||The eyes of one who's gone, in whose gaze
those mornings, toward the end, I could not see
many miles or days, just a lowering fire no one could tend. I walked right past him in the hospital hall, who'd lost his hair and his beard, walked past my best friend, then stopped and turned. His large blue eyes pierced mine, a startling call. I've gone punk, he said, and for a moment my eyes burned in shock. Silence. Nothing to talk about, he half-laughed, but if you want to, we'll talk. Then bent to me and whispered, I want you to find an old pal of mine, Regina Bill. Bring him to the coast. I promise not to die until I see that prairie gambler's ghost. We searched phonebooks for his name, had a few leads, a bootlegger named Boone, who gave us a woman's number which helped us turn Bill up in skid-row Saskatoon. He needed money, we sent it, and he came as soon as a flight could be booked. Barry had cancer, but seemed the picture of health next to how bad Bill looked. We brought them together. Pam came, too, Barry's flame. In the hospital they let us stay late. Near midnight we turned the room dark. Lit candles. Boombox played a sad Piazzola tune. We drank Cutty Sark and Pam danced a last tango for him, sensual and free, her cheeks ashine with tears. We were all weeping, opened the window to let in the moon. Bill and Barry talked their way across the missing years, and blocks away I could hear a lone dog bawl and bark as if chained to a porch. Barry's eyes were bright, their blue accepting a moist silver glaze from this final torch, blue eyes which when you looked in them held all of his nights but no more of his days. It was a Sunday night when Pam danced and gave him a kiss that would prove his last. He died on the Monday, having completed his mission with prairie-dog Bill, the one pal from his past he needed to see. He thanked us, and the nurse said it was time to leave. I held his hand, he gripped my arm, and twisting my sleeve said, this is it my friend, and the day after that he died. Bill's dead now, too. Pam has never danced a tango again, and will always be his widow and bride. I remember his intense blue eyes, so bright, and before the pain, so wide. Wounds and blessings. We carry each other as medicine. Dead, but never died. Barry Macleod 1942-1986.