Brian Laidlaw

Poet | Songwriter | Educator

The Great James Dean


Sixty-one doesn’t run west or the east

It makes a half of a cross like a halfhearted priest

But plenty of protagonists have gotten obsessed

Looking for the easiest passage west


I catch you dreaming when you’re wide awake

Thought you were in heaven but you made a mistake.

You’re the great grandchild of Francis drake




But everyone’s entitled to a hopeful theory

Like a river to the west flowing out of Lake Erie


So you want to be the one to proclaim the adage:

Every man’s heart is a northwest passage


So you bet the farm on a glib remark

Scrap the barn to build an arc

You’re the young lovechild of Lewis and Clark


Stick him in the hold with a pocket of gold and a compass rose

Gonna see if he can float with a chain around his throat when the boat overflows




Now I bet you’re wishing you could plead the fifth

But you haven’t got a voice to plead it with


Cause it’s a long long way from the north to south

Like it’s a long long way from the brain to the mouth


Spend a long time there in between

Trying to find the words to make a scene

You’re the great grandchild of the great james dean




When it’s quiet on the set, you hear the din

The echo of every dark place you’ve been


You got a paperwhite bushel of flowers in your fist

& a rolodex of people that you almost kissed


Sorry if you’re waiting for a promising omen

I can be cold as an abominable snowman

I’m a born entertainer, I’m a natural showman


Doesn’t matter who you are, gonna cover you in tar and eiderdown

Chain around your throat, putting on a show in the stocks downtown


Listen to me lord, this is the last time

Don’t turn my livelihood into a pastime




But I could still believe in love if there’s a credible sighting

Like I’d believe in myself if I see it in writing


One little story with my name on the byline

Between the Frisco bay and the Frisco skyline


But for now I’m living on the hook and lure.

I’m not a saint but I’m just as pure:

I’m the great grandchild of the great John Muir





Gonna climb up a redwood sticking through the fog

I’m sly like a fox and I sleep like a log.


I know greatness grows from a tiny kernel,

One good line in a leatherbound journal


& for now I’m living on water and bread

Got granite for a pillow and a glacier for a bed

I feel the most alive when I’m nearly dead


Listen to me, lord, this is the last time

Don’t turn my livelihood into a pastime