The printed certificate with ornamental border shows that I was born in 1956, on the twentieth day of the month of May, in the small town of Dinuba, in the county of Tulare, in the central part of the San Joaquin Valley of California, southeast of the much larger town of Fresno. The third of three sons, I was named William on the third day after my glorious Sunday afternoon arrival — this, according to my mother. From the time I first knew of it, I have loved the idea of not having a name for three days. William itself was easy enough. It was my father’s middle name, and the first name of his mother’s world-famous first cousin. Maybe my parents hesitated because they wondered if there were not already enough Williams in the family. Or maybe they thought two famous Williams would be excessive — for, at that point in my life, my own fame was still burning bright, and I had not yet begun to fade into the dusty anonymity of farm life. Who knows what they thought? They never said. They were poor. Life was hard. It was wonderful, but hard. As for me, I like the name, and can remember no time when I did not like it, although for years I went by the nicknames of Billy and Bill.
Bill Grogan’s goat, was feeling fine, he ate three shirts, from off the line. Yes, I didn’t take piano lessons for nothing. They were, in fact, three dollars a session.
One reason I’ve come to write poems, I think, is that it’s easier than dragging my old piano through the streets. Also, I sing better than I play.
Recently Banned Literature, June 5, 2011