Monday, February 26, 2007


Gag in the Afternoon

If you could empty your lungs
of all the poison
you would hope that it would improve
your insides

Shades of Klezmer
jagged coughs jolt
as you hack.
Your husky asthmatic whisper
causes quite a stir

Hum in the bar
triumph over smoke
fight the cold night air
as it tries to stop you


Visits to the Chapel of Rest

Tasty tapestry of toasted cheese
red tomato juice remains on my chin.
Please lick it away
kiss me on the lips.

Ill at ease with how you stand
you wander the streets whilst staring at the ground
avoiding the second hand gum,
sidestepping the shit
and used condoms dripping cum

These old well walked roads are beginning to decay
its not your problem
as no matter what you will stay.
The path you walk will still remain the same
as you stand above the clones looking down
on the city from Gas HIll.
You spit on the floor
making your contribution


Upside down you hang by your ankles
admiring the tilting sky.
Surprised when you realize there is no such thing
as an innocent life
for to be brave
you must see the world upside down
as the viola takes you on a trip to Fernhill
amongst the intimate Winelight sparkle of
frozen soundscapes.
Upside down the layers melt away
the air is glorious and warm.
The wind blows gently
as the old trees no longer fall.
Instead our eyes are stroked
absorbing our thoughts
allowing us to stagnate
as all we know
finally disintegrates


I sip cider in a dimly lit bar
blue flashing lights flicker through the blinds
sirens scream outside on Dereham Road
temporarily disturbing the ambience

I look at the women who walk past
they always seem to know who they are
and where they are going.
Everyone around me seems to have someone to
talk to.
Even the strangers

To avoid being accused of staring
I look away
never making eye contact
playing with a damp beer mat
I sit for hours
thinking to myself that I am one
level above being a recluse

April-May March describes herself as "a Factory Girl from Norwich, England."


by David S. Pointer

When your child
is abducted the
world seems to
be serving you
a baby squid in
the black ink
sauce of insanity,
and only some
other parent's
brown eyed
Spring breeze, or
a girl with the milk
glass blue eyes of
a grandmother's
Gone with the Wind
wedding lamp could
end up as The Drive-By
Truckers latest lyrical
track, or in a landfill,
and only that family
will cry when the cops
come around more than
a Meals On Wheels van
for a while as John Walsh
on America's Most Wanted
is weary from way too
much of the wrong kind
of overtime, and each TV
episode doesn't seem
entertainment or as
propaganda's time tested
tranquilizer darts taking
a turn at taking time
away from corrupt
economics, and nobody
in charge would ever
assign an interrogating
lead detective that is a
propane torch of tenacity,
but can be fooled by some
miscreant's complex criminal
mind, yet still manages to
get full false confessions
from the city's innocent
folks before writing a
bestseller about never
finding your child.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ether/ Orb

by J.D.Nelson

By the time the sauce arrived, I had already finished my meal. Joe wiped his dirty hands on his cowboy jeans / testing : ether/orb / under the porch with a mason jar full of sheeps' eyes -- I looked inside the small tin box. There must have been 1000 dollars in Black Jack crystals. (huff!) -- we talked about using a laser / my horses are always in "season" -- just ask the A*X*I*S agent. He'll be right back with the reason we need. I quote: some agents like taking the extra time to stew the winter root vegetables -- carefully -- as if I were a typewriter all over again.

I thought the warning was a joke -- you want some money for those turnips? Duh! No one's "keeping it wild" around here -- we're sitting through the other parts -- but it's all RIGHT NOW! Everyone hits the "cellar" on Friday Nights -- how about some of that bloody beet juice? Potato power? That's about all my twin-stomachs can handle -- just ask the small bird in a cage in the corner -- where am I going to uncork my new courage? Do I frighten you? What's Xmas w/o those dang old vices -- hard liquor and cigarettes? [wolf:teeth] and we're back with the axis -- polar caps on, people! Never found power/citizens of earth hurt [burnt water] worlds upon worlds upon worlds -- what warning? Joe wiped his dirty hands on his cowboy jeans.

