Kerouac

Happy birthday (March 12th), Jack Kerouac! My poem from Arclight honoring the man behind the mythical scrolls.
When I was a young man,
a budding scribe
eager to blossom white fire,
and scabbed lotuses,
you meant the world to me.
You exposed me to velocity bop
and piggyback rhythms,
to apple pie windowsill jazz
and summer light porch swings,
to mesmeric wreaths of pipe smoke
and the windswept skulls
of railroad Octobers
in brown, turning earth.
You soul eased
in such a relatable way,
the freight of boyhood
infused your eyes
with saloony verve,
your fingers jitterbugged
across enormous swaths of whiteness
and void,
you bootlegged
lyrics
Melville-style,
just to keep yourself
in the running with
Hemingway’s bulls
and Joyce’s Dublin,
white whale hunting
came second nature to you,
some people do impossible
like half-made angels
leveled by mortal booms.
Their very gimpness
embodies
the purest translation
of Heaven’s perishable blooms.
Yours
was the religion
of sweet, sad farewells,
the capered goofs
of little boys spitballing
I love yous
to girls in pinafore dresses
at Sunday movie matinees,
or profane leerstruckness
at the silver crucifixes
resting
between ripening mounds
of sweat beaded cleavage,
yours
was the racket of vaudeville,
commingled with a fanatic’s
fairground zeal,
the Zen weatherman
who once proclaimed:
The taste
of rain—
why kneel?
Yet
it wasn’t long
before
Fame,
that highly-sought-after
stalk-legged
dame
in a mink stole
and white-hot spray
of jewels
came along
and cornered you good,
and the Shakespeare of Lowell
quickly became
Little Boy Blue,
nowhere to turn,
as the flesh eaters
closed in,
and all you could do
was blow wild, careening
solos through your trusty horn,
and pour
rivers of whiskey
over your soul’s
god given.
Recognition didn’t kill you,
alcoholism did,
but let’s just say
recognition
mixed with booze
in the redlight district
and pinkened sensitivity
of wounded souls
sharpens
and humors itself
through the gallows.
When names
balloon too big,
when the print is lettered
through the Hypemachine,
it is easy
to lose sight
of what it is we’re reading,
Fame’s overlay
the distorting veneer
so you are no longer reading
what you see or feel
but rather what you’ve heard
from a hivemind,
secondhand rumors dispel
direct engagement with mystery,
what others know
and say
becomes the order of the day,
and that long day’s journey
into night
is, by definition
and default, history
(its winners wearing blinders
while leading the blind)
but before the siege,
and after the deluge,
Jack Kerouac, Ti Jean, Sal Paradise, John Duluouz,
and all the other names that became you,
there were the words, the holy writ,
the godblasted scrolls of one man’s
self-speak upon the earth,
that rabid seeking
as gilded sibling
to Dylan Thomas’s hilltop cloud cry—
Oh, as I was young once,
and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying,
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
You,
Mr. Kerouac,
were one of the wind-twisting
chain-rattlers,
frothing fringed baubles of sea
at the mouth,
as if to prove
you were nature herself
(this the way of angels, the way of children)
and when I look back,
I am immensely grateful
that you took the time
to give the spirit of boyhood,
its vim and keyturned sorcery,
as well as music’s
plasmic alchemy,
its reverential due
in a society
where doped dreams
register
way too much sleep
to ever claim their meek
as soundly vital
and golden.

jack kerouac II

 

 

 

 

 

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About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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