Archives For September 2013

Volume II: Land of Milfs and Money

A body in rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless the body is compelled to change its state.
-Newton’s First Law


I punch the accelerator on the Red Rocket and the turbocharger kicks in, sending me hurtling forward at breakneck speed. It’s more vehicle than I need, it gets poor gas mileage, and there are months when I can barely make the payment. But when I step on the gas I feel alive and for that, there is no price too high.

My destination is Eugene, Oregon. Why Eugene? Why not Eugene, is the better question. I have no ties to place or people. I go wherever I want, whenever I want. Where I lay my laptop is home. I am going to Oregon because Oregon called and I answered.

Still, there’s something different about this move. Driving West on Highway 126 through the high desert of Bend, past perennially snowcapped mountains, through temperate rainforest flanked by the McKenzie River, I have the feeling of coming home. As the western slopes of the Cascades flatten out into the Willamette Valley I am surrounded by farms and rolling green hills. This is a land of milk and honey.

The place I’m to call home for the next 5 months—River Terrace—is, on the other hand, a land of MILFs and money. There are Asian kids driving $80,000 cars and college students with $1,000/month apartments in this 200+ unit corporate megaplex, which boasts that it is, “a great place to call home.” To modify a Margaret Thatcher quote, if you have to tell people it’s a great place to live, it probably isn’t.

River Terrace is about as homey as a hotel, the sort of joint where you don’t know your neighbors but you can hear what they’re watching on television, where you call a hotline in Jersey in order to schedule a call from the onsite maintenance man. The clubhouse smells like CK1 and the office staff is friendly in an obviously coached-up way. The obligatory courteousness of people who make less money than you; lawns manicured by Mexicans; an assigned parking spot; a modest selection of free-to-rent DVDs. Here is the sterile promise of middle class status.

I can’t really complain, however, as it meets my three basic digs requirements: a bed, a coffee pot, and an internet connection. With those three elements in place I run my Empire of Dirt. I tell people I’m a writer and they believe me. I jot down the job title on my lease agreement form and it goes unquestioned. I could write anything, really. Brian John Eckert: freelance gynecologist. Brian J. Eckert: taxidermist to the stars. As long as they money is paid on time you can call yourself whatever you want. Brian Eckert: professional rearranger of information.

The “river” in River Terrace comes from the Willamette, which flows through Eugene ½ mile from my doorstep. Even closer to home is Delta Ponds. It borders the apartment complex to the south and, along with the riverbank system that runs through this part of town along the Willamette, forms a green belt here in northeast Eugene.

Historically, the Willamette River flowed through Delta Ponds, providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Over time as the Willamette Valley was settled agriculture, urban development, and flood control changed the nature of the river. Levees were built to contain high flows, dams were constructed to reduce flooding, and riparian forests were cut down to make room for crops and houses.

The ponds, peninsulas, and islands that are present today at Delta Ponds were formed by gravel extraction operations that took place in the 1950s and ‘60s. These activities provided much of the gravel for the construction of local roadways, including Interstate 105.

The City purchased the ponds from Eugene Sand and Gravel in the late 1970s. Since 2004, significant efforts and resources have been directed toward the restoration of the Delta Ponds system. A major part of that project—reconnecting 2.2 miles of side-channel habitat to the Willamette River—was completed in 2011.

Today, one can find all manner of wildlife at the 150 acre network of waterways. Nearly 150 species of birds have been spotted at the ponds over the years and amphibians, reptiles, fish, turtles, beavers and river otters, among other critters, also call the ponds home.

A simulacrum of the natural environment that previously existed in this area, Delta Ponds speaks to the resiliency of Nature. With a bit of investment and, more critically, a little bit of space to call its own, the wildlife doomed by anthropogenic activity does come back. Indeed, as the ponds—sandwiched between two major highways and in the midst of a major suburb—show, even an inch will do.

But in this world inches are worth dollars, which is why areas like Delta Ponds remain the exception, not the rule. What is the value of a Great Blue Heron compared to, say, a luxury apartment complex? I focus my binoculars’ viewfinder on the mighty bird. It moves with long, slinking strides across a submerged log, draws its head and long neck into its chest, and stands in wait for a passing fish. To me, the Great Blue Heron is grace incarnate. To others, it is just that bird on the River Terrace entrance sign.

Across the pond movement catches my eye. I pan to the right, adjust the zoom. On the far bank a man is pacing back and forth, screaming, throwing rocks violently at the water. A lump of bedding and several empty 40 oz. bottles mark his plight.

Do you ever see such people, dear readers, and ask yourself how it came to be for them? How it is, exactly, that a man finds himself living at Delta Ponds, drunk at midday, taking out his rage on inanimate objects? I know I do. The answer, it seems, is that somebody ends up living at Delta Ponds in the exact opposite way that they end up living at River Terrace.


Last night somebody drove into Delta Ponds. Some half dozen ambulances and fire trucks, as well as every cop in town, were at the scene. Good thing for me, as I was driving drunk.

I’d been out drinking in the middle of the week without a job. According to Hank Bukowski, that’s when you need a drink the most.

A few days ago my biggest client, the one who almost singlehandedly has provided me with enough work to fund my rambling, dissolute lifestyle, cancelled our contract. With no money coming in, I begin shopping at Wal-Mart rather than Trader Joe’s. I ditch my smart phone for a flip phone. I drink Café Busto in favor of Dazbog, Busch Light in place of Duvel. I sell my bicycle and use the money to buy weed and fear that my beloved Red Rocket could be the next thing to go. I survey the empties on my deck and estimate how much deposit money they’re worth. I think to myself, “This is how homelessness begins.” I begin to understand that the difference between me and the man living at Delta Ponds was never very big at all.

The difference, of course, is that I’m one of the lucky ones. If you’re reading this you probably are, too. We live in an age of absurdity, a world where some people are trying to feel alive and others are simply trying to stay alive. I take solace in knowing that, in either respect, we’re all bound to fail, ultimately, gloriously.

Submission Call: Beatdom #14

Beatdom is once again open for submissions. Until November 1st we will be accepting the usual mix of essays, short stories, artwork, and poetry for Beatdom #14: The Movie Issue.

