Bye Jack


how strange to find an answer
to a note written years ago, so many,
after hell and high water and drought
changed the landscape and the feelings too,
but there was a reminder somewhere
in some back pocket
that I should have another look at you

ah that name
it still sounds so good
despite the disappointments
we’ll remember you, for what you
wanted to do
for the ‘b’s
for the be bop,
and the beatitude
for the ace in the hole
and for the awe of God and nature
in that last innocent moment of darkness
before the sun dragged itself in
with a hangover from the
industrial revolution
and music became a synthetic
variation of genius incarnate

and you did it too;
it wasn’t just a dream in your hoary head
you put some jazz in type
who’s roar still has not subsided
and wasn’t that the American dream
when they re-digested you and sent you
to all the subscribers cross the continent

let’s leave it at that, then
with the good memories this time
what difference do the mistakes make
now that we’re dead
either way it won’t be us they remember
when they pick up the book,
the pages, brittle and yellow with time
and try to decipher the secret of the beat
reminded of your name on an old street sign


31 responses to “Bye Jack

  1. Very nicely written poem.

  2. The flow of your words speaks freedom..I can learn from you. Very nice!

  3. Great read, you have an amazing way with words.

  4. Value this, not just for the grace, flow, and economy, but for the way it makes me wrestle with the need to be honest with my gifts and the desire to be known (and branded and marketed) as one who is honest with my gifts…what a holy poem!

    • Thank you very much Catherine. The Beat Generation offered an alternative view of life… and lead in a way to everything that happened in the 60s. Glad that the poem spoke to you.

  5. I am impressed so much by all these poetical lines… You expressed so nicely dear Shimon, I loved it. Thank you, with my love, nia

  6. Very nice. I love your writing.

  7. I first read On the Road in about 1967, and the poetic prose of parts of it influenced me to read several other books of Kerouac’s, including The Subterraneans. The version of On the Road that I (and everyone else) read back then had been heavily edited and toned down from the original non-stop scroll that Kerouac typed. A few years ago that original version was finally released as a book, which I bought and read. This time, 40 years later, what came across more to me was the way Kerouac wasted so much of his life in aimless wandering, boozing, drugs, etc. It’s a shame that those things, especially the alcohol, killed him at such an early age, and that he couldn’t have turned his talent into more productive channels. So maybe I should have stayed with my good memories from the popular public edition and not been tempted by the original. (Coincidentally, Kerouac and his good friend Ginsberg went to college at Columbia, which is where I later went to school too.)

    • Very interesting, Steve. I gather from what you say, that you found the original far less impressive. I had the pleasure of reading the original, and thought it very poetic and beautiful. There are so many writers and poets that have lost themselves to alcohol and drugs, that I barely give it any attention. What matters to me is the art. In the case of Kerouac, he was also part of a movement that tried to influence American values at the time… I think we can see the influence… but I have no idea how the Americans judge it now. Thank you for your comment.

  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    That was choice, excellent. I loved the photo of the sign post too. Wow, there’s a street named after him. Wonderful, ShimonZ. 🙂

  9. The rythm of your poem, I feel, captured both you and Kerouac

  10. Nice! Was the photo taken in San Francisco?

  11. He helped define a generation, didn’t he? Great poem.

  12. This is the way Jack would have wanted you to have said it say it, I think.

    My introduction to him was the reading of “Howl” in college. We thought he was the cat’s meow because he swore. (I cannot believe I’m confessing that.) Of course we were enamored of Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and all of the Beat poets. I don’t think I realized that Walt Whitman was the original beatnik. I was astounded to read that one of my favorites, Rod McKuen, read with Kerouac and Ginsburg at San Francisco’s Jazz Cellar in the early fifties. Many, many years later, I bought a signed and numbered Cheval edition of Rod McKuen’s 1954 book, “….and autumn came”. I still have “Howl” somewhere, I’m sure.

    I was out of college and paying little attention when Jack died. I was twenty-five years old and pregnant with my only child. By that time, I was a world away from my “Howl” days. I’d almost forgotten him until I read your poem. Thank you for the memories.

    • Since you corrected your mistake regarding “howl” in your next comment, I won’t relate to that, except to say that it’s been a long time, and I can understand such a mistake. I don’t see Whitman as the original beatnik. He was an inspiration to them. But he was very different, in fact. This is one of the common failings of the academicians, that they try to hard to categorize things, and to measure… and to judge… and though I spent quite some years as a professor myself, I hope that I didn’t catch that particular disease. I was particularly fond of Ferlinghetti, and heard him read his poetry on a number of occasions, and beyond what he said, there was such humor in his poetry! But Kerouac had a vision that gave inspiration to two generations of poetry after him.

  13. Good grief, Shimon, I am getting old. I meant to write “On The Road” instead of (Ginsberg’s) “Howl”. I suppose it makes little difference since we mixed them all up in our heads back then anyway. I just thought it a bit odd that I would make such a subconscious error. After I left your blog, I wondered, “Did I actually refer to “Howl”?

    Have you published any of your work? If you have, tell me where. If you have not, you should. If you disdain to deal with publishing houses, you can self-publish easily through several venues online. They will print an initial offering and print additional copies as they are ordered. Please do consider putting together such a collection.

    • Thank you for your correction. Many of us considered Howl, the foremost poem of our generation. It set a new standard. As for my own writing, I am truly flattered by your interest. But unfortunately, I am far from politically correct, and some who loved some of the things I wrote, despised other writings. Most of my writing is in Hebrew, but I have published writing in English too (mostly using a pseudonym). Since I’ve been in the public eye at times, I’ve become fanatic about privacy, and it is only on the blog that I allow myself such a personal contact with my readers… influenced as I am by the spirit of the times, and my fascination with cyberspace. Thank you so much for your comment, George.

      • I would have been very surprised to learn that your work had never been published. Where can I find your English publications? Oh, how I wish I could read Hebrew.

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