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Too Young For the Beats

Powell River writer and singer-songwriter Pat Buckna began his music career in Calgary in the 1970's, spent a number of years in the Arctic including a stint as a photographer-reporter for a community newspaper, and was responsible for bringing over 750 performers to the NWT pavilion at Expo '86. In 2019, he wrote and published Only Children - A Family Memoir - and runs a small recording studio on Texada Island. He lives in a small Canadian coastal community two ferries north of Vancouver, BC. 

I was too young for the beats
On the Road published when I was six
and probably still riding around On the Lawn

I bought Ferlinghetti's Coney Island of the Mind
when I was a teen
The ferris wheel on the cover much larger
than the double-wheeled wonder
I got stuck on at the Calgary Stampede

But what hold did his beat words have for me?
(none that I remember but I did like the cover)

The closest I came to Ginsberg
was a POT IS FUN poster
on my bedroom wall

But in my basement room
     Dylan was my angel saint while
        subterranean homesick Allan
        hung on a poster as Dylan was
                thinkin 'bout the government
                and the man in the coonskin cap...

The only beats I heard back then
came thumping across the Mersey and
bursting out of caves in Liverpool



But much later (when I was older than Jack was when he died)
Kerouac seduced me
beat language and beat longing
burning words and

       I listened and read and read,
                and re-read and POW!
I knew what I was missing
thirty years too late, still
I had to see for myself

North Beach, San Francisco 1999

today I am a pilgrim
      on the road to beat mecca
the source, the godhead

young Gen Xer at a traffic light
      with goatee and horn on his back
            taps my shoulder and says
      Hey man, City Lights?
          Do you know where it's at?

Straight ahead, I tell him
(I can feel it's pull now)
Follow me (but don't follow leaders)
I too, seeker on a quest
slouching along Broadway
toward Columbus

the epicentre,
     Ferlinghetti's bookshop,
          the heart of all beats

Downstairs it's crowded
   but upstairs – where Jack sat
       beat sanctum, beat alter
           beat table, beat chair

shrine to gone poets
    home to beat ways
        full of beat promise,

hip days
    beat verse
        and gone ways

Listen: through the open window
    out back in the alley
        laundry flaps on lines
            a saxophone riffs in beat time,

obvious proof of the obvious truth
     Jack was right, man
         the only truth is music.

I leave my offering at the register
    like so many before me
       walk out with two slim volumes
           in a City Lights bag

outside, the same GenXer,
   lost in his bliss, blowing tribute,
      eyes closed,
         finding his own truth

the kid ain't no Charlie Parker, but
   Maybe I'll duck down the alleyway, anyway
      flip him a quarter just so he don't play
          all night for free


~ Pat Buckna, author of: Only Children: A Family Memoir — available as a Kindle e-book and in paperback.





Tapwe wasn't the best fiddler around, but everyone agrees he's one of the best entertainers in the North


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