Naturally, there is a great scope for interpretation of the topic. You could write about the movie Jack Kerouac and Lucian Carr went to see after Carr killed David Kammerer. You could write about the process of making On the Road into a movie, or Howl or Naked Lunch for that matter. There’s also the influence of movies on the writing style of William S. Burroughs, or in the lives of other counterculture figures associated with the Beat Generation.

All poetry, stories, and art should be on-topic, too.

Here are our official guidelines.

Please send submissions to the usual address: editor {at} beatdom [dot] com.

The Kentucky Derby: Decadent and Depraved?


*This is the 2nd in a series of columns by Beatdom editor, David S. Wills, about the role of truth in the work of Hunter S. Thompson. To read the first, click here

Kentucky Derby Decadent


With the success of Hell’s Angels, Thompson moved on to his first true work of Gonzo, ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’.

The problem with Gonzo, and with Thompson’s liberal use of both fact and fiction, is that it is extremely difficult to get to the truth behind his writing. To understand what did and didn’t happen in the writing of the article is a process made harder by the fact that when Thompson recalls the origin of the article in later interviews and writings, he may well have been exaggerating or simply inventing stories to build his legend and myth, or to compound the ideas stated in the article.

As the story goes, Thompson took the job of writing about the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s Monthly in 1970, where he first met and worked with Ralph Steadman. Madness occurred and Thompson and Steadman failed to actually witness the race. When deadlines loomed, Thompson began tearing pages out of his notebook and sending them to the magazine, creating a manic series of observations, loosely strung together and exploring the nature of the crowd more than the event.

Did Thompson and Steadman really do what Thompson claims in the article that they did?

Thompson’s writing and Steadman’s illustrations complimented and justified each other, creating a hideous portrait of the greed and drunken affluence of the spectators, something entirely overlooked by the conventional journalists present. Of course, in true Gonzo style, Thompson and Steadman become part of the story, immersing themselves in the depravity and becoming larger than life characters. The article culminates in a musing on how similar the author and illustrator were to their subjects.

Of course, a problem arises in the sheer extent of the carnage and madness. Did Thompson and Steadman really do what Thompson claims in the article that they did? Were their roles as characters accurate presentations of their actions? Was the crowd really as depraved as they depicted? Did Thompson really write notes, tear them out of his notebook and pass them off as professional journalism?

‘Politics is the art of controlling your environment,’ Thompson once wrote. Indeed, he was very talented at persuading the world he was what he wanted them to believe he was, because only his closest and dearest can testify to him being otherwise. Thompson eventually trapped himself with his own created image. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a reality behind the illusion. Hunter Stockton Thompson and Raoul Duke could be remarkably similar.

If we go back to Thompson’s childhood, as presented most thoroughly in Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour’s Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson, we can see a picture of Thompson that he did not create. Throughout his adult life we know Thompson through his own writings, seeing what he wanted us to see. But through interviews with his friends and family, we can see what he was like as a child, and then as an adult. It is interesting to see that even as a youngster he appeared as a junior version of the insane characters he would have us believe he was later in life. His friends present Thompson as an intelligent, sensitive, racist bully. He was a trouble maker with little or no regard for authority, but a penchant for books and a talent with words. He had the ability to blend into any crowd, and to defend or hurt his friends without their understanding of his motives.

As an adult, Thompson’s friends and colleagues testify somewhat to his public and private personae being much the same, albeit that’s most likely what Thompson wanted. He is depicted as a show man, seemingly living up to his name, trying to impress and repulse everyone around him. He would publicly unpack his bags, which, according to Paul Scanlon, managing editor of Rolling Stone, contained ‘fresh grapefruits, notepads, a can of mace, a tape recorder, a carton of Dunhills, spare cigarette holders, a bottle of Wild Turkey, a large police flashlight, lighter fluid, a bowie knife – the usual stuff.’[1]

We see throughout his life that Thompson was a show-off, loving any attention, and realising its potential. Perhaps in his writing his manic actions are simply his way of impressing his readers, while the rest is just the job – the journalistic duties. But it’s hard say.

We know that he claimed from time to time that he felt compelled to live up to his legend, and that he exaggerated some his actions. But he also claimed that much more went unsaid, for fear of reprisals. Of course, stating that he did things he couldn’t legally say is another way of showing off as the badboy… Or perhaps he genuinely did live as dangerous a life as he claimed, and simply downplayed his hyperactivity to gain conventional literary respect from his peers…


The Kentucky Derby piece is well known because it fused Thompson’s writing with Ralph Steadman’s illustrations to create an overall image of decadence and depravity. Everyone knows that the piece is about the failure to write about the race and was blinded in carnage. It’s no secret that the failure to write about the race or produce a coherent narrative stemmed from the over indulgence of the writer (and his illustrator).

After the Derby ended, and the two day hangover dissipated for Thompson and Steadman, the illustrator submitted his work and fled the country. Thompson, however, was trapped in a hotel in New York, faced with a deadline. As always, he struggled to meet it. A copyboy ran between the writer and his editors, exchanging notes and pages as they were written. Thompson was baffled. However, as the deadline approached, his grand plans for the article seemed unlikely to be achieved within the time limit, and as the legend goes, he began ripping pages – sketches of scenes – from his notebook and submitting them.HST Kentucky Derby


When I first sent one down with the copy boy, I thought the phone was going to ring any minute with some torrent of abuse. I was waiting for the shit to hit the fan, but almost immediately the copy boy was back and wanted more… I was full of grief and shame… They printed it word for word even with the pauses, thoughts and jagged stuff like that.[2]


Suddenly, Thompson, the man who thought he was the greatest writer of the 20th Century before anyone cared to read his work, had been humbled by his own irresponsibility. He wrote an apology to the editor, lamenting not having had more time. To Bill Cardoso, he wrote: ‘It’s a shitty article, a classical of irresponsible journalism.’[3] He was certain he’d never work for another major publication.

