On Mexico City Blues (19th Chorus)


Gerard Kerouac (1916-1926)

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here

AG: Okay, continuing, 19th Chorus:

“Christ had a dove on his shoulder/ – My brother Gerard/ Had 2 Doves/And 2 Lambs/Pulling his Milky Chariot”

I think when his brother Gerard died at the age of … Kerouac was five or so

Has anybody read Visions of Gerard  here?  It’s a very cute, beautiful book. Have you read that ever?  It’s a beautiful book describing, from the eyes of a four-year-old I think, the death of an older brother whom he loved.  His brother Gerard.  And the nuns at the church where Kerouac himself was later buried, said they had a vision of his brother Gerard going to heaven pulled by a milky chariot – pulling a milky chariot with doves and lambs – probably some sentimental Lowell town Catholic peasants’ gossip.

So this next one is just about his brother and his brother’s suffering and comparing his brother to Christ, as he’s going to continue and compare himself to Christ.

“Christ had a dove on his shoulder/ – My brother Gerard/ Had 2 Doves/ And 2 Lambs/Pulling his Milky Chariot./   Immersed in fragrant old/ spittoon water/ He was Baptized by Iron/ Priest Saint Jacques/ De Fournier in Lowell/ Massachusetts/In the Gray Rain Year,/ 1919/ When Chaplin had Spats/ and Dempsey/ Drank no whiskey by the track.’

AG: I guess Prohibition came in when?
Student:  Nineteen thirty?
AG:  No, it went out 1930.  Maybe it came in 1919, or ’20.

Jack Dempsey the boxer.  Is that reference clear?  Jack Dempsey’s a boxer who was the world champion.

“When Chaplin had Spats” – does everybody understand that?

Student:  Is that Charlie Chaplin?

AG:  Yes.  This is the early movies –  you’ll see Charlie Chaplin all dressed up in a tuxedo with spats.

Student:  I’ve heard of spats, but what exactly are they?
AG:  Spats are little…
Peter Orlovsky:  Shoe covers.
AG:  ..form-like covers that you put over your shoes.
Student:  Just for looks, or…?
AG:  Well, they got tied up to your garters and you wore a morning coat and striped pants and went to Ascot and hung out with the aristocracy.  It’s for morning and afternoon dress-up, walking along with Beau Brummell in Hyde Park or something –Regency Square or something like that.
But in the early Chaplin movies, Chaplin sometimes ..   I had a dream about it last night.  Running around wearing a black bow tie and bright black aristocratic European clothes, going to expensive restaurants and the Ritz Hotel in Baden-Baden – “Chaplin had Spats.”


“Chaplin had spats”

So this is a description of the year that his brother was baptized.  He says, “in fragrant old/spittoon water.”  Some old brass, spittoon-like chalice in which they baptize you.  Anybody who’s been a Catholic, they might know.

So  “… in fragrant old/spittoon water/ He was Baptized by Iron/ Priest” – (The real hard, heavy, Catholic priest) –  “..Saint Jacques/ De Fournier” – (A priest named De Fournier) –

“… in Lowell/ Massachusetts/In the Gray Rain Year,/1919/ When Chaplin had Spats/ and Dempsey/ Drank no whiskey by the track./     My mother saw him in heaven/Riding away, prophesying/ Everything will be alright/ Which I have learned now/By Trial & Conviction/ In the Court of Awful Glots..”

Student:  Is that offal like O-F-F-A-L?
AG:  No, A-W-F-U-L – “Awful Glots.”
Peter Orlovsky:  What is “glots” mean?
AG:  Blood clots in his leg.  He had thrombosis.  And he had been in ’48 in the hospital in the Bronx laid up with his leg up on a pillow with thrombosis of the leg – that is, blood clots in the artery of the leg.

“My mother saw him in heaven/ Riding away, prophesying/Everything will be alright/ Which I have learned now” – (I, Kerouac, Jack) – “Which I have learned now/By Trial & Conviction/ In the Court of Awful Glots..” – (So starting with the milky chariot and doves you wind up again, like “In the June/of black bugs/in your bed/ of hair earth

“By Trial & Conviction/In the Court of Awful Glots.”

Student:  How did he spell the “glots”?
AG:  G-L-O-T-S.  Pardon me?
Student:  How did his brother die?
AG:  His brother died of some kind of… something that made him waste and become pale and pale-cheeked and more-and-more angelic-looking and more-and-more thin and bloodless until he died.  So maybe some kind of …
Student:  Anemia?
AG:  … early childhood cancer.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-one minutes in  and concluding at approximately fifty-six minutes in

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