Jack Kerouac's House
is down the street from my pink apartment,
past the Koolaid hibiscus & yellow trumpet
flowers that fall & melt like Barbie dresses
in the lake.
It's the corner of Clouser & Shady Lane,
single-story wood frame house
beneath a Florida Oak, & scarves of Spanish moss
the Seminoles used to wrap around their bodies
Tin-roofed, back porch pad smaller
than a school bus aisle, unairconditioned --
A dozen cold baths a day sweating & dizzy.
A mouse hangs from a trap in the eaves.
The tub full of rust chips, tiny room, it seems
impossible he lived here with his mother,
Gabrielle, the tree the only spacious place,
the only shade as I walk outside,
& the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence
ploughs into my car with hers,
the insurance buying me weeks of groceries,
& it's Jack Kerouac I thank.
First night in town, a seaport in southwest Spain,
the chaplain's daughter said
if they find hash on you, no matter who your father is,
they throw you in jail
where Americans have accidents,
especially on stairs.
We lived on the military base: hot, beige buildings,
a game room, PX, lots of sailors and road.
The story taunted us bored afternoons,
so Katrina and I took the bus into town.
In L.A. she had done orange juice ads,
but here she would darken.
Past the gate and cement America
was the town's yellow dress, the past
and its old wood, onion, saffron, and moths.
On the road, old women, small kids passed,
we bought hash on the pier, no one stared
Nights we ran two miles, ate Milky Ways,
smoked in odd, unlocked buildings.
Some nights tired of hiding from our parents, the police,
we would walk to an apartment building
in town and climb the stairs
to sit with an American boy with a water pipe who rode out
spinal meningitis rather than die in Spain,
or we'd get high
in a black corner alley of town
with quiet stories of families asleep in the buildings
We walked to the beach on narrow roads,
sibilant local boys trailed us,
hung back behind pilings of wood.
The sand is cool, we smoke cigarettes, don't talk,
stare at the tiny glow, foam splash, our salty skin
shining as we climb stone stairs.
©2004 by Kelle Groom
Kelle Groom's first collection of poems, Underwater City, will be published by University Press of Florida in July 2004. Her second collection, Luckily, will be published by Anhinga Press in Fall 2005. She lives in Orlando.