WILLIAM BURROUGHS, “THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1986”

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Here we have a short film of William Burroughs, best known as the author of a body of controversial and experimental literature, reading his poem “Thanksgiving Prayer” shot by Gus Van Sant, best known as the director of films like Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, and Drugstore Cowboy, the last of which includes a memorable appearance by Burroughs himself, in which he played a defrocked priest addicted to heroin.

Burroughs, a lifelong critic of America, fills his prayer with bitterly sarcastic “thanks” for things like violence, racism, oppression, and homophobia. Thirty years after William S. Burroughs wrote it sadly it’s never been more relevant. It’s like a floodlight beaming down on everything askew in the good ol’ US of A in the present time.

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 n*****-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
Yes
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
2 Comments
  1. James says

    Pompous, ignorant teenage bullshit (laboratory AID’s?) from a trust fund asshole still being sucked up by (and foisted on) all the thick thighed suburban youth. Poetry and prose for “punk rock” people who don’t actually like to or have the time to read. I am thankful my brother saw me reading Naked Lunch when I was 15 and tore the paperback in half.

  2. Normando says

    THANK GOD BIG BROTHER TOLD YOU WHAT NOT TO READ!! Seriously, Naked Lunch? Will not stand the test of time. Plus, I can think of at least two things wrong with the title. Preach on!

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