What about the old 'axis anthem'? AND WHY NOT? Now, about those winter vegetables -- how about some "squawrsh," ma'am? Never wash your liver with vodka -- trust me. [egg salad] testing : ether/orb / movin' on in, right on time: the people are frozen in cubes [chicken:teeth] [paper claw] [con carne] Kandi's coming up from Tiny Town [nervous smile] tomorrow. "The [motor oil] treats are on me," he said. Easy [soiled] prey! Why can't some cute blonde girl pick me up on the side of the road, Beth? We never go out and get into trouble anymore -- I could only agree with her and the rest of the night was shot, as far as I was concerned. (inflate raft 2) She made absolutely no sense / and when the sun comes up we'll be in New Mexico. Nothing at all, Beth -- Joe's running from nothing. (nothing more frightening than an empty bag or me on the couch with an empty bottle on the coffee table -- and no coaster!) as if I were a typewriter all over again / the party was terrible!

Jump across the circuitry, please / I know! We'll all eat those little sandwiches, smoked, pepper'd turkey and mild white cheese or watercress -- what happened to those bottles of vodka? [crow:teeth] reel three nine three: Joe sat in zazen. What's taking them so long? Peel back another [hot chocolate] layer -- onion skin and the [milky eyed] tangerine man -- the Cactus King of Cooley County is ringing your [crow's at the door] buzzbell. Hard to take the case -- Joe's running from nothing. [Christmas teeth] pray for ease and peel back another layer: Even and even, together [bean curd] for the hoping. Testing : ether/orb [moon bat] token, over -- basic camp / Joe the Werewolf in the Bank at three-thirty PM, shoulda known that dumb M.F. ain't got no wallet. What warning?

Joe wiped his dirty hands on his cowboy jeans / slowly coasting, using no fuel and the radio ain't working anyway -- Keep M.F. Wild! Red, black or blue, I'm sure I'll find cookies! Let's look into those sheeps' eyes and dream of a greener pasture somewhere with no job to go to -- where's Joe gonna get all the ingredients for those peanut butterscotch cookies? Even that ol' groaner has feelings -- a crusty old scab like you should be able to appreciate that, Joe. It's not like there's a grocery store ten minutes from here -- here's the secret breeze: precise interlocking, machine seams in absolute cyber-darkness -- don't tempt me, robot! I drank both bottles all by myself, in less than ten hours -- testing : ether/orb, but not both. This test: one, two, 3 -- this one is (open:wired)

This 1 = enough of my birthday money, old broken coins in my red spider night in the desert canyon -- night:test(one) -- the ingredients list is corrupted -- do not trust this data -- this is something from the tomb of ancient scrolls -- deadly knowledge -- a simple equation and then silence -- no one could say anything, not this time -- meat on a sterling silver hook -- dead right wrong dead to the world of worlds -- as if I were a type-writer all over again / this button will activate the system in the event of a hilarious moment / pants down around my ankles, fifty pages / I like puns myself, dry stuff, Bob Newhart / five bucks for an Xmas crab cake from Maryland? The next time you hear these words, remember not to turn around to see the person who'd just as soon rip your face right off of your papier-mâché head -- what ever happened to Curly?

That clown used to make the best vegetable soup -- we'd have that and tater tots for lunch whenever it was Curly's turn to cook at the firehouse. All right, men -- we're back from the ancient Egyptian bread bakery -- sorry to have taken so long -- you don't even notice the seam! Tank of my money fish if the brakes have been snipped off /// hear the x-tra green money machine: $ / were you being nice and patient? Another 'Doctor Strange' occult rip-off -- I brought all of this on myself. My tank's stopped moving / kill the urge to smoke -- paper notes, crumpled thought wads -- think of my monkey flash whenever you're homesick -- remember those afternoons down at the deli? The monkey would make the best vegetable soup and tater tots -- remember those, smothered in homemade ketchup? He used to be the cook at a firehouse in Boston. Joe wiped his dirty hands on his cowboy jeans.

you can find out more about J.D. Nelson at

Who's Reading The Beatnik?

Really. I'm intrigued. Is anyone reading it? Or is it only the poets/ writers featured on the page? Because we all know how that works. You hear one of yours is in, you go to check it out, read it closely for typos that you can whinge and feel aggrieved about, and maybe you'll look at one or two other writers featured, usually only if you recognise the name. It's a narcissistic game, and I know that because I'm the worst narcissist of them all.

Why am I interested in the readership? I did say, somewhere, that I was in it for the craft; that my models were Coltrane and Dylan, two of the most solipsistic artists ever known. If we're doing something important here, something that's not just blocking up the doorway, isn't it worth doing even if nobody gives a shit?

