from ‘Old Love-Light’ by Jack Kerouac, Age 19

This is an excerpt from a poetic sketch titled “Old Love-Light” by nineteen-year-old Jack Kerouac. October was his favorite month. In “On the Road,” he wrote: “In inky night we crossed New Mexico; at gray dawn it was Dalhart, Texas; in the bleak Sunday afternoon we rode through one Oklahoma flat-town after another; at nightfall is was Kansas.  The bus roared on. I was going home in October. Everybody goes home in October.”—PM


. . .

It was astonishing to read

what I read about October

the following day. I thought

I had it all figured out—

I thought the lonely little

houses, lost in the middle

of great tawny grass,

shaggy copper skies and

mottled orange forests, were

full of fine humanity that

I was missing. Instead, the

writer informed me that

it was chlorophyll that

colored the leaves. I

thought I had all the

significance of October

under my hat & pasted.

I thought that October

was a tangible being,

with a voice. The

writer insisted it was

the growth of corky cells

around the stem of the

leaf. The writer also

said that to consider

October sad is to be

a melancholy Tennysonian.

October is not sad, he

said, October is falling

leaves. October comes

between Sept. & Nov. I

was amazed by these facts,

especially about the

Tennysonian melancholia. I

always thought October was

a kind of old Love-light.


—Jack Kerouac, 1941 (c) 1999, from “Old Love-Light”

in “Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings” by Jack Kerouac