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‘My Grandfather’s Walking Stick’ and other poems by Douglas J. Lanzo

By Douglas J. Lanzo

“My Grandfather’s Walking Stick”

When I was a boy and still
a few years – but one dream – away from becoming a man,
my grandfather presented me with
his prized walking stick,
trimmed with his pocketknife from
a handsome stick of cherrybark oak;

Clasping it, I felt an instant connection
to my beloved yet mysterious grandfather and
to his daring adventures and expeditions,
those told over campfires, and
those only this stick knew;

Its surface was cold and smooth, almost
icy to my tender fingers;
I shivered as I heard a sharp crack –

When I looked forward
I saw, not a forest, but a vast cloud
of snow crystals – whipped, wrung and stretched out by
blustery winds that sheared through the frozen tundra
with unrelenting fury;
More crackling sounds –
coming from right beneath me;
Startled, I looked down, finding
myself on a sled whisked forward,
thrust across the icy terrain by
Alaskan Malamutes, expending every
last ounce of strength as
they tasted victory, and
pounded forward, racing for glory;
The night clouds broke and
the Nome sky opened with
stars so fresh and crisp
that I pried my frigid mouth
slightly ajar to test
whether they might melt on my tongue;
I blinked as an icy snowflake
touched my tongue and relinquished
its delicious spirit ;
Opening my eyes, I beheld
the walking stick thrust high into
the air by my outstretched hand;
Suddenly, the firmament
erupted in a shimmering green blaze
of brilliance burning
piercing blue and dazzling purple
incense in a sacred fire across
the dark altar of the bending sky;

Turning my gaze to the earth, I
beheld a brilliant tapestry of colors:
gold, burnt orange, scarlet and purple,
as my eyes feasted upon
autumn’s lavish arboreal celebration
of the harvest;
My grandfather’s eyes glistened
as he peered into my soul and asked,
“Are you ready to accept my walking stick?”


“Musings Informed by the Crows”

One day, I wondered, gazing at the setting sky,
Why doth the crow, raven and cousin magpie,
crave objects that shine and sparkle to the eye?
What motives doth this strange behavior belie?

Do crows perceive value intrinsic in gold
or crave things that humans dearly behold?
Do they believe friendship is bought and sold,
or treasure more jewelry than wisdom of old?

Do ravens see silver as currency of choice,
or sing odes to its beauty in rapturous voice?
Do they see getting rich as a cause to rejoice,
or view robbing others as permitted exploits?

What crosses the mind of a magpie in flight,
as it veers for a bottle cap barely in sight?
Is it drawn by its glittering pulses of light,
or fearful lest rivals first claim it by right?

Do these fine-feathered birds let emotion creep in?
If so, selfless and lofty, or tempted by sin?
To crown with fine metal their fast-beaked kingpin,
or gift to their families gold, copper and tin?
Then it struck me that questions of this nature bear,
relation to things that each human holds dear,
from fame and great fortune to kind, loving care;
A lesson to ponder, as I continued to stare…


“Colorado: Majestic Land of Beauty and Nature”

Majestic mountains, fossil beds galore,
Ancient bisons and dinosaurs of lore,
Glaciers, canyons and variegated plateaus,
Spraying sunlight, casting lumens and shadows;

Accentuating jewels of colors in sandstone,
Hoodoos etched from eons of winds blown,
Vermillion, pink and chocolate-coated cliffs,
As singular and eerie as improvised jazz riffs;
Snowpack crystals melting off the peaks,
Gently feeding pristine water into creeks,
Spawning grounds for rainbow and brook trout,
Returning to their birthplace per their migratory route;
Mountain lions stalking elk and bighorn sheep,
Stealthily approaching before their final leap,
Fist-sized pikas spot coyotes lurking near,
Alerting the whole colony by whistling of their fear;
Eagles effortlessly ride currents of warm air,
Scanning for groundhogs emerging from their lair,
Black bears lumber purposefully down the slopes,
Foraging for berries and acorns amidst high hopes;

Of finding Kokanee Salmon in the Colorado River,
Into which they swipe their paws with barely a shiver,
Fear not, if the shifting waters do not reward you this day,
There may be carelessly strewn campgrounds not far away.


“The Race of a Track Champion”

Dedicated to Long Distance Runners who Lay Everything on the Track
Muscles tense and flex with every stride,
Easing into rhythm, your legs begin to glide,
Breathing calibrated to the pace,
Attentively controlled and measured through the race;
Settling comfortably into the running pack,
Within striking distance, primed and ready to attack,
Keeping to your targets each and every lap,
While quickening your strides to eliminate the gap;
Created as the leader intensifies his gait,
Shortening his cadence, thrusting forward with his weight,
Reacting in an instant, you deftly draft off his side,
Pressing without mercy, three feet back and two feet wide;

Thundering past lap counter, bell ringing in your ear,
Arms pumping and legs kicking, you fly past without fear,
Seizing from him the lead, spikes digging hard and deep,
Racing down the straightaway, you agonize to keep;

Top sprinting form into the final turn,
As starved of oxygen, your legs and lungs do burn,
Roaring exhortations, the crowd rises to their feet,
Anxious to crown their favorite the victor of the meet,
Your rival pulls alongside, challenging your lead,
Now comes the fateful moment, to back up hope with deed,
You summon untapped strength from pure will within,
Consuming last reserves to propel you to the win.

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