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Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
Poems


1st Chorus Mexico City Blues
2nd Chorus Mexico City Blues
3rd Chorus Mexico City Blues
4th Chorus Mexico City Blues
10th Chorus Mexico City Blues
Hitchhiker
Bus East
Haikus

Jack Kerouac. On the Road

Jack Kerouac. The Dharma Bums


This Is The Beat Generation by John Clellon Holmes
Jack Kerouac. Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation

 

1st Chorus Mexico City Blues


Butte Magic of Ignorance
Butte Magic
Is the same as no-Butte
All one light
Old Rough Roads
One High Iron
Mainway

Denver is the same
"The guy I was with his uncle was
the govornor of Wyoming"
"Course he paid me back"
Ten Days
Two Weeks
Stock and Joint

"Was an old crook anyway"

The same voice on the same ship
The Supreme Vehicle
S.S. Excalibur
Maynard
Mainline
Mountain
Merudvhaga
Mersion of Missy

 

 

2nd Chorus Mexico City Blues


Man is not worried in the middle

Man in the Middle
Is not Worried
He knows his Karma
Is not buried

But his Karma,
Unknown to him,
May end --

Which is Nirvana

Wild Men
Who Kill
Have Karmas
Of ill

Good Men
Who Love
Have Karmas
Of dove

Snakes are Poor Denizens of Hell
Have come surreptitioning
Through the tall grass
To face the pool of clear frogs

 

 

3rd Chorus Mexico City Blues


Describe fires in riverbottom
sand, and the cooking;
the cooking of hot dogs
spitted in whittled sticks
over flames of woodfire
with grease dropping in smoke
to brown and blacken
the salty hotdogs,
and the wine,
and the work on the railroad.

$275,000,000,000.00 in debt
says the Government
Two hundred and seventy five billion
dollars in debt
Like Unending
Heaven
And Unnumbered Sentient Beings
Who will be admitted --
Not-Numberable --
To the new Pair of Shoes
Of White Guru Fleece
O j o !
The Purple Paradise

 

 

4th Chorus Mexico City Blues


Roosevelt was worth 6, 7 million dollars
He was Tight

Frog waits
Till poor fly
Flies by
And then they got him

The pool of clear rocks
Covered with vegetable scum
Covered the rocks
Clear the pool
Covered the warm surface
Covered the lotus
Dusted the watermelon flower
Aerial the Pad
Clean queer the clear
blue water

AND THEN THEY GOT HIM

The Oil of the Olive
Bittersweet taffies
Bittersweet cabbage
Cabbage soup made right
A hunk a grass
Sauerkraut let work
in a big barrel
Stunk but Good

 

 

10th Chorus Mexico City Blues


The great hanging weak teat of India
on the map
The Fingernail of Malaya
The Wall of China
The Korea Ti-Pousse Thumb
The Salamander Japan
the Okinawa Moon Spot
The Pacific
The Back of Hawaiian Mountains
coconuts
Kines, balconies, Ah Tarzan--
And D W Griffith
the great American Director
Strolling down disgruntled
Hollywood Lane
-- to toot Nebraska,
Indian Village New York,
Atlantis, Rome,
Peleus and Melisander,
And

swans of Balls

Spots of foam on the ocean

 

 

Hitchhiker 

"Tryna get to sunny Californy" - Boom. It's the awful raincoat making me look like a selfdefeated self-
murdering imaginary gangster, an idiot in
a rueful coat, how can they understand
my damp packs - my mud packs - „Look John, a hitchhiker" „He looks like he's got a gun underneath
that I. R. A. coat" "Look Fred, that man by the road"
„Some sexfiend got in print in 1938
in Sex Magazine" – „You found his blue corpse in a
greenshade edition, with axe blots"
Bus East Poem written on a bus April 1954
from S. F. to New York

