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Authors: Jack Kerouac

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BOOK: Desolation Angels
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Mist boiling from the

ridge—the mountains

Are clean

Mist before the peak

—the dream

Goes one


As profound a man as you'll find anywhere is old Blacky Blake whom I'd met at the week of fire school where all of us walked around with tin helmets and learned how to dig progressive fire lines and put out fires till they were dead out (run our hands over the cold embers) and how to read azimuths and vertical angles on the firefinders which turn and point to all directions of the compass so you can sight the location of a seen fire—Blacky Blake, who is a ranger of the Glacier District, who'd been recommended to me as a great old-timer by Jarry Wagner—Jarry because of Communist accusals at Reed College (he probably sat in on leftist meetings and talked about his always anarchy talk) was banned from this government fire work after an FBI Snoop (ridiculous, as tho he had affiliations with Moscow and should run out there and light fires at night and run back to his lookout or jam the radio communications with a gleam in his eyes pressing the transmitter up and down)—Old Blacky said: “Damn silly to me to see that boy blackballed outa here—he was a damn good little firefighter and a good lookout and
good boy
—It seems like nowadays nobody can say anything any more the FBI'll investigate em—Me I'm gonna say my mind and I do say my mind—Now the
that gets me, is how they kin blackball a boy like Jarry dere” (the way Blacky talks)—Old Blacky, years in the forest, an oldtime loggin boomer himself and was around in the days of the IWW Wobblies and the Everett Massacre so celebrate in Dos Passos and leftwing annals—What I like about Blacky is his sincerity, above all the Beethoven Sorrow of him, he has large sad black eyes, he's sixty, big, strong, big gut, strong arms, stands erect—everybody loves him—“Whatever Jarry's gonna do I tink he'll always have a good time—you know he had one a dem lil Chinese girls down in Seattle dere, O he had a time—” Blacky sees young Blacky in Jarry, for Jarry was also brought up in the Northwest, on a harsh wilderness farm in eastern Oregon, and spent his youth climbing around these rocks and camping in inaccessible gorges and praying to Tathagata on mountaintops and climbing monstrosities whole like Mt. Olympus and Mt. Baker—I can see Jarry scale Hozomeen like a goat—“And all dem books he reads,” says Blacky, “about Buddha n all dat, he's the smart one all right dat Jarry”—Next year Blacky retires, I cant imagine what he'll do but I have a vision of him going on a long lonely fishing trip and I see him sitting by the creek, pole down, staring the ground at his feet, sad, huge, like Beethoven, wondering what is Blacky Blake after all and all this forest, bareheaded in the woods the highest perfect knowing he will surely come to pass through—On the day the rainy season comes I can hear Blacky on the radio talking to his Glacier District lookouts: “Now what I want ya to do is make an inventory of
every ting you got
up there and bring the list down wit ya to the station—” He says: “Take care of messages for me, there's a horse loose on the trail here and I better go out and chase im” but I understand that Blacky just wants to be on the trail, outdoors, away from the radio, among horses, the woods are
of him—So there goes Old Blacky, huge, going after a horse in the wet mountain woods, and 8000 miles away on a templed hill in Japan his young admirer and semi-disciple of knowing and full disciple of the woods, Jarry, sits meditating under the teahouse pines repeating, with shaved head and clasped hands, “Namu Amida Butsu”—The fog Japan is the same as the fog northwest Washington, the sensing being is the same, and Buddha's just as old and true anywhere you go—The sun sets dully on Bombay and Hongkong like it sets dully on Chelmsford Mass.—I called Han Shan in the fog—there was no answer—

The sound of silence

is all the instruction

You'll get

—In the talk I'd had with Blacky his earnestness had sent a shiver thru my chest—it is ever so, and men are men—And is Blacky less a man because he never married and had children and did not obey nature's injunction to multiply corpses of himself? With his brooding dark face and pout by the stove and lowered pious eyes, on some rainy night next winter, there will come diamond and lotus hands to ring a rose around his forehead (or I bust) (to miss my guess)—

Desolation, Desolation,

wherefore have you

Earned your name?


