20 April 2020

On the Road with Jack

Jack Kerouac

Jack wrote On the Road the year I was born and published it when I was seven, but I lived closer to “Leave it to Beaver” than to poverty or to rebellion.

Look at him crouching mid-street-dangerous! 
I’ve pictured him in a car since I met him
in a “Beat and Hip” literature class
in nineteen sixty-nine, Woodstock heaven. 

On campus, every rule I thought I knew
turned inside out and the invitation—
the compulsion—to try what was taboo
was both freeing and frightening.

So, yes, we became smiling and sensual hippy
lawn dancers holding negatives to watch
sun’s eclipses, listening to the Grateful 
Dead and embroidering bells in our jeans.

Free speech and love, flowers and weed. We stopped
hypocrisy. We brought the troops back home.
We dropped out. We turned on. We ignited 
worlds where the once low became high and known.

And we colored outside the lines, carried
Ginsburg’s and Ferlinghetti’s poetry,
and moved to San Francisco, Big Apple,
and freedom communes in the country.

I don’t remember reading Jack’s Big Sur,
The Dharma Bums or On the Road, living
in one place long enough for library
cards.  Did we have homes?  Did we earn livings?

We hitched to Woodstock, grew in music, gardens,
and dramatic arts.  We built protests and fear-
proof identity politics.  Many 
came out from closets. Many disappeared.

for Sunday Muse #104, an ekphrastic prompt


My blog poems are rough drafts.
   Please respect my copyright.
 If you quote, credit this page.
     © 2020 Susan L. Chast


Sherry Blue Sky said...

We thought we would change the world. And we did, for a time, until all of our leaders were assassinated. I think that hope, that time when we came so close, when all we needed was love, when we gave peace a chance, is what makes what we have come to so hard and heartbreaking to bear. You have captured those times so well in this poem. You took me back there, to when our world held so much hope.

anthonynorth said...

You captured the times perfectly in this.

Carrie Van Horn said...

You have lived through fascinating times, and I do believe that it is those kind of experiences that can create an amazing poet! This is a wonderful poetic glimpse in time Susan!

thotpurge said...

Oh that time comes alive in your poem.. if only life could move away from this senseless pursuit of wealth and power and towards something more meaningful...if only...

Helen said...

I was ten in 1951 when Jack typed On The Road on that paper role. This took me back to an era I witnessed from far away .. though quite aware of it .. by 1962 I had three little boys and a husband in med school, lived in public housing in East St. Louis IL. I am hanging onto your poem .. it fills in a more than a few of the missing pieces!

hedgewitch said...

You capture that time well. Kerouac started the trend away from conformity in so many ways, and certainly was a groundbreaking writer, but I can't help but feel that music and assassinations had a far greater influence on my generation, and that free-floating, difficult time. Many factors at play, for sure, and we often had no idea where to turn next, as you say so eloquently in the penultimate stanza. I still think it was a good time to be young,all things considered. I especially like the third stanza also.

Helen said...

Forgot to add “We Real Cool” !!

Fireblossom said...

What a depiction of a time and national mood! I, too, came more from Beaver's America, but ended up in American Pie as a teenager and twenty-something in the 70s.