Medium High

“Poetry doesn’t know:
The air conditioner
Not in use in winter
Is like my hopes—
Half in, half out.”
—Jack Kerouac, from “Richmond Hill Blues” (Book of Blues

I have no air
conditioner. No
dishwasher. I have no washing
machine. I am half 

in, half out—don’t
take pity on me
because I don’t cook
down suburban roads 

in an SUV. I want no mercy
meals from anyone—
not even Kerouac.  He’s
dead. I am sitting in 

my own lap
topped to wait
for the right moment
to cast a warm glow.

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Question of Property

“I almost called these poems
Pickpocket Blues
because they are the repetition
                              by memory
                      of earlier poems
                        stolen from me
b y    t w e l v e    t h i e v e s.”
—Jack Kerouac, from the 2nd Chorus of “Orizaba 210 Blues” (Book of Blues

She doubts her bones
will be put on display.  Sees 

how she is blessed.  To be a thief
in this time is what’s left. If he channels you 

to music, how will she tune in, listen,
take away what she can 

to call her own? If possession
is nine tenths, she has her doubts 

about the other tenth—does believe
it has something to do with the shape 

of the moon and whether she bothers
to look for it each night. Did she steal 

that one too?

No Ginger

“I stand on my head on Desolation Peak
And see that the world is hanging
Into an ocean of endless space.”
—Jack Kerouac, from the 1st Chorus of “Desolation Blues” (Book of Blues

Prone to motion sickness, I’ve looked
for adjustments. How to encounter the rolls
and curves without losing myself
when I have a suspicion 

I should do just that. How to
accept this condition, this disease
of being human without
somersaulting over the bluff. How to drop 

everything I battle gravity
over to let stillness in the center
of a wild wind be my single garment.  How to be
a mammal without a thick coat 

of fur. How to be upright
on two leathered feet. How? Like this:

 I’ll let the blood rush
to my head without blushing.

What He Said in the 11th Chorus

You swim in the biggest one
of a chain
of lakes. Don’t fear
the consequences. There your head goes 

popping through the surface
then bubbling back under. You
were adamant—you don’t
like the tone of Kerouac’s poems. So there you go 

through water without salt,
through muck
seen and unseen. I could not be
so brave. I’d rather splash 

through an ocean without narrative,
would rather let sound
carry me
than the other way around.

Response to the 55th Chorus

“I also have all space 

And St Louis too 

  Light follows rivers
    I do too 

  Light fades, I pass.”
—Jack Kerouac, from the 55th Chorus of “San Francisco Blues” (Book of Blues

If this were a poker game,
I would be out
by now. I would be
reflecting on the morning 

heron in the stream
between little lake
and wetland infill. Would be
a reflection 

of myself on tip toes
hoping to see over
the Hennepin Avenue Bridge
rail to the pull 

of the big river
as it takes all the space
it needs to spread
these northern myths 

down Saint Louis way.
I would be out and free
to gamble away
another sunset.

Inside His 50th Chorus

“The guitar’s a-started
Playing by itself.”
—Jack Kerouac, from the 50th Chorus to “San Francisco Blues” (Book of Blues

Hot wind and time
to be 

alone converge
at an intersection 

I won’t remember

tomorrow morning
when light breaks open 

that hill behind me.
The spillage will be automatic, 

will startle longing
in shades of red. 

Don’t ask 

how I know. These are the split
movements beyond control.

Tinderbox

Kerouac sees punks
in his 20th chorus—
all those who would fit
on a page of a breast 

pocket notebook. Leftover
ones dancing on the head
of a pin, I’ll get over this

disdain. I’ll listen again
when amphitheaters begin
to accommodate sleeping 

drunks. I was one
when the longing for nothing
I knew singed the soles 

of my feet. The pain made me
sleepy. Howl that one
at a guitar pick
moon—I dare you.