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.


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.