This poem refers to an actual event, in which a friend’s girlfriend was shot by her deranged landlady with a shotgun at close range. There was no real motivation for the killing. The girlfriend had already apparently considered death, and had requested that her remains be scattered over sacred Native lands in Mendocino County, California. Although I had never met her, I was given a shoebox carrying her remains to hold on our trip to the ceremony in honor of her life.
The original publication can be found here.
I never met you, but I met your bones
here in this shoebox cradled in my lap.
My friend, your lover, handed me the ruins
like a city blasted from the map.
One rifle shot, he said, out of the blue
went right through — your walls came tumbling down.
Now all you were has less weight than a shoe,
and none but me to hold these bits of bone
that flash white in the sunstruck windshield’s glare,
whose brightness burns your soul out of the box,
beyond this mountain drive, your friends that stare,
your ash bequeathed to winds that shift and flux,
until we stand like strangers in your wake —
shoes off, speechless, at your shining break.