some angels come in dirty jeans

hands that flutter mad at the hips

an’ the tongue talk talk of just a lil sumpin’

runnin’ East to West transcendin’ time

diggin’ the eyes of Mexican old men

an’ the blow blow blow of San Francisco jazz

loose denim falls to a dusty wood floor

it’s Dean Moriarty

some good ol’ gal havin’ fed him

sexed him, and washed his clothes

sets pie on the window sill

and with a kiss kiss kiss

come back later for kicks, angel, for kicks

sends him on his way

my hands flutter with nothin’ to do

the curve around the high ball, bottle, shot glass

not enough any more

I watch the sky change color

sunset, thunder clouds slowly comin’

the ibis flyin’ North

the highway peel of cars

I think of Dean Moriarty

Dean Moriarty

how he must have looked

in a bar room, crazy from a life of go

ol’ Dean, the raptor

hungry-eyed for some gone gal

anyone, anywhere

a night, a nest

some warm woman

to calm the flutter for awhile

I have known flight since I was five

my Dad had a pick up he called Jezebel

a ’67 Chevy with a Bible queen for a name

he took my brothers and me to migrant camps

in the summer we picked los pepinos

spoke only Spanish for weeks

I learned the smell of tortillas

bite of chilies on my tongue

the run in from the fields

una cama llena de migrantes

con una gringa pequena

the prick of the cucumber

sweat, sunburn, and dirt

I learned summer was time to go

when something stops its growing

you leave that season and drive

if I could see ol’ Dean

I’d buy him a beer

hear his songs until stories wore down

and if he wanted a rest stop

offer up sumpin’ sweet

his kisses skip over my body

like stones, for the bruise of it

get-used-to-it feeling

of a lover barely there

a light slap on the ass

make me laugh

dust off the sad and lonely

and just stay a little while

until a different season

takes hold of him again

and he flies on holy wings

Dean Moriarty

I think of wild Dean

Judge’s Comments

“Jezebel, Dean Moriarty, and me” is much less formal than the first-place winner, but still very interesting technically. The poem starts with what seems like an oxymoron–an angel in dirty jeans–then undresses that angel in the second stanza. The syntax starts out loose–a long sentence with its parts connected by “and”–which gives the first stanza a sort of breathlessness that is intensified by the tripling of “blow” in the last line. In the following stanzas, the sentence structure continues to be loose, which fits well with the barroom scene that is imagined, and the storytelling mode. Images flit in and out, much like stream of consciousness, which echoes the style of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, where the character Dean Moriarty hails from.

I like the irony in this poem. The “real story”–that is, the speaker’s personal investment in the character of Dean Moriarty–doesn’t really come up until the fifth stanza, when s/he says “I’ve known flight since I was five” and goes on to tell about her childhood summers spent as a migrant worker. While Dean’s was a flight toward personal freedom, the speaker’s flight was determined by picking seasons, by the need for employment. The (imagined) affair of these two characters–the young female migrant worker and the fast-talking womanizer, Dean Moriarty–is told from her point of view. For her, it’s a break, a brief breather from her forced labors. It’s not all good–his kisses bruise her–but, in imagining his flight, she eeks out a sort of grace from this angel in jeans. –Andrea Selch