The cockroach lying on the sidewalk
in front of me is dying
on his back, legs flailing he looks
like he is doing a workout video
‘exercise yourself to good health’

Kafka wrote of men, cockroaches
cockroaches never write
they don’t even know from wrong
insects bug me, Kafka? Not so much.

I sit down on my front step
watching the cockroach exer-die
his little legs pedaling invisible,
imaginary bike  – or maybe yoga?

his legs move slower, slower
barely twitching, they then stop.
I await the arrival of another
cockroach to do perform CPR
or maybe a cicada, to note TOD

realizing I am late for work
I stand, leaving the cockroach there
to whatever fates await dead bugs,
before heading for the car.
I don’t even bother with a prayer

the cockroach, I presume,
has his own theology

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017


I would sit on a wooden bar stool
in the doorway to the small office at
the back of the little donut shop
I worked at in high school

the doorjamb, perfect for leaning
in boredom, or sleepiness
as I awaited fresh customers
seeking coffee, crullers

passing time was easy
working nights, not many folks
out, up for fried, sticky, carbs
of twenty-five cent coffee

to my right, a notepad and pen,
cup of Coke, single raised-glazed
resting on stainless-steel;
shiny, sterile
boss’ donut roll-out, cutting
surface by morning,
my writing desk by night

stanzas and personal passages
punctuated by sporadic sales
fueled by Donut House regulars;
neighborhood cops, bus drivers
of the number seven route,
delaying departures for
a quick cup and a Bismarck;
paper-grading college professor,
fry cook from the
chicken place three doors down
a nurse who worked nights
a few locals, just hanging out

each had stories to tell
I always had ears to listen
pen, paper to retell, transform
what I heard, what I saw
that old, wooden barstool a
guru-rock from which I dispensed
conversation, teen wisdom
soaking in more than gave

every once in a while I can
sit on an old, wooden barstool
and be back behind that counter
where the jingling of the bell
signaled a fresh interaction,
potential for a new sale and a tale

and after all these years
notebooks filled, books published
there is no thrill quite like sitting
in an old donut shop, writing

or just puling up an old barstool,
someplace, because
I can still smell the grease

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017

There once was…

Once upon a time and time again
I have revisited the scenes of past debacles
combing wreckage, searching for clues,
seeking reminders in cautionary tales

Once upon a time and time again
I tell myself I will not repeat errors of then
and normally stay true to those desires
until, looking back, I see inklings to before

Once upon a time and time again
I have resolved to improve this, not do that
develop better habits, attitudes, self
truncated moments; indifference, in conclusion…

Once upon a time and time again is
once upon a time and time and not this again
not now, not today, not on my watch
once upon a time used to start fairy tales

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017


It was abandoned long before we,
ages twelve, eleven, nine
gathered enough courage to
walk through its open doorway

some roof remained, sunlight freely
illuminated what remained
kitchen counter, enameled sink
weathered, cracked-wood table, chairs

one corner, mostly untouched by
weather, time – stacks of small boxes
cardboard, wood, filled with
imaginary treasures of young minds

reality revealed only documents,
old newspapers, black-and-white photos
lacking any compelling narrative
we ignored the documentation, the

remnants of a life – lives? – abruptly,
haphazardly abandoned to time, nature
there was some history to be told, surely
some memories someone had to have
someone unknown to us had made
someone disposed of by neglect, default

the land where the house sat, owned
by a local family, who had let it sit, full of
what was once someone’s life, let nature
begin to reclaim it without obstruction

I wonder now, decades removed from
ignorance of adolescent archeology
if someone, somewhere, ever wonders
whatever happened to….whomever it was
that once lived, once left, an old house
in the woods, those few of us brave enough
to pshaw thoughts of ghosts, might have been
the last to ever give comfort to same.


– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017


The first thing she asks
after inquiring about me, while
gripping me in enveloping hug:
how my wife is, the kids are

we talk amiably, deeply
about our lives, families. Stuff.
I see in her eyes what I have
since junior high; this she knows

Her impossible-to-dislike
husband greets me warmly, joins
us in conversation, laughter
their body language, comfortable

any awkwardness that did exist
no longer does, though he knows
that I understand, better than most
what has always been in her eyes

it takes more self-control than I
think I have, to not say aloud, in
reckless triumph, “But I loved her
twenty years before you showed up.”

knowing nothing is to be gained
playing ‘nan-nah-nan-nah, boo-boo’
with the beautiful muse who never
loved me then, but oddly, does now.