The article, however, was a success. Scanlans started gaining publicity and Thompson was receiving letters of praise. When Cardoso replied, he said: ‘I don’t know what the fuck you’re dong, but you’ve changed everything. It’s totally gonzo.’[4]


The start of ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’ is pure literary gold, but raises a few questions again about truth and fiction. We believe what we read because it sounds like it happened, but it also sounds a little too perfect, a characteristic that courted many of Thompson’s earlier articles. Read the following and consider whether it was something Thompson heard and reported verbatim, or something he honestly felt could have been said:


I got off the plane around midnight and no one spoke as I crossed the dark runway to the terminal. The air was thick and hot, like wandering into a steam bath. Inside, people hugged each other and shook hands…big grins and a whoop here and there: “By God! You old bastard! Good to see you, boy! Damn good…and I mean it!”

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other–”but just call me Jimbo”–and he was here to get it on. “I’m ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?” I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn’t hear of it: “Naw, naw…what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What’s wrong with you, boy?” He grinned and winked at the bartender. “Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey…”

I shrugged. “Okay, a double Old Fitz on ice.” Jimbo nodded his approval.

“Look.” He tapped me on the arm to make sure I was listening. “I know this Derby crowd, I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I’ve learned–this is no town to be giving people the impression you’re some kind of faggot. Not in public, anyway. Shit, they’ll roll you in a minute, knock you in the head and take every goddam cent you have.”[5]


Whether this character existed, or whether he actually said what he is quoted as saying, isn’t important. He is a device, whether real or imagined, that conveys in the earliest words of the article, the author’s opinion of the subject of the article. The subject will not be the race, it will be the spectators. And the spectators all sound and act like our friend, ‘Jimbo’. Perhaps this is another example of the collective speech method explored in Hell’s Angels. When he tells us that the ‘people’ whooped and said ‘By God! You old bastard…’ there is no specific person saying these words. Rather, this is the voice of the masses, of the many identical spectators Thompson wants to tell us about. And if ‘Jimbo’ never existed as a single person, he is certainly a fictional character representative of the people Thompson witnessed during the Derby. It certainly sounds real. We’ve all met caricatures who fit a mould too perfectly to be believed.

Thompson is playing a trick on us, too, here, as much as he is fooling poor, gullible ‘Jimbo’ when he tells him that the Black Panthers and ‘white crazies’ will ruin the Derby. Thompson uses his literary brilliance to convince us that this really happened, rather than present us with stale, cold facts. He has our senses tingling with his descriptions, so that the voice is not an abstract piece of information. Everything feels real because it’s so complete: the darkness, the heat, the whooping, the taste of a an ice cold drink… Yet these sensual elements were not forced into the narrative. Rather, they appeared where they would naturally come, as they occurred around the narrator. It’s just like reading a novel and falling into the prose, only this is meant to be non-fiction.

When Thompson meets Steadman, the show really begins, and things get blurry. As with the previous Scanlans article, ‘The Temptations of Jean-Claude Killy’, Thompson set out to write the article as an account of the process of writing. This would allow him to take an alternative view of a subject that had already been reported in depth. Thompson wanted to view the spectators, rather than the race, and after switching from a narrative that cast himself as the behind-schedule, troubled journalist, Thompson found Steadman to be a fitting device. Steadman was both the foreigner to whom Thompson could show his native land, and an intelligent weirdo off whom he could bounce ideas. The result was essentially Gonzo: madness and chaos mixed with musings about the nature of the subject.

As John Hellmann noted, ‘Thompson’s self-caricature is a paradox of compulsive violence and outraged innocence, an emblem of the author’s schizophrenic view of America.’[6] When he portrays himself as a hopeless loser, Thompson is attempting to draw pity and shock, just as when he looks in the mirror at the end and sees that he is no different from those he is studying. His actions shock us, but we begin to suspect that he, like the savages in the crowd, and products of a society that is fundamentally sick.

There are discrepancies between Thompson’s and Steadman’s accounts of the long weekend, but nothing major. For a start, Steadman is neither an Englishman, nor did he fly to the Derby from England. Steadman is Welsh and was staying in America at the time. Thompson was probably taking artistic liberties to portray himself as lost, as well as to portray Steadman as foreign, for the sake of his story. If Ralph came across as weird and alien, then Thompson could use him to compare with the spectators, and as an instrument of his planned narrative: as someone to guide around town.

Thompson’s version of events has the narrator being told about Steadman by their motel manager, who describes Steadman in a comical way. The helps the image of Thompson as lost and confused, whilst getting across some entertainment through another person’s voice. Thompson later finds Steadman in the press box, as both of them had apparently acquired credentials through separate means. Thompson mocks Steadman a little, and then proceeds to play the role of a guide. He is no longer the incompetent journalist, but instead the knowledgeable local.

In Steadman’s recollection, the events are just as amusing, but a little different. Steadman had never been to the motel, and the issue of his appearance was raised at first sight, rather than through the motel manager: ‘They said I was looking for a matted-haired geek with string warts and I guess I’ve found him.’[7] After this meeting, the two sit down over beers, rather than the whiskey that Thompson claimed. Whiskey is used throughout the piece to connect the depravity of Thompson and Steadman to that of the spectators. It appears at the beginning and soaks through as they mingle with the masses. Rather than Thompson taking the instant role as guide, Steadman recalls their talking about gambling, and then suggests that the rest of the assignment just happened, whereas the suggestion is planted in the article that Thompson knew all along what would happen – that the crowd would become the subject rather than the race.[8] However, according to Steadman, it was Thompson that procured the press credentials and not, as Thompson depicted, as matter of fortune for both of them. This little deviation from the truth suggests again that perhaps Thompson was better prepared than he let on, and that consequently the weekend was not as random as the article said.


