Kerouac 100

Artwork of Jack Kerouac by Becca Stein @BecVersa
Artwork by Becca Stein @bec.versa

Jack Kerouac was born 100 years ago today, on March 12, 1922. I wrote a poem about this.

The poets are coming out of the woodwork lately

Called by a voice, and our careworn restless souls

Jack Kerouac! We called you famous for a book you tried to write

For the rolling scroll you typed on, blinking through a tear

Inkwet ribbon punching paper like a smeary bad idea

Kerouac, born tired of the problems of the world

Dostoevski with football shoulders

Brown shoes on weary feet

But what are we supposed to love

About a wheel of quivering meat?

Jack! Kerouac! If you were here would you love us back?

Are we your kind of blue?

And what is there to say

About a dusty old shoe?

Today I’m gonna eat a California burrito for you

I can’t believe that after all the laughter and the tears

That you can be a dharma bum for 100 years

That’s how long it takes

It takes so long to get free

And I don’t wanna moan for man

What man? What moan? Who moans on man? Don’t moan!

You hated being a genius

You only wanted to hang

Something I heard is true

Your mother hated it too

Jack Kerouac, nobody wanted your truth!

Candy wrappers on the street: fantasy, song, a dream

We still don’t want your truth and I don’t want it either

Buddha, it turns out, is the star in our sky

Death, it turns out, was not worth worrying about at all

So tired we all are today of the world’s ordeals

And all the noise

Faces are so wearying

Shoes are so wearying

Brains are so wearying

Masks are so wearying

Jazz is so wearying

The train is so wearying

Don’t even talk to me about the mountains

Kerouac, we’re pretty hip out here

But I don’t think we’re hip enough for you

Are we your kind of blue?

Who was born a hundred years ago? Nobody I can think of

The book you didn’t write

The soul you never found

The taste of the dirt in the ground

Rucksack on your back

USA highways fused into pure asphalt black

Jack Kerouac, would you have loved us back?

There’s lots of celebrations for Jack. I’m going to read this poem at a global online event called Poets Building Bridges on the morning of Jack’s birthday. Here’s the Kerouac Centenary #22 at Beatdom Books. Here’s the Beat Museum’s Kerouac celebration, and here’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac where I hear David Amram and my beatnik brother Brian Hassett will be found. The Allen Ginsberg Project has some more good links, Rock and the Beat Generation has a biographer’s roundtable, and there’s something cool called “Still Outside” at City Lights. Let’s keep this party going! Send more links to celebrate Jack Kerouac’s 100th birthday if you’ve got them.

5 Responses

  1. Loved poem, especially line about inkwet ribbon punching paper, you are something

  2. Not every book is about telling a simple, plotted story, with a standard beginning, middle, end, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, rising action, etc. Some books are about painting an emotional picture or trying to communicate some feeling or attitude, or the atmosphere of a certain time and place, which cannot be done explicitly or directly. Jack Kerouac was never trying to write a simple story with his writing, he was trying to paint a picture of a mindset, a certain way of living, an attitude to life. He was also trying to provide a window into what it was like to live in America at a certain place and time and certainly a window into a world that very few of us have experienced or will ever experience.

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