Apr 182013

by Carl AuerbachOn the Road book cover in Dutch


Onion soup and coffee and cassava—

breakfast in Butare—as the morning sun

saunters across the complicit sky,


leaving only the amputee beggar woman,

scurrying along the road on knees and elbows

to remind the morning of the night.


Opposite me, a young Dutch couple

wearing matching T-shirts proclaiming peace and love,

and matching healthy glows. They’ve read Kerouac’s


On the Road in Dutch, and are living out

their translation of the text, backpacking

through Africa, sleeping by the road


in parks and forests, one last moment of freedom

before taking on adult responsibilities.

The morning TV news reports last night’s flare-up


of armed conflict at the border

which they treat as an interesting fact

not important information. It was like watching


a small pink rubber ball bouncing

onto a trafficked street followed by

a small boy with a goofy smile and waiting


in frozen fascination, for the inevitable.