by John Giorno
William died on August 2, 1997, Saturday at 6:01 in the
afternoon from complications from a massive heart attack
he'd had the day before. He was 83 years old. I was with
William Burroughs when he died, and it was one of the best
times I ever had with him.
Doing Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist meditation practices, I
absorbed William's consiousness into my heart. It seemed as
a bright white light, blinding but muted, empty. I was the
vehicle, his consciousness passing through me. A gentle
shooting star came in my heart and up the central channel,
and out the top of my head to a pure field of great clarity
and bliss. It was very powerful - William Burroughs resting
in great equanimity, and the vast empty expanse of
primordial wisdom mind.
I was staying in William's house, doing my meditation
practices for him, trying to maintain good conditions and
dissolve any obstacles that might be arising for him at that
very moment in the bardo. I was confident that William had
a high degree of realization, but he was not a completely
enlightened being. Lazy, alcoholic, junkie William. I didn't
not allow doubt to arise in my mind, even for an instant,
because it would allow doubt to arise in William's mind.
Now, I had to do it for him.
What went into William Burroughs 'coffin
with his dead body:
About ten in the morning on Tuesday, August 6, 1997,
James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg came to William's
house to pick out the clothes for the funeral director to put
on William's corpse. His clothes were in a closet in my
room. And we picked the things to go into William's coffin
and grave, accompanying him on his journey in the
His most favorite gun, a 38 special snub-nose, fully loaded
with five shots. He called it, 'The Snubby.' The gun was my
idea. 'This is very important!' William always said you can
never be too well armed in any situation. Of his more than
80 world-class guns, it was his favorite. He often wore it on
his belt during the day, and slept with it, fully loaded, on
his right side, under the bed sheet, every night for fifteen
Grey fedora. He always wore a hat when he went out. We
wanted his consciousness to feel perfectly at ease, dead.
His favorite cane, a sword cane made of hickory with a
light rosewood finish.
Sport jacket, black with a dark green tint. We rummaged
through the closet and it was the best of his shabby clothes,
and smelling sweet of him.
Blue jeans, the least worn ones were the only ones clean.
Red bandana. He always kept one in his back pocket.
Jockey underwear and socks.
Black shoes. The ones he wore when he performed. I
thought the old brown ones, that he wore all the time,
because they were comfortable. James Grauerholz insisted,
'There's an old CIA slang that says getting a new
assignment is getting new shoes.'
White shirt. We had bought it in a men's shop in Beverly
Hills in 1981 on The Red Night Tour. It was his best shirt,
all the others were a bit ragged, and even though it had
become tight, he'd lost a lot of weight, and we thought it
would fit. James said," Don't they slit it down the back
Necktie, blue, hand painted by William.
Moroccan vest, green velvet with gold brocade trim, given
him by Brion Gysin, twenty-five years before.
In his lapel button hole, the rosette of the French
government's Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, and the
rosette of the American Academy of Arts and Letters,
honors which William very much appreciated.
A gold coin in his pants pocket. A gold 19th Century Indian
head five dollar piece, symbolizing all wealth. William
would have enough money to buy his way in the
His eyeglasses in his outside breast pocket.
A ball point pen, the kind he always used. 'He was a
writer!', and sometimes wrote long hand.
A joint of really good grass.
Heroin. Before the funeral service, Grant Hart slipped a
small white paper packet into William's pocket. 'Nobody's
going to bust him.' said Grant. William, bejeweled with all
his adornments, was traveling in the underworld.
I kissed him. An early LP album of us together, 1975, was
called Biting Off The Tongue Of A Corpse. I kissed him on
the lips, but I didn't do it... and I should have.
Last updated August 03, 2018