Sunday, October 02, 2011

October In The Railroad Earth by Jack Kerouac

THERE WAS A LITTLE ALLEY IN SAN FRANCISCO back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they'll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed thru workingman Frisco of Walkup ?? truck drivers and even the poor grime-bemarked Third Street of lost bums even Negroes so hopeless and long left East and meanings of re- sponsibility and try that now all they do is stand there spit- ting in the broken glass sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard and here's all these Millbrae and San Carlos neat-necktied producers and com- muters of America and Steel civilization rushing by with San Francisco Chronicles and green Call-Bulletins not even enough time to be disdainful, they've got to catch 130, 132, 134, 136 all the way up to 146 till the time of evening supper
in homes of the railroad earth when high in the sky the magic stars ride above the following hotshot freight trains-it's all in California, it's all a sea, I swim out of it in afternoons of sun hot meditation in my jeans with head on handker- chief on brakeman's lantern or (if not working) on book, I
look up at blue sky of perfect lostpurity and feel the warp of wood of old America beneath me and have insane conversa- tions with Negroes in several-story windows above and every- thing is pouring in, the switching moves of boxcars in that little alley which is so much like the alleys of Lowell and I hear far off in the sense of coming night that engine calling our mountains.

or the Gate of Marin to the north or San Jose south, the clarity of Cal to break your heart. It was the fantastic drowse and drum hum of lum mum afternoon nathin' to do, ole Frisco with end of land sadness-the people-the alley full of trucks and cars of businesses nearabouts and nobody knew or far from cared who I was all my life three thousand five hundred miles from birth-O opened up and at last belonged to me in Great America.Now it's night in Third Street the keen little neons and also yellow bulblights of impossible-to-believe flops with dark ruined shadows moving back of tom yellow shades like a degenerate China with no money-the cats in Annie's Alley, the flop comes on, moans, rolls, the street is loaded with darkness. Blue sky above with stars hanging high over old hotel roofs and blowers of hotels moaning out dusts of in- terior, the grime inside the word in mouths falling out tooth by tooth, the reading rooms tick tock bigclock with creak chair and slantboards and old faces looking up over rimless spectacles bought in some West Virginia or Florida or Liver- pool England pawnshop long before I was born and across rains they've come to the end of the land sadness end of the world gladness all you San Franciscos will have to fall eventually and burn again.
BUT IT WAS THAT BEAUTIFUL CUT OF CLOUDS I could always see above the little S.P. alley, puffs floating by from Oakland



Will, Flanders said...

Thanks a lot for posting this, Pat. Hearing Jack Kerouac read his own prose definitely adds a new dimension to the appreciation of his writings. The suggestion of musicality and poetry and jazzy rhythms and unorthodox phrasing has always been there, but when you hear the master's voice there can be no doubt he put in a lot of hard work to achieve just that. Congratulations also on your Vanatic Episode about Van Morrison and the Beat Poets, I think it's very interesting and moving as well: the idea of young Van who left school at 14 educating himself with the likes of Jack Kerouac , the idea of you having a chat with Carolyn Cassady, ... Great !

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Just added your blog to my blog list (The Daily Beat).

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