POEM from Jon Sanborne

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 engines.

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/