He was as he so often said
a dark skin’ded dude,
but being father, son, and friend
his skin and he were more than that:
deep earth soil live and roiling from his soul
black butter onto which I pressed my heart
and felt the frail-strong softness there within
take self-sculpted shapes
of body face mind
Allegany mud in the hands of a black Rodin,
of the person he wanted us to want him to be.
As strong winds stiffen up the sapling in passing
Randy Roebuck reshaped me
and privileged me to see
the emergence of his selfhood
as what was
became what could be.
So, what the fuck, Unca’ Buck!
Ditched us for another fishing trip?
The obit said you battled hard.
Would that I’d been witness to that war.
Instead I see you now as I did then—
master of the funk, spinning in your chair
from tape to tape, deck to deck,
DJing for no one and the world
from your turret room above Bloom’s Saloon
fronting your wall of cassettes
a twister in your mouth
that crooked smile, long deep-shining face
The Voice a bari sax: Ship Oars!
Oh Noooo! We’re gonna rock down to —
easy teeth, goofy grin, linty naps,
puffy I-ain’t-had-my-coffee-yet-this-morning eyes,
Gettin’ right, gettin’ tight
Talkin’ ’bout gettin’ dem panties tonight!
Speak into the mo’fo mic!
Close, even at a distance, distant
even with your arm around me
rollin’ with the group home boys
scopin’ on da bugs, da purdy trees
a shadow of the little boy you’d been
alive with those felonious man-children
yet diving under the table at a back-fire,
never trusting anything completely
after being there in country
never spoken of.
With your charm and looks
you could have made the velvet hustle pay—
the happy gigolo with goo-goo cooing
sugar-mommas paying for the ride—
You chose to help,
with an MSW you thought was bullshit,
the flower-hatted, ruby-lipped church ladies
you mimicked mercilessly
but whom I know you loved,
the case-loads-full of group home kids,
foster families, moms, grandmas, grandkids, aunties,
generations of cousins, nephews, nieces
happier now because of you
than you could ever make yourself.
I don’t know who you were trying to please—
your wife? Your sons? But it was seldom really you.
Like me, I’m sure they were happy to be
teased annoyed disarmed
the way you knew how to do it.
To a tee you played the part of
I-don’t-give-a-fuck macho soul brother—
but many knew you so much better.
We knew the boy inside the man with arms
so long they wrapped around you twice,
I knew the warmth inside your leather
jacket as I clung to you on your motorcycle
proud that people thought I was your boyfriend,
down at The Stud dancing with the boys
looking for women at the end of the night
ending up with Jack-n-seven, a joint,
and the long hall between us.
Thank you for the smile that said I see you
and understand the spaces in our hearts
that we can never fill.
It’s OK to let it roll, let it ride,
straight up, beer back,
cribbage on the side.
You let me see the man you saw in me.