Far From the Shore

Is he dead? Is my friend dead?
Crashed, face against painted steel,
splattered with blood & needles of glass,
broken head splotched with oily blood,
crushed bug of pavement-grinding crash,
lost coat & necktie twisted in mud?
Where is he now? That I hear his voice
in my ear, urging he is alive, gentle face
needing shave somewhere on land, white teeth
smiling at a world of air. Those teeth
broken into half-rotted jags, strewn
by uncaring nighttime hand, somewhere.
In a sky-blue casket, cast into the ground —
someone saw it, saw them do it, told me:
I cant deny that, I cant deny last summer
when I bought him a bottle of whiskey,
waved him away in Vancouver night,
the last time I saw him, away in a car,
later off, to Ontario, what bleary clime.
And one month ago, filtered word, unwilling
news, he is killed in auto wreck on far
foreign highway — what sudden loom
in front of night, blazing lights in eyes,
desperate jag of heavy car, then, now,
horrid air-filling explosion, shrieking steel,
awkward shrapnel gouging into ground, a
twirling upside-down rubber wheel, sirens.
All in the silence of my night here
two thousand highway miles west, he was
often drunk, lay on floor at parties, eyes glazed
in utter joy & defiant empty bottle a scepter
in his drunken white kingly hand, amused
to the edge of his mouth, teeth in a second
a light on his unshaven face, my friend,
now moldering — agh! — in the ground —
Handled by family & deacon, churchmen,
professionals, gravediggers, West Coast moist soil,
his body passed four miles from me
along westering railway, unknown, dead, baggage,
making twenty-minute stop in the night,
here, thru Calgary, on way to West Coast rot,
& he wont get up! this is country
of silent wind piling drift snow in
Rocky Mountains, trenches of quiet death,
lonely desolation, long wind-silent drift,
thru deep black space, fall, languorous drug,
fading, falling sleep thru night of space,
smiling teeth, faint among stars, gone, night,
gone, further, Ian, my friend, where are you?