YOU NEVER THOUGHT

A poem for Alden Van Buskirk (1938-1961):

You never thought the ropes 
lacing your body would loosen. 
Never thought tension 
           would go slack, never thought 
truck engines rapping at your back 
like gunshots would quiet 
                      and they didn't.
            Steering-wheel leather chewed 
Pollack by my fingernails, by twisting 
through decades of curves.

                Come to freeway’s end 
at tar wriggles across cement.
Punch brakes and pitch abrupt chest forward 
toward a trail like a bedsheet of stones
knobby gray in forest light.

Dreamt this in endless pre-dawn hours.
Blurry movie images flickered on 
                    matte childhood walls,  
boy with fists clenched and lips 
locked on a scream. 
               Tired relief when the sun
slants over chaparral onto off-white sheetrock. 

This is the story I’m born to express.
This is the story I’m born to contest.

I know my torso's reducing 
to its skeleton antennae.
In my chest confidence 
                   siphoned from 
my father, from my mother words and sadness. 

You never thought you'd mine your own poems. 
Never thought chalcedony light 
through cedar and madrone 
                   was for you.

This ongoing exploration.
One breath at a time.
Life is a dis-ease.
You have to cry.
Push with the big toe.
Mango warmth.
Grow into the "Yes.”

You never thought you’d mine 
the diamond core. 
               Unlikely without ancient poets, 
Shakespeare, the Beats, Mayan spirit guide
whispering in my ear, Lami 
cruising supermarkets of the Apocalypse, 
a nightclub ball spinning 
                   sorrow and passion.

This is the story I’m born to express.
This is the story I’m born to contest.

You never thought you’d be pushing 
Sisyphus’s boulder. Pushing, pushing 
                     until goals wear down 
past extinction and push becomes a fact of life.

Everywhere the universe sparkles with 
intricate jewels and flawed diamonds.

A burger wrapper, flattened,
kicks along the gutter.

All those years in training wheels.
Early strides grow into a type, recognize
the rugged template in the mirror
                       but not these features
lined with sierra exhaustion.

Why brush my hair? Why wash my face?
Why rise to another day?

You never thought you’d touch the cauldron 
at earth’s center. While some force 
moves the plastic bedrock.

Sunlight slants down 
and a hollow diamond reaches up.