Gregory E. Lucas writes poetry and fiction. Some of his poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Literary Juice, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Peeking Cat Poetry Anthology, Blueline, and Bewildering Stories. His short stories have appeared in Yellow Mama, The Horror Zine, Blueline, Dark Dossier, Cenotaph, Pif, and in several other magazines.
(Based on Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World.)
Dragging her crippled legs, Christina crawls
From her world’s edge at the bottom of the hill.
Exhausted and despondent, she rests on her side,
Takes a breath, and pushes her torso up.
She wonders if Andrew dabs brown tempera,
If he’s painting her struggle onto canvas.
Not graced by the dive or flight of a single bird,
Cheerless summer air stirs the tawny grass.
Prickly blades scratch her withered arms,
Stick to her pink dress (too pretty for the climb),
And brush against an uncovered pallid ankle.
Silver strands in her dark bun of hair
Reveal her age and attrition from disease.
Digging deeper with gnarled, blackened fingers
Into the familiar ground, she thrusts her body
Inches closer to the weathered gray boards,
Toward the elusive end of her dire ascent:
Two stories of drab rooms with gable windows
Joined or close to several austere sheds
Across from a lifeless sun-bleached barn
That sea-salted wind off the coast whips and scars --
Her home at the top of a Maine promontory.
It floats elusive in a lackluster sky,
Wholly indifferent to decrepit limbs,
Receding, defying her hard-fought progress,
Reminding her: what’s near is always far.
ON SATURDAY I MOVED YOUR URN
(Photo: Hilton Head Island, SC)
On Saturday I moved your urn. See it,
under the picture you took of Islander’s Beach
that we printed onto canvas and placed right here?
Far off, where the vibrant sky shines and meets
the waves, I anticipate our rendezvous.
But if that bend is just . . . just . . . . No void
swallows us when we pass. But yet each night
I pat the bed where you should lie and stark
nothingness crawls up my fingertips,
an abyss that spreads, cuts our spirits down.
Stop mourning, now, I tell myself. But how?
Today the coldest waves sprawled across
that beach, effacing traces -- what little that
remained -- of final days now etched so deep
into my skin they burn. Tears are no salve.
If footprints washed away by tides and wind,
stars above that only shine on one of two,
chords of light strummed across the sea,
and feathered pipers strutting at the shore
don’t chart the way that leads from me to you,
then I’ll look still deeper -- into fresh
streams that roll across the wooded paths
we knew, when approaching shade foretold ease
along a pine and flower scented climb
toward an Adirondack peak, not this
wearisome isolation lingering
through successive days, blunting the sun
forever fading behind pink clouds you caught
in a camera’s wink then doctored to a blend
of hues that hints of solace after life
comes to a syncopated close -- the heart’s
arrhythmic pulse winding down to beats
fainter than those pastel clouds which meld
heaven with earth, me with you -- as in
the picture hanging right in front of us.
Knocking on the door -- the boys, our sons.
I have to go. Who knows exactly where
or when we’ll meet? Within a cherub’s face?
The newborn grandchild’s? Savanna’s eyes?
Inside the glow of innocence -- our lives.
AMONG THE BREAKERS’ CURLS
(FATHER AND SON,
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC.)
Here I am still, among the breakers’ curls,
suspended in the ebbing tide, defying
it’s pull away from shore, continuously
reaching for another April’s light.
A shrill gull’s shadow foretells a dreadful day,
his mournful song sustained in a paling sky
reflected onto the heavenly earth
as I raise my arm and show my dripping hand.
It cleaves the wind that shakes palmetto fronds.
It holds a breeze fusing breaths without end.
There isn’t time for me to say much more.
Shade your eyes and treasure all you see.
Although I’m soon to fade into the glare,
look, look, I’m here, in a breaker’s surge.
VIEW OF A WOMAN FROM A SECLUDED PIER
(HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC)
Silhouetted in brightening predawn light,
She stands alone on the beach at Port Royal Sound,
Her right arm held out, palm up, toward stars
Clustered into the semblance of a face:
A constellation never seen before,
Halfway between the horizon and sky’s zenith,
Ephemeral, fading as quickly as it forms.
Whatever she proffers in her open hand
Is much too small for anyone to see,
Perhaps a shell, perhaps a precious stone.
A ring? No. Nothing except fingertips
Uncurling as she stretches heavenward,
One foot off the widening shoreline,
And tries to touch an image that’s disappeared:
The gift of the night sky erased by the sun
Suspended on the inlet’s distant edge,
Framed by lacy wisps and pink-veined clouds
Behind her, where gulls in arabesque glide
Through feverish August air that stirs wavelets
In tinted puddles left by the ebb tide.
She teeters as she sets her foot back down,
As daybreak reveals details that the night hid.
Her flower-print dress of daisies and daffodils
Falls past her knees and swirls around her slight
Middle-age body while she turns her cheeks,
Furrowed and darkened by mascara smears,
Away from where the sky bestowed a glimpse
Dearly sought of someone forever gone.
(A lover? Mother? Father? Friend? A child?)
She strides at a brisk pace toward the sun.
On her circuitous route, the beach narrows.
Through shallow patches she walks, lifting
Her garment’s hem above luminous waves.
She stops. In harmony, the world is still.
A pair of ospreys settles in marsh grass.
Cranes, in the midst of their frenzied morning meal,
Lift full bills, pause, calmed and statuesque.
Terns rest their rotund bellies on the shore.
No breeze. Palmetto fronds no longer sway
And the quiet holds like a cherished dream.
Raucous gulls will wail a dirge as they fly
And pipers play the saddest melodies,
But not until the woman’s trek resumes.
Diminutive in the distance, she dwindles --
A colorless speck, lost in blazing hues.
A BAND PLAYS IN THE SEA
(FATHER AND SON,
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC.)
A band plays in the sea,
some triumphant march,
with your penny tan,
your fragile heart,
closer to rapturous waves
while the sky fades closer to who knows what
and exhales puffs
whiter than the pipers scurrying as
you charge undulations
stretching into oblivion,
plunge, like you will, the coming winter,
into depths beyond oceans
that murmur ineffable tones
harmonizing with all this,
and amazement suffuses your dripping face.
Parallel to the shore
parallel to the living
waiting for me.