Girls in the street. Click for attribution and to zoom in

Quando si è giovanissimi [see translation following] e ci si imbatte per strada in una ragazza che è il nostro tipo se ne rimane come folgorati, e il dolore è tanto più acuto quanto più difficile (o impossibile) è la soddisfazione di tale desiderio, improvviso e assoluto.

[When we are extremely young and we stumble upon a girl in the street who is our type we are like struck dumb and our pain is all the more acute the more difficult (or impossible) is the satisfaction of our desire, sudden and absolute.]

Un brano di Jack Kerouac rende bene questa vitalità disperata tipica della primissima gioventù (da “On the road” che sfogliavo giorni fa; mi sembra di ricordare che anche J. D. Salinger abbia scritto qualcosa di simile):

[A passage by Jack Kerouac renders well this desperate vitality typical of early youth (from “On the Road” I was leafing through days ago; I think I remember J.D. Salinger wrote something similar too)]:

“I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big sigh of airbreaks; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world”.


In realtà al personaggio di “On the road” le cose poi vanno bene perché i due si ritroveranno casualmente nello stesso autobus e ne nascerà una storia, ma la descrizione della pugnalata è intensa e comunque credo sia esattamente ciò che ciascuno di noi, uomo o donna, ha provato più volte dai 10-12 anni in poi.

[Actually things ended up well for Kerouac’s character since the two will accidentally meet in the same bus and a love affair will ensue, although the description of the ‘stab’ is intense and in any case I believe it is exactly what each of us, man or woman, has experienced several times from 10-12 years of age onwards.]

119 thoughts on “A Pain Stabbed Jack Kerouac’s Heart. Un’improvvisa pugnalata al cuore

  1. Roma! I think I’m feeling a little faint.

    That is to say, I have no idea what this post is about.

    Are you always so irresponsible with words on a Sunday afternoon? 😉


  2. @Paul

    Ah ah ah Paul, you are unique.
    Jenny, I’ll soon explain, or translate. I am now watching a TV program on how Italy is falling to pieces 🙂

    Update: tomorrow folks. Too late now.

    And I am not a Roman Casanova, Paul, quite au contraire.

    And you people from the New World would be perfect hadn’t you this problem with sex and with conversation about it 😉


    1. Inimitable Man of Roma: No explanation or translation necessary. I get it.

      I was teasing, which I am very, very fond of doing.
      I can’t resist playing the role that is expected of me.

      It’s charming, what you’ve written. Charming and true. True. Cheers!


  3. Kerouac and Burroughs and Ginsberg put into language (among other creatives) what all of us–especially those of us past our prime–feel at the sight of someone in his prime.

    The image recalls a free time when anything was possible.

    I have a good friend who seems to be completely comfortable with aging and with the fact that the younger men don’t look at her anymore.

    She has always said, ” We’ve had our time.”


    1. Cheri, you got it wrong because of my Italian (see the translation now). It’s about what all of us in our prime have felt at the sight of someone else in his / her prime. It’s all about the intensity of love rapture from 10-12 years of age onwards.

      And I’m glad I am not ‘stabbed’ any more in the street. It was an extremely painful (though delightful) feeling.


      1. Who is not tingled, Paulus. And I don’t think the ladies here are not tingled as well by young males in their full glory.

        But stabs …

        And I’m also tingled by any of my female readers and get flirtatious at times – inexcusably bad.

        And Casanova was Venetian, not Roman.


  4. I find this discussion hilarious. It makes me think of all the stabs and arrows I get from Mozart. It’s just not fair.

    To help you men in your plight, please turn your ears to
    La Boheme “Quando m’en vo’ soletta” Act II. Female revenge. Yes!


      1. Ne le dites pas trop fort Geraldine.
        Paul et moi, nous sommes des véritables boucaniers en vêtements de brebis. Et les faiblesses des femmes, nous les idolâtrons. Même si ‘la donna è danno’, even if woman is damage, on est prêts à tout pardonner.


  5. I’m still laughing. I have to write the words:

    When I saunter alone
    Down the street,
    People turn and gaze;
    Any my beauty they survey
    From head to feet.
    Then I savour the hidden longing
    That gleams in their eyes
    And from visible attractions
    Can deduce my concealed charms
    Sourrounded by this cloud of desire,
    How happy I am!
    Any you who know this, who remember and yearn,
    Why do you shun me so?
    I know full well
    That you would rather die
    Than speak
    Of your torment!



