Traveling

On family trips when
I was eight, nine
plastic, primary-color
cowboys, Indians,
soldiers, animals
fought and romped
in a synthetic, nappy,
dark-blue rear-window
battlefield meadow

Other times, it was a
fuzzy ledge on which to
lean, and watch the road
fading, while my mother
half-jokingly admonished
me to turn around, see
where I was going, not
where I had been

But I was a wistful nine.

Then,
sometimes now

 

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2018
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

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

Stratas

As a kid I collected rocks –
as many colorful pebbles as my
six-year-old jacket pockets
could smuggle via subterfuge

mom and dad later humored my
geologic interests with a small,
paperback, field guide to rocks –

which I always took with on trips we
took – grandpa in tow – playing along,
helping me find increasingly larger
chunks of ancient igneous,
sedimentary curiosity, to store in
boxes in my room, much to his
daughter’s eventual, excavating-her
grown-son’s-vacant-room, chagrin

rocks, and my self-motivated,
D-I-Y study of them, still serve me well
curiosity being a developed skill as
much as a personality characteristic

Where my parents simply indulged whims
Gramps saw wisdom in Fool’s Gold.

  – 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

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

Art of Flying

Flights of fancy
via wings of balsa
when an extra nickel
added a propeller

we took wing
on wind-looping
imagination

gliding sometimes
to gentle landings
more often crashing
with aplomb-tinged
disappointment
when repairs were
beyond the pale

Images silently
soaring, frozen in
in time and flight
still life, real life
in balsa and
backyard

Mark Lucker

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

Secured

We kept colorful marbles
in old Mason Jars, pilfered
with Grandma’s blessing

rabbit’s feet and other
youthful treasures smelled
like Grandpa’s Dutch Masters
under that cool flip-top lid

Our baseball cards were safe
beneath our beds, in rubber-
band locked P.F. Flyer boxes

our glass and cardboard
personal Fort Knoxes

Oracle

He was a shaman always
clad in sacramental
wool plaid shirt, dirty cap

there are no mountaintops
in Minnesota’s northwoods

Enlightenment here comes
from atop decaying tree stump
aside rustic leaf and pine needle
carpeted trails cutting through
towering pines, birch, oak
you stop, sit for a spell

solemnity in this place dictated
with wry smiles, knowing nods…
rubbing of beard stubble chins;
moral lessons here punctuated
with a joke, tall tale, or sly wink

The guru walks with you;
there is no sacred pilgrimage to
be made no sacrifices requeted
or self-flagellation required

unless you make the joke
on yourself

Wisdom came to me on short
walks I wished even then could
have lasted much longer.