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

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 images
of 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

Adieu redux

Final good-byes rarely are

I have buried many a soul
precious to me
solemnly, sorrowfully
humorously

some with great relief
many a complete surprise

I have uttered public words of
farewell, regret, remembrance

tossed flowers, clods of earth,
remorse and thank-yous
atop bronze cocoons

said farewell never meaning or
believing it; til-we-meet-agains
with more doubt than certainty

Death is the rude party guest
who blithely interrupts then
monopolizes every conversation

the caller you never invite
again but who always shows up
anyway because there is always
one in every crowd

Fact

This may make you
sing laugh dance or cry
but the reality is
you will always be dead
much longer than you’ll
ever be alive.

The trip

Reading the patina-seasoned bronze postcard
at my feet stokes no inner desire of mine to travel

Details are scarce; dates, no places.

This is premium vacation time, a long time coming
traveling solo; no timeshares, no all-inclusive-cruise –
hostel or hostile? No clue, just reading the postcard

No routine platitudes, clichés; ‘having wonderful time’
‘wish you were here’ – is he really, on either count?

Once you have saved – been saved – and pay hefty
sums to take this trip the obligation to proclaim your
enjoyment becomes an eternal Sword of Damocles –
twenty-four/seven party or bored, bored, bored, bored
matters not to reader, nor apparently, the writer

Postcards are banal, erudite half-truth memos;
thumb—your-nose-at-the-workaday-slackers jokes, and
‘wish you were here’ – not. ‘Having really wonderful time.’

I’ll bet – because we all place ours in some way, all in.

If the truth could be told it would but it can’t. It just can’t.
But really…would you want it to?

Hell of a deal, missing out on a swell trip, but I can surely
wait, go much later as reservations are not accepted, but
natural, and earned with lifetime of experience, cancelled
only by faith – thankfully without any tacked-on fees.

Questions, so many questions, about his return; will
he need a pickup, or just grab a cab? Wonder what he’ll
bring me for a souvenir, if he’ll have anything to declare.

I wonder about such a long trip – I’m no where near
ready to travel, myself – but when I do, should I bring a
stack of postcards or just buy them in the gift shop?
What about stamps? How frequent is the mail?

I’ll write something different, unique. Or so I say now.

‘Having wonderful time – wish you were here lies…’

Inevitablities

Calendar, clock, seasons
youth, maturation, death
functional, pre-meditated
change for the sake of change

Desire, plans, politics
she loves me not, she loves me?
Change on the fly, on a whim,
on a wing-and-a-prayer. On the lam.

Change happens to you regardless
ignoring change is not desiring
the status quo, just denial
dressed up for a night on the town

Umm, you have change for a fifty?