    1. Oui, tourment, et joie. Woman can revenge herself quite a lot.

      È sempre misero
      Chi a lei s’affida,
      Chi le confida – mal cauto il core!


      [Il est toujours malheureux
      Celui qui se fie à elle,
      Celui qui lui confie – imprudemment son cœur !]

      Always miserable the man who trusts her, who confides in her – and so forth.

      Mais – Paulus l’a dit – nous vous aimons, peu importe.


  6. Ah yes! To be wounded by the beauty of another. At any age, I’ll run the risk of a grazing from a stray arrow.


  7. WINE comes in at the mouth
    And love comes in at the eye;
    That’s all we shall know for truth
    Before we grow old and die.
    I lift the glass to my mouth,
    I look at you, and sigh.

    William Butler Yeats

    (Not that I was the least bit distracted at work today…)


  8. I don’t think I ever went spoony over anybody I saw passing in the street. And I’ve always had grave doubts about how much men really have invested in women. My life experience convinces me that most are more interested in playing with trains, or the moral equivalent.

    But I suppose poets have sort of a professional obligation to have these experiences. I’m just reminded of what Robert Bly (a really crappy poet) said about these archetypal moments: “If a man should actually tell you ‘you are my anima,’ run like hell.”


    1. Ah ah ah, Sled, Sled, you are the cherry on the pie in the end of this conversation!

      Well, I don’t know, I went ‘spoony’ (‘was stabbed’ is more appropriate) many times between 12-17 (and later) while seeing a girl passing in the street. I came home and felt very unhappy – thence the ‘personal’ category of this post – since being shy I didn’t dare try pick her up like that, in the street, whatever Paul thinks of my womanising habits.

      And I assure you, men are not only interested in trains.

      And Kerouac felt no moral obligation.


      1. “My womanising habits”, I think nothing of them, I just read what you write here and there and nothing more, I assure you.
        But then we all have the right to remain silent and what we say may be held against us.


      2. You are probably right about Kerouac and morals. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say *professional* obligation (as with Yeats, whom jenny quoted above; I read him over and over).

        I certainly had some stupid crushes when I was younger, it was just never that “augenblick” kind of experience, nor a stab either. I always started out having excited conversations about a score of fascinating things with some man and ended up hunting around on the floor for my BVD’s at two in the morning (perhaps cherry was not the right fruit to mention). Maybe if men walked around with the contents of their brains projected on a screen overhead. But I’m still afraid that if it were a pie (not cherry) chart most of it would say “trains…” (video games, chess, football, cars, etc.).


  9. I get a big kick coming here and listening to/reading the conversations. Yes, growing old does take us back to the days when we drooled and desired and the object of our desires would drool back and get the message. Giovanni, you shy? I wouldn’t have known! Paul, you still? I wouldn’t have guessed.

    Cheri, and the rest of the women here, we have felt a deep pain in our middle ages, when men no longer looked our way-not that we wanted them to, after all we had better things to do then-but it gave us confidence and a hidden joy that lasted us for days.

    Good conversation.


    1. Tomorrow, Rosaria. It’s late now here.

      Rosaria, I have been shy at least until 17-18, then I learned.

      And we all – men and women – feel pain when we age and realise that certain things – that differ according to gender, since we are different – belong to the past.


      1. Good point. I was thinking that, since I am really distinctly ugly from the collar bones up, middle age has been kind to me. In high school boys amused themselves by scorning me; now guys twenty years my junior ask me if I will show their wives how to work out like I do.

        My high-school English teacher, who was fifty-five when I was in her class, had remarkable legs. (I don’t know why, because she lived on bourbon and tobacco.) Young men from her classes returned from college and came to sit at her feet and imbibe the classics. And look at her legs, as one of them anonymous liked to tell her in 2 a.m. phone calls.

        Lightning strikes in all kinds of places, it seems.


  10. @Sledpress

    I certainly had some stupid crushes … it was just never that “augenblick” kind of experience, nor a stab either … maybe if men walked around with the contents of their brains projected on a screen overhead

    You nailed something here, ie the Cardinal bird case, only reversed. Probably men are more ‘visually’ drawn at first (the teacher’s legs), which – in the case of a sudden crush in the street – generally includes both the physical and the moral.

