He comes upon them up in a clearing
off Scudder Avenue, in an undeveloped lot, full of
scrub-oak and overgrown grass. He knows they’ll
be there; they’re like clockwork. It’s
just past midnight on a Friday night. The young wranglye
grease-monkeys are passing tall-boys back and forth,
nerves overheating, acne-flowered, with shaggy hair
that looks girlish to him, but still dressed in beat-up
jeans and leather, a uniform he can recognize, lit
phosphorescent in the headlight’s glow as they
tinker with their hot rods and casually rev their
He stumbles forth out of the dark, into the steam
clouds of multiple exhausts, tips back his bottle,
looks over the scene like he’s directing it.
To them, he’s not Kerouac, he’s just Jack,
one of the local drunks, a spent, exhausted soul who
hangs around and is sometimes willing to front for
their beer runs.
A few of them nod in his general direction, then
bow back down over their engines.
He smiles tightly, once, and then starts narrating
the scene before him:
“This one, he’s got the guts of midnight
strung in his fingers, raggedy-rack, a thread, a thread
of a yarn telling us into dust, an old cowboy-hobo
tale, told at knife-point, yakety-yak…straight
from the yak. And this one, he leaves the oil can
sprung on the grass, like Bonnie and Clyde, like Mussolini,
like the Signs of the Cross—yak-yak, what’s
taking us back? Dust in the throat, full throttle,
cuz every fly on the windshield is an example of our
savior, Amen. Don’t step, cuz you may harm him.
DonE2t stand still, cuz the flies, they do buzz for
you…Buddha-Sutra, Buddha-Sutra…The Nothingness
is the Well…”
One of the teens, their leader, looks up at him briefly.
“What the fuck you talking about, Jack?”
He looks back from the misbegotten throne they don’t
know he owns, from his wasteland typewriter reams
made into legend, from every skittering late-night
epiphany that ever bought him a falsehood shroud.
He smiles to himself, eyes closed, swaying.
“Let’s just go.”
CUT TO: Them barreling down Main Street in the late
night silence, blasting their engines, whooping and
hollering, down the path made by deer and Injuns and
floods before them, straight to the harbor, where
the clammer’s boats roll with the tide and the
cop cars are left behind, sleeping, and for a single
second, they own the town, and Jack sputters as they
shudder, hitting a break in the asphalt, in the road,
passing the bottle back and forth, head of the parade,
feeling the wind, asking no questions.
Jon Sanborne has an MFA in Poetry
from Brooklyn College, where he studied under Allen
Ginsberg. A native of Northport, NY (where this piece
is set), he has been a long-time resident of Greenpoint,
Brooklyn. He can be contacted at http://thehungryghosts.blogspot.com/