Yes, probably. I just want to know. So if you do read the Beatnik, why don't you drop me a line? or better, leave a comment at the site. Even if you think something I've posted is the worst piece of crap you've ever read. The page'll be that much more alive for your participation.

Monday, February 19, 2007


by Neeli Cherkovski

Jack Kerouac stayed in the old cabin
further down the path, fleeing booze and fame,
he wrote BIG SUR, a chorus in shadow. . .

now I burrow here in a sleeping bag
thinking of the early shade that covers
the Bixby world, it is a splendor
to gather wood, to make a fire, sit
before crackling flames, meditating long
hours, boiling hot water, pouring in
ground coffee, drinking slowly, rich scalding
brew, so like nobody, so intertwined
with the woods, so lofty, woodsman now

later, alone in the Buddhist cabin
at Bixby Creek, quietly attuned to
a hummingbird and big coastal spirit,
mind abloom, reading Rilke’s aging song,
relieved to find a European poet
for my coastal California reading. . .
thoughts of angels above my mind, blazing,
beautiful leopards leaping, lean, angel
birds trilling, Ferlinghetti’s lamp ablaze,
his cabin filled with shadows. I am sad
for my happiness, Rilke’s elegies
are grass-blown, wind carved, funny, somberly
set for the visionary night soon to come
crashing on my eyes, what terrible truths come
around the shoulder-hill to heart strewn hillside,
oh Rainer Maria Rilke, your name
spills off my brain, I watch your poem dance
from the German to the English, I wish
your words were nailed to my spirit, so torn
am I in this California fog, so borne
by nearby waves, so good in fallen sun,
end the poem, call the birds, bring leopards,
listen to the redwood, hear the oak, bring
the elder, say the unspoken name, go
dive in the sky, fight no ocean mind, sit
facing the double door, this is your time,
you sit here in meditation, but where
is the telephone? call your German friend
by his true name, give him a redwood name,
break down the door, slam the window shut, laugh,
run to the end of the elegy, so lean
are these words, so unmistakable
the calling, yearning, desire, o love
you are so me, so me hopeless, you talk
only of yourself, you see only your eyes
in the mirror of the stream, o dreamer, dream
Rilke advised, you must change your life, what?
so easy to say, so difficult, yet
a fine thought to throw onto the ocean

down at the beach, real
waves, a door in one of them,
two clouds on the air

back up the canyon
a woman clips the underbrush,
wise, wily, alone

in her mind the trees
are sensate, in real life, too,
twin birds fleeing night

far back, up a road
old man silence screams a song,
so long roadrunner

woodpecker, sparrow,
finch, chipmunk, who ever knows?
Buddha in beach clothes

goodnight, she says, we pass,
the cabin has no key, so?
rat dances in the woods

morning light bounces
off the cabin’s simple walls,
hummingbird, stand still

a morning fire
makes our coffee doubly sweet.
hot coals, words and names

Leaves of Grass sitting
with the morning biscuits, wows!
imagine the sun

before the sun goes down I walk to see
how the surf is doing, worried,
wondering what words to jot quickly
as a potion, how to measure fear
of failure, fear of saying
too much or not enough, why
bother thinking one way or another?
the sea will speak, waves
will desire an eternal return
until they desire
no more

walking to the beach
across thee creek back over it,
across again, down
into the muck and mud, bushes brush
my skin, trees lumber
overhead, the earth turns and twists,
shades are grey and ochre, umber and
burnt green, then
the great Bixby bridge looms, its physical
a concrete and steel
contraption, marvelous
engineering to fit
the coast so highway one
proceeds north or south, remains
in place, a ribbon of dharma

the beach reaches my nose
before it enters the eyes, I smell the
rich antiquity, noises from the water
follow, loud crush and crash, easy breeze
voices, a cawing
gull, someone up above yelling out
good morning, the bric
and brac of land and man

the tidal pond has been
redesigned by the seven seas, it has
a small canal leading
to the open sea, my face is
a ripple in the murk, a few sand grasses
cling to the side of the
still water, easy to sense
a nighttime storm, pick up
a branch and make a happy face
before throwing’
the branch in the pond so it might float
to the other side

sea roar,
the clouds are whispering
for rain, I linger
an hour or more, Rilke waits
back at the cabin, I’ll make
tuna sandwich for lunch and
hot chocolate, maybe hike up the road
tot he tall redwoods and circle round
the next canyon over
even if it rains

or simply breath
indoors, go into the Buddha hut
once more with its
floor mat, sit like a
real practitioner, or
lie there reciting from
Ferl’s copy of Leaves,
"A child asked, What is
the grass?" and I am asking
who is out there
in the wild
alive and