    Which is attested also by Kerouac’s depiction. Of the Mexican girl we imagine something not only of her hips, breasts etc. but also of her inner personality (“her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside”).

    And legs, arms, hands can express something way beyond the physical (not to mention eyes).


    1. PS

      Perhaps I was not exact when I wrote:

      I believe it is exactly what each of us, man or woman, has experienced several times from 10-12 years of age onwards.

      But who the hell knows. All this is so darn mysterious for both sides of the aisle.


  11. How easily, I notice, women abandon the question of desiring and refocus on the question of being desired.

    God dammit!


    1. It’s not that we don’t have the experience (though as I said, I never had any intense feeling about a glimpsed stranger; I don’t begin to understand that.) We have all learned that if we let it slip that we feel desire we’ll be taunted, jeered at and kicked to the curb. Tender memories of high school.


      1. You know, Sled, that’s what I feared was behind this. That’s lousy.

        And I agree with you that a glimpse of a stranger (with the possible exception of a Johnny Depp look-alike) isn’t enough. Write me poems!


        1. Ouch. I wrote poems for a guy once and the next time I called him on the transatlantic cable he asked “Have you written me any more poems?”

          Actually, I’ve written all kinds of poems for guys. The guys (none of whom gave the poems more than a lick of attention) are gone, the poems are still there, some on my blog even; maybe that’s adequate payment for letting our hair down.

          Enough of that kind of thing and you do your best to stop having intense feelings of any kind, though. There is neither praise nor reward to be found in it.


          1. Sledpress! You’re breaking my heart.

            Isn’t that just the way it goes. Where is it written that the muse should also be a fan of poetry?

            Of course the poems are payment enough!

            I’m stopping by your place this weekend to hunt them down.

            By the way, in your gravatar, I notice, your hair is up. Mine’s down. 🙂 🙂 😉


          2. Yup! I stuck it up and left it that way.

            I’m afraid I’m sounding a bit gloomy. It’s been a gray, cold, depressing week around here and Christmas always irritates me, alas.


          3. You can say what you like here dear Sledpress. You’ll get over the whole thing after the Christmas period.

            There are many things I found obscure in your exchange. Hair up and hair down for example. And I don’t know what’s the effect of a poem on a man, I never received one.

            I’d like to read yours.


  12. Man of Roma: To modify your own words slightly: You people from the Old World would be perfect hadn’t you this problem with sex and with conversation about it.

    I notice you have a new post…begins with something about the Pope, I think. What’s this? All croce, and no delizia?

    OK, I’m done being snarky now.


      1. Hm. That may be a good idea!

        I don’t know which poetry magazine one of them was published (I remember her showing it to me but the name escapes me) but I kept the poem she gave me somewhere. I just have to find it – and avoid my wife in the process.


  13. @Commentator kept the poems. That’s all that matters to the poet.

    @Man of Roma
    It’s hard to believe you’ve never received a poem, in Roma of all places. Some could have been written and not presented. Ah, we had not thought of that.

    Those guys you wrote poems for may have realized how precious they were later on in life. You’re far too harsh with yourself. Writing a poem shows a lovely, sensitive heart. I’d like to read them too.


    1. They’re all over at my blog under the tab “Roaring In The Pines” and its sub page.

      I would have been better off without the sensitive heart and a sense of self preservation instead. Men are expensive.


      1. Hi Sledpress,
        I read your poems. Sigh! They’re real ones.

        The All Saints poem hurts and Harbour Lights…well, I can see why you come with armour. Lovely. I hope you’re in a safer slipstream now.


        1. Thank you for reading.

          I don’t think life is ever safe. Maybe I ought to write poems again, though, as these are pretty old. I don’t know whether I should be glad or regretful that I got out of the habit.


          1. Write them down, Sledpress. They’re already half-written in your mind anyway.


    2. I’ve been away today on a short trip. Tomorrow I’ll reply to you readers and carefully read Sledpress’ poems, whose heart, certainly sensitive, was not deserved by those guys.

      But lemme wait till I read them, Sledpress being unpredictable 😉

      I am joking, Sled. You are a wonderful person.


