flannel shirts
hang now in my closet;
freshly washed, hanging neatly –
as they never
would or could on the
hero-men I knew

My plaid flannel shirts
hang quietly, neatly,
sedately
rarely worn, quietly lived-in
yet they, too
smell of wood smoke
and pine trees
beer, salami, pine

wood box colby cheese and
chainsaw exhaust,
bait minnows and Old Spice
whenever I open
my closet

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

The sign

Sawed-off fence picketHorseshoe Lake residents ED
turned sideways
points eastward, sort of
you are – we are – ‘that way’
if signs are to be believed

The sign unaware
you have been gone
thirty years, plus
your house,over twenty

anyone driving north on
Crow Wing County
Highway Three
would believe they could
turn, still find you

I know better

Driving by that sign
your name – paint dulled,
yet still legible
against washed-out gray
still hanging
securely on gnarled
old jack pine
set back from the road

There are other signs
other names – some
familiar, comfortable though
generationally updated
fancier, laser-carved
lacking charm, history

other names,Horseshoe Lake residents
I am unacquainted with –
faceless interlopers
though they are
in the moment

I remain impressed
by durable simplicity:
sun-beached slab of oak
with a name, C.I. Andren
nothing more,
so much more

still anchored by two
galvanized stud nails,
still pointing the way to
a place long since gone,

Times well remembered

I could turn down that road
drive by what was
puzzle over, sigh  maybe
over the ingrown modernity –
new opulence of now

But there is no logic
nothing at all to be gained,
plenty, I know, to be lost
in forcing the square
remembrances of nostalgia
into the round hole
of progressing time

Steady on the gas

I simply smile, keep on
driving north
knowing what was, still is
always will be
simply because
I know a sign
when I see one.

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

Breezes

summer comes to a close
autumnal breezes waft
rustling memories of those
days when the close of summer
had more definitive endings

sun-drenched days of youthful
frolic, innocent play, done

swimming, playing with frogs in
holes dug on sandy beaches at
grandparent’s homes; ‘the lake’
summer Xanadus of childhood
one year, scenic backdrops for
advancing adolescence the next

the summer dented pails,
bent shovels lay unused in
boathouse corner; replaced with
initials inside a heart, drawn
artfully at dusk in beach sand with
carefully chosen stick, just to be
erased by evening’s gentle waves

Previous summers we traveled
in packs along endless lakeshore
some ‘ooing’ over discovered shells
all ‘eewing!’ over dead, bloated fish
skipping rocks to show machismo

But our duo walks became more
intimate strolls through the woods
privacy trumping pinecone collection,
coy separation from the collective
group not as subtle as we hoped

Each summer indelible as the
next; parts of many years blending
seamlessly together, a montage of
youthful Julys, childhood vacations

But the starkness of one summer
that is viewed not with the gauziness
of looking back fondly, but with clarity
of time, place, purpose…firsts.

One brilliant, Kodacolor snapshot
that never made it into any scrapbook
yet still remains the clearest picture

especially when summer ends
and the breezes of fall swirl

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

Homage

I went all Santiago once on a
bober1sunfish that weighed nearly a pound
it was long before I knew
Hemingway, the power of words,
the pull of the water

I battled the monster
as only a nine-year-old could;
with every fiber of my being
strained to matching tautness of
six-pound-test line at the end
of bent, dark, shiny bamboo
pole with cork handlebobber2

Summers at Horseshoe Lake
were the defining milieu of my life
where the rest-of-the-year city kid I was
discovered the majesty of woods, water

adrenaline rush of a loon’s call,
scent of pine, calming sounds
of wind through birch leaves and
wood-framed window screens

The summer I was nine
I went all Santiago on a sunfish
weighing nearly a pound

Ernest would be proud.

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

First dance

A ma-and-pa resort, small lake
north woods of Minnesota
seeburgsmall office behind
quaint bar, twelve small cabins
dozen aluminum rowboats to use;
minnows, worms, leeches for sale
amenities, ala Angler’s Edge

Joe & Gloria’s place

The bar a hangout for township locals
grandpa Ivar and I frequented the nicked,
cigarette-burn speckled
polished, yellow-varnished bar for a
North Star beer, ice cold Nesbitt’s Orange
I enjoyed from my end-of-bar spot

A summer semi-regular.

Perched atop two upside-down
wooden Coca-Cola crates
stacked together, laid across two
shiny red-vinyl top, chrome-rimmed
swivel-seat bar stools
bringing me to proper sitting.
sipping height

until the summer my height
matched my station withDino45
always jovial Joe, ever kindly
large-laughing Gloria

Joe would slip me dimes
to play his disc-bowling machine
feed his 45-laden Seeburg jukebox
always selections G5, G6
back-to-back Dean Martin starting
with the bass-thump of Houston…

My musical choices amused Joe

his dimes, gratis – except on Fridays
when I earned my keep
prepping Angler’s Edge worn,
maple dance floor
for the evening’s band
paid in advance, I would crank Dean;
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
grab the yellow-and-black shaker can
liberally sprinkle the dance wax
the floor all mine as I shuffled
to Dino crooning

“…I’m prayin’ for rain, in Califorrrrrnia….”maple1b

spontaneously choreographing
my personal pre-teen two-step
grinding the wax in
elevating the floor to polka, waltz
schottische, western swing perfection
finishing as Dino was faded off
…little ole wine drinker, me…I say…
with a show-stopping slide
ending near the cramped bandstand

between wax-infused Levi knees
tongue-in-groove hardwood boards
meeting no resistance
the wax, the music, the memories
rich patina of my youth

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

A musing

You seduced me.

Drew me in
played me for the fool

and I bit
took the bait
tried to dart away
only driving the hook
in deeper

now here I am
at your pondering mercy;
throw me in your creel
fry me up
toss me back

let me swim away
or watch me flopping
for breath at your feet

Usually you throw me back.

I get bigger, bolder
still incapable of resistance
when the bright flash of
inspirational lure crosses
whatever path I am swimming

writer as languid, sassy bass
catch me if you can
catch me as you always do

catch-and-release is a
weak metaphor, considering
your use of live bait
and my less-than-persnickety
appetite for flashy, darting
things that shine

Throw me back.
Come again tomorrow.

Road trip, 1965 –

When I was a kid we
planted trees by the lake

72 pine seedlings hauled
north in milk cartons
arranged on the back
floor of a ’39 Dodge

the trees and I were
small, green, pliable
in need of nurturing

the Dodge sits now in a
junkyard, the remaining
pines scrape the sky

I remember each and
every one, hardly trying

Mine

Beatles songs,
baseball cards
the aroma of a
fresh-mowed lawn,
pungent sweetness
of burning leaves

lake-bottom mud
spurting through
summer toes

Gelatinous frogs.

Hot beach sand
cool July evenings
and the first
non-parental hand
ever held

A specific summer.

Tactile youth. You.