Sunday, February 21, 2016

brilliant corners

brilliant corners

for steve hager & paul krasner

out of the darkness 
of the second world war
before the soldiers came back
to turn america

into a vast suburban wasteland
dreamed up by real estate developers
with huge dollar signs in their eyes
& nothing at all in their hearts

out of the darkness
of american life
in the first half of the 40s
when the only rays of light

were cast in nightclubs
& after-hours joints
illuminated by the music
of the most adventurous of americans

thelonious monk at the piano, 
charlie parker on saxophones, 
dizzy gillespie on trumpet, 
kenny clarke at the drums, 

brilliant corners
of modern civilization
flooded with light
& intelligence, 

a bright beacon
through the desolate landscape
of post-war america

& sitting in the corner
at minton's playhouse
in the middle of the night
digging the band like crazy, 

a hip football player
& would-be sportswriter
from lowell, massachusetts
who also wrote stories

for the school paper, like
lester young
is 10 years
ahead of his time,  

so well known at minton s
in harlem
that the musicians on the set
named a song after him, 

jean-louis known as ti-jean
or jack, the great bard
of modern america

who would turn
the genius rhythms of bebop
into dynamite literature
on the road,  

doctor sax,  
dharma bums, the subterraneans,  
mexico city blues, the scripture
of the golden eternity  

a vast trembling body
of visionary writings
that re-shaped american life
in every possible way, 

& allen ginsberg, 
fellow student at columbia, 
son of a poet schoolteacher 
from paterson, new jersey

& a mad red housewife, 
incipient bard of the future
who would see the specter of blake
in his dormitory room

& hallucinate a solitary rose
on the clothes hanger in his closet
& inscribe great visionary odes
on the windows of our skulls

sunflower sutra,  
kaddish & hundreds more

kerouac & ginsberg
looking for their kicks
among the petty criminals
& dope fiends of times square

(kerouac was arrested
as an accessory to murder, 
ginsberg went to the nuthouse
to beat a stolen property beef) 

& they met up with their mentor
in this seedy milieu, 
a street-level philosopher
& junkie & queer, a renegade

from the genteel environs
of upper middle class life
in the city of st. louis, 
a member of the family

that invented the adding machine
& on his mother's side, 
the man who founded
the public-relations industry, 

william seward burroughs
turned the language
& pointed it back

at the squares
who had stripped it
of its meaning, & blew up the sky
with his revolutionary writings

naked lunch,  
nova express,  
the soft machine,  
the ticket that exploded  

kerouac & ginsberg
& burroughs
in new york city
in the years after the war

when bird ruled the music
with his magnificent recordings for dial
& savoy, & dizzy's big band
was playing things to come  

& cubana bop, & thelonious monk
would make the first recordings
of his incredible compositions
in the fall of 1947

& a young man from denver
blew onto the scene
straight off the front range
of the rocky mountains

with enormous western energy
& fast-talking wit, & the ability
to park a car
anywhere he wanted

neal cassady
drove across the landscape
like a metaphor 
for change, turning literature

inside out, & making life itself
a complex work of art, 
immortalized by kerouac
in on the road  

& visions of cody, & by ginsberg
in howl as cocksman
& adonis of denver, secret hero
of these poems,  

author of the first third  
& a human bridge 
who connected the 50s 
with the 60s 

from behind the wheel
of a bus named furthur,  
pushing america farther 
than it had ever gone 

before, with a new vision
of a new world
given life
by the practice of its dreamers, 

propelled by allen ginsberg, 
tireless proselytizer
for the creations of his friends, 
who schlepped their manuscripts

from publisher to publisher
for 10 years, until on the road  
& naked lunch  
were finally brought to press

& howl was arrested
& tried for obscenity
& the beat generation
was in time magazine

& young people in america
suddenly wanted to know 
they could get some marijuana, 

& a road out of the stasis
began to open up
in front of us
& we followed it

& we followed it

--john sinclair

new orleans
november 15-19, 1999/
november 20-22, 1999/

new orleans
december 11, 1999/
january 31/february 8, 2000/
january 11 & 14, 2003/

january 8, 2004/
december 28, 2004


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