Carrying a Torch for ‘Ti Jean’


Carrying a Torch for ‘Ti Jean’

We were talking about Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize for Literature last week and ole Jack Kerouac having received nothing in his life by way of awards and prizes, and so my friend and I went to the famous gravesite in Edson Cemetery and presented to dead Jack a gold trophy-top from my grandfather-in-law’s jewelry-store left-overs in my cellar in recognition of Jack’s contribution to world literature, an athlete-figure in a cape and holding a torch, maybe some kind of Prometheus, after all, for the man who stole fire from his book-writing heroes to light the literary underbrush in America in the mid-20th century, including a blaze that warmed the artistic heart of young Robert Zimmerman from the Iron Range in upper Minnesota, the same Bob who is living his own solo legacy in his 70s on the Endless Tour that has run from the White House to Las Vegas and quite a few truck stops in between, the same Bob who was excited to read Kerouac’s “breathless, dynamic bop phrases” and gave a nod to Jack in his towering “Desolation Row,” the same Bob who sat on the ground where my friend was standing today back in November 1975 when he barnstormed through the city with his Rolling Thunder Revue, which I was lucky enough to see-and-hear for myself just down the street from my apartment in Pawtucketville, that neighborhood of tenements and broad boulevards across the river from center-Lowell and just this side of the Dracut wild woods, the neighborhood where young Jean/John/Jack patrolled the streets and invented his Doctor Sax atop the sandbank, all this in mind in the autumn sun amid dry leaves red and also gold like the trophy that we set into the earth right by the simple flat granite marker that bears his name, a name that was not spoken from high podiums for his benefit, a name that was not pulled from a sealed envelope at any New York or Swedish ceremony, a name that only rose in the chorus of his readers then and again today, a name and a presence that was strong when we stopped by to say “Take this for what you gave us.” And when we turned to go more readers from two cars parked nearby were heading Jack’s way.


—Paul Marion

8 Responses to Carrying a Torch for ‘Ti Jean’

  1. sampatakakis says:

    “…come on, boy,
 go thou across the ground, 
go moan for man, 
go moan, 
go groan, 
go groan alone
, go roll your bones
, alone
, go thou and be little beneath my sight
, go thou and be minute as seed in the pod, 
go thou go thou die hence, 
and of this world report you well and truly.”