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Photo by Bob Gentry 2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

April is the only time we need not ask God for miracles or transformation. The come unsolicited from everywhere, sent to us without prayers or lamentations.


THE NEXT CONCERT: 21 July, 2001 Riverton, Wyoming

Later in the week we'll have ticket information for the upcoming Hot Air Balloon Bash, Concert & Fireworks display for my only concert appearance this summer. Meanwhile, if you'd like a preview and for those of you planning a summer vacation in one of the most beautiful places in America, here's a link to a site that just went up courtesy of Linda Becker. A beautiful site of a beautiful sight. 


SOME OF THE BEST: 1 April, 1999

"Rod: Two years ago on April 1st you had a nice surprise for us you printed a third installment of the mostly unpublished lyrics from "Time of Desire." It would be nice to see them again. Thank you, Monique."


All need is but a plain name for desire.

Perhaps it has something to do with the recent successful release of "Beatsville" on CD [P22/Stanyan 006] or the surge of requests Stanyan By Mail has had for "In Search of Eros," "And Autumn Came," and "Time of Desire" but there seems to have been an unusual number of requests lately for my writing of forty years ago. 

Because the first two installments of the words to "Time of Desire," published here last week for the first time anywhere, have drawn quite a heavy mail response, here's another section from the original manuscript.

I was in my twenties when "Time of Desire" was written. I was shy, introverted and self loathing one day and thinking myself pretty hot stuff the next. Those circumstances haven't changed much. My writing has. This sounds like an apology and a brag, it's not. It's just the way it is and was.

As I've noted before some of this work has found its way into prose and poetry I published later, which is why the manuscript has never been published in its original form until now. Quite frankly there was another more important reason for these words not seeing print; they were meant to be read aloud. The distinction between words to be heard and those designed to be read has always caused me some anxiety. Conversation isn't literature and I have always thought of my spoken word albums as conversations between me and the listener. I hope you will continue to think of these musings as oral conversations, nor orations set in type.

Holidays were made for lonely people. I always meet the best of these when holidays are near. Rented rooms become the place to go. Not fireworks, or carnivals or musical parades. Rented rooms with covered skylights and granite basins. And people, who forget you name, before you finish going down the stairs. Celebrations mean the most when you're celebrating what you've found yourself.

It's October again. The rust is all along the river. And above the many colored clouds the sound of summer echoes through the hills. The moon in the wilderness reflects the Autumn Mountains and the seasons come together. This must be the place. Under this roof, behind these walls. Didn't I meet you before? Aren't you the girl in the white dress who cried when the lights went out? 

I spent Christmas with a cinder in my eye. Watching a priest eat a hot dog on Fifth Avenue, between masses. Park Avenue had store windows, with imitation trees, and imitation holly. And imitation women in dripping furs walked on the arms of men, with imitation smiles.

About Me
My letter came back... unopened. I held it a moment thinking you small hands had held it too. Then I sat down quietly and decided to write you again. It's October here and the truckers go past the house with high loads of pinewood. And wood smoke drifts from all the chimneys. Yesterday in town I saw a sunburned girl very much like you, I nearly asked her name. 

It says in the paper that we'll have an early frost and so, I've covered the trees and set the pots to burning. And now, I let the old dog sleep inside. Otherwise, the weather is the same. There is an orange moon over the hazel hills; there will be green apples in the spring, and red ones in the fall. You must come home.

You asked about me... who I am... what I am? I knew lilacs when I was young, and long rough hollyhocks and green melons and kites above green trees. And once, along some forgotten river, I coached a crippled heron back to health. How content I was to walk naked footed by myself, along some irrigation ditch, marveling at motored hummingbirds, and trapping slow-witted bees in tall flowers. And oh, the secret places in the hills I knew where I'd tend the cattle, and scurry down the rocks to pick wild berries. And in the evening when the sun was gone, I'd fall asleep listening to the crickets and the frogs, telling their nightly bedtime stories. 

One day the games were all played out. There came a rising inside and I began to search. I found that there were other people looking too. Like that year in Los Angeles when the kids were trying to find themselves, trying to hold on to something, anything I guess, if only for a time. It was the year that coffeehouse sprang up everywhere. Pandoras, cappuccino. For four bits you could get thick Irish coffee, and sometimes, the Blues, by a folk singer. Or a dark haired girl to tell your troubles to over warm cider. 

I guess there were a lot of dark haired girls that year. There was one who use to go with me everywhere, shopping in the city, or to a movie, or in a little car to the beach at Santa Monica. And sometimes, when the darkness came, and we had no money for a movie, we'd sit together saying nothing, and understanding the silence. She liked me I think. She liked a lot of people. And when we did forbidden things together, she'd laugh afterwards and say I hadn't been tender enough or maybe... too tender. And once... when I caught her with someone else, she laughed again, and said I'd come home too early... or was it ... too late?

In the Army overseas, there are always the girls and the people who wanted to be paid and gave little in return. Weekends were the best then. When I could go be by myself. And promise myself, that if I ever came home, I'd only look at girls with pink faces and colored ribbons in their hair. You asked about me. Last night, out along the lake, past the willows and the rushes, past the boathouse, past the colony of swans, I walked again, and before the autumn wind had died you were there. 