Neeli Cherkovski
Nov. 29, 2006

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

EXIT NOTHING (extract)

by Pat King

Chapter 6

On the left, a blue door. Exit. On the right, a green door. Exit. Above, exit. Below, exit.
I can’t get out of here.
What’s happening to me?
I walk around Organ City, trying to find the Mouse Queen. I find her in an old warehouse near the movie theater, a place the Hydrojonian Jungle sometimes practices. The Mouse Queen is a big fan.
I walk in and see Jelly the Clown sitting in a corner near a bronze statue of an enormous lung pierced by an arrow. He’s playing the flute and his black clown makeup is smeared by tears. Very moving, his flute playing. He sees me walk in and nods somberly, continues to play the flute, slightly out of tune, slightly screeching, slightly beautiful, incredibly intense.
The Mouse Queen, dressed casually in blue jeans and a T-shirt, sits on the floor, cross-legged, staring at Jelly. She’s entranced by the music.
I sit down directly in front of her and look into her bright-red eyes.
“This sucks,” I say.
It takes a second or two for the Mouse Queen to pull herself away from Jelly’s music. She looks slightly startled. Then, “What?”
“I’m losing my mind,” I say. “I want to go back.”
“Where?” “Philadelphia,” I say. She smiles. “There’s only Organ City.”
The Mouse Queen cups her paws around her mouth and yells for Jelly. He stops his flute playing immediately and stands up and goes around to the back of the lung statue and begins to push it. The pedestal moves a little and Jelly loses his footing and falls face-down. He stands up, dusts off his baggy bright-blue pants and pushes the statue a little further forward before falling on his face again. This up and down routine goes on for a while, until Jelly has pushed the statue to the spot on the floor where the Mouse Queen and I sit.
“Stand up,” the Mouse Queen says. I stand up. “See that door?” she says. I notice a small red-green wooden door on the statue of the lung.
“I see it,” I say.
“Open it,” she says. “All the answers are there.”
“All the answers?” I ask. “All the answers.”
I open the little door. A powerful noxious odor, somewhat like rancid cheese, somewhat like days-old dead rat overpowers me. I turn my head away. Then I hold my breath and look inside.
And inside, there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing.

For more writing by Pat King visit the Underground Literary Alliance site at or

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Zoo Haiku

by Leah Hansen

Clouds of thistle
erupt in
thorny rain

Wet wet concrete
giggles; I inhale deep.

Circles! Circles!
smoke glides knowingly

Our poems should have
the assonance of ee.

No longer feel fingers
Too cold
And toes

She stands on shivering
balcony watching wild

Rabbit you hepcat
hippity hoppety high
above the cornfields.

Black bear, No! Blue bear!
the ground still quivers at your
quaking left kneecap.

Platypus you just
swim around in my mind yes
platypussy play!

p l a y !

Roadrunner! you run
sixteen miles chased and chasing
onward forward from.

Stegosaurus must
listen all of us softly
to her melody.

Bobby pins in hair
What is this interesting sensation
in my stomach?

dig magnificent moon dew do
take odyssey to special piano
but hear big jazz ugh


by Paul Skyrm

Along the paved run of Highway 82 where a breathing pump-organ whoosh is heard between needle branches reaching up into the sag of moon so it looks like vein upon the foot or a prostrating Mayan priest cutting out the devils from fetus born without eyes , strange cars pass by streaked twist – children look at strange barns decaying in brown boards peeling back like reeds and the little McElhay girl spots her name written in tan staggered steps on the sloped roof – screeches : "that's my name! Is that my house!" And the fathers will reply : "There's a river behind those houses. You can't tell because the trees are so tall but there's a river runs right behind those windows." Houses tell of the entering rest along this road all lit by flickering windows with candles for eyes, whole families milling about inside known to fleeting minds by the quick covering of flame their shadow thrown upon : a girl changing from jeans to skirt in dark bedroom – dogs bark for meat fried in skillets the mothers block with her hip & fathers scream for harum scarum football runners dodging thick armed tacklers with simple shift of weight and propulsion down the open.
This house you see unlit sits in muted meditation ; lit by the sun in morning and afternoon, darkened by the moon , an absence of breathe this house retains and spindly mice take to the attic rummaging through dust-glazed trunks the moon throws window-shadows making the dense hump of lid a seeming door between worlds the mice believe will finally lend them the tusks they so desperately dream about in whiskered breathing sleep.
Driveway & yard blanketed equal blindness by snow falling in tiny shreds. The only telling of Christmas come is wreaths turning wispy brown on door and coloured lights burnt out spanning windows. Evergreen in living room corner plentiful adorned with plastic Santas, reindeer missing eyes and antlers, tiny toothpick pictureframes of son in third and fourth grade argyles smiling white teeth now gone to dust.

