THE SEA AROUND ME

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thought for Today

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The Sea Around Me: Authors Note

I have thought it true and for a long time lived by John Donne's ministry that "no man is an island" and yet I do believe that for a while I have been just that - an island to myself. Separated, adrift - though not set apart, dreaming still that a tanned Tarzan will swing down from some tree and rescue me or that a dozen sirens will come singing as they form a bridge from this place to the mainland (the mainland would be to be not one, but two).

I would not willingly be a sailor, leaving land for too long a time. I could not live the life of some far fisherman, hip high in water every morning, dragging in the nets at night. But the ocean has always had a pull for me.

Something tugs and tugs, Ive no doubt of that, something from the sea, whichever one I'm near. And when I stray too far from beachland I'm called back. What calls or carries me till I am within the range of water once again is a mystery. I do know that the calm times, the quiet ones - not necessarily the best - have been lived out near the sea.

No man wants the hidden hand of anything to be his pilot. He should set out on some journeys with only maps of his own choosing; no compass but the one he carries in his head. Should he then sail beyond the earth's edge it will be his business only.

A year ago, I completed a book entitled The Morning of My Life. Shortly before its intended publication I withdrew it. The reasons, I suppose, are many. Most especially, on the printed page it came out more personal than I had expected. Without its publication there is a time lapse in my life.

I have tried to cure that time lapse by chronicling my life with the sea. I am not in love with any one ocean - it would be hard for me to decide whether I like the light blue water off the coast of Greece, the deep azure color found along the coast of Mexico or the blue-black water off Fire Island best. Certainly the Atlantic and Pacific are much in evidence in this book.

By no means is this my final book about the sea, but it is an introduction as well as a collection of poems that I have saved over a time I now feel like sharing.

A year ago I published The Sea Around Me and The Hills Above in Great Britain. Much of that material is contained here, but that was part of a trilogy and this book, for now at least, is meant to stand on its own.

RM New York, July, 1977

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notable birthdays Chad Allen o Martha Argerich o Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) o George Deukmejian, Jr. o Lisa Dosa o Margaret Drabble o Ken Follett o Kenny G o Spalding Gray o David Hare o Bill Hayes o Lisa Hempy o John Maynard Keynes o Robert Lansing o Frederico Garcia Lorca o Brian McKnight o Bill Moyers o Tony Richardson o Igor Stravinsky o Pancho Villa o Mark Wahlberg
Rod's random thoughts Each of us is special because of our differences, not despite them.

I do no expect loyalty from my friends, I assume it.

Suffering has so many avenues we never trod the same one twice.

THE SEA AROUND ME

I
Buck had dreams
of giving Jimmy Dean
his rightful place
in the book of days.
He felt I should help him
                       if I could.
I wanted only warmness
           and a chance to be
nobody else but me,
to live my life and my life only.

I think Buck finally understood.
One day he left the safety
                  of the beach
and traveled home
            to write his book.

Long letters used to come
from Iowa and Indiana
after Buck had left.
Come here hed say,
there are corn-fed boys
              who bicycle
by the back porch
nearly every day,
interfering with my work
but adding to it.

Come here, come here
and help me make
             some apple-jack.

I still wanted warmness
not beneath the Indiana sun
but underneath the covers
                         anywhere.
I never went to Buck.
I answered
nearly every letter
with but a paragraph,
till the letters
        stopped arriving.

II
Lenny seized the winter
between his friendly teeth
and bit a chunk or two off
                            just for me.
I was left to wonder
more than ten years later
      if I stopped to thank him
                  for the use
of his own heartbeat
                next to mine.

Lenny left for somewhere.
I'd get second-hand reports
Hes working in a restaurant
and now hes into water sports.


No letter came from Lenny
in a dozen years.
I often thought of him
when I was wrapped
in woolly warmness
but more when I was not.


III
Aggie filled the beach bar
Sunday after Sunday
singing Grandma Plays the Numbers
her voice somewhere between a purr
and the steamboat's shout.

Aggie moved the men
who moved within the bar
then she moved herself
              back into town.

I saw a postcard once
she sent to someone else
                             not me.
Honey, La.s freaked
                     and frigid
Your mother should have
gone to Bakersfield or Fresno.


Not Aggie, no.
In Bakersfield the jukebox
                  kicks back shit
Grandma Plays the Numbers
                            Wouldnt go.

I had Aggies number
but not her line to call.
If I did I might have said
it's warm out here again
                   it is, it is
you should see me
I'm as brown as you.
Warmer than I was
            but not enough.

IV
Travelers on a summer beach
in nineteen fifty-seven.
How could Santa Monica
have been so close to heaven?

One by one the houses
on the beachfront disappeared
the bay became a parking lot
Lenny's old apartment razed,
Buck's big house and loft
a new communal dwelling place.

I wish I had
the number and address
of all those friends
I knew and cared about
some twenty years ago
           in Santa Monica.

Id like to write each one
                      and say
I am warm, I am
for ever, always.
Someone has warmed me up
                       who means it
and I won't be cold again.

I might be lying
but I'd like to say it
anyway.

I have no clues
and no addresses,
no leads on where
my old friends
         stop to play
and so I write to them
in books and journals
hoping they are reading
all the things
that I leave out.
              Not just
between the lines
but more ahead
and further back
              than that.

This book begins
as love leaves off
then goes with me
as I go on
from sea to sea
and back alone.

Later
finally in the hills
love opens one more door.

As always
I expect this new experience
to be the lasting,
         final one.

As always
I come away
not beaten
         or beat down
but less alive
and more confused.

-from The Sea Around Me 1976, 1977

 
1962, 1976, 1977, 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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