The Cleave Poetry Webzine [ISSN: 1758-9223]

KEROUAC by Janet Hamill

In submission on December 1, 2008 at 11:56 pm
I had nothing but I had a grey tee shirt I ironed on black velvet letters
I had nothing I had four walls on St. Marks Place a bottle of Calvados and the silence of the universe
I had nothing but I had you
From sea to shining sea east to west   north to south
Atlantic Pacific Arctic Antarctic Indian Ocean and the eighth mar incognito over under inside and outbeyond everything
I had you I had words lines and paragraphs rushing down mountainsides high above the timberline from Desolation Peak to 242 choruses of blues for the Buddha and fellaheen of Mexico City and every other place
I had your footprints on the beach in Tangiers your palm print on the wheel of impermanence
your dreams of long childhood walks under the old trees of New England your athlete‘s body your flannel shirts your handsome face on the fire escape on E. 7th Street
just before the invocation of Duluoz inhaling one last Lucky Strike for the pent-up aching restless road
farewell subterraneans and water towers of Manhattan it was time for all that coming back to America
the Lincoln Tunnel oil tanks and anemic skies in New Jersey Route 80 over the Delaware the road unraveling
the road sufficient unto itself a twentieth-century pilgrim‘s way
a home for the tathagata passing through the railroad earth   the gas station night the bebop radio wail of Charlie Parker‘s saxophone clear across Kansas
to San Francisco the little alley off Market Street Tokay in a paper bag at the mouth of Bixby Canyon
Big Sur‘s ocean roar of vowel sounds from the far side of eternity
waves laying better than a thousand transcendental diamonds of compassion at your feet even to the end I had you
to the maenads of fame tearing you to pieces in the glow of a television set in Florida
to whats buried in Lowell‘s Edson Cemetary Ti Jean nothing‘s buried there
the dust of your sacred bleeeding Catholic heart with that of the holy ghost
and certain mad and driven saints has been placed among the stars
I had nothing but I had a grey tee shirt And I ironed on black velvet letter

Often inspired by her travels through southern Europe, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, Janet Hamill has published 5 books of poetry: Troublante, The Temple, Nostalgia of the Infinite, Lost Ceilings,  and her most recent, Body of Water in 2008, with photographs by Patti Smith. Hammill has released two CDs: Flying Nowhere and Genie of the Alphabet. A strong proponent of the spoken word, she has featured at readings in the U.S., England and Ireland.

Of Body of Water Anne Waldman wrote: “Janet Hamill turns her wizard poet’s eye on an immense body of alchemical empathies”, and Patricia Spears Jones said “Hamill’s mastery of form and feeling come together to create a poem that delicately examines celebrity, gallantry, silence, talent, and beauty. Only a poet could do that. Or maybe only Janet Hamill.”

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  1. I ABSOLUTELY love this poem! Maybe you’d enjoy my Kerouac-inspired blog at

  2. Janet – I love this poem! Kerouac would too.

    Curt –

  3. KEROUAC was nominated by Bowery Books for a 2008 Pushcart Prize!

  4. That is great news. It is a beautiful poem which deserves recognition.

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