BUS EAST Society has good intentions Bureaucracy is like a friend
5 
years ago - other furies other losses -
America's 
trying to control the uncontrollable Forest fires, Vice
The 
essential smile In the essential sleep Of the children Of the essential mind
I'm 
all thru playing the American 
Now I'm going to live a good quiet life
The 
world should be built for foot walkers
Oily 
rivers Of spiney Nevady
 I 
am Jake Cake 
Rake
Write like Blake
The 
horse is not pleased Sight of his
gorgeous finery
in the dust Its silken nostrils
did disgust
Cats 
arent kind Kiddies anent sweet
April 
in Nevada - Investigating Dismal Cheyenne Where the war parties 
In fields of straw
Aimed over oxen At Indian Chiefs
In wild headdress Pouring thru the gap
In Wyoming plain
To make the settlers
Eat more dust than dust was eaten In the States From East at Seacoast Where wagons made up To dreadful Plains
Of clazer vup
Saltry 
settlers 
Anxious to masturbate The Mongol Sea (I'm too tired in Cheyenne - No sleep in 4 nights now, & 2 to go)
 
NEBRASKA
April 
doesnt hurt here Like it does in New England The ground Vast and brown Surrounds 
dry towns Located in the dust Of the coming locust
Live 
for survival, not for "kicks"
Be 
a bangtail describer, like of shrouded traveler in Textile tenement & 
the birds fighting in yr
ears-like Burroughs
exact to describe &
gettin $
The 
Angry Hunger (hunger is anger) who fears the hungry feareth the angry)
And 
so I came home To Golden far away Twas on the horizon Every blessed day As we 
rolled 
And we rolled From Donner tragic Pass Thru April in Nevada
And out Salt City Way
Into the dry Nebraskas
And sad Wyomings
Where young girls
And pretty lover boys With Mickey Mantle eyes
Wander 
under moons Sawing in lost cradle And Judge O Fasterc Passes whiggling by 
To ask of young love:
,,Was it the same wind
Of April Plains eve
that ruffled the dress Of my lost love Louanna In the Western Far off night Lost as the whistle Of the passing Train Everywhere West Roams moaning The deep basso - Vom! Vom! - Was it the same love Notified my bones
As mortify yrs now Children of the soft Wyoming April night? Couldna been! But was! But was!"
And 
on the prairie The wildflower blows In the night 
For bees & birds
And sleeping hidden
Animals of life.
The 
Chicago Spitters in the spotty street Cheap beans, loop, 
Girls made eyes at me
And I had 35
Cents in my jeans -
 Then 
Toledo Springtime starry Lover night 
Of hot rod boys
And cool girls
A wandering A wandering In search of April pain
A plash of rain Will not dispel
This fumigatin hell
Of lover lane
This park of roses
Blue as bees
In 
former airy poses In aerial O Way hoses No tamarand 
And figancine
Can the musterand
Be less kind Sol - Sol - Bring forth yr
Ah Sunflower -
Ah me Montana Phosphorescent Rose And bridge in fairly land I'd understand it all -

This Is The Beat Generation
The New York Times Magazine, Novembe
r 16, 1952

Several months ago, a national magazine ran a story under the heading 'Youth' and the subhead 'Mother Is Bugged At Me.' It concerned an eighteen-year-old California girl who had been picked up for smoking marijuana and wanted to talk about it. While a reporter took down her ideas in the uptempo language of 'tea,' someone snapped a picture. In view of her contention that she was part of a whole new culture where one out of every five people you meet is a user, it was an arresting photograph. In the pale, attentive face, with its soft eyes and intelligent mouth, there was no hint of corruption. It was a face which could only be deemed criminal through an enormous effort of reighteousness. Its only complaint seemed to be: 'Why don't people leave us alone?' It was the face of a beat generation.

