William Weaver: Their Dying Words


The Death of Thomas Chatterton


The following poems are taken from a widely published sequence by the American poet, William Weaver,  in which each poem is based on the last words of various persons of notoriety. You will find below a selection relating to the world of literature and the arts. [Ed.]


William Weaver volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and was, until Covid, the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. He is the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005), performed four times to date. Recently, he published his 150th prose poem since 2016.




I have lived too long. I want to go home.

The world spins, carrying me unwillingly. I feel caught
in its relentless expended energy, my own life pulled
past my wife and family, friends who would like to stop
and mourn, but who are caught like me, in between,
in what only pretends not to end. Here we are gathered
together, content, in my case to die. My friends, my witnesses,
those who will come after, who are resolute in my fate
and theirs. We are willing to wait a reasonable time
but disinclined to be indisposed unnecessarily. After all,
what is the point in lingering? Or malingering? Some must feel
as I feel: cold: “I have lived too long. I want to go home.”




Bless you, Sister. May all your sons be Bishops.

It is a strange thing to be cared for by nuns. Doubly so
for the likes of me. How I came here is not a pretty story.
Much alcohol was required. So, I shall not tell lest
They are listening. Wouldn’t want them to suffer
from my bad habits. I’m minding my Ps & Qs here. Not much
else to do when you are dying. The crosswords are made
by a feckless old fart. I’d sooner. Well, I best be watching my mouth.
Can’t be too careful. Might need a reference soon, if you know
what I mean. I can’t tell them apart, the sisters I mean. I call
them all Sister. Could be men for all I know. It is a strange
world but I feel at home here. Sounds odd, don’t it? Me. Home.
I once declared myself a drinker with a writing problem.
Here I have turned myself around. I still write, but the problem is
I have nothing to drink. Is that anyway to die, I ask you?

I suffered from a bad bout of politics when I was younger.
But I’m not too proud to say my time away taught me how
to write proper and speak well. I recommend jail to all.
Just not an Irish jail. I called myself a daylight atheist once.
Imagine what you will. My stout prayers in pubs went down swell.
And yet here I am, ministered to by a flock of penguins. It’s worse
than the DT’s, it is, and I should know. They are nothing but
kindness itself. Always formal. Mr. Behan this. Now Mr. Behan that.
I’ve actually forgotten my own first name since I’ve been here.
I did open up to one, just this morning. Was feeling a bit down
on myself. Littered some lies about. And said to her, very deadfaced,
and totally deadpan – “Bless you, Sister. May all your sons be Bishops.”
I swear to God, I thought I saw a laugh lighting her eyes.




Born in a hotel room – and God damn it – died in a hotel room.

I always knew Room Service was nothing like what you think
it is. Many are the times when I‘ve waited, hours it seemed
in this same damn hotel room, for a meal or a knock,
a distraction from this boredom we call life, our world.
I wait in a room too much like the one where I was born,
with my Gladstone bag and think that this must be eternity,
the longest wait, a time when time no longer matters,
and when matter no longer matters. Evidently, contradictorily,
the longer the wait, the better the service. “Born in a hotel room –
and God damn it – died in a hotel room”.



richard harris

It’s the food. Don’t touch the food.

This is absolutely the last time I stay here.
I am done with this dump. Take my advice:
never call room service. Go instead to the kitchen.

When no one is looking, and they won’t be, because
they won’t be there, take the largest knife from a block.
Then break something. Anything. So long as it’s loud

enough to bring the kitchen staff scurrying in
from the alley. Then stare them down, holding the knife
like you mean to use it. Look them dead in the eye,

your knife now pointed at whichever one’s wearing
the funny chef’s cap. Tell him, slowly, biting off
your words like a piece of turkey jerky, tell him

what you want, how you want it done, and when
it better damn well be delivered. Make your exit
at this point but keep the knife. It might be handy

later. I guarantee you’ll get Room Service.
I should warn you, as fellow guests, retaliation
could follow. I’m not talking about ground glass

in your 3 egg omelette, or urine in grapefruit juice.
I’m thinking something vile, like a poison. Rat poison.
With you as the perceived rat. I’m telling you, best be

on your guard. I’m being rolled out of here on a stretcher.
That should be your first clue. They’re all dangerous
bastards. Trust no one. Eat anywhere but here.

“It’s the food. Don’t touch the food.”




Either that wallpaper quote goes, or I do.

I never said this, his wraith declares.
I could have. It’s certainly my style.
My métier perhaps. Others have said
I wished I had said it. Who else
could be bothered with wall paper
when dying? Who might sensibly utter
“Either that wallpaper quote goes, or I do.”




My watch!

Timing is everything. Do you hear?
Everything. Each beat. Each measure
exact and deadly. Nothing false. Timeless.
The musical math must be precise. More so
than a clock. It must not deviate
from its fixed path. Each stanza should be
a milestone. A tall marker of the heart’s center.
Each single note a star, but not a shooting star.
I have spent my life listening to the metronome’s
sweeping arm, its insistent demands, almost
inhuman. But necessary. My wife, I am dying
in your arms one last time. Out time. The final
measure. Time wants to run to its end. No music
fills my ears, my heads, my thoughts, my heart.
I am yours at last, waiting for the silence to follow,
the silence that all composers dread. That sound!
Something striking the floor. Shattering. “My watch!”




Noli timere.

The moment appears, unannounced,
though I sensed its approach, and felt
its hand take mine. You too will know
this comfort upon exit. I grow larger
as time collapses. Your presence,
everywhere in the room, outside,
and beyond. Filling my heart. My lungs.
Becoming the blood I was and am now
unbecoming. Noli timere. Do not be afraid.”

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