“No One Who Knew Will Called Him Willem” by Tom C. Hunley

Tom C. Hunley


Each of us is a lot more than one thing
that we do or a few choices that we make.

I remember Will as a kind, gentle person.
Will offered me a place to stay when he learned
I was couch-hopping for a month.
Will and Don were the only friends to show up
for a 1991 poetry contest I was in
at Washington Trade and Convention Center.
Will and I were the only ones to show up for the surprise
birthday party that Don’s girlfriend held for Don.
That’s the Will I knew. Not weak Will
hiding behind a mask, trying to light a propane tank.

I remember Will’s song, “I’m lazy,” featuring the lyric
“My friends should know not to call before noon
because I’m lazy,” sung-spoken in a voice like Lou Reed’s.
Will helped look after Bob, my friend from work
and Will’s former housemate, after Bob got drunk,
set fire to his house, offered the firemen beers.
Will and his girlfriend came to a party I held to celebrate
three years sober. She was blonde and half his age.
My housemate, Julia, said, “Will’s forty, but he’s a boy.”
That’s the Will I knew. Not ill Will
hiding a baton and a knife in his pants.

I read the first news article, which didn’t mention his name,
and the comments: “I only wish the white pos
miscreant antifa thug could have been gunned down
in broad daylight in front of his kids,” etc.
Then Don texted me, “Will’s dead. I love you, Tom,”
and forwarded the second article, which called him Willem
Van Spronsen, along with the comments:
“Where will they bury his body?
I’d like to take a shit on his grave,” etc.
Some part of my world shattered like someone
threw a rock at a stained glass window and made
a hole where the lamb’s head had been.

Apparently Will’s wife had left him, taken their child,
and this was a fruit too bitter for him to eat,
a lemon that oozed juice into the cuts in his hands.
“I have a father’s broken heart,” he wrote in a suicide letter/manifesto.
“I’m a head in the clouds dreamer. I believe in love and redemption.”
Me too, Will. I will always dream. I will always believe.
I dream you were a scarecrow and not a flaming torch.
I believe you were the propane tank and not the explosive device.

from Poets Respond
July 28, 2019


Tom C. Hunley: “It’s difficult to get the poem from news, yet people die miserably every day. This one’s been hard to write. Hearing an old friend’s name in the mouths of talking heads was surreal and unnerving. Knowing that there was a lot more to the story than journalists could tell has made me think of all news stories in new ways. I’ve never been a fan of Antifa (understatement), and seeing how twisted this sweet man became under their influence makes me dislike the organization even more. It makes me think I can understand how the friends and family of Charlie Manson’s cult followers must have felt. At the same time, I now see that there’s a face behind each of those masks, a human being who likely has a kind heart and a confused mind, as Will did.” (web)

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