By Nick Nicholson
ON JULY 18, 1953, four weeks after the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, the temperature in New York reached 101 degrees and within the crumbling walls of his apartment, after fucking his girlfriend, Latisha, from behind, Wesley Washington declared, “Damn dog days is a motherfucker,” which subsequently, and famously, became the first line of the first poem he ever wrote. On October 13 of that year, Latisha was murdered, shot. The police conducted an investigation of sorts but the killer was never found. Latisha’s death moved Washington to express his grief in words. He remembered the ferociously hot summer. He remembered lying naked with Latisha beneath the slowly rotating ceiling fan. Then he remembered the line that had sprung from his lips. He wrote it down and thus began Washington’s illustrious poetic career. Washington was prolific. By 1962, he had become a revered underground literary cult figure with a raw, urban voice that spoke to a generation of black youth. His fame eventually declined, however, and on July 4, 1977, Washington was found dead from an overdose of heroin. According to legend, an unfinished poem was discovered in his pocket and the last words he’d written were these: We all dogs.
© Nick Nicholson 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or in part without written permission from the author.
This is the second part of Nick Nicholson's theme-adventurous, eight-part Travelogue. Subsequent segments will be published here in upcoming months.
Next Travelogue story: Tokyo
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Throughout his life, Nick Nicholson has pursued a variety of creative vocations: music, photography, painting and, in recent years, writing. He lives in Australia.