POETRY – 5 Poems by Lucinda Marshall

If Unencumbered (The Story Of A Life That Did Not Happen)


Walls lined, ancestral photographs,
each a door to well worn paths
where we stumbled repeatedly,
trying to move beyond
this place of incompletion
with its unmapped familiar, in which
we’ve always found ourselves.


My yoga teacher tells me that
I can keep my balance standing
on one leg with eyes closed, if
I imagine being held by puppet strings,
stretching to the corners of the earth.
Trembling, I stay upright, until I realize
that you’ve become the puppet master.
Smirking as the strings become tangled,
you let go.


Landscape laid bare
save inebriated leaves,
punch drunk on rain—

Omnipresent pain
wracks your body now,
everything else cast aside,
unable to subsist in
the wreckage of its path.

You ask me to recite
a psalm that testifies
to the faith I’ve lost,
an offering for salvation,
whispered from rote,
as if torment could be banished
before it seeps into my pores.

But there is no aegis
from your agony.

Finally saturated, I weep.

Sepia Legacy

Family speaks
in the tongue of ghosts.

Finessed manipulation
of well-honed words

creates an art of
bloodless wounds,

a legacy of false empathy,
as if silence was suffocation.

But there is no catharsis
in toxic grace.

Children play,
uncertain of dominion,

each new generation a
well-worn script’s reprise

while ancestors
with stern expression

bear witness from
the sepia graveyard of

ornate frames hung
on the parlor wall.

What Can’t Be Buried

Your family in the front row,
dressed stiffly in black–
the usual words said,
few tears fell.

Later, escaping the wake’s
drunken platitudes,
I tiptoed up the narrow,
still familiar, attic stairs.

Buried in dusty bric-a-brac,
I found the old doll
you’d left behind,
a deep scar running down
the faded paint
of her porcelain face.

She stared at me intently,
wondering if I remembered
what had happened.
I did, but it felt dangerous
to acknowledge that,
especially to her.

Taking a last look around,
I made my way back down
among the mourners,
my life now your ghost story.

You Are Who I’ll Become

Skin clings grimly,
struggling to cover shrunken bones—

there is no plushness left,
only the taut veneer of an aged,
porcelain doll.

From sunken sockets, your eyes cast about
before settling into a piercing stare
at nothing in particular,

as if clarity could be commandeered
from the blankness of incomprehension.

This is me, years from now,
an old melancholy captured
in a faded snapshot taken just now,

the shadow of present radiance
refracted by the cut glass vase
holding faded roses,

a representation of my role
in someone else’s life,

whose or what that might have been,
no longer remembered.

Lucinda Marshall is a writer, artist, and activist. Her recent poetry publications include Sediments, One Sentence Poems, Stepping Stones Magazine, Poetica Magazine and ISLE. Her poem, “The Lilies Were In Bloom” received an Honorable Mention in Waterline Writers’ “Artists as Visionaries Climate Crisis Solutions”.  She is also the author of numerous published essays and articles and blogs at Reclaiming Medusa, and is the recipient of several awards for her art and essays.  

Lucinda lives in a far ex-urb of Washington, DC where she is a connection maker and dystopic optimist.  She frequently participates in open mics and writing workshops, co-facilitates the Gaithersburg Teen Writing Club, and is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association, and Women, Action, and the Media.

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