"I was eating that!"

No one will ever see the rock on which I stood.
Agricultural Inspection Station! In a flash
I calculate my first memory of California—
Yes, we would have taken exactly this road—
That half-century ago; I was three; in the back
Of the old red Volvo; no seatbelts, just a mattress
Printed with colorful cars, and two frowzy kids—
They stole my apple! I was eating that! The fruit
Police! Those sunrise Seventies years, Palo Alto
Before Palo Alto, the burnt-orange pillars
And seagull arches of Early High Caltrans—
Restless, we spent just two years in paradise.
Thirty years later I took a job that had Kaiser.
A receptionist asked: “Are you still on Alma Street?”
They had saved some ancient magnetic tape.
The past isn’t past—it isn’t even deleted. Still
The station stands; yet today’s new fruit police
Just wave you on as you slow. Why? What are
These, good union jobs? Guys, my whole trunk
Could be full of apples. The Golden State,
Down the tubes. The huge Pontiac Ballbuster,
Transmission set on “Sport,” blasts down the pass.
Soon the fresh green breast of a California spring,
Dotted with burning blaze orange, softens my heart.
Two weeks ago in a different world—you were here
For some tests—I told the kids, quite solemnly,
“These poppies only grow where someone has peed.”
Building an unmatched expertise in disinformation…
Now my mission is short. By Sacramento I know
What I have to do. In the ICU I am again
The CEO, huddling the docs, summing up
The situation, treating them like junior engineers.
“That’s how I see it. Any of you guys disagree?
Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” I actually said that.
When they turn off the ECMO, they use big steel
Hemostats to clamp the red and purple tubes.
And a glimpse I will never, ever forget, of
Your body with the sheet off… molested by medicine…
I like to think they buy their fentanyl in the park.
“Give her more. Another bolus. More, more, more.”
Whatever was you was long gone; but in that breath
One eye opened a crack; the terrifying clarity
Of the lens… you are in the future now. On the way
Home, over the phone, I donate your corneas.
I have your ring and your Apple Watch in a jar.
And best of all—I even guessed your password.
My tires burn through a landscape painting.
California, you gave me thirty good years
And a good woman gave me twenty. Enough.
A fire waits. Two kids, strong as young trees—
That Monday they spent ten hours alone
Together—no Christ without the cross…
I am out of the state by dark. The neon valley.
No one will ever see the rock on which I stood.