On sunday, just because it's Sunday, I remember, that is to say, a spasm takes place in my memory chamber of the brain (O hollow moon!) Sundays at Aunt Jeanne's in Lynn, I guess when Uncle Christophe was alive, just as I sip delicious and very hot black coffee after a good meal of spaghetti with super-rich sauce (3 cans tomato paste, 12 garlic cloves, half teaspoon oregano and all the basil in the paste, and onions) and a dessert of three little delightful bites of peanut butter mixed with raisins and dried prunes (as lordlike a dessert!) I guess I think of Aunt Jeanne's because of the after-dinner satisfaction when in their shirtsleeves they'd smoke and sip coffee and talk—Just because it's Sunday I also remember the blizzard Sundays when Pa and me and Billy Artaud play the Jim Hamilton Football Game put out by Parker Game Company, also again white shirtsleeves of Pa and his cigar smoke and the human happy satisfaction there a moment—including finally because I pace in the yard (the foggy wind-cold) to get an appetite while my spaghets cooks, reminding tic-ly the brain spasm of when I'd take long blizzard hikes Sundays before dinner, the mind being choked with cabinets with memories in them overflowing, some mystery makes the tic, the spasm, out it comes and it's so sweetly pure to be human I think—The bole of my flower is that my heart aches from human—Sunday—the Sundays in Proust, aye the Sundays in Neal Cassady's writings (hidden away), the Sundays in all our hearts, the Sundays of long-dead Mexican Grandees who remembered Orizaba Plaza and the churchbells thronging in the air like flowers.


What did I learn on gwaddawackamblack? I learned that I hate myself because by myself I am only myself and not even that and how monotonous it is to be monostonos—ponos—purt—pi tariant—hor por por—I learned to disappreciate things themselves and hanshan man mad me mop I dont want it—I learned learn learned no learning nothing—AIK—I go mad one afternoon thinking like this, only one week to go and I dont know what to do with myself, five straight days of heavy rain and cold, I want to come down RIGHT AWAY because the smell of onions on my hand as I bring blueberries to my lips on the mountainside suddenly reminds me of the smell of hamburgers and raw onions and coffee and dishwater in lunchcarts of the World to which I want to return at once, sitting at a stool with a hamburger, lighting a butt with coffee, let there be rain on redbrick walls and I got a place to go and poems to write about hearts not just rocks—Desolation Adventure finds me finding at the bottom of myself abysmal nothingness worse than that no illusion even—my mind's in rags—


Hen comes the last day of desolation—“With wings as swift as meditation” the world pops back into place as I wake up (or “as swift as thoughts of love”)—The old bacon rind is still out in the yard where the chipmunkies have been pecking and pippling at it all week showing their sweet little white bellies and sometimes standing stiff in trance—Weird yawking birds and pigeons have come and rifled my blueberries clean off the grass—creatures of the air feeding from fruits of the grass, as's foretold—
blueberries, it's their blueberries—every bite I took was a watermelon less in their larder—I b'reaved them of twelve trainloads—the last day on Desolation, it'll be easy enough to crack and crack—Now I go to Abomination and whores yelling for hot water—It all goes back to Jarry Wagner, my being here, showing me how to climb mountains (Matterhorn in the crazy Fall of 1955 when everybody on North Beach was wailing with tense religious beat and beatific excitement culminating dismally in Rosemarie's suicide, a story already told in this Legend)—Jarry, as I say, showing me how to buy a rucksack, poncho, down sleepingbag, camp cook kit and take off for the hills with trail rations of raisins and peanuts in a bag—my bag with the inside rubber and so the second to last night in Desolation as I take a few bites out of it for meager dessert it, the rubbery peanut raisin taste, brings back the whole flood of reasons that took me to Desolation and the Mountains, the whole idea we worked out together on long hikes concerning a “rucksack revolution” with all over America “millions of Dharma Bums” going up to the hills to meditate and ignore society O Ya Yoi Yar give me society, give me the beauteous-faced whores with lumpy-muscle shoulders full of rich fat and thick pearly cheeks their hands down between their skirts and bare feet (ah the dimpled knees and yea the dimples in the ankle) yelling “Agua Caliente” to the madame, their dress straps falling over clear halfway down their arms so's one pressed breast shows almost out, the lunge power of nature, and you see the little fleshy corner of the thigh where't meets the under-knee and you see the darkness going under—Not that Jarry would deny this, but enough! enough of rocks and trees and yalloping y-birds! I wanta go where there's lamps and telephones and rumpled couches with women on them, where there're rich thick rugs for toes, where the drama rages all unthinking for after all would That-Which-Passes-Through-Everything ask for one or the other?—What'm I gonna do with snow? I mean real snow, that gets like ice in September so's I can no longer crunch it in my pails—I'd rather undo the back straps of redheads dear God and roam the redbrick walls of perfidious samsara than this rash rugged ridge full of bugs that sing in harmony and mysterious earth rumbles—Ah sweet enough the afternoon naps I took i' the grass, in Silence, listening to the radar mystery—and sweet enough the last sunsets when at last I knew they were the last, dropping like perfect red seas behind the jagged rocks—No, Mexico City on a Saturday night, yea in my room with chocolates in a box and Boswell's Johnson and a bed-lamp, or Paris on a Fall afternoon watching the children and the nurses in the windblown park with the iron fence and old rimed monument—yea, Balzac's grave—In Desolation, Desolation is learned, and 't's no desolation there beneath the fury of the world where all is secretly well—


