Allen Ginsberg & Bob Dylan at the Grave of Jack Kerouac

This little excerpt, this classic excerpt, from Bob Dylan’s lost epic, “Renaldo and Clara”
(courtesy of the essential “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Aronson‘s deluxe two-disc DVD set).

Bob and Allen, in 1975, in Lowell cemetery (Edson cemetery), on the occasion of a stop-over on the legendary Rolling Thunder tour, famously standing together, beside Jack Kerouac’s grave, musing, (Allen’s certainly taking the lead), in memento mori. 

Allen (gesticulating towards the grave):”So that’s what’s gonna happen to you?”
Dylan: “No, I want to be in an unmarked grave.”

The clip begins with Allen reading from Kerouac (from the conclusion of Mexico City Blues “54th Chorus”)
“Once I went to a movie/ At midnight, 1940, Mice/ and Men, the name of it, the Red Block Boxcars/ Rolling by (on the Screen). Yessir/ life/ finally/ gets/ tired/of/ living -. On both occasions I had wild/ Face looking into lights/Of Streets where phantoms/ Hastened out of sight/ Into Memorial Cello Time”

AG: You know what’s written on (John) Keats’ grave?

BD: No

AG: “Here lies one whose fame was writ in water”..writ in water, yeah, all his fame was writ in water [Editorial note – Allen, actually, mis-quotes here – his “name” was writ in water, not his “fame”]

Photograph – Rebecca Price Butler

BD: Where’s he buried?

AG: He’s buried in a beautiful cemetery in Rome, the American cemetery, {Cimitero Accattolico (the A-Catholic Cemetery – the Non-Catholic Cemetery) in a Pyramid, next to (Percy Bysshe) Shelley in the Pyramid of Cestius, and not, strictly, next to Shelley, but, yes, in the cemetery, close by]

BD: We have to read this?

Kerouac - Mexico City Blues coverart.jpg

[The two read, in collaboration, from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues – “. Allen begins, reading, at random, from towards the end of the “230th Chorus”]

AG: “..frozen /and sliced microscopically/ In Morgues of the North” – [Editorial note – The complete line is “Pieces of the Buddha-material frozen/and sliced microscopically/ In Morgues of the North“]

BD:  “Quivering meat of elephants..”

AG:   “of kindness” – [Editorial note – The complete line is “The quivering meat of the elephants of kindness/being torn apart like vultures”]

What I liked actually was (the next line) “Conceptions of knee-caps” – [Editorial note -“Conceptions of delicate kneecaps”] (and the concluding line) “Like kissing  my kitten in the belly/The softness of our reward”. It’s like a Shakespeare sonnet that ends funny.
He quit football because he wanted to study Shakespeare.

So Sebastian (Sampas) went off to war and got killed in Anzio beachhead in World War II, and just before he died, he sent Jack a litle phonograph record with Shelley’s Adonais, saying “I weep for Adonais – he is dead!”

Sebastian “Sammy” Sampas (1922-1944)

BD: Ever been to (Anton) Chekov’s grave?

File:Grave of Anton Chekhov 3.jpg

AG: No, but I’ve been to (Vladimir) Mayakovsky‘s in Moscow

Vladimir Mayakovsky

What graves have you seen?

BD: Victor Hugo’s grave

Victor Hugo

Photograph – David Conway

AG: I used to haunt graveyards in Paris. I went to see (Guilllaume) Apollinaire’s grave.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Photograph: Scott Michaels

AG: So, that’s what’s gonna happen to you?

BD: No, I want to be in an unmarked grave

AG: I laid a copy of Howl on (Charles) Baudelaire’s grave….


  1. Have always felt a connection with howl.
    It was inspiration for a tattoo i got:
    I assumed that the mental institution was the one right across the street of my families house on Orangeburg by the Rockland reference, but i was never sure untill I found this page. thank you

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