Whatever the truth was behind ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,’ it becomes a lot harder to separate truth from fiction in his most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

[2] Nocenti, A., and Baldwin, R., The High Times Reader (New York: Nation Books, 2004) p.79

[3] Thompson, Fear and Loathing in America, p. 295

[4] Caroll, Hunter, p.114

[5] Thompson, ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’

[6] Hellmann, J., ‘Journalism and Parody: The Bestial Comedies of Hunter S Thompson’ Fables of Fact: The New Journalism as New Fiction, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981) p. 70

[7] Steadman, R., from ESPN 2 and Independent

[8] Ibid

A Soft Old Book with Handwritten Notes as Memento of a Life

“Be always a poet, even in prose.” Charles Baudelaire

Yesterday, I inherited a first-edition (1961) paperback Baudelaire by Pascal Pia published by Grove Press with notes written in the hand of my beloved brother-in-law who died at the age of fifty-six of dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, an excruciating four-year battle. He was born on September 5, 1957, the day On the Road was published and proclaimed by Gilbert Millstein in The New York Times as “an authentic work of art.”
Paul loved poetry and studied English at the University of Tampa with Professor Duane Locke, Poet in Residence. The fifty-two-year-old book is gently worn by time, the binding is unglued, notes appear in margins, words are circled and sentences underlined, and it reflects the personality of a young Paul, a young poet, a lover of English language and romance, his idealism, his interests, and his book—now a special possession—will help me remember him as that young university student seeking knowledge and adventure through the world of a sensitive and tormented French poet.kerouac notebook
Last month, at the well-known and well-regarded independent St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village—where Allen Ginsberg would stop in to use the gent’s—I asked the kindly proprietor how things were going there. “Not well.” Landlord problems continue to plague the store and the owners are being forced to relocate. “Books,” he said, “are an endangered species.” I’ve been hearing that since 1987, when I worked for a nonfiction children’s book publisher before electronics took over the world and forever changed publishing.
I have the soft Baudelaire that will serve as a remembrance of Paul, and the book is made unique by his handwriting. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article “The New Script for Teaching Handwriting Is No Script at All” young students are not being taught to read or write script. That article struck me the same way as the fact that fewer and fewer American university English departments require Shakespeare. Burroughs knew Shakespeare, Kerouac knew Shakespeare, Ginsberg knew Shakespeare, and they wrote cursive and wrote in notebook upon notebook and page after page, and those papers survive and the interested observer can see the handwriting of worthy writers and glean something from it, the humanity of the person creating sentences and paragraphs and finally a finished work, a book, a folio, a collection of poetry. Handwriting reflects so much of the writer’s personality.
Book lovers take a stand and fight back. Go out and buy a book, a book of substance, a book that will touch your heart by its beauty and wisdom, a book that you can open and close, and inscribe with your thoughts. Squawk like Professor Sea Gull reciting “The Barricades,” even if you’re the last poet standing, reading, and writing, and alienated from the rest of the world. Don’t go gently into the good night accepting a world without books and a world without handwriting. How would Mentor Burroughs react? Brother Kerouac? Holy Ginsberg? Ginsberg’s father the poet and teacher Louis Ginsberg? William Carlos Williams. Walt Whitman and all who have gone before them.
It’s difficult to fathom that books will become obsolete, and one reason to hold out hope against this is the reemergence of vinyl records. The sound is simply better and provides a more pleasing experience, just as the pleasure of holding a book is more rewarding than looking at an electronic device. Would I have gotten the same feeling of intimacy and continuity if Paul had left me an electronic book?
At the start of Paul D. Newman’s early onset Alzheimer’s he wrote a memoir A Cruel Twist of Fate in the hopes of helping others by documenting his journey on La Via Dolorosa. Pia states that
though Baudelaire left but one single volume of poetry the Fleurs du Mal published in 1857 (one hundred years before On the Road, a book written in poetic prose) “it is, in sum, a confidential journal of an exceptionally sensitive being” and the author “must have gone through great suffering, my poor boy.” Baudelaire says that “poetry represents the beautiful hours of one’s existence, that is to say, the hours when one feels happy to think, to be alive.”
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Beat Generation… Pencils?


Yes, that’s right. Beat Generation pencils.

If you look closely (or click on the above image to enlarge), you will see that the pencils say: “My name is William Burroughs” and “My name is Jack Kerouac”. One also reads: “Beat Generation” while another says “Dada is everything.”

Click this link to see more.

Carolyn Cassady, 1923 – 2013

Carolyn Cassady

Today the Beat community was saddened to hear of the death of Carolyn Cassady. Carolyn is well-known to Beat fans partly as the wife of Neal Cassady, and also through the work of Jack Kerouac. She played an important role in these men’s lives, but also contributed to the world of Beat studies by writing two memories of her involvement in the movement: Heartbeat, which was made into a movie starring Sissy Spacek, and Off the Road.

In 2007, when I was founding Beatdom, I spoke with Carolyn a few times via e-mail and she was tremendously supportive of the project. She continued to help in various capacities, and later we published an interview she did with Spencer Kansa.

She lived a long life and will be greatly missed.

The Cramps’ “Route 66” Is the Best

“That spring [1947] when he [Jack Kerouac] heard Nat King Cole singing the Bobby Troup song ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66,’ seeing America seemed the greatest kick of all.” (Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia, 1994, p. 184).

San Bernadino Rt 66
Nat King Cole’s voice was pure silk, smooth and clear, and he possessed a natural grace. He moved from jazz roots to become a huge pop sensation, much to the wrath of jazz fans, and had a hit with “Route 66” in 1946. The song has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones and many, many more musicians of every conceivable genre, but The Cramps, a CBGB punk band that emerged in New York City in 1976, nailed it. The early Stones sound juvenile; but The Cramps sound like high IQ juvenile delinquents with something new and interesting to say. Their cover is dark and dangerous and rocks from Chicago to LA and back and forth, and kicks big time. (Stones fans, give a comparison listen to Stones versus Cramps.) Hit the road, Jack, and dig this on the way. It quite possibly would have sent Neal Cassady reeling and rolling. Cassady, perpetually in motion exuded energy, muscles, and sweat, so for the man who moves and is on the move, on the road and often on the run, this take would surely have moved and grooved him and whatever automobile he piloted.
And the lyrics (each recording artist changes them a bit) sound like the Adonis of Denver, the slim-hipped Gene Autrey, the young car thief devouring literature at the public library:

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri
and Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty . . .

Nat’s jazz and Bing’s version are somewhat “Main Street of America,” but Bing and the Andrews Sisters swing it, and speaking of swing, swing by the magnificent Manhattan Transfer’s take. Chuck Berry duck walks and talks it (“and I’ll meet you on Route 62”), but The Cramps own it. As Cody Pomeray said, “Yes, that’s right, yes, that’s right, ah hum honey, yes,” (Big Sur, Jack Kerouac, 1962, p. 75), and motivates this listener to jump up, get out, and hit the Mother Road.

