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Ginsberg writes: "At dusk I went out to the pasture and saw thru Kerouac's eyes the sun set on October universe, the first sun set on the first dusk after his death. Didn't live much longer than beloved Neal - another year and half."

Kerouac in Tompkins Square Park, 1953. (photo: Allen Ginsberg Collection/New Yorker)
Kerouac in Tompkins Square Park, 1953. (photo: Allen Ginsberg Collection/New Yorker)

The Day After Kerouac Died

By Allen Ginsberg, The New Yorker

20 October 19

Fifty years ago, Allen Ginsberg recorded his thoughts about the death of his friend Jack Kerouac, and began writing a new poem.

n the evening of October 21, 1969, Allen Ginsberg received a telephone call from the journalist Al Aronowitz: Jack Kerouac had died, earlier that day, in a Florida hospital. For Ginsberg, it was the second such call in just over a year and a half. On February 10, 1968, he had learned that Neal Cassady, the inspiration for “On the Road” and, aside from Kerouac, Ginsberg’s closest friend, had died, in Mexico.

The Kerouac news deeply saddened Ginsberg but did not surprise him. Kerouac’s heavy drinking over the previous decade had increased to such an extent that his closest friends wondered if he had a death wish. Ginsberg and Kerouac had grown distant—largely because Kerouac had become less and less available to Ginsberg, but also because Ginsberg no longer wished to be around his old friend, who, on any given night, could be a belligerent, unhappy, argumentative, and nasty drunk. Kerouac had remarried, bought a house for his wife and his invalid mother, and moved to Florida, where he lived a semi-reclusive life.

Immediately after hearing the news of Kerouac’s death, this was not the man Ginsberg remembered. He recalled the joyful, enthusiastic, ambitious, prodigious writer whose work influenced his own. Kerouac had basked in the heat of spontaneity; he had put Ginsberg on the path to Buddhism; the two had shared their innermost thoughts. His intelligence had been a beacon.

Ginsberg recorded fragments of his thoughts and memories of Kerouac in his journals, as he had done when he learned of Cassady’s death. He also wrote a long poem, “Memory Gardens,” which was composed over several sittings and was eventually included in his National Book Award-winning volume, “The Fall of America,” which was published in 1973.

Those initial journal entries are presented here on the fiftieth anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s death.

— Michael Schumacher


Oct 22 130AM 1969

Two watches ticking in the dark, fly buzz at the black window, telephone calls all day to Florida and Old Saybrook, Lucien, Creeley, Louis, —“drinking heavily” and “your letter made him feel bad,” said Stella.

All last nite (as talking on farm w/ Creeley day before) in bed brooding re Kerouac’s “After Me, the Deluge” at middle of morning watch I woke realizing he was right, that the meat suffering in the middle of existence was a sensitive pain greater than any political anger or hope, as I also lay in bed dying

Walking with Gregory in bare treed October ash woods—winds blowing brown sere leafs at feet—talking of dead Jack—the sky an old familiar place with fragrant eyebrow clouds passing overhead in Fall Current—

He saw them stand on the moon too.

At dusk I went out to the pasture & saw thru Kerouac’s eyes the sun set on October universe, the first sun set on the first dusk after his death.

Didn’t live much longer than beloved Neal—another year & half—

Gregory woke at midnite to cry—he didn’t really want to go so soon—from the attick—

His mind my mind many ways—“The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind”—

Our talk 25 years ago about saying farewell to the tender mortal steps of Union Theological Seminary 7th floor where I first met Lucien—

Tonite on phone Lucien said, having quit drinking in [Indecipherable] several weeks ago, he’d had convulsions split his nose & broke out all his false front teeth, chewed his tongue almost in half—unconscious taken to hospital—

Jack had vomited blood this last weekend would not take doctor care, hemorrhaged, & with many dozen transfusions lay in hospital a day before dying operated under knife in stomach—


Oct 22—

Memory Gardens

Covered with yellow leaves

in morning rain


Oct 24 — Quel Deluge

He threw up his hands

& wrote the universe dont exist

& died to prove it.

[Indecipherable stanza]

Full Moon over Ozone Park

Bus rushing thru dusk to


Jack the Wizard in his

grave at Lowell

for the first nite—

that Jack thru whose eyes I


smog glory light

gold over Manhattan’s spires

will never see these

chimneys smoking

anymore over statues of Mary

in the graveyard

Truck beds packed

under bridge viaducts,

Crash jabber of

Columbia Free—

Black Misted Canyons

rising over the bleak


Bright doll-like ads

For Esso Bread—

Replicas multiplying beards—

Farewell to the cross—

Under the river lights shaft

shelfing on Ceramic tunnel

Eternal fixity, the big

headed wax Buddha doll

pale resting incoffined—

Empty skulled New

York streets

Starveling phantoms

filling city—

Wax dolls walking park


Light gleam in eye glass—

Voice echoing thru Microphones

Grand Central Sailor’s

arrival 2 decades later

feeling melancholy—

Nostalgia for Innocent World

War II—

A million Corpses running

across 42’d Street,

The glass building rising higher

& lighted, transparent


artificial trees,

robot sofas,

Ignorant cars—

One Way Street to Heaven.

[Indecipherable two lines]


Oct 25, ’69

Gray Subway Roar

A wrinkled brown faced fellow

blue-capped, with swollen hands

leans to the blinking void, plate glass


sways on tracks uptown to Columbia—

Jack no more’ll step off at Penn Station

anonymous erranded, to eat sandwich

& drink beer near New Yorker Hotel

or walk

under the shadow of Empire State Building.

Didn’t we stare at each other length of the car

& read headlines in faces thru Newpaper Holes?

Sexual cocked & horny bodied young, look

at beauteous Rimbaud & sweet Jenny

riding to class from Columbus Circle

“Here the kindly dopefiend lived.”

and the rednecked sheriff beat the longhaired

boy on the ass.

—103’d St, me & Hal abused for begging.

Can I go back in time & lay my head on a teenage

belly upstairs on 110’th st?

or step off the iron car with Jack

at the blue-tiled Columbia stop?

at last the old brown station

where I had a holy vision’s been

rebuilt & changed by clean grey tile

over the scum & spit & come of

a half century.

[next page] [Indecipherable]


Oct 29—N.Y. Maine


I am flying into a trail of Black Smoke

Kerouac’s obituary conserves Time’s

Front Paragraphs—

Empire State in Heaven Sun Set red

White Mist

over the billion trees of the Bronx—

There’s too much to see

Jack saw Sun Set Red over the Hudson Horizon

Two three decades back

thirtynine fortynine fiftynine


John Holmes pursed his lips, cynic

& empty-eyed robot,

and wept tears.

Smoke plumed up from oceanside chimneys

plane roars north over Long Island

Montauk stretched in red sunset—

Northport, in the trees, jack drank

rot gut & maide haikus of birds

tweetling on his porch rail at dawn—

Fell down & saw death’s golden lite

in Florida garden a decade ago.

Now taken utterly, soul upward,

& body down in wood coffin

& concrete slab-box

I threw a kissed handful of damp earth

down on the stone lid

& sighed

Looking in Creeley’s one eye,

Peter sweet holding a flower

Gregory toothless bending his

knuckle to Cinema Machine—

and that’s the end of the drabble tongued

poet who sounded his Kock-rup

throughout the Northwest Passage.

Blue dusk over Saybrook, Holmes

sits down to dine Victorian—

& Time has a Ten Page Spread on


Well, while I’m here I’ll

do the work—

and what’s the work?

To ease the pain of living.

Everything else, drunken

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