You asked about me. At long last, after a lifetime of being nothing, I am loved!

The strange towns get you. Knowing no one. The endless search on weekend pass. The beer bought for the strange girl who gave you the come-on in a Second Avenue bar. It's being away from home, seeing snow for the first time. I'm glad winter's over. This summer belongs to the people of the world who want each other. I know it. Even the lover's on the library lawn are too busy to be self-conscious as I pass by.

We did have fun... didn't we? Going everywhere together, to the theater, to the beach, to Bill's party, staying out late at night and being drowsy in each other's arms. And all the while, wearing love masks, for all to see. I think we convinced everyone of our love... everyone but each other. That's all right... I never really loved you. Except... maybe now... that you're not here anymore. But I can remember things. And we did have fun. Playing games, and riding in an airplane, and making other people laugh, and exchanging silver rings, and planning living together, and trips around the world.

Tonight it was different. No fog wandered in and out of alleyways, no cable car came rattling, sounding its bell, as down the hill it plunged. No tanned face to cup my hands about to lead down a darkened hall and through an open door into a darkened room. No, it was different tonight. I held your hands mentally. Touched your face with wishes. We stood at opposite ends of a five thousand-mile street.

The bride and her intended trembled down the aisle. Smiling as they go. Shy smiles of pleasure and sadness. The old women weep into lace handkerchiefs. And the young boys chalk soap messages on the couple's auto. While in the belfry the bells peal and the Anthem starts to play. Down the street I walk, away from it all. Trying not to hear the bells and the excited crowd. Caring not to see the happy smiles. Thinking as I walk along the sidewalk, that summer will not last. Yet, everywhere, the sky is cloudless and there is no relief from the sun.

The moon rose over the town tonight like the warm round belly of a young girl, exposed, so all might see and compliment it. Alone in a public park I watched it edge above tall buildings and climb through bleak clouds till it was time to journey down again. Finally it moved behind a cloud and the show was over. On the way home, a girl stopped and asked my name. I didn't return her smile. My time for smoky garrotes and sagging beds and dirty dresser tops is through.

For a long time after you closed the door behind you and your footsteps ceased echoing down the hall, I lay on the bed watching the shadows on the ceiling and listening to the Soba Man playing his sad horn outside the window. It's the same Tokyo spring I knew a year ago. Fewer strangers walk the dark streets now. And those that do have solitary ways. They go along their private rivers to their private beds and I to mine... alone. Never needing the comradeship of strangers more. Spring... the moon above the water is white. I to my bed, you to yours, while the Soba Man plays his sad horn. Wandering into night.

He leans against the bar and sings fantastic songs. The Marine named Carl, a long way from home and lonely like the rest of us. His brown eyes seek out the friendly ones and he sings to them. While the big hipped girl in the corner cries because she can't understand the language. All this for a glass of beer and anyone will tell you it's worth it.

Private Spencer has a problem. His eyes are lonelier than most. And people misinterpret his looks. I saw a big woman follow him home once when that wasn't what he wanted at all.

She struggled over chocolate cake, toying with an unfamiliar fork. Looking into the lieutenant's eyes, who but an hour ago, was only another stranger. Under the cruel light her pale green dress and yellow beads seem a little out of place. And as her fingers fumbled with the fork, she now and then would try to smile. The lieutenant's eyes were cold. Devouring her as she devoured chocolate cake. In another place, another war ago, it had been the same. A walk through the rain to a small cafe, with the big eyed girl, who never got to know his name.

                                RM First published 4/1/99 

Tomorrow I'll be back with "Ask Rod." Again check out the preview of the Riverton Rendezvous with Rod, if only to see Linda's balloon's fly by. 


Sleep warm.

                                                   RM 4/31/2001

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notable birthdays



Wallace Beery o Otto Von Bismarck o Brillat-Savarin o Jim Ed Brown o Lon Chaney, Sr. o Eddy Duchin o Gil Scott-Heron o Alberta Hunter o Gordon Jump o Dong Kingman o Ali MacGraw o William Manchester o Abraham Maslow o Ann McCaffrey o Toshiro Mifune o Annette O'Toole o Jane Powell o Sergei Rachmaninoff o Debbie Reynolds o Edmond Rostand o Hannah Spearitt

Rod's random thoughts Cause and effect is not learned soon enough.

Envy keeps no holiday.

Old men were never young, older women always will be.


An April evening
tangled in the river's tail
whining of itself
as the wind does
in the eaves 
        of broken buildings.

Crickets - if they are crickets
sound like seagulls
        or the crackling fire
as every bit of life there is
is trapped above the river
                       or below.

I am not signaling
for May to come
nor tapping out
               a message
to the ears of June.
I'm held in place
and helpless,
like a given April night
the tail of some brown river
still holds on to.

I've brought you
nothing new
nor can I lead you
through tomorrow.
But if you travel back
to where I am
I'll let you stroke the tail
of my brown river
or wrap your naked limbs
around your battered brother
who has given in
but still remains
an April man.

- from "and to each season ...",1972
1956, 1957, 1968, 1972, 1999, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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