Flights of gray birds come merrying to the rocks of the yard, look around awhile, then start pecking at little things—the baby chipmunk runs among them unconcerned—The birds look up quickly at a fluttering yellow butterfly—I have the urge to run to the door and yell “Yaaah” but that would be a frightful imposition on their little beating hearts—I closed down all my shutters to all four points of the compass and so I sit in the darkened house with just the door, open, admitting bright warm sunlight and air and it seems that the darkness is trying to squeeze me out that last orifice to the world—It is my last afternoon, I sit thinking that, wondering what prisoners have felt like on their last afternoons after 20-year imprisonments—All I can do is sit and wait for the proper gloat—The anemometer and pole are down, everything is down, all I have to do is cover the garbage pit and wash the pots and goodbye, leaving the radio wrapped and antenna under house and toilet limed liberally—How sad my great bronzed face in the windows with their dark backdrop, the lines in my face indicating halfway in life, middle age almost, the decay and the strife all come to the sweet victory of the golden eternity—Absolute silence, a windless afternoon, the little firs are dry and brown and their summer christmas is over and not long from now hoar storms'll blizzard the area down—No clock will tick, no man yearn, and silent will be the snow and the rocks underneath and as ever Hozomeen'll loom and mourn without sadness evermore—Farewell, Desolation, thou hast seen me well—May angels of the unborn and angels of the dead hover over thee like a cloud and sprinkle offerings of golden eternal flowers—That which passes through everything has passed through me and always through my pencil and there is nothing to say—The little firs will be big firs soon—I throw my last can down the steep draw and hear it clammering all the way 1500 feet and again reminding me (because of the great dump of cans down there of 15 years of Lookouts) of the great dump of Lowell on Saturdays when we'd play among the rusty fenders and stinking piles and think it great, all of it including old cars of hope with gaunt rutted clutches all underneath the new sleek superhighway that runs from clear around the boulevard to Lawrence—the last lonesome clang of my Desolation cans in the void valley, to which I listen, naked, with satisfaction—Way far back in the beginning of the world was the whirlwind warning that we would all be blown away like chips and cry—Men with tired eyes realize it now, and wait to deform and decay—with maybe they have the power of love yet in their hearts just the same, I just don't know what that word means anymore—All I want is an ice cream cone.


In 63 days I left a column of feces about the height and size of a baby—that's where women excel men—Hozomeen doesnt even raise an eyebrow—Venus rises like blood in the east and it's the last night and it's a warm tho chill Fall night with mysteries of blue rock and blue space—24 hours from said time I expect to be sitting by the Skagit River crosslegged on my sawdust stump-hole with a bottie of port wine—All hail stars—Now I know what the mystery of the mountain flow was—

Okay, that's enough—

That which passes through everything passes through little bits of insulation plastic that I see lying discarded nay more than discarded in the yard and which was once a big important insulation for men but is now just what it is, that which passes through everything so exultantly I take it and yell and in my heart Ho-Ho and throw it out west in the gathered dusk hush and it sails a little black thing awhile then thuds in the earth and that's that—That shiny little piece of brown plastic, when I said it was a shiny little piece of brown plastic did I assert that it truly was “a shiny little piece of brown plastic?”—

BOOK: Desolation Angels
5.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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