You’ll see Amarillo
Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona
Don’t forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino

Check out the Argentine Pappo’s “Ruta 66” YouTube in Spanish. It’s got an easy coolness and hombre dude captures the desert moment with a blonde and red convertible. Apparently, Mr. Pap-po-o-o Napolitano (a cross between rock drummer Marc Bell and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ricky Medlocke?) lived the road life and died in a 2005 motorcycle accident in Buenos Aires.
Sultry Jim Morrison would have done something defiant with “66.” “Van the Man” Morrison R&B’d it. Louis Prima twisted it. Asleep at the Wheel turned out a sweet Austin, Texas, take. Electric Jimi Hendrix would have torched it (“Wild thing, I think you move me”), and the Ramones (1-2-3-4) would have slammed it out of the park. Then in a big collective yawp with the Bard, sing all-together-now, “Punk Rock Your [sic] My Big Crybaby,” and that perhaps would have 86’d it.

Volume I: Encounter With a Ghost of Suburbia

*Editor’s note: This is the first in the series of columns by Brian Eckert, entitled “Dispatches from the Abyss.” We aim to bring these to you fortnightly. 




People hear me people

Do you know what it means to be left alone?

-Jimi Hendrix


I live by myself. I work at home. I should probably get out more, but almost nobody calls. The birds that come to my feeder and occasionally talk to me are beginning to wonder whether everything is OK. I am, without a doubt, more alone now than I’ve ever been.

Success at last.

After nearly a decade of wandering the world, seeking edification through experience, I’ve come to the following conclusion: finding yourself means losing everyone else. For the voyage of self-discovery is the beginning of a much larger quest for self-transcendence. It will take you to all sorts of far-flung places, provided you have the resolve to follow the path wherever it leads. Just don’t expect anyone to follow you.

The path has led me from West to East and back again…to so many countries and crash pads I’ve lost track…across borders and time zones and comfort zones…down blind alleyways and up mountaintops… through mud and shit, through shadows and sunshine…in and out of love, in and out of trouble, in and out of consciousness…over the edge, under the gun, between the lines, below the surface. It’s led me on a wild goose chase. It’s led me to question my sanity. It’s led me here, to a contractor’s-beige-colored room in a Denver apartment. In what direction it’s leading me I have no idea. I’m more confused now, more turned around and twisted up, than when I started.

It’s true what they say, that the more you learn, the less you know. I traveled the world in order to learn that the world is hopelessly complicated and getting more complicated all the time. Proposing any grand theory at this point seems absurd. Hypothesis non fingo. I feign no hypothesis.

Instead, I reserve the right to change my mind about anything and everything, to contradict myself completely, to swing from high to low, low to high, at each moment. This to me seems the only sane way to approach life, because let’s face it: things fall apart more often than they don’t.

Know thyself, as the Delphic maxim teaches, and you will know what Socrates did: that you know nothing. This Socratic paradox—the type of stuff that got history’s most prominent gadfly killed—is one of many paradoxes to be uncovered in the pursuit of answers to life’s most persistent questions (namely, what in the fuck is going on here, exactly, and what am I supposed to be doing?). Indeed, I would argue that anything not in the nature of a contradiction is not worth pursuing.

As you scramble after truth, each finding raises more questions, usually more difficult to answer ones. The mystery deepens. True enough is substituted for true. The believable and the unbelievable become strange bedfellows. Opposites merge and the veil begins to lift. But always just a peep. Enough to keep you going.

And keep going I will, despite the scarcity of light trickling down to the forest floor. Onward I march, even though it sometimes feels like all I’m doing is forgetting and remembering the same thing over and over.

At an age when most people are leading lives that increasingly resemble those of their parents, I am preparing to slog into terra incognita. Turning back now would be an admission of acrophobia.

Which is why, despite longing for them in moments of despair, I will not retreat to the bonds of family, friendship, partnership, the ties to places, states, ideas, that were necessarily broken in my ascent to desolate peaks. The next step is to explore the abyss.

Occasionally, though, characters from the past reemerge like ghosts. I have a love of the supernatural, so I always welcome their company.

The call comes from an old friend who I worked with during my days of teaching English in Korea. I agree to visit him at his apartment in a Denver suburb, where he lives with his Korean bride and two-year-old daughter.

Now out of the teaching game, the only employment he has been able to secure back in the States is for a fracking company. As he tells me this over the phone I curse the oil men sons-of-bitches and the crude, dirty work they offer to desperate Americans. I imagine a scenario in which he comes home after a long shift smelling of diesel fumes, his hands streaked with grime that never washes clean. He lifts up his daughter with his sullied hands, leaving black marks on her baby soft skin and fabric-softener-scented clothes. In this scenario that I create, his wife, scared and overwhelmed by life in America, lies silently, expressionlessly, on her back, wishing her husband didn’t smell the way he did, while he pumps away at her like a drilling rig.

The reality of his life could not be more different than the black thoughts I assign to it. He is clean, healthy, and quite likes his job. His wife and daughter are beautiful, smiling creatures. The three of them, in fact, share the sort of domestic bliss that I have ruled out for myself.

The further I go on this mission for truth, for freedom, for authenticity, for trying to find the words to express what very well might be inexpressible, or may not be at all, the further I am removed from society and the people in it and the things those people hold near and dear. To go to a friend’s house and see him with a beautiful wife and daughter, to know that he is probably as happy as he should reasonably expect to be, is to feel the heartbreak of acknowledging there is something inside of me that won’t let me enjoy that same reasonable standard of happiness.

The tradeoff—or at least what I hope will be the tradeoff—is the discovery in the immense space I have created around myself of a contentment unknowable in the context of the ordinary. Maybe someday I’ll even stop writing about my struggle towards the undefinable. Perhaps in the full light of consciousness literature will fall away like a vestigial tail. Until then, dear readers, I hope you enjoy these Dispatches From the Abyss.

My friend and I stay up late talking after his girls are in bed. At around 1 a.m. he joins them. I’m left alone to look up at the stars and backwards in time. From the master bedroom come moans of pleasure. The air conditioner compressor turns on, drowns the world in a soft mechanical hum, and I am glad for it.

Hell’s Angels: The Precursor of Gonzo

*The following is the first in a series of columns by Beatdom editor, David S. Wills, concerning the mix of fact and fiction in the work of Hunter S. Thompson. 


