It was a going joke in prison that author William S. Burroughs was my great uncle.  One guy in particular heard the “rumor” and refused to be convinced it wasn’t true.  “Look, Jeff,” I told him, “Uncle Bill is not really my great uncle.  Not saying he’s not great – but he only had one child, as far as I know, so there’s no way he could be an actual uncle.  I just like to call him Uncle Bill.”

“It’s okay,” fundamentalist Jeff replied, “You don’t have to be ashamed that you’re related to him.”

“But I’m really not physically related to him!”

He smirked.  “It’s okay, John. Your secret’s safe with me.”

* * *

William S. Burroughs died on 2 August 1997.  But sometimes we didn’t get news right away in the joint – unless it was sports news.  “Arts” news generally took a while.  So I didn’t find out about Uncle Bill until December.  I want to say it was a Rolling Stone magazine that broke the news to me, though I can’t be sure.

Anyway, the night I heard about his death, I dreamt I met Mr. Burroughs.  And I immortalized my dream in the following poem, which I think is a metaphor for much more than a moonlight drive.  For better or worse, I’m resisting the urge to edit or “perfect” it at present.

* * *

cannot believe William S. Burroughs is dead
11 Dec. 1997

Spectral old man
Beside me
In a late sixties
Large sedan
North on route fifty-seven
Through mid-Ohio
Seventy-five miles an hour
No other cars
Of the accelerator he says
“Hit it like you live
When WHOA!
A sign directly in front of us says
But there’s no control
In the steering wheel and
Foot still on the gas
We launch
Straight into the sign
No matter what
Go forward