Frogs

  – Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
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

What are the Oz?

Historically considering myself
the Scarecrow
middle-age, circumstance, time
have me contemplating fates
identifying a more Tin Man persona
seeking oil for locked up joints
moving clunkily, at times
joyously graceful, others
grudgingly accepting assistance
from my companions –
friends who
humor my myriad compunctions
to stay out in the rain
eschewing consequences for
the sheer joy of rain

Unlike fictional counterparts I
discovered early, on my own,
lessons of the heart;
having, using, breaking, caring for
only to eventually discover
I missed something in
regards to care and maintenance

Needing more than wizened words:
high-tech cobalt
wielded by skilled surgeons
put in place
without benefit of
easy-open chest door; fixed.
tick-tick-tick-tick
just the way it should

I am now the Oz hybrid
repaired heart
experienced, wiser brain
enhanced courage
still traveling strange roads ready to
encounter the
sublime, absurd, good stuff, bad
with newfound
appreciation, anticipation, curiosity

knowing better than most
be it ever so humble, there is no
heart like thine own.

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

Missing out

Living now in a placeautumn leaves3
where, in autumn most
leaves stay put
clinging to their branches
without pretense

never having the
decency to abandon their
vibrant green for
appropriate, earthy hues

A few adhere to my more
familiar, season-bound
tradition, true natural order
small in numbers
generally unnoticed

It takes keen effort to
scrounge enough of a
collection for
traditionally crunchy walk

Which is cheatingDSC03236

The jumpable, enjoyably
scratchy, towering orange,
brown, red, yellow leaf piles
I crave are hopeless here

my native Midwest seems
further away in fall than
during the absence of winter’s
winter’s snowy blankets,
frosty windows

for I know full well
the curative, redemptive
potential of a fall
leaf pile on a man’s soul

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
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

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

diurnal

“…and there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
urban1that’s half as lonesome as the sound
of a sleepin’ city sidewalk
and Sunday mornin’, comin’ down…”

– Kris Kristoffferson

There is no respite from the escape
the night before, sketchy
adrenaline rush of
getting there, staying there, leavingurban3
behind whatever it was
trying to find whatever it is
oblivious as to whatever it should be
ambiguity used to fuel contentedness
but years, miles, time
have dulled senses, pinched off
feelings of adequacy
going with the flow when the
stream bed is just withered sand;
grounded flotsam
of sun-bleached opportunity
weathered dreams
honed to dull, polished smoothness
but the stream no longer washes over them,
urban1channel a conduit only for what was
any chance at rejuvenation
lies in torrential rains
that would wash away the dust
only to disappear once again
in the heat of another day

Stepping out into the street
putting aside metaphor, remembrances
reality is shrill comeuppance
here you are, who cares where you were
you don’t know where you’re going
though the morning is warm you fight the chill
inexorable creeping of time
paranoia of memories and the truth
assuaging balm of reminisces
warmth; pulling the collar of invincibility
up around your throat

There is a cold front moving in

experience has taught you
your wherewithal to combat the elements
no match for this brewing storm
the only sensibility and clarity afforded
urban1by all who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s
urban2you have been
the person you have become
knows instinctually, without regret

hunkering down, waiting it out,
no longer a viable option

out-of-place and time,
weathervane
spins incoherently
vagaries of the squall tells
only from where the wind blows,
not to point you in a direction
in lieu of a compass, it will have to do

headed down the street
the wind at your back, in your face
the city beckons you to
urban3impossibly attainable anonymity
promises you will be forgotten
but only for now,
only today, only tomorrow

There is no respite from the escape
still, you got out – ironically,
you would consider going back if
you only could remember
where you had been, why you were there,
how you got here from there
in the first place
this is what the morning brings

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

Broadsides

I once asked Godimg_20161113_082229
for a sign

needing more
than spiritual
Burma-Shave

cardboard
placards stapled
to raw, rough
pine sticks

Ah, but I am
not advertising

my tag-board
always blankly
devoid of
political hateimg_20161113_084228
hackneyed slogans

five-ninety-nine
pizza specials!
buy your
gold for more!

I am not here
to direct others
to event parking
or partake in
girls! girls! girls!

nobody here is
going out of businessimg_20161113_082233
due to low prophets
the guy misspelled
the end is ‘neer

spiritual conclusion

God wants me
to protest
something
all of it, perhaps

there is no profit
to prophesying or
downsizing

I am I!

Less recalcitrant,img_20161113_084229
spat-up Noah –
pine-splinter
infused hands
to wave

my finely honed
ability to ignore
disdainful glances,
head shaking
avoidance

causes me to smile

I wear styish,
spat-out invective
from passerby
curmudgeonlyimg_20161113_084248
badge of honor,

hold my sign higher

I once asked God
for a sign
and he told me,
point-blank,
helpfully

“First, you’ll
need
better shoes.”

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

Whereas

Never having been mrsmith2
as naive as
I should have been

exonerated for crimes
against logic
bus ticket, new suit

outside-the-box
thinking
box house, never homebogart3

recycled, repurposed
repent sinners!
repressed no longer

naiveté begat experience
I can elocute
to it all in open court

Get back, honky cats
I got this.
Flat out truth: I got this.

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

One metmorphisize fits all

Happily-ever-afterabstract4mll
mythology
prefaces every sequel
continuing
character-driven sagas
story arc only
tacking an index onto
volume one,
three, sixteen in a set

having read this scene
repeatedly
life movies
annotated script
writing, rewriting books
they were based on

playing
déjà vu-all-over-again
never more than
countless times
here-we-go-again
monotony of
changing times
changing directors

same cast of characters
different roles
replaced actors
haven’t-I-
seen-this-show-before?

Exit, stage right
enter stage left
either or,
vice versa
prefacing intermission
act one ends…

next!

time to regroup, recast
strike the set

endings are simply
ellipsis
masquerading
as comfort
to the ill-at-ease

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2016