Not a footprint cast in snow.

The moon spread akimbo on chimney-stack.

Black clouds do dim the entire din.

Wanton teenagers carrying bottle & genitals in mind wandering through backyards alongside river seeking cloistered coitals with orgy in mind don't consider the dark windows as invitation – "barn's up the road. We can hide in the loft where all they is." "Aren't there ghosts in old barns?" "There's less there than there are in there…."

Mind finds the finger & points an indiscriminate blink of the darkened house, showing what is inside that hull……

Television burnt out, spoiling food in the refrigerator as if an open-pit of beaten-eyed nakeds decomposing all flung over themselves so arms come out of skulls because the body underneath decays in the sweat of huddled rigor mortis. Telephone rings occasionally and answering machine already filled kicks the voice & want to dust. Dust on the windowsill. Creaks afraid of their own cracking for no patterings or gasps in dark slumber stir candle flames to dance and macabre come the skeletons all one-by-one in love's victory march up the stairs out of the medicine cabinets, spilling from closets and gas cans the garage holds from stove. Skeletons in the furnace vents, skeletons in the silverware drawer, macramé hung plants swing from the skeletons jumping thereupon.
Breathing bone is not welcome here ; dust forms a hacking veil on pillows & shawl. Homeless shadows will come to haunt this dark when the mirrors are turned to the floor. When hollow eyes come upon the hallway mirror, bathroom or bedroom reflection, they know a form will surface out of that darkness & shone the body these ghosts forgot existed , knees will be formed from seeing and falling to their weeps the homeless shadows do beseech a god they've never seen to take them away from eyes. Burning bone, there is still no ghost here – all is clean and well. The Dead of this house needs no longer linger the horror of Cyclops mind, retracing the abyss their heart remembers well. This life- this house was haunted by the living clean – the greasing – tuning – crank of wrench. The bawls & moans in the dark done by voices with names and eyes and throats so raw from praying even Buddha bled from the balls. Neighbors hearing swearings and yelpings feral from the human estranged and distraught - move about come morning with nightmares of what they couldn't see – only hear. And imagine.
The living haunt the living. The dead haunt the dead. Once it's in your mind, it's there for all time. & that haunting is as eternal as the river that runs behind the gutter & window.
There is a reflection cast by the dead who enter this dark that is not their own. They will not come till the mirrors are turned to the floor.

CORPSE MEDITATION is currently searching for a publisher. Look to your conscience, ye ten percenters & timid postgrads of publishing houses.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Poem By Trudy Rowe

“The misty roads and mountains of my soul”

What is it all about you may ask, and
With good reason, whimsical ramblings
Morning time matinee thoughts
The tin can sound of the
Jambalaya cymbals…

What is this, what’s going on here now, you may well
Ask, is it a maze a lost-in
An empty fortune cookie when you
Desperately need a fortune to be told?

My friend I’m here to tell ya, to shout it
From the tarslicked rooftops of my
Midnight Soul,
I’m here to tell ya
About the ideas,
The inescapable, heart pounding visions,
The crazy cool ideas…

I wanna smoke the tea in the
Backyard on the grass, on the
Rooftop, while the old tom cat
Hisses and scats to his own beat.

I wanna open a secret brass-handled door
To open it up and look in there
And see the misty roads and
Mountains of my heart, the misty
Roads and mountains of my soul.
I want you to see this too I want you to
Hear the beat-ing, the beat old
Heart of mine beating away.

Slicksters, tricksters, playing it cool on
The sidewalk, smoking a long cigarette,
Eyeing the girls and eyeing the boys
Hands in air, gestures to the
Moon-god, say old moon, what
Do you do for kicks, slicks, tricks?