    3. Yes, Geraldine I kept many of them. What can I say? Women love a man who can squat, belch and lift a 25lb sack of potatoes in one sitting while reciting Byron.


  14. @Geraldine

    No, I haven’t received poems from any woman, although I’ve written some.

    Italian women usually expect men to write poems for them. American women being more modern, it seems, you ALL have permission to write poems for ALL of us male bloggers: Paul, Richard, Philippe, me, Andreas and so forth, how’s that … 🙂


      1. For fear of rolling down for laughter? This word has always been mysterious to me. Although after a while I realised why also old people in Moscow could walk on sidewalks in winter.


    1. Mor, I’m not an American woman but I think they are direct, intelligent, strong and inspiring. If you ever receive a poem from one of them, save it. 🙂


      1. Who said there’s some kind of objection, of non consideration, vs non American women? Whoever said that? They are ALL welcome, oh they surely are.
        Of course, it is only good manners, we are now expecting heaps of words and inspiration pouring down upon us in waves 😉

        I will certainly save them all.


  15. @Sledpress

    I’ve read your poems. They do express passion, pain and disillusion in a sincere way.

    Love wounds are awful, but what I can say – maybe superficially (I also need to reread your poems) – is:

    don’t let such wounds destroy you dear Sledpress – destroy your humanity I mean. When we age what progressively counts are good feelings. While intellect may fade away, emotions don’t. Getting further into “the ungracious Bitch” of the poem “Invocation” – for example – can only augment sorrow in my opinion.

    Although, who on earth am I to give such advices lol … my life is far from perfect. I kind of know what the medicine is in many cases (or I think I know), but I often hesitate to take it 🙂


    1. Well, the Bitch is the Muse, or the tyrant Aphrodite. Every promise which you make Goes unfulfilled until it break. It would all be easier if we could be happy without what is going to make us unhappy in the end. Is the metaphor for that the Worm Ouroboros or the famous Ko-Ko bird? (Scratches head)


  16. I have to admit, I’m not very intellectually agile when it comes to poetry.

    And MOR, for the record, I found that poem – and a couple of others to boot.


      1. @Commentator

        I cannot but understand love and the rest. But, you (I mean you two) have spiced up the thread a bit too much maybe. At any rate, nothing being too spicy for Roma – eternal loose woman and she-wolf – I’m only afraid of the Swiss guards running like hell after us with their sharp spears 🙂


  17. @Mor

    Here is a little list of American poets: Ezra Pound, T. S. Elliot, Hilda Doolittle and E. E. Cummings. They represent a wonderful example of poems and will serve as great fodder for your keen intellect and/or when you are simply bored stiff.

    Celtic poetry is possibly too imaginative, unanxious and spacious for you.

    Bear in mind the ancient Romans could only manage a few skirmishes with the Celts on the margins. They returned home affrighted. It would grieve me to do that to you, my friend.


    1. Forever indebted to you for your graciousness, my sweet Celtic Geraldine.

      If you’d only bestow a return match upon me, I’d be even more indebted. And ready for any Roma-Gallia skirmish – provided it implies some fun, the real meaning of which is of course mysterious to a non English mother tongue 🙂


    1. Hi Ana!

      I am very well, thank you, passing through these holidays kind of unscathed (so far).

      Yes, some fun. Talking history one gets 20 comments, talking love one gets 110 (to this moment).

      Tell me about you. Mexico is a dream.


  18. @Geraldine

    There’s something I don’t get here: I was asking for love poems written by female bloggers /readers in favour of male bloggers (which incidentally may include MoR), and not for poems mostly written by men and simply indicated to us by female bloggers /readers.

    There’s a difference – that even a mind like mine can fathom 🙂

    But thanks. I’ll taste some of them a bit nonetheless.


  19. @ slepress, thanks, I check this out when I return.
    @ Mor: you didn’t understand my humour at all. I won. 🙂

    I’m off for a while to the Franks where I will sharpen my sword. This has been fun. In the words of Jack Kerouac, just to stay on topic:
    “Peace Out, Man” to all here.



    1. I’m pretty dumb sometimes. I really am.

      It has been fun for me too.

      Happy holiday in the land of the Franks or wherever you’re going. No need to sharpen your sword. I surrender.


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