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,
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
beer on the side.
You let me be.
You let me see the man you saw in me.