That clean young face has been making the newspapers steadily since the war. Standing before a judge in a Bronx courthouse, being arraigned for stealing a car, it looked up into the camera with curious laughter and no guilt. The same face, with a more serious bent, stared from the pages of Life magazine, representing a graduating class of ex-GI's, and said that as it believed small business to be dead, it intended to become a comfortable cog in the largest corporation it could find. A little younger, a little more bewildered, it was this same face that the photographers caught in Illinois when the first non-virgin club was uncovered. The young copywriter, leaning down the bar on Third Avenue, quietly drinking himself into relaxation, and the energetic hotrod driver of Los Angeles, who plays Russian Roulette with a jalopy, are separated only by a continent and a few years. They are the extremes. In between them fall the secretaries wondering whether to sleep with their boyfriends now or wait; the mechanic berring up with the guys and driving off to Detroit on a whim; the models studiously name-dropping at a cocktail party. But the face is the same. Bright, level, realistic, challenging.

Any attempt to label an entire generation is unrewarding, and yet the generation which went through the last war, or at least could get a drink easily once it was over, seems to possess a uniform, general quality which demands an adjective ... The origins of the word 'beat' are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of soul; a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself. A man is beat whenever he goes for broke and wagers the sum of his resources on a single number; and the young generation has done that continually from early youth.

Its members have an instinctive individuality, needing no bohemianism or imposed eccentricity to express it. Brought up during the collective bad circumstances of a dreary depression, weaned during the collective uprooting of a global war, they distrust collectivity. But they have never been able to keep the world out of their dreams. The fancies of their childhood inhabited the half-light of Munich, the Nazi-Soviet pact, and the eventual blackout. Their adolescence was spent in a topsy-turvy world of war bonds, swing shifts, and troop movements. They grew to independent mind on beachheads, in gin mills and USO's, in past-midnight arrivals and pre-dawn departures. Their brothers, husbands, fathers or boy friends turned up dead one day at the other end of a telegram. At the four trembling corners of the world, or in the home town invaded by factories or lonely servicemen, they had intimate experience with the nadir and the zenith of human conduct, and little time for much that came between. The peace they inherited was only as secure as the next headline. It was a cold peace. Their own lust for freedon, and the ability to live at a pace that kills (to which the war had adjusted them), led to black markets, bebop, narcotics, sexual promiscuity, hucksterism, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The beatness set in later.

It is a postwar generation, and, in a world which seems to mark its cycles by its wars, it is already being compared to that other postwar generation, which dubbed itself 'lost'. The Roaring Twenties, and the generation that made them roar, are going through a sentimental revival, and the comparison is valuable. The Lost Generation was discovered in a roadster, laughing hysterically because nothing meant anything anymore. It migrated to Europe, unsure whether it was looking for the 'orgiastic future' or escaping from the 'puritanical past.' Its symbols were the flapper, the flask of bootleg whiskey, and an attitude of desparate frivolity best expressed by the line: 'Tennis, anyone?' It was caught up in the romance of disillusionment, until even that became an illusion. Every act in its drama of lostness was a tragic or ironic third act, and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land was more than the dead-end statement of a perceptive poet. The pervading atmosphere of that poem was an almost objectless sense of loss, through which the reader felt immediately that the cohesion of things had disappeared. It was, for an entire generation, an image which expressed, with dreadful accuracy, its own spiritual condition.

But the wild boys of today are not lost. Their flushed, often scoffing, always intent faces elude the word, and it would sound phony to them. For this generation lacks that eloquent air of bereavement which made so many of the exploits of the Lost Generation symbolic actions. Furthermore, the repeatedinventory of shattered ideals, and the laments about the mud in moral currents, which so obsessed the Lost Generation, do not concern young people today. They take these things frighteningly for granted. They were brought up in these ruins and no longer notice them. They drink to 'come down' or to 'get high,' not to illustrate anything. Their excursions into drugs or promiscuity come out of curiousity, not disillusionment.

