Dated sometime 2004. This is a jaunty Canadian tale in the tradition of Robert W. Service, only less serious, if that's possible. It must have been a subconscious homage, because I hadn't even read "Sam McGee" for a while or in its entirety. Nevertheless, I think this poem is surreal enough to be enjoyed on its own terms.

The Avenging of Jason Tate

'Twas an icy winter's mourning on the day the river froze
And the sun saw my best buddy six feet under virgin snow
When the hockey players found him it was ten degrees too late
The only clues: a single shoe and the corpse of Jason Tate.

I stoodatop the mark he'd made upon the wasted ground
His veins were running cold, alas, his killer never found
In fact his blood had frozen into crimson cubes of death
So I served them with the funeral punch to toast his final breath.

I promised to avenge my friend; I swore on Jason's grave
'Til I was dead as he is now, the winter I would brave
To track the killer down and wring my vengeance from his heart
No mother's plea could break my fevered contract to depart.

For forty days I trekked across Saskatchewan's darkest prairies
Though no night was as chilling as when Jason Tate was buried
I tamed a loon and named it Paul; we went with but a prayer
So cold were we that when I peed my urine froze midair.

Then one day we saw the light of a bar in a backwoods town
We entered in with souls grim as mistrust sat us down
From the spittle-covered floorboards to the spittle-covered men
I knew this was the place to wait for what might happen then-

I wasn't disappointed, for in a nearby empty glass
There gleamed a seated figure, the face Jason had seen last
For one foot held the evidence: the crime scene's missing shoe
But to my surprise he sat by me and ordered me some brew.

My tone of voice was grateful while my beer hand shook with rage
Yet as we sat there talking, I started feeling kinda strange
Paul went fuzzy, then the room; the sleeping pills took hold
And when I woke, again I found myself out in the cold.

The killer laughed; "Ah knew 'twas you!" he said with cruel glee;
"They're saying you've been chasing me from Moose Jaw to B.C.!"
The madman grabbed me, tied me up and locked me in his truck
And then I knew my wild pursuit had just run out of luck.

My thoughts grew grim; they wouldn't find my body 'til the spring
When through the growing snowstorm came the sound of flapping wings
With effort, I raised my aching head, and out the window pane
I saw a thousand wild geese with Paul leading the way.

They swarmed over the heavy truck and with a mighty heave
They lifted it into the air, helped by a passing breeze
Dimly, I saw my captor screaming fifty feet below
I bent my head to Paul and said "Tell them to let it go."

With fifty birds between me and the distant hard-packed earth
I watched as Paul commanded them to drop their metal girth
It plummeted at speeds too fast for me to comprehend
And I felt Jason smiling as it squashed his killer dead.

Well, I went back home and found a wife and had a kid or two
And I guess you're prob'ly wondering how much of this was true
I swear from top to bottom that this tale isn't tall
And if you don't believe me, you can always question Paul.

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