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

Visionally

Been here too longbutterfly
seen
way too much

my empathy has
decayed
piles of rubble-pity

hope was a chrysalis
birthed
ugly butterflies
that now flit from
dead plant to
dead plant

Paradox eternal
doing right things for
eventualdecay1
wrong reasons
appeasing, ignoring those
doing wrong things for
right reasons

conundrums abound
doing good where ‘good’ is
nebulous,
‘doing good’ suspect
moral ambiguity the norm

corrupted
even the best of the good
tempered
by good intentions
gone rogue

– 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

Delivered

walking oldScreenshot (43)
neighborhood streets
first time in forty years

strolling the paper route
I once sped through on bike
chucking news, sports,
imaginary touchdown passes
blithe in my accuracy –
papers always
landing where intended
most of the time

remembering homes, faces
cantankerous folks
the best tippers
comforting offers of
lemonade, hot cocoa
incessantly yapping dogs
jokester accountants
fantasy-inducing housewives

Screenshot (45)subconsciously,
automatically I calculate
throwing angles to
accommodate now-grown trees
front yard rock gardens
odd statuary

before realizing with
laughably wistful irony that
all these years later
while I still have enough arm
to get them their news
would this generation even
understand the concept of
computer mouses
with cords
for their tales
landing on their doorsteps

– 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

Eternal, spring

“You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” – Jim Bouton

Life is a scorecard; an encrypted story in exotic-to-the-unwashed hieroglyphs, easily, quickly translated by those versed in the language. We can excitedly, precisely interpret the detailed story. The story of our life.

I’ve been told – more often than I can count – to take a walk.

I have sacrificed.

Took lots of pitches and touched all the bases. Made it to a few when I probably shouldn’t have, gotten thrown out when I tried to take an extra one…

and often experienced the thrill of sliding in safe.

I have played the field and struck out in love. My ears have echoed with the cheers of the crowd and have felt the sting of their boos.

I have made my share of errors.

There are times when I have been left stranded, others when I have been benched. I have been shelled, and pulled for a reliever who could close out what I started, could not finish.

I have made more than a few long, slow walks back to the dugout.

Ah, but the home runs have been sweetly plentiful.

I loved the game and life – and it returned the favor far more often than it could let me down. Oh, a few pennant races broke my heart – but isn’t that life in a nut shell?

I’ve had good winning streaks, taken a few tough losses to heart.

There have been brush-backs, bean balls and I’ve thrown and been thrown more than a few curves in my day.

Hurled a few biting changeups of my own, too. Others will tell you there are times when I’ve been a real screwball.

Sometimes I’ve had to play hardball. I have usually won.

I have been thrown out, tagged out, shut out.

I have balked.

I have loved the game – my life – it has returned the favor.
Now, the grass is greener than ever, lush and rich; the sky is always a vivid blue. In my mind I can always I feel the breeze on my face, breathe in the aroma of oiled, old leather, hear the distant crack of solid horsehide colliding with polished ash.

Someday I’ll be rounding third and headed for home, with someone waving me on. I’ll know then as I do now that it’s been a grand and glorious event, an extra-innings affair to remember; a ninth-inning grand slam.

Walk-off win.

It’s hopefully a long time before I need to come out of the game, many years before I’ll need a curtain call to acknowledge the home crowd, tip my hat and then disappear, headed for the clubhouse to hang up my gear for the last time.

Not now, not today.

It is spring again.

Hope, potential, promise fill the air, a game has yet to be lost.

A long, blissful summer awaits. There will be highlights and losing streaks, rainouts and glorious days you’ll hope will not end. For now, the joy is in simply taking the field again.

As Ernie Banks always says, “It’s a great day to play two!”

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

Gnosis laid bare

aristotleThe tone
of your discourse
public, private, anonymous
shrill, accusatory
non-sequiturs blending
reality, perception, personality
seamless, misguided pastiche
grounded in your justified
fear of being wrong

fear of not being right
fear of differences
fear of those similar, but
who say unfamiliar things
unbecoming via people that
look, seem like you,
aren’t at all, after all

Fear looks at you from your mirror
fearing your helplessness
no faith exists in the impotence of
the unknown, you stare back
through bloodshot eyes,
sneering disbelief of how, why

my country!
my ideas!
my ideals!
mine!philosophersedit
my piety!
my way of life!
my way or get out!

My goodness! You fear
so much based on so little.

Shame on you

self-loathing perpetuating
insecurities as gospel
persuading yourself, few others,
yes your fear is not fear, not hate
something more grounded
reasonable hate coming from others
not vice versa

go back to reflect
thoreauon what the mirror doesn’t show
what you don’t see may surprise you
if it doesn’t, turn out the lights
look again, more closely

refracted darkness is only
fearing what you cannot see
yet you only fear what is unseen
demons imagined; grotesque caricatures
therein lies your dilemma
a dichotomy reflexively reacting to
reflected fear of the benign known,

sinister only because you fear unknowns
leaving you looking for what is there,
in the darkness, peering in return
with skeptical, knowing eyes, staring
at you vacantly with piteous regret

– 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

World Serious

In the game of baseball, a great hitter will often explain his success at hitting a thrown ball three inches in diameter with a round bat a quarter-inch smaller around saying “I slow the game down” – some even claiming that they can actually see the red stitched laces as the baseballpitchball hurdles toward them at ninety-plus miles per hour: less than half-a-second elapses from the time the ball leaves the pitchers hand until it crosses home plate.

I slow life down.

Even with the break-neck pace of modern, middle-age life – family, teaching, church, a kid in college, everything else – I see the world with more clarity now than I ever did before, slowing it down to a montage I can take in, dissect, make contact with.

I have not lost bat speed and can still turn on a pitch.

Clearly now I see the laces on the ball as it flutters toward me, bifocals be damned. And I basebalslomocrush the ball with far more consistency than I ever did in my twenties or thirties. I am at the stage of life where the pitcher, my nemesis, often thinks he should be able to sneak one by me – high heat, inside. Often as not I make him pay for such arrogance.

That is not to say every at bat yields a home run.

My percentage of life extra-base hits outpaces that of youth: doubles off the outfield wall, triples down the line or in the gap are more routine than the easy single. Touching all the bases, I can still run like hell and usually beat the throw. I stretch singles into extra base hits with far more regularity…just because I can.

slidingintpsecondHold me to a single and I’ll simply steal second. Pick me off? I dare you to try.

The baseball idols of my youth saw, as most athletes do, a slippage in abilities signaling the twilight of their careers. Some were able to compensate be honing other skills, or relying more on pure guile. Some didn’t know when to walk away, and were lessened in the eyes of many.

Retire, walk away to accolades or boos. Or adapt, and thrive.

harmonkillebrew1969I can still turn on the fastball. Better than ever, in fact. Want to try to cross me up with off-speed junk? Good luck with that. Doesn’t really matter where you throw it. I have what a baseball scout would call ‘great plate coverage’.

Oh yeah, I can still hit the curve.harmonkillebrew1971

Bring it.

Your best stuff. Whatever you’ve got. Fresh arms from the bullpen? Not a problem. I can send them back to the dugout, too.

Want to try an intimidating brush-back? I’ll step back in, eventually making you pay, smiling with a wink and a tip of the cap your way as I round the bases. Hey, that’s the way it works. Mutual respect amongst opponents. I will win more than I lose.

Life is a great metaphor for baseball.oldbaseballlaces

Every day is a great day to play two.

“Play life.”

– 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