new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
P e t e r   O l d s

Thoughts of Jack Kerouac - & Other Things

I work nights at the University Bookshop:
Junior, Intermediate, Headman, Honorary Caretaker,
Master Cleaner. I work in every conceivable position
from toilets, Foreign Language to Herbal Cookery,

sometimes singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Evening’ and
sometimes not. Mostly, I just race around like
Neal Cassady with an overstuffed vacuum
cleaner snarling on my tail, coming fast on one

sneaker past SUPERWOMAN and gassing like a mad-
man up the BIOGRAPHY Oneway Section – chewing-gum,
cigarette-butts, paper-clips and brains dissolving before
my foaming fury…Zap, out the back, empty a tin,

grab a bucket one mop one broom, flash back
past LAW, Modern PSYCHOLOGICAL Medicine, Heavy
Granite Colour-filled Graffito ART, Sex Cornered
PAMPHLETS, miles of wrapping paper and up the stairs

to the staff room for a coffee break at 8. Ten
minutes only. Into the toilets, scrub shine wipe
on hands and knees, sometimes thinking ‘The Closest
I Come to God and Other Things’ and sometimes not.

Mostly, I just thank the Lord for the Detention
Centre Experience many Rocky Youthful Years back
and get the hell out of there down the stairs (4 at
a time), jump over a hot PAN Paperback, switch off

the lights (5 second silence by the NZ POETRY
Section), scratch my backside, straighten the doormat,
lock up, slam the outside door tight, run to the pub
(9 PM) sweat, feel proud, get half drunk,

crawl home, sit down, try to write a love poem
to a girl who works in the Bookshop Office…
Her typewriter and hairpin, her mystery yoghurt con-
tainers, her tiny footscuffed secrets and solitary chair.

[BG, Caveman, 1980]


© Peter Olds 2004


Last updated 11 July, 2004