Only the most bitter among them would call their reality a nightmare and protest that they have indeed lost something, the future. For ever since they were old enough to imagine one, that has been in jeapordy anyway. The absence of personal and social values is to them, not a revelation shaking the ground beneath them, but a problem demanding a day-to-day solution. How to live seems to them much more crucial than why. And it is precisely at this point that the copywriter and the hotrod driver meet and their identical beatness becomes significant, for, unlike the Lost Generation, which was occupied with the loss of faith, the Beat Generation is becoming more and more occupied with the need for it. As such, it is a disturbing illustration of Voltaire's reliable old joke: 'If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.' Not content to bemoan his absence, they are busily and haphazardly inventing totems for him on all sides.

For the giggling nihilist, eating up the highway at ninety miles an hour and steering with his feet, is no Harry Crosby, the poet of the Lost Generation who planned to fly his plane into the sun one day because he could no longer accept the modern world. On the contrary, the hotrod driver invites death only to outwit it. He is affirming the life within him in the only way he knows how, at the extreme. The eager-faced girl, picked up on a dope charge, is not one of those 'women and girls carried screaming with drink or drugs from public places,' of whom Fitzgerald wrote. Instead, with persuasive seriousness, she describes the sense of community she has found in marijuana, which society never gave her. The copywriter, just as drunk by midnight as his Lost Generation counterpart, probably reads God and Man at Yale during his Sunday afternoon hangover. The difference is this almost exaggerated will to believe in something, if only in themselves. It is a will to believe, even in the face of an inability to do so in conventional terms. And that is bound to lead to excesses in one direction or another. The shock that older people feel at the sight of this Beat Generation is, at its deepest level, not so much repugnance at the facts, as it is distress at the attitudes which move it. Though worried by this distress, they most often argue or legislate in terms of the facts rather than the attitudes. The newspaper reader, studying the eyes of young dope addicts, can only find an outlet for his horror and bewilderment in demands that passers be given the electric chair. Sociologists, with a more academic concern, are just as troubled by the legions of young men whose topmost ambition seems to be to find a secure birth in a monolithic corporation. Contemporary historians express mild surprise at the lack of organized movements, political, religous, or otherwise, among the young. The articles they write remind us that being one's own boss and being a natural joiner are two of our most cherished national traits. Everywhere people with tidy moralities shake their heads and wonder what is happening to the younger generation. Perhaps they have not noticed that, behind the excess on the one hand, and the conformity on the other, lies that wait-and-see detachment that results from having to fall back for support more on one's capacity for human endurance than on one's philosophy of life. Not that the Beat Generation is immune to ideas; they fascinate it. Its wars, both past and future, were and will be wars of ideas. It knows, however, that in the final, private moment of conflict a man is really fighting another man, and not an idea. And that the same goes for love. So it is a generation with a greater facility for entertaining ideas than for believing in them. But it is also the first generation in several centuries for which the act of faith has been an obsessive problem, quite aside from the reasons for having a particular faith or not having it. It exhibits on every side, and in a bewildering number of facets, a perfect craving to believe.

Though it is certainly a generation of extremes, including both the hipster and the radical young Republican in its ranks, it renders unto Caesar (i.e, society) what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. For the wildest hipster, making a mystique of bop, drugs and the night life, there is no desire to shatter the 'square' society in which he lives, only to elude it. To get on a soapbox or write a manifesto would seem to him absurd. Looking at the normal world, where most everything is a 'drag' for him, he nevertheless says: 'Well, that's the Forest of Arden after all. And even it jumps if you look at it right.' Equally, the young Republican, though often seeming to hold up Babbitt as his culture hero, is neither vulgar nor materialistic, as Babbitt was. He conforms because he believes it is socially practical, not necessarily virtuous. Both positions, however, are the result of more or less the same conviction -- namely that the valueless abyss of modern life is unbearable.