Hunter S Thompson began writing at a young age, imitating his heroes and honing his own style. He worked as a journalist, got in trouble, travelled the world, got fired, made friends, made enemies, failed at writing novels, and then wrote Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. It began as an article written for The Nation, May 17th 1965, entitled ‘Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders,’ and it was considered the first honest portrayal of the Hell’s Angels in any major publication.[1] The article drew praise and book offers, and Thompson was persuaded by Random House to spend the next year living with the Hell’s Angels, writing about their lives. The result was the book that made Thompson’s name.

Although it was ‘a world most of us would never dare encounter,’[2] Thompson careened into the realm of the Hell’s Angels with unnatural vigour. Where others would have been afraid of men who were renowned for their violence, Thompson brought them into his home, with Sandy and Juan hiding in the bedroom, warning them that he ‘didn’t go much for fist-fighting but preferred to settle his beefs with a double-barrelled 12-gauge shotgun.’[3] He introduced himself to the Hell’s Angels through an Angel/reporter, Birney Jarvis, who worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. Thompson immediately set down his objective, to determine the truth behind the myth: ‘I heard some bad things about you. Are they true?’[4]

That was his aim: to determine, and report, the truth about the most feared motorcycle gang in America. The resulting article drew enough praise to earn him a book deal, and the book confirmed Thompson as a major American writer, allowing him to go on and write the rest of his bibliography.


It’s easy to see in Hell’s Angels the origins of Gonzo, and one might argue that it is indeed a Gonzo text. However, it was a well researched and brilliant demonstration of New Journalism more anything one could label a literary genre unto itself. It’s clear to see in the book the presence of the reporter as a part of the story, but far more obviously as a device than a protagonist.

Thompson appears as the ‘I’ in the article, but doesn’t focus on his actions. Rather, he is an observer, playing the role of a reporter, watching and hanging back, collecting notes and conducting interviews with the subjects of the text. In the book he was far more involved in the action, giving the reader someone sensible to relate to, when alienated by the depravity of the bikers. The result is a carefully observed act of journalism that reads like journalism, only with the hallmarks of Gonzo dropped in here and there…

For example, we have the use of cuttings, clippings and references to other texts and sources of information concerning the subject, which are dropped in to make the book not only a journalism-prose hybrid, but throwing in an element of cultural criticism, giving a greater impression of society’s perception of the Hell’s Angels. In the book, Thompson takes these sources and attempts, through real reporting, to deny or confirm them, thus getting at the truth behind the angels. Included are police reports and both truthful and fallacious media accounts, which shine a critical light on society’s role in creating the image of the Hell’s Angels. Thompson is providing the reader with a cross-section of America and its opinions, while giving an insider’s view, providing an accurate all-round depiction of the subject of his work.

Therefore, we clearly have a book that leans far more towards hard-fact reporting than Gonzo’s ambiguity. Nonetheless, there are elements of fantasy, of wishful thinking, and the application of a collective voice for the Hell’s Angels, whereby the statements of several members would be spoken by one imaginary speaker. And with these features, the book’s journalistic integrity becomes somewhat more debatable.

An example of something that is hard to prove or disprove, but which shows Thompson’s tendency towards misrepresentation of the facts in order to get at the truth, would be in the fantastic violence of the book. It is easy to believe that the Hell’s Angels were violent; the evidence is irrefutable. But merely stating this fact is not enough. Thompson’s portrayal of violence is cartoon-like. In order to convey the lack of care with which members shed or drew blood, the beatings were over-the-top and unbelievable, with badly victims getting up and walking away. Indeed, part of the fear of the gang was in the fact that ‘they inhabit a world in which violence is as common as spilled beer.’[5] In chapter twenty-one, a ‘black Golith’ is beaten horrifically by the Hell’s Angels, but keeps getting up. The whole fight is theatrical and yet it gets across an accurate impression of the disregard they had for brutality. Perhaps these ridiculous fight scenes are the equivalent of Thompson’s collective voice technique, with several events condensed into one for the sake of the narrative.

Instead of quoting dozens of individual Angels, Thompson will use one voice to reflect the statements of many. This could be viewed as compromising the reliability of having one source state one fact, but keeps the narrative flowing quickly. We have to assume that Thompson’s familiarity with the group allowed him to mimic their speech and blend statements together, rather than just fabricate what sounded better for the story. Indeed, the collective voice sounds remarkably similar to the individual voices.


This, in effect, was what the Hell’s Angels had been saying all along. Here is their version of what happened, as told by several who were there:

‘One girl was white and pregnant, the other was colored, and they were with five colored studs. They hung around our bar–Nick’s Place on Del Monte Avenue–for about three hours Saturday night, drinking and talking with our riders, then they came out to the beach with us–them and their five boyfriends. Everybody was standing around the fire, drinking wine, and some of the guys were talking to them–hustling ’em, naturally–and soon somebody asked the two chicks if they wanted to be turned on–you know, did they want to smoke some pot? They said yeah, and then they walked off with some of the guys to the dunes. The spade went with a few guys and then she wanted to quit, but the pregnant one was really hot to trot; the first four or five guys she was really dragging into her arms, but after that she cooled off, too. By this time, though, one of their boy friends had got scared and gone for the cops–and that’s all it was.’[6]


Another method that is rare to see within a work purporting to be journalism is the author’s evident fascination with Biblical and historical imagery. There are in the text some brilliant uses of Thompson’s trademark literary mechanism: the use of language to imply what facts could not accurately convey.

Hell’s Angels opens with an image, beautifully and terrifyingly presented, of a motorcycle gang menacingly riding through the open roads of America on Labor Day. Thompson uses punctuation to string fragments of an image into one dirty great presentation, as he lists names and places, joining them with over-the-top metaphors and similes, eventually leaving the reader with no doubt of what the Hell’s Angels were all about, and only a page into the book.