So you see this really is just about
The jazz beat, beat-of-my-
Heart, tin can words on a sweet
Summer morning, it’s about
Blues-be-gone, ships sailing by,
Crash of the waves, beat old me.

©trudy rowe 2006

Wild Bill Blackolive: "Maybe It Was That Time..."

Maybe it was that time, but one time in the winter I hitched into Main, in purpose of getting lumberjack work. That work, would be less boring--I enjoy using an ax, if they'd let me do only that, and manually hoist large wood--and I would not have to do any muscle pump after working. I don't remember, maybe nobody hires in the middle of winter. I remember I would walk miles and miles in frozen nights to hitch hike, get into position. Yeh, one night I waited for a ride beside two frozen puddles of my own piss. I would try doing pushups to stay warm but this is exhausting, does not keep one warm enough. Another night I crossed the road to knock on the door of this farmhouse and ask for a cup of coffee, and the middle aged guy declared to me: You don't live here! But his wife said: Why, he is only a boy! I think they delivered me a quick cup of coffee, seems I did get to sit down in their kitchen. I got to a hotel somewhere before or after discovering nobody was hiring. I remember this jelly-like matter coming out of my bowels when I took a shit in the bathroom--excess of burned fat?--down in the hall in this cheap hotel. I returned to Lenny's so fast Lenny could hardly believe I had been in Main.
I went to Henry Miller's home in Big Sur, California. But only was his secretary there, who let me spend a night. I slept in a bed and room with photographs of Miller's kids, a son and a daughter, recognized from one of Miller's paperbacks of his short stories I had read in Arkansas Pass. The secretary and I had talked a little about novel writing. Or, say, the Miller type novel. Which can be the Bukowski sort, the Kerouac sort, the Charles Bowden sort, in as the secretary's notion of the novel is the author shoots from the heart without worrying is he sawing off a limb he is on. What else can be "the American Novel." Huck Finn, Moby Dick, USA novels.
Miller's secretary suggested I go see beat poet Kenneth Rexroth in San Francisco. Miller and Rexroth had had some quarrel but anyway. I reached San Francisco, with influenza. I went over to this guy with his stand of oranges some place entering the city, said: Could I have an orange for my cold? He said: An orange for your cold? What do I get for your cold? Yet, he gave me one orange.
Kenneth Rexroth, balding, pot-gutted, middle aged, answered his door in a bad temper. I stuck out my hand, hello I am...Rexroth yelled: Why don't you call first! He slammed his door. Really, I had no dime for a telephone, and sat down on his large steps to think.

c. Wild Bill Blackolive, from LAST LAUGH/ QUIET DAYS IN SAINT-DENIS #7

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Viva Mexico, Viva Kerouac, Viva "On The Road" at 50
By Jonah Raskin


