Lackluster, one of those words yoked
from two disparate terms.
A century ago it was used to describe eyes,
their brilliance taken by the hard daily chore of living,
a child’s vision leadened by poverty,
a woman with more miscarriages than children
and more children than fingers,
a man who plowed as his own horse,
but now most often used for a performance
that fails to dazzle, impress,
where the performer has simply run through the paces
and what pops up is ordinary.
Lack used to be combined with other words,
land, for instance, to describe the overwhelming
population of England of my ancestors that lacked it,
a word that diminished their honor
while stating their status, not a shilling
for shingle, rain falling where it would.
I have not come to reclaim this word lack
but to see it plainly in this world, not assigned
to some meagre and boring display of talent,
but existence dulled by prolonged exposure
to the lens of wealth, shine effaced,
not hidden by a thin coat of dirt,
but erased by the punishing wind of deprivation.
Jeff Burt lives with fires, floods, and earthquakes in Central California. He works in mental health, and has contributed to Williwaw Journal, Tar River Poetry, and Red Wolf Journal.