“non stop ad libbing”—selections from kerouac’s san francisco blues



Jack Kerouac, Book of Blues
San Francisco Blues

In my system, the form of blues choruses is limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they are written, like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues chorus, and so sometimes the word-meaning can carry harmonically from one chorus into another, or not, just like the phrase-meaning can carry harmonically from one chorus to the other, or not, in jazz, so that, in these blues, as in jazz, the form is determined by Time, and by the musicians spontaneous phrasing & harmonizing with the beat of the time as it waves & waves on by in measured choruses.

It’s all gotta be non stop ad libbing within each chorus, or the gig is shot.
                                                                                                                —Jack Kerouac




I see the backs
Of old Men rolling
Slowly into black








Line faced mustached

Black men with turned back

Army weathered brownhats

Stomp on by with bags

Of burlap & rue

Talking to secret

Companions with long hair

In the sidewalk

On 3rd Street San Francisco

With the rain of exhaust

    Plicking in the mist

    You see in black

    Store doors—

    Petting trucks farting—

    Vastly city.








3rd St Market to Lease
Has a washed down tile

Tile entrance once white

   Now caked with gum
Of a thousand hundred feet
Feet of passers who

   Did not straight on

Bending to flap the time

Pap page in back

With smoke emanating

From their noses

But slowly like old

   Lantern jawed junkmen

   Hurrying with the lump

   Wondrous potato bag

     To the avenues of sunshine

     Came, bending to spit,

   & Shuffled awhile there.



 The rooftop of the beatup 
 On 3rd & Harrison 
 Has Belfast painted 
Black on yellow 

    On the side 
 the old Frisco wood is 
 shown with weatherbeaten

rainboards & a

washed out blue bottle

once painted for wild 

 commercial reasons by 

 an excited seltzerite 

    as firemen came last

afternoon & raised the

ladder to a fruitless 

 fire that was not there, 

 so, is Belfast singin 

   in this time



when brand’s forgotten 
taste washed in 
 rain the gullies broadened 

 & everybody gone

and acrobats of the 


    who dug bel fast 

    divers all 

   and the divers all dove




  little girls make 
  shadows on the 

  sidewalk shorter 

 than the shadow 

    of death 

       in this town—







Fat girls

In red coats

With flap white out shoes


monstrous soldiers

stalk at dawn

Looking for whores

And burning to eat up


Harried Mexican laborers

Become respectable

In San Francisco

Carrying newspapers

Of culture burden

And packages of need

Walk sadly reluctant


To work in dawn

Stalking with not care

In the feel of their stride

Touching to hide the sidewalk,

Blackshiny lastnight parlor

Shoes hitting the slippery

With hard slicky heels

To slide & Fall:

Breboac! Karrak!





Dumb kids with thick lips

And black skin

Carry paper bags


“Stop bothering the cat!”

His mother yelled at him

Yesterday and now

He goes to work

Down Third Street

In the milky dawn

Piano rolling over the hill

To the tune of the English

Fifers in some whiter mine,

`Brick a brack,

 Pliers on your back;

 Mick mack

 Kidneys in your back;  

   Bald boo!

 Oranges and you!

   Lick Lock

    The redfaced cock’





 Oi yal!

She yawns to lall

    La la—

 Me Loom—

      The weary gray hat

      Peacoat ex sailor

      Marining meekly

      Hands a poop a pocket



Oh     Mo     Sea!

    The long fat yellow

    Eternity cream

    Of the Third St Bus

    Roof swimming like

    A monosyllable

    Armored Monosaur

    Swimming in my Priomordial


      Of pain





Alas! Youth is worried,

Pa’s astray.

What to say

     To the well dressed ambassadors

     From death’s truth

     Pimplike, rich,

     In the morning slick;

     Or sad white caps

     Of snowy sea men

     In San Franciso

Gray streets

     Arm waving to walk

     The Harrison cross

        And earn later sunset







 Dig the sad old bum

No money

 Presuming to hit the store

And buy his cube of oleo

 For 8 cents

 So in cheap rooms

 At A M     3 30

 He can cough and groan

 In a white tile sink

 By his bed

 Which is used

 To run water in

 And stagger to

 In the reel of wake up

 Middle of the night

     Flophouse Nightmares—

     His death no blackern

     Mine, his Toast’s

     Just as well buttered

     And on the one side.





