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Lay for the Day
27th February

1902, Salinas, California: the birth of John Steinbeck.
As a teenager, my idea of The Road and of the dropout life was fed by Steinbeck’s books. His account of driving around America, Travels with Charley; his epic of the Dust Bowl migrants, The Grapes of Wrath; Cannery Row and its band of outcast heroes, all went into the gumbo, along with On the Road, of course, and The Dharma Bums, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, A Confederate General from Big Sur, and so on and so forth…

Three Kings

Rimbaud and Robert Johnson
And that good ole Rubber Duck
Were standing at the crossroads
Running out of luck,
Casting lots to see which one should die.

“I have been a rover,”
Said Rimbaud, “since seventeen,
One night spent beneath a truck
And one beneath a queen,
So it don’t mean a thing to me where I lie.”

“I’s born to walk creation,”
Said that Robert Johnson child,
“And I believe IÕll lay my head down
On this big steel track a while
And wait for the train my baby’s on.”

(Rubber Duck:)
“I bin burnin’ up the highway
Till I feel I’m made of smoke
But gimme one more toke
An’ tell me one more joke
An’ I’ll be to reach the hori-zon.”

The red queen’s cap in hand
On the corner of the street,
Black queen sticks her thumb out
And knocks the dust off her feet,
But the ace of diamonds never showed.

One joker’s walkin’
Down a disused railway line,
Two jacks are talkin’
In a shack up in the pines,
Three kings are blowin’ down the road.

King Arthur and King Johnson,
King of the Road that Rubber Duck,
Standing at the crossroads
Running out of luck,
Casting lots to see which one should die.

The morning sun come risin’
Like a great big bloody ship.
King Arthur bought the tickets,
King Johnson packed their grip,
And the Rubber Duck, he steered them through the sky.


Words and music by The Children,
from Songs from the Red Notebook

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar