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James Kerouac_1

I spent a day
with the Beats,
Allen mostly, two
degrees removed
from Jack, whose
roots still throb in
Lowell & whose neck
I am in love with.

Our convivée
included shooters,
B-52s and some
weird green drink,
essence of absence,
I think, which begs
a lisp, I know, but
that very urge to
correct is why,
as it turns out,
we’d gathered
in a smoky bar
above a clinic with
swinging doors.

Could I please,
I exhorted Jack,
make these lines
a little longer?
I don’t write
in matchbooks,
never did
the hobo
thing.

He gave me
that squint, you
know the one, where
lightendarkment
spin so fast,
the gap—

We enjoyed
some man woman
stuff—how could
we not?—which
gave Al time
to chat cubes
with Pissarro

and then
in the midst
of our fumbling
for the perfect
image, an orderly
arrived with a tray
bearing pills in a
pink Dixie cup
and a long
silver needle.

The procedure
was over before
it began, next thing
I knew we were
out on the street
flagging a cab.

In the back
between Allen
and Jack I felt
for the two raw
spots behind
my ears.

Try saying something.

Cat got yr tongue?

No urges, splurges,
poor pity-me dirges?

Look, Al,
the windows
aren’t fogging.

(Does that mean
I’m dead?)

beat, beat, beat, beat…

The driver whose face
I hadn’t seen broke
the silence with laughter
& said through the rearview
mirror in plum British tones,
what have you forgotten?

Everynoallthing, Mr. Watts.

The poets hurrahed
and clapped in sounds
that shot swallows and
bats from the hell of
a million belfries

the nasal tone
that builds from
the accretion of
the need to insist
was gone

before I could
determine what
if anything had
replaced it, our cab
arrived at the
firstlastonly holy
place I’d ever
seen.

There was
not a single
unfamilar
face.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013

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