Uncle Buck


Oh, he was dark,

a dark skin’ded dude, as is said,

but being father son and friend

his skin and he were more and less than black:

deep earth soil live and roiling from his soul

blackbutter onto which I pressed my heart

and felt the strong yet frail softness within

take self-sculpted shapes of body   face   mind,

Mississippi mud in the hands of black Rodin,

of the person he wanted us to want him to be—

but as strong winds stiffen up the sapling,

in passing, Randy Roebuck reshaped me.

I saw the coming out of his happiness.

What was became what could be.

Lucky for that. We did have fun.


So what the fuck, Unca’ Buck!

Ditched us for another fishing trip!

Obituary says you battled hard.

I’m glad I never saw that war.


Instead I see you now as 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,

twister in your mouth,

crooked smile on your long, deep-shining face,

your voice a bari sax: “Ship Oars!

Oh Noooo! We’re gonna rock

down to Electric Avenue!”

your face a 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 mic!”


Close, even at a distance, distant,

even with your arm around me,

rollin’ with the group home boys

scopin’ on da bugs, da pretty trees,

a shadow of the little boy you were

alive with those felonious man-children

but diving under the table

at a back-fire, never trusting

anything completely after being there

in country never spoken.


With your charm and looks

you could have made the velvet hustle pay—

happy gigolo with goo-goo cooing

sugar-mommas paying for the ride—


but instead you chose to help:

with an MSW you thought was bullshit,

flower-hatted, ruby-lipped

church ladies mimicked mercilessly

but whom I know you loved

and many thousands 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 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:

I-don’t-give-a-fuck macho soul brother—

but so 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,

usually ending up with Jack-n-seven

a joint and the long hall between us.


Thank you for the smile that said I see you

I understand the spaces

in our hearts that we can never fill

and it’s OK to let it roll

let it ride

straight up

beer on the side.

You let me be.

You let me see the man you saw in me.