Like Genghis Khan on an iron horse, a monster steed with fiery anus, flat out through the eye of a beer can and up your daughter’s leg with no quarter asked and none given.[7]


With descriptions like this threaded into a piece of journalism, which includes serious interviews and reports of events, one can see a more subtle application of Gonzo styling. Surely in objective journalism it is utterly inappropriate to compare a group of men on bikes to historical monsters and suggest that they’re alcoholic rapists… But it’s only a suggestion, and Thompson was planting his seeds of contempt in his own literary fashion. It appeared he was writing a novel about the Hell’s Angels, and weaving truth into it, and above all else, a reader in 1966, familiar with the curse of motorcycle gangs, and looking for an entertaining read, would have been captivated by the description.

And who’s to say that by comparing the Hell’s Angels to Mongols and sex fiends Thompson wasn’t presenting a more accurate depiction than was possible through meticulous study of their habits and actions. Although Thompson at times displays empathy for the bikers, the first page of the book provides the exact same understanding of their being as a methodical reading of the book from start to finish.

Which goes to show that even in the early days of his writing, Thompson had managed to evoke a hatred of a subject through vitriolic language, as well as through a long and hard study, presenting a year of solid research.

The first half of the book took Thompson a long time to write. It was well-researched, anthropological and even scholarly at times. It was the result of countless hours spent in the company of the Hell’s Angels, a process which earned him the reputation of being the expert on the subject, and offers from numerous publications. But the second half of the book was something that brought Thompson closer to Gonzo Journalism. Deadline approached and Thompson didn’t have the book finished. He didn’t want to pay back his advance, so he locked himself in a motel room with drugs, whiskey and his typewriter, and spent one hundred straight hours typing without sleep. It took him four days to write as much has he had in the previous six months, and he considered the latter half of the book superior to the first.[8] The result was the Fourth of July and ‘Midnight on the Coast Highway’ sections, where Thompson becomes the centre of attention. He claims that he wrote the latter part immediately after riding his motorbike down the Coast Highway, ‘face still frozen, dark red and crusted with tears.’[9]


Hell’s Angels is significant in the development of Gonzo because it brings Thompson’s writing a step closer to the style that emerged in ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’, but it is also important in the history of New Journalism because Thompson set out to write the article, and then the book, partly to correct some of the flaws in the media. He viewed the idea of the Hell’s Angels essentially as a creation of the media, and whether this depiction was accurate or not, it was not fair that it was created by people without any real knowledge of the bikers themselves. Ultimately, the job done by the straight press in reporting the motorcycle gangs was faulty, and another approach was needed: He claimed that, ‘the difference between the Hell’s Angels in the papers and the Hell’s Angels for real is enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for.’[10]

When he was approached by Carey McWilliams of the Nation, Thompson investigated the Lynch Report, the California Attorney General’s report on motorcycle gangs, and found that not one biker had been interviewed. All the sources were police officers. This, Thompson thought, was entirely unfair. ‘I can’t imagine doing a story without their point of view,’ Thompson said.[11] Thompson also found, after taking the assignment, that some of the facts were wrong. For example, the Lynch Report claimed that the membership of the Hell’s Angels was around four hundred and fifty, whereas Thompson found, after actually consulting the gang, that the number was in fact around one hundred.[12]

It is interesting, then, that in a study of truth and fiction in the work of Hunter S Thompson, we come so early to his contention that the media itself was inherently crooked, and that he was the man to bring the truth to light. But indeed that was his aim, and he clearly believed that the truth could be told through his own artistic methods, as long as the truth was there in the first place:


The Hell’s Angels as they exist today were virtually created by Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. The Times is the heavyweight champion of American journalism. On nine stories out of ten the paper lives up to its reputation. Yet the editors make no claim to infallibility, and now and then they will blow the whole duke. It would be senseless to try to list these failures, and besides that the purpose of this harangue is not to nail any one newspaper or magazine – but to point out the potentially massive effect of any story whose basic structure is endorsed and disseminated not only by Time, and Newsweek, but by the hyper-prestigious New York Times. The Times took the Lynch report [the pseudo-objective and vague report of an investigation mounted by California’s ambitious new Attorney General Thomas C. Lynch, concerning Hell’s Angels and “other disreputables”] at face value and simply reprinted it in very condensed form. The headline said: CALIFORNIA TAKES STEPS TO CURB TERRORISM OF RUFFIAN CYCLISTS. The bulk of the article was straight enough, but the lead was pure fiction: “A hinterland tavern is invaded by a group of motorcycle hoodlums. They seize a female patron and rape her. Departing, they brandish weapons and threaten bystanders with dire reprisals if they tell what they saw. Authorities have trouble finding a communicative witness, let alone arresting and prosecuting the offenders.” 


This incident never occurred. It was created, as a sort of journalistic montage, by the correspondent who distilled the report. But the Times is neither written nor edited by fools, and anyone who has worked on a newspaper for more than two months knows how technical safeguards can be built into even the wildest story, without fear of losing reader impact. What they amount to, basically, is the art of printing a story without taking legal responsibility for it. The word “alleged” is a key to this art. Other keys are “so-and-so said” (or “claimed”), “it was reported” and “according to”. In fourteen short newspaper paragraphs, the Times story contained nine of these qualifiers. The two most crucial had to do with the Hollywood lead and the “alleged gang rape” last Labor Day of two girls, 14 and 15 years old, by five to ten members of the Hell’s Angels gang on the beach at Monterey” (my italics)….The result was a piece of slothful, emotionally biased journalism, a bad hack job that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow or stirred a ripple had it appeared in most American newspapers…but the Times is a heavyweight even when it’s wrong, and the effect of this  article was to put the seal of respectability on a story that was, in fact, a  hysterical, politically motivated accident.[13]


Thus we come to understand why Thompson took the job of reporting on the Hell’s Angels, and also why he wrote the way he did. We may question his style of reporting, and how effective it could be at conveying any ‘truth’, but Thompson was no fool, and he knew how writing worked. He knew how journalists made lies sound like truth, and he knew how to convey the essence of ‘truth’ as though it were part of a fictional story, and thus create an ease of understanding between the subject and the reader. The reader may walk away at the end of Hell’s Angels with the same feeling of contempt for the subject as after reading a traditional, objective style report from the mainstream press, but it seems that Thompson’s conscience took a break in knowing that at least he’d gotten the truth in the first place.

Thompson was, thankfully, obsessed with truth. He believed that language was important, and he loved vitriolic, Old Testament style language, but that he should use that language on top of truth, to convey the meaning of what he knew.


