The unofficial version of the story:
He was stumbling home on Valium and unlaced Chucks
cutting through the old abandoned factory,
tripped, fell into the pond where they used to flush
their chemicals and dyes—floated, floated, sunk.
Willie’s obituary might as well have been blank
(we weren’t even 17) some junk
about still searching for his path. “Let’s give thanks
for the thousand tiny deaths he missed,”
said, mid-cigarette, the Cobain-quoting priest.
Early mornings, when the toxic pond-sludge drips
like honey down my throat, at my weakest
hour, it happens: Walking from dream to dream
I slip in and sink.
Willie, we weren’t even 17.
Nose ring rusted
Red Wings jersey faded to a sun-wrecked pink
bandana, once head-tied
(to keep one’s brain from exploding, Foster Wallace said)
now unknotted, hangs limp around your neck
lacking even the noose’s grim dignity.
Twenty years on and the runoff still spills—
all those ripoffs and posthumous
comps, a desert hologram, a Broadway show,
a bad book of poems
Oakland’s own dopeboy toilet paper Cantos
capsuled between graffitied bricks—was this
your rose grown from concrete? Demolished
projects reincarnated as coffee shops, shards
of a reckless era giving way to accolades,
cultural heritage, grudging respect?
In death, your fists—like it or not—unclenched.
You could reach into my voicebox
and pull out a fistful of ammunition.
You could reach into my larynx
and pull out a dead canary, X’s for eyes.
Come see me spitting spent shells
like sunflower seeds at the monument’s feet
scrap metal castanets on asphalt
clattering broken sambas.
You could reach into my throat
and pull out a hawk’s war song
retransmitted as sequencer bleeps.
You could decode these carnivore’s
harmonics, what it means when
1 rings out, 2 bleed together
like brothers, 3 evaporate
and never reach you. On every
harp string the ghost-note of gunfire.
Every harp string a cord in my throat.
I’m disentangling the vocal cords
that got knotted in the windstorm.
I’m stringing them up against the sky like chimes.