Friday, November 19, 2010

Can You Dig It?

A Tribute Poem for American Graffiti
by Sam Pierstorff, City of Modesto's Poet Laureate, 2004-2008

Can You Dig It?

If you unearth the body parts buried beneath G street,
you will find a hot rod's canary yellow doors,
the steel wings of a white T-Bird, the tire tread
of a '55 Chevy still smokin' like the Sixteen Candles
you let burn on the last night of summer, 1962.

These are not footprints or fossils.
     These are the birthmarks of Modesto.

Rest your ear against the hot asphalt of McHenry Ave.
and you will hear Wolfman Jack spinning At the Hop, and
Johnny B. Goode, and That'll Be The Day when cruising
meant living and death was a finish line no one saw coming.

And if you look closely at the exhaust curling
out of the tailpipes of yesterday's vintage cars,
you might see George Lucas rising like a genie,
     and your first wish will be to rewind—

turn back the clock so you can rock around it again
and erase every name in your Book of Love because you
were the fool who kept falling for great pretenders.

But you knew that every stoplight was a fresh start;
every turn could lead you to your goddess.

People say that "You can't stay 17 forever."
And you believe them, but American Graffiti
is spray-painted on the walls of your whole body.

The engine that roars loudest is your own heart
beating, beating. Do not wait for the checkered flag.
Do not look over your shoulder. Look ahead.

The fastest thing in the valley is life.
     Don't let it pass you by.