San Francisco is too sad
Time, I cant understand
Fog, shrouds the hills in

Makes unshod feet so cold

Fills black rooms with day

   Dayblack in the white windows

   And gloom in the pain of pianos:

Shadows in the jazz age

   Filing by; ladders of flappers

Painter’s white bucket

Funny 3 Stooge Comedies

And fuzzy headed Hero

Moofle Lip suck’t it all up

And wondered why

The milk & cream of heaven

Was writ in gold leaf

On a book – big eyes

For the world

The better to see—




And big lips for the word
And Buddhahood
And death.

   Touch the cup to these sad lips
Let the purple grape foam
In my gullet deep

   Spread saccharine

      And crimson carnadine

      In my vine of veins

And shoot power

      To my hand

         Belly heart & head—

              This Magic Carpet

                  Arabian World

                  Will take us

                      Easeful Zinging

                  Cross the sky

                  Singing Madrigals




 To horizons of golden

 Moment emptiness

Whither whence uncaring

    Dizzy ride in space

      To red fires

      Beyond the pale,

      Rosy gore outlooks



San Francisco is too old

 Her chimneys lean

    And look sooty

 After all this time

    Of waiting for something

    To happen

    Betwixt hill & house—

    Heart & Heaven.




San Francisco,

San Francisco,

You’re a muttering bum

   In a brown beat suit

   Can’t make a woman

   On a rainy corner


Your corners open out

San Francisco

To the arc racks 
Of the seals
   Lost in vapors

   Cold and bleak.




You’re as useless

As a soda truck

Parked in the rain

With cases of pretty red

 Orange green & Coca Cola

     Brown receiving

 Drops like the sea

     Receiveth driving spikes

Welling in the navel void.


I also have loud poems:

Broken plastic coverlets

 Flapping in the rain

     To cover newspapers

     All printed up

       And plain.



 Guys with big pockets

In heavy topcoats

 And slit scar

 Head bands down

 The middle of their hair

 All Bruce Barton combed

    Stand surveying Harrison

    Folsom & the Ramp

      And the redbrick clock

    Wishin they had a woman

    Or some money, honey


Westinghouse Elevators

Are full of pretty girls

With classy cans

   And cute pans

   And long slim legs

   And eyes for the boss

   At a quarter of four.


30TH CHORUS     

Old Age is an Indian

 With grey hair

And a cane

In an old coat

 Tapping along

 The rainy street

    To see the pretty oranges

 And the stores

    On his big day

When the dog’s let out.


Somewhere in this snow
I see little children raped
By maniacal sex fiends

Eager to make a break

But the F B I

In the form of Ted 

 Stands waiting 

   Hand on gun 
 In the Paranoiac 
    Summer time 

    To come.







   Falling off in wind.
I got the San Francisco

Bluer than misery

I got the San Francisco blues

Bluer than Eternity

         I gotta go on home

         Fine me 



      I got the San Francisco


      Bluer than heaven’s gate,


      I got the San Francisco blues

Bluer than blue paint, 


         I better move on home

         Sleep in

            My golden

            Dream again




I’d better be a poet

Or lay down dead


Little boys are angels

Crying in the street

Wear funny hats

Wait for green lights

 Carry bust out tubes

    Around their necks

   And roam the railyards

    Of the great cities

       Looking for locomotive

    Full of shit

       Run down to the waterfront

       And dream of Cathay

       Hook spars with Gulls

         Of athavoid thought




Babies born screaming

      in this town

Are miserable examples

      of what happens



   Bein crazy is

   The least of my worries


Now the sun’s goin down

In old San Fran

 The hills are in a haze

 Of shroudy afternoon—

 Bent withered Burroughsian

 Greeks pass

    In gray felt hats

    Expensively pearly

    On bony suffer heads




Pulsing push
To come on in
Inundate Frisco

  Fill the rills

And ride the ravines

And sneak on in

With Whipporwill

    To-hoo— To-wa!

      The Chinese call it woo

      The French les brumes

      The British





        Cellar door




This means

     that everything

       has some home

       to come to

Light has windows

     balconies of iron

       like New Orleans


It also has all space

 And I have windows

      balconies of iron

        like New Orleans


I also have all space


And St Louis too

 Light follows rivers

    I do too

   Light fades, I pass




Light illuminates

 The intense cough

Of young girls in love

Hurrying to sell their

       future husband

On the Market St



Light makes his face


Her white mask


She sucks to bone him dry

 And make him happy

 Make him cry

     Make him baby

 Stay by me.




San Francisco Blues
Written in a rocking chair
In the Cameo Hotel

San Francisco Skid row

Nineteen Fifty Four



This pretty white city
On the other side of the country
Will no longer be

Available to me

I saw heaven move

Said ‘This is the end’

Because I was tired

of all that portend




And any time you need 

   I’ll be at the other 



   at the final wall.