For beneath the excess and the conformity, there is something other than detachment. There are the stirrings of a quest. What the hipster is looking for in his 'coolness' (withdrawal) or 'flipness' (ecstasy) is, after all, a feeling on somewhereness, not just another diversion. The young Republican feels that there is a point beyond which change becomes chaos, and what he wants is not simply privelege or wealth, but a stable position from which to operate. Both have had enough of homelessness, valuelessness, faithlessnes. The variety and the extremity of their solutions are only a final indication that for today's young people there is not as yet a single external pivot around which they can, as a generation, group their observations and their aspirations. There is no single philosophy, no single party, no single attitude. The failure of most orthodox moral and social concepts to reflect fully the life they have known is probably the reason for this, but because of it each person becomes a walking, self-contained unit, compelled to meet, or at least endure, the problem of being young in a seemingly helpless world in his own way.

More than anything else, this is what is responsible for this generation's reluctance to name itself, its reluctance to discuss itself as a group, sometimes its reluctance to be itself. For invented gods invariably disappoint those who worship them. Only the need for them goes on, and it is this need, exhausting one object after another, which projects the Beat Generation forward into the future and will one day deprive it of its beatness.

Dostoyevski wrote in the early 1880's that 'Young Russia is talking of nothing but the eternal questions now.' With appropriate changes, something very like this is beginning to happen in America, in an American way; a re-evaluation of which the exploits and attitudes of this generation are only symptoms. No single comparison of one generation against another can accurately measure effects, but it seems obvious that a lost generation, occupied with disillusionment and trying to keep busy among the broken stones, is poetically moving, but not very dangerous. But a beat generation, driven by a desparate craving for belief and as yet unable to accept the moderations which are offered it, is quite another matter. Thirty years later, after all, the generation of which Dostoyevski wrote was meeting in cellars and making bombs.

This generation may make no bombs; it will probably be asked to drop some, and have some dropped on it, however, and this fact is never far from its mind. It is one of the pressures which created it and will play a large part in what will happen to it. There are those who believe that in generations such as this there is always the constant possibility of a great new moral idea, conceived in desparation, coming to life. Others note the self-indulgence, the waste, the apparent social irresponsibility, and disagree.

But its ability to keep its eyes open, and yet avoid cynicism; its ever-increasing conviction that the problem of modern life is essentially a spiritual problem; and that capacity for sudden wisdom which people who live hard and go far possess, are assets and bear watching. And, anyway, the clear, challenging faces are worth it.

by John Clellon Holmes

 

Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation
Esquire Magazine 3/58

"The Beat Generation, that was a vision that we had, John Clellon Holmes and I, and Allen Ginsberg in an even wilder way, in the late forties, of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way--a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word 'beat' spoken on streetcorners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America--beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction--We'd even heard old 1910 Daddy Hipsters of the streets speak the word that way, with a melancholy sneer--It never meant juvenile delinquents, it meant characters of a special spirituality who didn't gang up but were solitary Bartlebies staring out the dead wall window of our civilization--the subterraneans heroes who'd finally turned from the 'freedom' machine of the West and were taking drugs, digging bop, having flashes of insight, experiencing the 'derangement of the senses,' talking strange, being poor and glad, prophesying a new style for American culture, a new style (we thought), a new incantation--The same thing was almost going on in the postwar France of Sartre and Genet and what's more we knew about it--But as to the actual existence of a Beat Generation, chances are it was really just an idea in our minds--We'd stay up 24 hours drinking cup after cup of black coffee, playing record after record of Wardell Gray, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Willie Jackson, Lennie Tristano and all the rest, talking madly about that holy new feeling out there in the streets- -We'd write stories about some strange beatific Negro hepcat saint with goatee hitchhiking across Iowa with taped up horn bringing the secret message of blowing to other coasts, other cities, like a veritable Walter the Penniless leading an invisible First Crusade- -We had our mystic heroes and wrote, nay sung novels about them, erected long poems celebrating the new 'angels' of the American underground--In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mightily swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinister new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else (the Polite Total Police Control of Dragnet's 'peace' officers) but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity, the generation itself was shortlived and small in number."

Jack Kerouac