Bill Tremblay


Where’s St. Jean Baptiste Church?
a sunoco gas-station
at the end of the Rt. 495 cut-off

Oh, Saint John da Baptis’!
Hey, Harry (over the door H.H. Johnson)
where’s saint john’s
                                    a guy draining the oil
of a car on the lift yells
jus’ keep goin’ til you can’t go no more
turn lef’ an’ you’re on mer-mak street
that’s frenchtown, up abouta halfamile

the second part is
finding jean baptiste in a rundown
wounded neighborhood
gaping spaced lots waiting for urban renewal
like an old hag waiting for false teeth

stop in a coffeeshop
cupacoffee at the counter, readin’ the Lowell Sun obituary
                        suffering a massive hemorrhage
                                    a former Lowell Sun sportswriter
                                                                                          French  literary
                                    prizes Maggie Cassidy, which tells of
                                    his life and times, in fictional form, at
                                    Lowell High School
                                                                        On the Road
                                    “beat” refers to beatific
                                                                                    a bridge
                                    between the Lost Generation ... and the heirs of
                                    the Beat Generation, the hippies

                                    educated at Lowell ... went on to
                                    Columbia in New York where he played football
                                    (me too, me too)
            guy comes in
            give me the two crull-er, eh? and’ coff-ee to go.
                                    I thinks of maggie, the scene where
            he’s sittin’ on the can and she’s blowin’ him
            tryin’ to get him to stay home insteads goin’ off
            to college, he wantin’ the city, writin’
            leavin’ her and the life of a railroad brakeman behind

            yeah, I thinks, this is where
            the tenement three-deckers
            the backlot pickup baseballs games in the twilight
            before the mothers callin’ kids home
            to Fridaynight fish fries
            and the omnipresent sacred heart of Jesus calendar
            hung on the inside of the bathroom door
            in french naming the saintsdays
                        an’ wow here’s the merrimack river
            rocks and the riverwater’s in the three channels
            Jesus! I thinks, just like
            southbridge I knew it

            across the street from the church
            a young guy says, They’re goin’ to have it
            at eleven           I says Where’s the home
            (meaning where’d the kerouacs life) but
            he says up the street at archambeault’s

            so the third part is
            in archambeault’s funeral hom
            where I come back into the real french-canadian
            idea of class
                                    a room marked MR JACK KEROUAC
            and there he is, in the casket

            the place is empty except for this
            like maybe crazy college kid standing against the wall
            with a funny smile on his lips
            I kneels and prays (one for cynthia) looks and
            jesus jack you are still there, your
            soul? yes, soul, is still there

            you look mighty like my uncle pete
            in your bowtie and check jacket, rosary beads
            clasped in your hands (badly crinkled)
            and your classic features, greek statue lips
            long straight nose
                                                noble, remember?
            WORK LOVE SUFFER Kerouac motto
            next to the bier a coupla dozen roses shaped into a valentine
            the red satin ribbon bearing the gold legend
            GUARD THE HEART
                                                            who sent it?
            guy comes in     whips off his winter jacket
            plunks down on the pew           wrings his hands
            sighs loud tears O JACK I MADE IT JACK

            mrs kerouac, stella, comes in
            the guy comes up with rheumy words
            are you mrs kerouac     I’m VERY sorry
            holding her right hand in both of his
            until she pulls it away

            tight jaw and dry eyes
            deep lines and black depression trenches
            in her face, the veil, anguish
            like shot in the stomach but tryin’ not to cry out

            Ginsberg comes in with Corso
            (a long navyblue coat rasputin wore)
            allen stands bending at the waist talking
            to mrs kerouac saying how he and gregory
            will make a movie about the funeral
            and she looks up and says
            Do what you want
            but I never want to see you again

            he bows (quiet guru) and goes to corso
            and the sound of the goddam camera whirring

            out on the street I hears the merrimack
            rushing over its rock
            standin’ on the high bridge the wind
            bright with october morning blue sky
                                                                                    I hear
            boys in bathingsuits yelling running barefooted
            over 1935 rocks
            a lowell tech kid walking by says
            don’t jump        christ, do I look that bad
                                                                                    I see
            jack straying along the river thinkin’
            about serpentine monster in the core of the planet
            getting ready to rise, its sulphurous snake-eyes springing
            into the atmosphere of lowell and rising
            like a rocket menacing the cellstructure of the universe

            it rises and rises
            until it fall into innocent atoms
                                                                        poor emerson
            only dr sax KNOWS the universe cleans up after itself

            there’s three-decker
            with clotheslines of sheets flapping white
            and jack is up there
            with a jug of wine, only
            it’s the GREAT AMERICAN NIGHT and stars
            like headlights cruising down turnpikes of eternity

            jack’s gettin’ a little high
            lookin’ from off that rooftop to the river
            thinkin’ of his old buddies
            sampas maybe, thinkin’ of who and what
            regrets, finally remorse
            loving God in the mountains of washington
            burnt out on his friends in frisco
            buddha burns in the shacks of berkeley

            go on loving, dying somewhere between
            the artist and the man                take your choice
            be  a artist or a human person
                                                            the artist
            will make a movie of his friend’s deathtime
            I thinks, judge no lest ye be judged
            ginsberg is just then driven into the parkinglot
            behind the church
            judge not WORK LOVE SUFFER

            the next part is the funeral
            father morrisette speakin’ with that fren ch’accent
            of the sins of israel (judge not)
            so beautiful he prays
            please Father forgive your servant jack
            for any sins ‘e may ‘ave commit-ted in this life

            in black vestments with gold trim
            the church high vaulted ceilings, paintings of the saints
            and jean, john, jack baptizing in the jordan the young christ
            Are you the messiah?
            No, I am but a voice crying in the wilderness.

            The eulogy
                        jack lived around here and came to this church
                        even when he was a boy he used to come
                        to the rectory and talk about how he wanted to write
                        to express the feelings he had in words

                        we encouraged him
                        he left us and went out and made a great name
                        and wrote his writings
                        I read his books
                        some say his books are indecent
                        but I could see that they were a great force for good
                        because jack had a vision
                        of the freedom of the human spirit
                        and spoke against every form of bullying he met

                        now he is at rest

said father morrisette and I guess everybody just knows
jack’s going to heaven to be with gerard

around the casket shaking the censor
ncense rising to the rhythm of the bells
holy water beading up on the bronze
the old man with the crucifix leading the procession to the doors

the casket down the steps
into the tv camera
Anne Charters in cloth coat, creeley
a reporter takes jimmy breslin’s statement

and the last part is
out at the cemetery down along the avenues of the dead

mrs kerouac no tears not once
the priest, I am the life the resurrection
tv cameras churning      corso’s camera whirring
mrs kerouac leaving as soon as the final
syllable of the glory be evaporates

ginsberg handing the camera to creeley
he using the one eye into the eyepiece
a shot of corso ginsberg laying a yellow carnation on the casket
the eternal celluloid record       
                                                I guess
creeley is another true artists

drivin’ down south home through towns
stow and bolton and marlboro I hears jack sayin’
all american authors are insane  you gotta be crazy
to be a writer in this country

angleheaded hipsters in the starry dynamo
of the night all mad for life generating this
spontaneous bop prosody

exactly one year before
I write
                        dear jack,
                                    please don’t die
                                    write more books instead

now he is at rest
and I’m goin’ home to make a poem
of jack’s deathtime
I’ll just keep goin’ til I can’t go no more
turn lef’ and there he’ll be

                                    from Crying In the Cheap Seats