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THE CANTICLE OF JACK KEROUAC (Excerpt)
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

There is a garden in the memory of America

There is a nightbird in its memory

There is an andante cantabile

in a garden in the memory   

of America

In a secret garden

in a private place

a song a melody

a nightsong echoing

in the memory of America   

In the sound of a nightbird   

outside a Lowell window

In the cry of kids

in tenement yards at night

In the deep sound

of a woman murmuring

a woman singing broken melody

in a shuttered room

in an old wood house

in Lowell

As the world cracks by

                                 thundering

like a lost lumber truck

                                    on a steep grade   

               in Kerouac America

The woman sits silent now

                                     rocking backward   

      to Whistler’s Mother in Lowell

                         and all the tough old

                                          Canuck mothers   

                              and Jack’s Mémère

And they continue rocking

 

      And may still on stormy nights show through   

          as a phantom after-image

                            on silent TV screens   

             a flickered after-image

                              that will not go away   

                in Moody Street

                  in Beaulieu Street

                   in ‘dirtstreet Sarah Avenue’   

    in Pawtucketville

       And in the Church of St. Jean Baptiste

…read “The Canticle of Jack Kerouac” in its entirety at poetryfoundation.org.

About the author: Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919) earned an M.A. at Columbia University and a doctorate in literature at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. Ferlinghetti co-founded San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishing — most famous as the original publisher of Allen Ginsberg‘s poem Howl. In 1956, Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges for publishing Howl; after a lengthy trial, he was acquitted the following year in a landmark First Amendment case.

Photo: Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1959).