Pit and Prune Juice

I just found out it’s Jack Kerouac’s birthday. In honor of which, the title poem from my collection, Finding Oakland. I had been reading On The Road – and evidently Crime & Punishment too – and was inspired. I still can’t read the last paragraph of On The Road without being moved, sometimes to the verge of tears. The man had a way with words.
The epigraph was used with permission of Stella Kerouac. Really. It’s good to get permission and not just take.


            “because here we were dealing with the
            pit and prune juice of poor beat life itself
            in the god awful streets of man.”

In my heart, I have come back to
San Francisco, which sprang up
on the edge like a condemned man’s
last meal, where patience and action
are futile. I have come to kneel
where only prayer is valid.

In the Steinhart Aquarium, my brother
longed to swim in the cool peace.
In a dream I saw him on the BART,
plunge beneath the bay, searching
for water. But he rose up,
finding Oakland. He stepped
from the train, saying “we are
like men who have lost their legs.”

 In a dream I saw him walking
south on Mission Street, turning
into an alley and a dark pawnshop.
Like poor Raskolnikov, the price
was just too high. The fog
lingered about the hills, anointing
the housetops, hanging from street lights.

Then Jesus rose up through the steam
in the street, parting the traffic,
leveling light on everything.
Dragging the curtain torn in two.
An army of angels marched
down from Bolinas,
swinging the broken chains.

1 thought on “Pit and Prune Juice

  1. This poem is definitely one of your more visionary time-out-of-phase works. I love it. It has a triumphant cadence and tone to it and the dreamwork of your brother is quite touching, poignant. As to your obtaining permission for the epigraph from Stella Kerouac, that is nice, too. I use epigraphs at times for my pieces as set-ups, sometimes the obvious nod to inspiration. I've never obtained permission. Much of the work is in public domain, or their authors have gone off to their retirement homes in the stars. So, to honor, not take, is how I look at it. I'm good with that.Now I gotta go look up Raskolnikov and find out how he got into such apparent dire circumstances. 😉

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