Beatnik Duncan, cat burglars and full moons

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First Full Moon of the New Year

If you have a calendar, you have an invitation. Just circle the first Saturday night after the first full moon of every new year. This year the first Saturday was the first full moon so I thought it was a well-fated night to attend my first beatnik cat burglar party.

The beatnik cat burglar party  may be the longest running poetic event in Beaufort County, at least according to David Adams, the underground, unofficial leader of this throwback group of hippies and appreciators of Beatnik poetry. The only rules are there has to be a bonfire, words must be spoken and black must be worn. At times during the history of the beatnik cat burglar party there have been rumors of all-nighters, scantily-clad women and full-throated R-rated poetry.  I can’t attest to that, but I can tell you that nobody blinked an eyelash when I threw out the first P-bomb of the evening. (That’s the word “penis” used in the service of poetry) Actually, I should give Duncan Miller the credit. I was reading some passages from his unpublished novel, “The Air-Drawn Dagger.”

Duncan’s work was rejected by the New York publishing world, and I’m not sure he ever submitted to the good people at City Lights because he might not have considered his work counter-cultural or beatnik at all. But when a group of my sisters-by-Byrne gathered to read some of his books, we all got that impression. Duncan wrote six novels from 1933 to his death in 1992 and if he was as well-read as he was prolific he surely was influenced by the likes of Anaïs Nin, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg.

So at the beatnik cat burglar party twenty years after Duncan Miller’s death, I took the liberty of excerpting four separate passages from the book he began writing when he lived in Santa Fe (yes, Byrne and Duncan were that cool, contemporaries of Georgia O’Keefe) Judging from the sounds of fingers snapping around a bonfire, Duncan might have had more success as a beat poet.

From Air-Drawn Dagger

Am I mad?

or are my nerve endings stretched wire thin

acting as antennae picking up the sounds stored in my cortical library

always ready to respond to the push button pressure

of my penis?


I am no longer an air-borne spore but

a parasitic growth that must suck on the vitals of others

to survive


I have only been half alive til now –

that I feel the winds blowing against parts of me never exposed or even suspected before.

with buffetings of fear that shake articulated bones against areas of heart

I never knew I had,

hurricanes of love roaring in caverns, the depths of which

I have never plumbed before.

I am at last

Naked to the world!


Perhaps it is strange that I do not remember her name

or see her face yet see the opal in her hands clearly.

But that may be the way of memory which, like a river rolling on to its mouth

picks up debris along the way.


Word. Duncan.


Noun 1. beatnik - a member of the beat generationbeatnik – a member of the beat generation; a nonconformist in dress and behavior

beat generationbeatniksbeats – a United States youth subculture of the 1950s; rejected possessions or regular work or traditional dress; for communal living and psychedelic drugs and anarchism; favored modern forms of jazz (e.g., bebop)
recusantnonconformist – someone who refuses to conform to established standards of conduct