William S. Burroughs, a central member of the Beat Generation and an avant-garde author, died on 2 August 1997.
In this short film was shot in 1990 by Gus Van Sant (best known as the director of films like Good Will Hunting) the author recites his poem “Thanksgiving Prayer”.
The poem had been published the previous year in “Tornado Alley”, a collection of short stories plus that poem, dedicated to John Dillinger, “in hope that he is still alive”.
⚠️ At times the language is offensive
For John Dillinger and hope he is still alive
Thanksgiving Day, November Twenty-eighth, 1986
Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons
Destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum
Of challenge and danger
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin
Leaving the carcasses to rot
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes
Thanks for the American dream
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through
Thanks for the KKK
For nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches
For decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces
Thanks for “Kill a Queer for Christ” stickers
Thanks for laboratory AIDS
Thanks for Prohibition
And the war against drugs
Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind their own business
Thanks for a nation of finks
Thanks for all the memories, all right let’s see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal
Of the last and greatest of human dreams
Burroughs fills his prayer with bitterly sarcastic “thanks” for things like violence, racism, oppression and homophobia.
It is a crude and caustic poem, which leaves no illusions about the “infallibility” of humanity and still today exposes what has always been wrong not only in the United States.
In 1951, Burroughs had killed his second wife, Joan Vollmer, allegedly while trying to shoot a glass he had asked her to balance on her head during a drunken William Tell act. (see here)
Grazie per il tacchino selvatico e i piccioni viaggiatori,
destinati a essere cagati attraverso le sane viscere americane.
Grazie per un continente da depredare e avvelenare.
Grazie per gli indiani che fornivano un minimo
di stimolo e pericolo.
Grazie per le vaste mandrie di bisonti da sterminare e scuoiare
lasciandne le carcasse a marcire
Grazie per le laute taglie su lupi e coyote.
Grazie per il sogno americano,
da svilire e falsificare fino a farvi trasparire le nuda menzogna.
Grazie per il KKK,
per gli uomini di legge che uccidono i negri, accarezzandone le tacche.
Per le rispettabili donne tutte casa e chiesa, con le loro facce meschine, tese, acide e malvagie.
Grazie per gli adesivi “Ammazza un gay per Cristo”.
Grazie per l’AIDS di laboratorio.
Grazie per il proibizionismo
e la lotta contro la droga.
Grazie per un paese in cui a nessuno è permesso farsi gli affari propri.
Grazie per una nazione di delatori
grazie per tutti questi ricordi – va bene, fate vedere le braccia!
Siete stati un problema e una seccatura, sempre
Grazie per l’ultimo e più grande tradimento
dell’ultimo e più grande sogno dell’uomo.