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017

Hanson’s Woods

Summers of my youth
grandparents Northwoods lake home
awakened each day by preset alarm of waves
gentle Horseshoe Lake, water softly lapping sand
rhythmic, kindergarten teacher hand clap
calling me to come…come…come…
and I would, every summer morning, rain or shine

cooling off in lake water preferred option of most
I often chose the shade covering the winding
path through Hanson’s woods
narrowed trail, pine, oak, and birch tree canopied
filtering out most direct sun, lighter rain
most always on my own, peers preferring water
friends my age not as attuned with solitude

a log – stately oak felled in a storm years before
well- placed-on-my-path thinking-bench,
at least when I was younger
by my teens it had decayed, becoming one with
surrounding forest dirt, sustaining life
but not now-adult-sized me
resulting in my finding the more
ruggedly manly stump to sit on for
extended musing, silent pontificating
communing, as I was, with my woods – possession
granted by old Mr. Hanson, who cherished my
love of nature – his woods, and now mine;
a graciously granted blessing

minutes in Hanson’s woods could quickly
decompose into hours, hours into entire days,
at times the cooler winds of encroaching evening
my only hint at passing time, solitary clue to head home

In the years since I continually strode, savored
Hanson’s woods, I have traveled countless other paths
rustic, well-worn; different locales with more
unique features than those familiar to me as a young boy
I have gotten to know nature in other climes, times

none come close to igniting the passion
burning still in my memories of youthful summers
walking the unlimited terrains of a thirty-acre
patch of pines, birches, oaks, poplars
though old man Hanson has long passed, our trails
long grown over, landscaped; our woods now home
to a house, a family who will know nature less naturally
they remain my woods, my no-place-like-home-still-today
patch of northern Minnesota forest I call Hanson’s wood

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017

Going solo

the lot in life for a writer

solitary time savored

the attraction

lost on others not so


alone is not lonely

my companions the ideas

in my head, struggling

to make their way

to freedom through

fingers artfully

laying them across

blank pages

remaining denizens of

the house sleep,

the dogs don’t wait up,

but will arise early to

join morning sessions

feeling some sense

of completion

I can close up my

notebook, shut down

my laptop

and with satisfaction,

wait for the world

to come to me


– Mark L. Lucker

© 2016

Smoke from a distant fire

the fading wisps of smoke

from a dying campfire

are the sweetest

dying embers sputter

dousing sand sizzles


I miss that


we built a fire pit

in the backyard of my

old, small town home;

thirteen-tons of flagstone

and granite I moved from a

friend’s farm so a neighbor’s kid

studying landscape design

could get some hands-on

real life experience



stone patio with

a hole in the center

if you build it…


early mornings often

found me starting a small

campfire in rock-encircled pit;

one, maybe two oak limb sections

enough to get the blood, soul,

creative juices flowing

sitting in nylon lawn chair or,

on days when I felt more rustic,

the large, ogtagonal stone

I had discovered in Pat’s rock pile,

and that Chris had anchored

in place; my fire-poking seat


eight years have passed

since I last sat there

I have moved on, physically

but like the aromatic

smoke from a dying fire

permeates a plaid flannel shirt

the scent of regret

still lingers

– Mark L. Lucker

©  2016

The Diner

Every city has a place

all-nighter, regulars direct

from central casting

occupying the same seat in

Seattle as in Newark,

two cities never visited

but I have been there


you want your

hash browns crispy

coffee potent, in

heavy mugs (no cups)

bacon crunchy

sausage cylindrical

eggs runny,

over easy

over hard



yoke-mopping toast

lightly burned,

isosceles cut

saves plate space


Hopper’s Night Hawks

still resonates

New York or Omaha

Denver and New Orleans


ambiance is in the heart

of the beholder

flirting with the

counter staff obligatory

anchor your tip to

the counter with your saucer

leave your greasy fingerprints

on the receipt as a souvenir

when you leave


just like home

even when you aren’t


Mark L. Lucker

© 2016