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.