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At a California Camp

Dreamed Spring 1955 by Jack Kerouac

photo of writer Jack Kerouac

AT A CALIFORNIA CAMP the Americans, on orders from the Russians who keep flying overhead in big planes threatening to drop the H-Bomb, have imprisoned a large group of people in a wire-enclosed trap and are preparing them to be the first victims of the H-Bomb Detonation right on the button. Meanwhile the doomed boys play basketball and even have gang fights. At H-Hour the people will be made to lie down in bomb shelters right under the bomb; some will be given certain shots, some not; offensive liquid mixtures to drink so the cause of your death can be traced like chalk through your guts---Everybody's saying "We'll all die of Mastoids anyway"----"from the concussion on the ears of the upper explosion"---

My mother and I are there, trapped, so is Julien,Joe, many others---Ma and I foolishly came to California just in time to be trapped---At H-Hour fools with earphones will hysterically count off the seconds while people wait for death---it is sad---At the end, near the end, Julien and I are sitting together on a step--We have received no shots, we are among the lot who are going to be allowed to die straight without shots and for straight research of our blue remains-- It seems to me now that I have been taking care of Julien, who is like a helpless little brother, in many a life, many a rebirth---I am the Bodhisattva entrusted with his care---He barely begins to realize this, I can see, by his new silence and introspective respect---

I am writing a poem to commemorate the Scene---it ends with these lines:--

The Silent Hush
Of the Pure Land Thrush.

-------meaning Avalokitesvara's Transcendental Sound of Nirvana which is within and beyond the Bomb. It is a great ldealistic Poem and I finish it with a flourish of the pencil, beside the silent non committal Julien whose thoughts are bent on death---It is gray dusk, warm, withered flowers lay around----

The Ground Divine
Of Mortal Mind

I think on waking up---

--Jack Kerouac


This dream is just one of several Kerouac recorded about nuclear destruction. Notice it isn't nuclear war exactly, but nuclear testing; and by his own government (in a similar dream, New York City was scheduled to be demolished, again by American bombs). And note the date; it was decades before it came clear the government had lied about the hazards of fallout from open-air testing, endangering thousands of citizens downwind. Kerouac's dream looks prophetic.

Source: pages 289-90 of Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac, expanded (2001) edition, City Lights Books.
Title: Kerouac always capitalized a dream's first phrase as a working title, even if it didn't fit the dream as a whole.
I added a few paragraph breaks when a text block got hard to read. The web is not the printed page. I apologize to purists.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: labs and experiments - prisoners and freedom - death - nukes - surrender - Buddhism - dream poems - political dreams - truth and lies - more Kerouac - a dream of a second murderous Federal experiment really enacted: Top-Down Freedom

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