william s. burroughs lays down his last words on sex and death


Calico Jane the cat, named after Jane Bowles

    Thursday. This is November 14, 1996
    November 10, Calico was killed at 19th and Learnard. I heard about it the 12th from José. Tom had seen the cat by side of the road.
    In the empty spaces where the cat was, that hurt physically. Cat is part of me. Mornings since, I break into uncontrollable sobbing and crying when I remember [where] she used to be—sit—move, etc. No question of histrionics. It just happens.
    So dream remembered: Oh, it was also a cat. I wasn’t sure it could find its way.

    ***

    Tomorrow, November 20, 1996
    […]
    The man in a cheap hotel makes it with lady in next room. Next day as they meet on a landing, she says: “Bonjour, Monsieur,” wiggling her little finger suggestively. He responds by taking off his hat and placing the top side over his crotch: “Bonjour, Madame!
    […]

    ***

    Wednesday, November 20, 1996
    Dream of sex that cannot be realized for some reason. No connection with waking consciousness.
    “That old feeling.” Complete with self-pity.
    “That old feeling is still in my leaking heart.”
    Hmm. Who was it. Composite, I guess.
    Every time I put out three cat pans instead of four, the death of Calico hits again—or I see the place [where] she used to eat, beside the sink. All the empty places. The memory of what has been and never more will be. Killed by a car, she left with me all the places she used to be and never more would be.
    If I thought the driver did it deliberately—if then I could find him—I have a catalogue here advertising a vial of Road Kill. A touch in his ear, on the porch, sent in envelopes under his door.
    Well, can it. This is going nowhere, like the man whose child suffocated in an icebox HE himself had left out, chopping the box to pieces with an axe.
    You don’t get off that easy, pal. Who left the icebox out there?
    […]

    ***

    November 29, 1996. Friday
    “So laughable,” she says.
    It’s the banishing ritual—ho ho ho, hum hum hum.
    “Whatever comes…!” Herr Professor Federn. [Herr Professor Federn: Psychoanalyst Paul Federn was a pupil of Freud’s; he treated Burroughs in New York in 1941.] Sure, it worked sometimes, back in the age of hysteria, dissociation, multiple personalities. Don’t work     now—like penicillin—
    See “mental illness” as a vast organism dedicated to fuck up the Sapiens Project. How can an illness be “mental”? What [does] it feed on?
    So for “mental” in the books, substitute “don’t know” or “soul sickness.”
    So? I wonder.
    Back at Chestnut Lodge. [Chestnut Lodge, in Maryland, is a psychiatric institution where Burroughs was evaluated for discharge from the U.S. Army in 1942.] If I had stayed? Where would I be now?
    Qui vivra verra.
    It was not to be.

    I like a weapon close to me
    Because I am so cowardly
    I have seen Fear
    and Fear has made me free
    Who lives will see
    To look Death in the eye
    With no Kamikaze lie
    Wrap no flag around me
    Who lives will see.
    Man can be alone with Death
    Will receive a second breath.

    Café Lipp—hiking thru tall grass. I had forgotten my gun and [holster]. I was with someone indistinct—rummaging thru drawers, found only the .25. A deep wood drawer, completely empty.

    […]

    ***

    January 7, 1997
    Memoirs—what you wouldn’t want anyone to know.
    “My past was an evil river—un fleuve maudit.
    Without tenure—who wants an unemployed teacher of Creative Writing.
    So write: the law is Love.
    In simple form: a feeling for.
    Par exemple, I feel no feeling for a centipede. For an abandoned kitten, I feel much sympathy.
    Where did the centipede come from?
    And what betrayal of the human species could have led some sonofabitch to feed live baby mice to a caged centipede?
    Centipede—come from very hot place, from very hot place which formed the centipede… the OVENS, the Ovens, the Oooovens… Well, forget [it], who cares anymore.
    As Sri Aurobindo said: “It is all over.”

    ***

    January 26, 1997
    Getting older I find the whole explicit subject of sex appalls me.
    […]

    ***

    March 18, 19, 1997. Wednesday
    They say only love can create, so who the fuck could love up a centipede? He’s got more love in him than I got.
    Now, killing a centipede makes me feel safer—like, one less.

    ***

—William S. Burroughs, Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, Grove Press, 2001, pp. 1, 5, 6-7, 8-9, 41-42, 60, 126

William Burroughs shooting in rural Jefferson County, Kansas, during the 1980s

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.

—William S. Burroughs, accidental uxoricide, “The War Universe”, Grand Street, no. 37, 1991

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