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A Thought for Today

Compassion is the best friend anybody ever had. It’s good for those who receive it and better for those willing to pass it along.


As I was getting ready to leave for the studio again this morning Kubby Kat Too (in an attempt to get my attention, stop me or merely make a little mischief) knocked a copy of “Intervals” from off a bookshelf. It fell open to “Pacing Off the Lower Forty. That happenstance is how today’s poem was chosen.

I liked his choice. Maybe he’ll give me a helping paw more often.

RM 5/5/01

Pacing Off the Lower Forty

And I said to him, call me.
Not too early, not too late,
call before you come
with gifts of interruption
and impossible requests
for friendship, cups of sugar
green tomatoes, cans of Flit.
I’m on deadline. One of many.
You want sympathy? I haven’t any.
                               And no time.

If there were time, real time
I’d figure out a way to say IT
(that thing still lurking
in my head someplace
should be said or shouldn’t.)
without resorting to book writing,
the agony that has no ecstasy
                                 at other end.
With time I could invent
                      experience anew
and not go on depending
on endless reinvention.

Just now
all favors have been called
every borrowed minute has been used.
And still last contract book stumbles
on familiar ground without an ally.
Could the poet
          even die on deadline,
meet God’s schedule
             better than his own?

Stuff still moves into my rooms
                 willfully and without bidding.
It crowds me out, demanding time
away from work that has no pleasure.
Here, then, some answers
                 to waiting correspondents:

       If you are out of red, send the blue.
       Enclosed my access number and regards.

       The answer to your question is, I would
       but not with so many unwashed watching.

       Remove my name from the Franklin Mint
       mailing list. Thank you.

       I love you too, but in another way.
       I’ll die if I’m not held again or do holding.

       Please send catalogue of 50,000
       classical LPs described in your Fanfare ad.

       Dear Michael: Uptime is the only speed
       my doctor approves of. Send case.

       Excuse me from performing jury duty.
       Shoot the bastards.

       Visiting Japan again in October.
       Please arrange meeting with head of Sony.

       Purple Rose of Cairo, Yellow Rose of Texas,
       Rosemary’s Baby. Don’t know other seven.

       Whitman because he liberated the language.
       Sandburg for keeping the language intact.

       I like Jiffy peanut butter because
       I want to win the million dollars.

There is almost always
something better to be done
than writing books or letters.
The garden sends an invite.
At three o’clock the Four o’Clocks
make ready to reopen. Be there.
And at the garden’s other end
violence has moved from street
                             to melon patch.
New headlines fly in from the meadow:


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


And so I go off through the grass
to cheer on Johnny-jump-ups,
Polaroid snapdragons
and slice spice branches for a stew.
Tomato vines in need of feeding
wilt down in mock suicide
until I mix narcotic fix
( 2 parts Spoon-it, 1 part Miracle-Gro ).
Cucumbers are all leaves and vine
                      from too much water
their fruit mere pimple-pricks.
No one’s trimmed the backyard hedge
so Century City’s disappeared again.
Enough new rhubarb now
                  for rhubarb pie.
Two gardenias open
        on a bud-filled bush
and I’ve not filled a single page
       with sentence scratching.

I leave the morning glory
                     and the ivy
to mid-morning mayhem,
pack the cats off with head-scratch
                         and belly-rub,
heat the coffee, close the door,
Rachmaninoff at the ready
                         I begin again.

        The bull of Minos
        stumbled blind
        and fell on fours.
        Kind Ariadne... shit...

I could let it ring. I will.
No good news is on the way –
the lottery is two months off.
One day, pretending circumcision,
I’ll slice the telephone’s umbilical
                         straight through,
till then, God damn Alexander Graham.

A stack of unread papers
and others set aside
                 for second reading
has grown another foot.
Recipes and regimens
under rosary paperweight
rearrange the dust in living sculpture.
I say my prayers. I brush my teeth.
I think of all those things
              I should be writing down.
All this is exercise enough
to tire poet, prophet, annotator.
And there’s a salad to be tossed,
a four-line rhyme to set aside
                                  or hide.
The potted thyme has mealybugs
the potted sage has withered
the potted seed has gone to pot
and I am not who you imagined.
I imagine I am someone else.

It is the telephone again
insisting I am here when I am not,
such conceit to ring out interruption
as if it were worthwhile endeavor.
I will not surrender to unthinking bell,
                                           not ever.
Give in once and it’s all over.

       Kind Ariadne’s apron opened
       scattered shells in dust
       bull-man heard the bells
       and charged the coast.
       What maze –

A new song spews
from dreaded Westlake School for Girls,
it shatters through the hills of Beverly
blotting birdsong, loon chorale,
Mozart sonata practiced in the music room,
                            low bee-buzz in lily.

Not cherubim or seraphim
but Sean’s Madonna in a workout
                on school pornograph.
Pile driver beat kills couplets.
Overdubbed shah-na’s smother sickly muse
so tired of all these rewrites
she now calls in trumped-up excuse
                                          for absence.

The cats are back from cupboard sleep,
hunger’s hit two hours early.
Pollen waits till now for sneak attack.
Where’s the tablets? Where’s the justice?
Where’s the highway through the maze and out?
Ariadne’s somewhere spinning
closed to any thought of help.

-from “Intervals”, 1986


A number of people have experienced difficulty over the past week in getting mail through to both Rod and I at the mckuen.com addresses. I won't bore you with the details - suffice to say the problem has now been rectified and both addresses are working again.

Apologies for the inconvenience and if it happens again, remember our alternate addresses are rod@rodmckuen.com and ken@rodmckuen.com

- Ken, Johannesburg, May 5

It's taken some time but finally we're delighted to announce the posting of a selection of photographs from both the Thousand Oaks and Aurora concerts. You can reach them via the link below.

Concert Photographs

notable birthdays


Sandy Baron o Nellie Blye o Pat Carroll o Ann B. Davis o Alice Faye o Danielle Fishel o Harry Golden o Freeman "Andy" Gosden o Stewart Granger o Will Hutchins o Soren Kierkegaard o Karl Marx o Christopher Morley o Michael Palin o Tyrone Power o Raphael o Roger Rees o John Taylor o Tammy Wynette o Tina Yothers

Rod's random thoughts Nobody ever works too hard at what they enjoy doing.

We can feel ashamed of almost anything but kindness.

God's handiwork is as fleeting as a passing thought and as solid as a stone.


As I watch you
move beyond the door
I remember that some oceans
have been known to come again
to their mother country
and wash ashore
more brilliant treasures
than they took away.

It is small comfort
to a man who lately
greets each season
as the hermit crab
hides in the rocks
and scurries from intruders
be they from the land or sea.

- from "And To Each Season," 1972

© 1972, 1986, 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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