The Rogue Voice


December 01, 2006

Cap'n be rappin'


Kap’n Ken Riffs
I first met the Intrepid Traveler, Merry Prankster, Skypilot Captain Ken Babbs back in the early ‘70s when we ran out of gas somewhere outside Eugene, Oregon. I was standing by the road with the gas can trying to hitchhike while Doris and baby Gabe waited in the truck (almost no traffic) when two guys in work-worn bib overalls came riding up in an old pickup. It was Ken Babbs and his buddy Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The two writers apologized for not having a full can with them, but they had a siphon hose and offered to let me siphon some fuel out of their truck. One of them asked if I knew how, and I said something lame like: “Oh sure, I’m from California, we all know how–then, on the first try, I inhaled a whole mouth full of gas (may cause brain damage) and choked on it. Neither one of them laughed at me.
The ideas, writing and lives of the friends, Kesey and Babbs, provided fuel for a cultural revolution the likes of which America had never seen, and still continues.
Sadly, Ken Kesey passed on in November of 2001.
Ken Babbs, fortunately, still carries plenty of spare gas; still stokes our creative engine with his excellent prose: dirt-honest with clear insight and humanity, a wry poetry, fine, and crazy fun. Visit Ken’s web page for the latest: We asked him for an interview; and he treated us better by offering some of his work to share with Rogue Voice readers. The poems say it all. Youngsters who have never experienced Beat Poetry–check out the real thing.

—Steve Hawthorne

capn be rappin

capn be rappin
fans be clappin
can’t declare a loss
for words elude me
while profits soar
a tough one to crack
harder one to lick
peril of death
worms before slime
I talk all over the place
sometimes only to myself
but as cassady once said
that way you can have
an intelligent conversation

The pope don’t mope
He’s no dope
He’s got hope
a skypilot for sure
he loves the
merry monarch flavor
like days of yore
with no gore
for we don’t eat
the outlanders no more
war is for the weary
now don’t be gettin teary
boys in the bar are bleary
shades of timothy leary
she asked me if I knew the
pranksters and I tole her
know them I named them
loaded and looney
I came charging down the hill
into Kesey’s yard
and Mike Hagen cried out
who goes there
Tis I the Intrepid Traveler
come to lead my
Merry Band of Pranksters
across the land and back again
a trip divinely ordained
the obliteration of the entire nation
meant figuratively of course
blow their minds not their futures

Some guys have all the luck
the rest of us have to
get by on mere talent
done been turned over
burned over
looked over
passed by
but didn’t lose
didn’t get the blues
still soarin’ high
high as
a skypilot
can fly

first we buy sock puppets
then we sock the puppets
the ones we thought untouchables
with them we’ll cast our lot
not looking over our shoulders
with fears of pillars of salt
you try to leave yer illusions
behind they keep bringin you
surprises you didn’t see coming
putting off the inevitable
works for a while
and then there the inevitable is
winking and grinning
looking over your shoulder
for to see sideways
is to know
more about time
than you care to remember

when Montiac
was at the wheel
of the Star Chief Pontiac
Detroit was grooving
the people were moving
the sirens were blowing
and the capn rushed in
with skillet in hand
to put out the fire
I coulda been a contendah
I woulda been a pretendah
but I couldn’t master the keys
mother of iron maidens
magellan of doplers
dead reckoning
and calipers
some day
gonna be different
when I paint
my master keys
black and white
and cried all over
a Johnny Ray tune
a loss of mind
a find of lost time
a time of found mind

the president
is amply rewarded for
being a valuable and
powerful tool of the
unsung holders of
the secret key
how is that for a sucker deal
the best and we won’t settle
for anything less
dressed in his topper
he did the be bopper
and it wasn’t a radish
it was a fetish

Capn be rappin
Capn be clappin
He dint lose
He dint get the blues
He still soaring high
High as a skypilot can fly

—Ken Babbs

Visit Ken Babbs’ website with stories and more at:


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