Weldon Kees: Miscellaneous

"Just Before Kees’s Disappearance"

Michael Grieg

We were both going through some sad times. He asked if I’d go to Mexico with him but my problems weren’t that desperate and I didn’t have enough money to make the trip seem appealing. He talked of selling his books, the whole lot of them. That seems strange now that it’s known he had some $800 in the bank, still untouched. We discussed Dotoievsky’s The Devils, the last book he had been reading, and how the novel came close to how he was feeling. (I recall now that The Devils ends with a similar disappearance / suicide.) He also quoted something from Rilke, that every so often we have to change our lives completely.

I had gone to his little apartment in the Marina to drink to his decision to go to Mexico. That seemed a lot more sensible than suicide which he sheepishly admitted trying the week before. "I just couldn’t get my foot over the rail," he had said. Months before we had been planning a book on suicide, a How-Not-To-and-Why-Not-To-Do-It with studies of such suicides as [James] Foorestal, Lupe Velez, Alexander Berkman and Hart Crane. He had accumulated some of the material with his friend, the late Jim Agee. I joked about his attempt. "It’s a useless way to get research," I remember telling him. He joked also. We discussed how suicide was a statistical whim. It happened most often in the summer months. It could be triggered by poor diet (and Weldon hadn’t been eating well since his separation from his wife the year before) ….

I called him the next morning to tell him about an overseas job I hadn’t heard of. He seemed interested. We talked of seeing one another that week. It was Monday, July 18, 1955.

He wasn’t home when I called that evening. I called during the following day. No one home. I went down to his place that evening. Dark and quiet, not even a sign of Lonesome, his cat. Then I got a call from the highway patrol at Golden Gate Bridge. His car had been found parked at the north end with the keys in it. With Adrian Wilson, Weldon’s local publisher, we went back to his place. We got in. It was almost as I had left it the Sunday before.

Most of the Jack Daniel was left. On his piano were some sheet music blues. There was the copy of The Devils and Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life near his bed. A note was on the telephone table, the details of the job I had told Weldon about. There were a pair of red socks soaking in the bathroom sink. Near the bookcase in the kitchen was a plate with congealed milk.

His suitcase was in the basement. The only clothes missing were those he was wearing.

From Michael Grieg, Intro Bulletin: A Literary Newspaper of All the Arts 1:8 (May 1956), 4.

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Photograph of Weldon Kees from Poetry magazine (1948)

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