I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language — and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.[14]


He loved the power of words, and wished to master them, but only when used in conjunction with truth. He would use his words in letters or conversations with friends, and he would hurt people and be sweet to them, and all of it was out of his devotion to complete honesty, according to Anita Thompson.[15]

In his work he adhered strictly to the truth, too. As he told P.J. O’Rourke, ‘Truth is easier. You can fall back on the truth. You can’t fall back on a story you made up because, by the time [you’ve finished writing it], you’re wondering if it’s good or funny or right.’[16]

What made Thompson and O’Rourke such great literary journalists was their adherence to the truth, and their ability to use language to tell the story. Whereas other journalists would use language to distort the truth or a lie, Thompson and O’Rourke would start with the truth and tell it brilliantly.


Perhaps the best known piece of Hunter S Thompson trivia, as the selling point for the Hell’s Angels book and the question asked by every journalist following its publication, is regarding the ‘stomping’ Thompson received after writing the book. In the postscript, he states that on Labor Day, 1966: ‘I pushed my luck a little too far and got badly stomped by four or five Angels who seemed to feel I was taking advantage of them.’[17]

This section contains dubious information, and really is the centre of the debate regarding truth in Hell’s Angels. The text suggests an entirely unprovoked beating, that started and ended abruptly, and was recalled in a typical Gonzo paragraph of fantasy and hatred: ‘I could see the vicious swine trying to get at me with the stone held in a two-handed Godzilla grip above his head.’[18]

However, Thompson’s later accounts of the event vary, and suggest that perhaps the postscript version was not as accurate as it could have been. In 1987, Thompson told P.J. O’Rourke that the motivation for the attack was money, and that it was not unprovoked:


I was showing the Angels the cover and it said $4.95… And the Angels said, ‘Jesus, $4.95!’ What’s our share? We should get half.’ And I said, ‘Come on… It takes a long time to write a book. Nothing – that’s your share.[19]


So the beating was apparently about money. However, Thompson has also claimed that it was due to his contention that his BSA motorcycle was superior to a Harley-Davidson: ‘I said my bike was faster than his… and all of a sudden, I got it right in the face, a terrific whack.’[20] Another time he simply stated that he knew it would happen, and that afterwards he remained friends with Sonny Barger, which Barger has always denied.[21] The reality, it would seem, is that Thompson witnessed an Angel called Junkie George slap his girlfriend and then his dog.[22] This is the story that Barger recounted in Hell’s Angel, his autobiography. Thompson apparently told Junkie George that, ‘Only punks slap their old ladies and kick dogs.’[23] This is quite a far cry from the unprovoked stomping by four or five member that Thompson originally claimed. Certainly, this goes beyond the notion of conveying truth through literary methods, and into the realm of simply fabricating a story.

Another problem then arises in discrepancies between the book and Barger’s account, as Barger claims there was only one punch thrown, as a direct result of Thompson’s actions. Thompson drove to hospital and phoned Sandy, photographed his injuries in a mirror, and then spent several days in bed. And all from one apparent punch. According to Barger, the whole thing was exaggerated and Thompson only provoked Junky George to create a marketing point for the book.[24]

[1] Johnson, M.L., The New Journalism: The Underground Press, The Artists of Non-Fiction, and Changes in Established Media, (University of Kansas: Wichita, 1971) p.131

[2] Fremont-Smith, E. ‘Books of the Times; Motorcycle Misfits—Fiction and Fact’ in The New York Times, (Feb. 23, 1967) P.33.

[3] Reference needed

[4] Vetter, C., ‘The Playboy Interview with Hunter S Thompson’, Playboy, November 1974

[5] Thompson, Hell’s Angels p.58

[6] Thompson, ‘Losers and Outsiders’

[7] Thompson, Hell’s Angels, p. 1

[8] Playboy interview

[9] Thompson, Songs of the Doomed, P115

[10] Thompson,  ‘Losers and Outsiders’, Nation, May 17 1965

[11] Thompson, Proud Highway, p. 497

[12] Litwak, L., ‘Hell’s Angels’, New York Times, January 29, 1967

[14] Thompson, Generation of Swine, Author’s Note

[15] Thompson, A., The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Hunter S Thompson, p.82-83

[16] From Gonzo Way, originally O’Rourke’s 1987 interview – need proper reference

[17] Thompson, Hell’s Angels postscript

[18] Ibid

[19] O’Rourke, P.J., ‘Hunter S Thompson’, Rolling Stone, November 5, 1987, p.232

[20] Playboy interview

[21] Bulger, A., ‘The Hunter S Thompson Interview’, Culture, March 9, 2003

[22] McKeen, Outlaw Journalist, p. 111

[23] Barger, R, Hell’s Angel, (New York: Harper-Collins, 2001) p. 126

[24] Barger interview on his website

Howls of 9/11 Attacks

Howls of 9/11 attacks
Moloch skyscrapers stood looming monstrously large
Crowning the shining Battery of Manhattan
Two planes crashed south and north towers
500 mph
Screeched morning sirens through city streets
Ignited jet fuel fireball syringe
Apocalyptic overdose
Raging inferno, heat intense heat 2500 degrees Fahrenheit
Four winged horsemen
Terror, waken nightmare, hellish hallucinations
Heavy black mushroom squibs
Giant ash avalanche
Cascaded down Wall Street
Rained near Whitman’s Bridge
Wailed back to Hoboken and Weehawken
Wailed over the Hudson to New Jersey
Wailed in Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island
Jumped off screaming rooftops in bright clear sun
Anguished, hysterical
Cried seraphim and cherubim
Firefighting angels
Twin towers collapsed by suicide river
Broken bodies
Left broken hearts
Shattered dreams
Released broken spirits
Mountains of idiot destruction
Melted steel and rubble
Cemeteries covered in Dostoevsky dust
Burned alive
Crematorium smells
Workers fell, jumped, leaped
We the people wept
Bended knees in cathedrals
Twisted metal beams
Exploded yellow red glare
Planes burst in blue air, over and over and over on television screens throughout the world
And in minds
Sage poet, to whom weeping came easily, you died in time
We felt your salty tears
And lost fragile flower power