Kerouac’s Christmas

Jack Kerouac‘s Christmas memories. The following is an excerpt from a piece he wrote, in December 1961, for Glamour magazine, a prose sketch entitled “Home at Christmas”. Snow-bound Pawtucketville days, the Lowell of his childhood. The piece subsequently appeared in Good Blonde & Others, a posthumous collection, a miscellany of his writing, put out by Don Allen’s Grey Fox Press in 1993.

It also appeared, alongside this piece here, as part of a limited edition, Jack Kerouac – Two Christmas Stories, published by Red Car Press in Coventy, England, that same year.

(it had also appeared in 1973, in a likewise limited edition, designed and printed by Ronald Gordon for the Oliphant Press)

[The young Jack Kerouac]

“It’s a Sunday afternoon in New England just three days before Christmas—Ma’s making the roast in the kitchen range, also tapioca pudding so when Sister Nin comes in from outdoors with the shovel she’s been wielding in the blizzard there are cold waves of snowy air mixing with the heat steams of tapioca over the stove and in my mouth I can taste whipped cream cold from the icebox on the hot pudding tonight.

“While Ma cooks she also sits at the round kitchen table reading the Boston American—Pa’s in the parlor playing the Gospel Singers of Sunday cigarsmoke funnies time—I’m getting ready to take my big blizzard walk into the Massachusetts Shroud begins just down the end of dirt road Phebe Avenue, I’m rummaging in the closet for my hockey stick which will be my walking-stick and feeling-stick to find where puddles and creeklets have disappeared under two feet of snow this day……”

“I start out, down the porch steps, overshoes, woolcap, coat, corduroy pants, mittens—There are Christmas wreaths in all the windows of sweet Phebe—No sign of G. J. or Billy with the kids sliding on the park slope, no sign of them on their porch except G. J.’s sister in her coat all wrapped communing with the plicking fall of vast snows in a silence all her own, girl-like, watching it pile on the porch rail, the little rills, sadnesses, mysteries—She waves—I plod down off our Sis-shoveled walk into Mrs. Quinn’s unshoveled walk where the going is deep, profound, happy—No shoveled walks all the way to Billy’s where bigbrother sixfoot Jack has worked in muffler with pink cheeks and white teeth, laughing—Black birds in the black cherry tree, and in the new snow breadcrumbs, bird tweak tracks, a little dot of kitty yellow, a star blob of plopsnow ball against Old MacArthur’s wreathy front door—O the clean porches of New England in the holy dry snow that’s drifting across new painted planks to pile in corners over rubber doormats, sleds, overshoes—The steam in the windows, the frost, the faces looking out—And over the sandbank now and down on semi-snow-plowed Phebe comes the great fwoosh of hard stormwind from the river cracking leafless shrubs in stick-unison, throwing swirls of coldsifted powder, pure, the freezing freshness everywhere, the sand frozen solid underneath—. . . .”

“That night in bed I can still see the great bulging star, white as ice beating in the dark field of heaven among the lesser glistening arrays. I can see its reflection in an icicle that depends from an eave above my window. I can hear my winter apple tree cracking, black limbs in frost, see the Milky Way all far and cold and cragdeep in Time – I smell the softcoal heat of the furnace in the cellar – Soon dawn, the rosy spread over pure snow-fields, the witless winter bird with his mully feathers inward – My sleep is deep in New England wintertime night.”

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