For his tour around the USA in 1960
John Steinbeck had a camper van built
to his specifications, one of which was his mutt
Charley. The result was Travels With Charley
in which Steinbeck tells of a plastic bucket
with snug-fitting lid. Every night he adds water,
detergent, and the day’s laundry (including
whatever rag Charley has going). Tomorrow’s leg
will supply agitation. Where he stops
at night he can rinse and hang the laundry
and prime the bucket for the next cycle.
Charley understands this, an act he delivers
as casual worship at his master’s feet.
Charley is said (here) to have written
half the book, at least half, while Mr. Steinbeck
drove and made coffee (the part that earned awards--
all Charley) and filled his day as writers do
with tea, sleep and daydream. Counter-clockwise
from New York was Charley’s idea
as was the deep south to end
now let’s get home. Every time
Charley sees a camper van he gulpsand climbs in, all a dog can do.