It was on July 18, 1955, that The New Republic printed a review by Kees entitled "How to Be Happy: Installment 1053," in which the following passage appears: "In our present atmosphere of distrust, violence, and irrationality, with so many human beings murdering themselves—either literally or symbolically…." On that day his car was found abandoned on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. He had spoken to friends of suicide; he had also spoken of going away to start a new life, perhaps in Mexico. Scattered throughout his poems are lines which, as we read them now, seem to foreshadow this final event, whatever it may have been. If the whole of his poetry can be read as a denial of the values of the present civilization, as I believe it can, then the disappearance of Kees becomes as symbolic an act as Rimbaud’s flight or Crane’s suicide.
—from The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees (Revised edition): Edited by Donald Justice
Weldon Kees in Mexico, 1965
Although Kees apparently jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1955, his body was never found.
Evenings below my window
the sister of the convent of Saint Teresa
carry brown jugs of water from a well
beyond a dry wash called Mostrenco.
Today it was hard to waken,
and I’ve been dead to the world ten years.
They tread the narrow footbridge
made of vines and planks, sandals clicking:
brown beads and white wooden crosses
between hands that are also brown.
Over the bridge they travel in a white-robed line
like innocent nurses to a field hospital.
Exactly ten. I’ve marked it on the calendar.
And Maria, who speaks no English,
is soaping her dark breasts by the washstand.
Yesterday she said
she’d like to be a painter and sketched,
on the back of a soiled napkin,
a rendition of a cholla
with her lipstick. She laughed,
then drew below each nipple
a smudged rose. Weldon
would have been repelled
and fascinated, but Weldon is dead.
I watched him fall to the waves
of the Bay, the twelfth suicide that summer.
He would have been fifty-one this year,
my age exactly, an aging man.
Still he would not be a fool
in a poor adobe house, unwinding
a spool of flypaper from a hook
above the head of his child bride.
When she asks my name, I tell her
I am Richard, a good midwestern sound.
She thinks Nebraska is a kingdom
near Peru, and I
the exiled Crown Prince of Omaha.
I’ve promised to buy her a box of paints
in a shop by my palace in Lincoln.
We’ll go back, Maria and I,
with the little sisters of Saint Teresa
who are just now walking across the bridge
for water to be blessed at vespers.
—from David Wojahn, Icehouse Lights (1982)