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

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

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

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

Waiting for Felix

pppart2Quintessentially American; refrigerator door Louvre
stylistically Picassoesque, Daliesque
though Dadaism and Mamaism predominate

as pudgy-finger tempera on newsprint evolved into
more complex designs, bolder expressions
of the artists vision in markers on white paper,
macaroni on tag board, leaves melted in wax paper

Like any good museum, the exhibits rotate; handsomely,
haphazardly framed via magnets-on-white-enamel

”l’art pour l’art”

Great art appreciates in value as the artists output declines
from striking, carefree, post-modern, outside-the-lineism topppart
photos-from-magazines montages, lopsided-clay bowls

groundbreaking quirkiness giving way to more sterile,
artistically utilitarian ‘art’ for-the-masses prints

practice schedules, bake sales, dates of note, deadlines;
dentist appointments, scribbled grocery reminders, odd
phone messages all lacking appreciable aesthetics

”l’art pour l’art”?

the gallery stands dormant; the art in cardboard storage,
unseen but appreciating in value with the artists now retired

having moved on to other pursuits, different mediums,Easter 2013
none displayable here; we are curators with empty frames

”l’art pour l’art”…

Though the artist-as-a-young-woman has a budding protégé
his apprenticeship just beginning with stark, bold lines of color;
marker-on-white copier paper, crayon-on-restaurant-placemat

in his future there will be gallery openings, oohing-and-ahhing
over his immediate masterpieces; form always trumping function,
experimentation will be celebrated, inspiration never questioned

”l’art pour l’art”!   We are waiting for Felix.

– Mark Lucker

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

Manly

At eight-years old
machismo has a
very different feel

‘Don’t cry like a baby,’
my son would admonish
his second-grade peers
‘…cry like a man!’

As he is now sixteen
I wonder…would he
challenge them at all?