I flew to Mexico at the start of the new year with two suitcases stuffed with contraband for expatriate friends and felt a bit like a latter-day Merry Prankster slipping across the border. Of course, Kerouac felt like an outlaw when he crossed into Mexico and I liked the idea of sharing that feeling with him.
I took a pristine, paperback copy of his 1957 novel "On the Road" to read for the zillionth time. I was curious - wanted to see how the book would strike me on its 50th anniversary, and I wanted to see, as well, how the Mexican section - one of my long-time favorites - holds up. In case you need reminding, it's a short section - only three chapters in Part IV of"On the Road," near the very end of the book - and at the end of the road, too.
But it's one of the most energizing and inspiring parts of the book. In many ways, it feels like the natural ending to the story - the crescendo -though there is a short chapter after the Mexican section - a kind of coda- that provides the final chapter.
As it turns out, I didn't get to the Mexican section until I returned to California. Just as well! So, as I reread it, I also had the opportunity to look back at my most recent visit to Mexico and to see how well Kerouac captures the feeling of Mexico, its small mountain towns and big monstrous cities, its people and its culture.
Music, of course, runs all the way through Kerouac's novel, from beginning to end, and girls (and sex) run through it, and alcohol and marijuana, too. All those elements return for one final send-up in the Mexico section, bigger and better than before. The Mexico section is in keeping with the spirit of the book as a whole. It also takes a new direction, literally South, not East/ West, as the narrator Sal Paradise himself observes. And in Mexico, Paradise finally feels as though he has arrived in paradise and at last in a land of near-perfect freedom. All through "On the Road," Paradise has a keen sense that freedom in America has swiftly come to an end. Shades of the prison house seem everywhere around him, and it freaks him out to see that loss of liberty in an America fixated on big cars and superhighways. The police are everywhere in "On the Road," closing in on him and on a way of life that's fast disappearing. Time and again, Paradise and his on-again, off-again traveling companion Dean Moriarity find themselves stopped by the police, taken to the station house, booked and force to pay a fine. It's an America where Habeas Corpus doesn't exist. Even when the police and the prison house aren't physically there, he feels their palpable presence. America has come to be, Paradise recognizes, a nation that's fenced-in. He makes this wise observation about half way through the book, as he's crossing the country from East to West, and stops in Louisiana. "I wanted to sit on the muddy bank and dig the Mississippi River; instead of that I had to look at it with my nose against a wirefence," he writes angrily and dejectedly. Fencing-in the Mississippi! It seems criminal.
Almost everywhere he goes, from New York to Denver to Los Angeles and San Francisco, he finds a fence closing him out, closing others inside. The only way to escape the American fence is to escape to Mexico. There he finds the police are benign. He smokes marijuana without fear of arrest and incarceration, and he goes to a whorehouse under the watchful eye of the Mexican police. Perhaps this is as much fantasy as reality, and yet it does accurately reflect a Mexico I know - a Mexico in which you feelfreer than in the U.S.A., and where Big Brother isn't watching you constantly.
In Mexico, Paradise and Moriarty feeling cooler than ever before - though the days and nights are literally hotter. They slow down in Mexico and don't care about speed anymore. In Mexico they have freedom from American bureaucracy and law, and freedom to become at one with the "fellahin" -the downtrodden of the world, as Kerouac calls them - who are fenced out of the American dream, which has turned into the American nightmare. Ofcourse, Paradise returns to the U.S.A at the end of "On the Road," but Kerouac went back to Mexico and to Morocco, too, to connect to the fellahin and to a sense of freedom he did not have in the land of his birth.
All through the novel, there's music on car radios, in bars, on thejukebox, and so "On the Road" is an Odyssey with a soundtrack that runs all that way through it and that you can hear from beginning to end. It's a great multi-media novel in which the main characters are media dexterous, and you know that they'd be at home in the present age of the Ipod and the Internet. After listening to jazz - Dizzy Gillespie, LesterYoung, George Shearing, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington - and to Beethoven's opera Fidelio, too, Paradise and Moriarity listen to Mexican mambo and go wild. Paradise's description of the music makes you feel you're there and can hear it and dance to it."All those tremendous numbers," he writes, are "like the sounds you expect to hear on the last day of the world." He adds, "the mambo beat isthe conga beat from Congo, the river of Africa and the world; it's really the world beat." The world beat!
Reading the Mexican section of "On the Road," you realize the prophetic force of the novel, and Kerouac as a prophetic writer. On the Road predicts the end of the world, and the rebirth of the world, too. It's as timely now as ever before. It predicts Kerouac's own death, and his rebirth as an immortal author.
I came home from Mexico, having delivered the contraband I'd carried South, and reread the last sections of the novel. I closed the book with a sense that it ought to be read not so much as a document of the 1950s, or as a reflection of that era. But as a novel of the future, of tomorrow, of history that has not yet been written, of roads not yet traveled and of what lies ahead for each and every one of us.It is not a perfect novel, of course. No such work exists anywhere. Ifeel that it bogs down, falls apart, in Part Three, perhaps the gloomiest part of the novel. The journey to Mexico revives the book and its main characters, saves them from the self-pity in which they begin to wallow.I suppose that Puritanical professors, and judgmental post-modernist, neo-Marxist, recycled feminists might disapprove of the Mexican section since Paradise and Moriarty go to a whorehouse and have sex with prostitutes. But it's lyrically written and it's infused with compassion,sweetness and beauty. Paradise and Moriarity connect with the Mexican prostitutes as equals and treat them with respect. The goddess is alive for Sal Paradise, and she lives in a house of prostitution in a small Mexican town. I, too, have seen her and admired her radiance and glory. Paradise gazes at a "little dark girl" in the whorehouse and sees "her unimpeachable dignity." Moriarity gazes at her, too, then bows his head,and Paradise exclaims, "for she was the queen." And so she was and still is.