Lowell, MA: Jack Kerouac
Kerouac’s grave was instantly recognizable — it is a simple square stone set in the ground. Upon it are the words, “Ti-Jean, John L. Kerouac, March 12, 1922-October 21, 1969 — He Honored Life.”
Around it lay empty beer bottles, a Bacardi rum bottle, a hubcap with some money and pebbles in it, a plastic cigarette lighter, a plastic oil-additive container, and — the most provocative offering — a small American flag, the kind a little kid might wave at a Fourth of July parade, one end spearing a piece of paper to the turf, the other supporting a tattered porkpie hat.
Reggie had asked Roger to prepare something appropriate for the graveside, but Roger said he didn’t feel like reading anything. Reggie looked surprised. “You do one if you want to,” Roger said. But Reggie was equally unprepared. The Classic Jack tour was threatening to climax in roughly the same manner as Jack, with a shrug and a mumble.
“Does anyone have anything to say?” Roger asked. He noticed the flag. “Somebody wrote something over here, maybe I should read this.” Gingerly he disengaged the paper and scrutinized it. It was, he announced, a poem from someone called “Mojo.” He read it out loud.
A man whose life did not lack
The luster of the wrong side of the tracks.
They sing of you and smoke crack.
We wait for the day you will come back,
and the negative feelings we will not hack.
Wordlessly Roger re-impaled the poem. “They are forever cleaning up this place,” Reggie said. “I’m sure they’ve got quite a collection somewhere.”
We wait for the day you will come back. This is not such a far-fetched sentiment when a writer’s involved. The body may not resurrect, but the books can. Someone in the back of the crowd asked whether we could expect any more books from Jack. Were any unpublished masterpieces about to see the light?
The question launched Roger into a story that he’d heard from a person who was actually in the room with Kerouac when he died, a story that had Jack declaring to an assembly of friends that some of his work was way ahead of its time, that people weren’t ready for it, and wouldn’t be for maybe 20 years, and to illustrate this claim he’d reportedly thrust his hand into a drawer and pulled out reams of manuscript.
“The people who were there,” Roger said, “say the drawer was full of manuscripts. And a lot of the stuff was written in Lowell French.”
At which point Reggie boomed: