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Rod in action at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001. 
Photograph courtesy Jay Hagan.

A Thought for Today

The Prize is a moveable target so be nimble with your foot and mind.


I started writing “Celebration of the Heart” in the winter of 1974. but the major part of it was written in California and London in the spring of 1975. It was completed that same year in Cape Town, South Africa on June 21st. Some additional material was added in July in Sydney, Australia and again in California. It contains 43 poems in eight separate sections. Each section begins with an essay or plan.

The book contains some of my best-known poetry and Anita Kerr set several of the selections to music for the San Sebastian Strings series. Rereading ‘Celebrations' last month, I thought the following material from it might apply today.


The war is over now or just beginning. Peace, however hard an interval to make do with, will have to be made do with. I am speaking here of inner wars, childhood meeting age, despair overtaking hope, hope vanquishing despair. The no man’s land between what we see and what we think we see, that must be crossed.

For me the war is over, this week. I have stopped the pendulum of thought that swings so widely and made it come to rest on but a single subject. Going back. A final, thoughtful look at that terrain and those last outposts of my not so filled up childhood.

The earth is not our dwelling place, we’re meant to rattle here suspended. All the while birth watches us till dying. Some of us cheat death by living our childhood twice, three, four times over.

I cannot remember ever having been a sapling. Nor am I yet a tree. When I was younger I was older and now I’m more a child than I should be. Still as I observe my friends and those men not so friendly I find the ones I trust and do believe have a Belcher Landing of their own that they retreat / return to. It may be a lean-to cabin lived in at the age of nine, a dog at Christmas, half eleven. Kane’s rosebud sled, Jim Kirkwood’s pony. A swing within a field within a young girl’s mind only. A swing within a summer that was or wasn’t but returns and is.

The mind should have a safe place it can go to ramble. Yours might be in Saint Johns Wood or Blissville, Indiana. I have a friend whose mind vacation is nearly always spent barefoot in Tyler, Texas, another half his age who still plays bells in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

You can go home again, despite your Thomas Wolfe. Never do so on the train, but on the train of thought.

-from “Celebrations of the Heart,” 1975

Lately I’ve had a lot of requests for poetry from my first book “. . .and autumn came.” It was first published forty-eight years ago so my ideas and whatever talent for writing I was to acquire were in the budding stage. I used dates as titles in the book and since there are several dated during the months of September and October I thought I’d reprint these poems during the next six weeks. Today we begin with September 5th and 9th. Sleep warm.

RM 9/6/2001

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Susan Blakely o Corbin Bernsen o Taylor Caldwell o Charles Camilleri o Michael De Bakey o Brian Dennehy o Angie Everhardt o Michael Feinstein o Gloria Gaynor o Buddy Holly o Julie Kavner o Elia Kazan o Peter Lawford o J. P. Morgan, Jr. o Grandma Moses o Ivy Baker Priest o Anthony Quayle o Queen Elizabeth II o Sonny Rollins o Richard Roundtree o Devon Sawa o Dame Edith Sitwell
Rod's random thoughts Learn the song by heart before you sing it.

Whether planting love or lima beans, the good farmer goes carefully down his furrows.

The sea invents, we rearrange. The sea takes out a patent, we infringe. The sea holds all the copyrights to all the most important works, speaking truth that even time won’t change. And still we steal from her.

“. . .and autumn came”

september 5

this is sausalito
this is the bohemian land i escaped to after you left
i shall draw you a picture of it

tall men all muscles building boats
a lonely girl singing black is the colour
artists... their paintings never sell
writers... their walls papered with rejection slips
lovers... they call it bohemian for man to love man
and woman

this is sausalito
a fairyland of fog and starlight
misty mountainsides and cool grass
boats with rust-colored sails
and rye bread
an artist’s colony
populated by painters and flesh peddlers
joined to the world by the golden gate

a lonely girl singing black is the colour

september 9

my voice speaks an elegy
an elegy for dead love
dead august
this is the twentieth century... elegies should be forgotten
but this is the time... time for lament

this is an elegy for rooftops... smokestacks... fire escapes
for all the dead afternoons i spent away from the sun
for hotel rooms that only knew us once
for fights... quarrels... and love that always followed
an elegy for you
a part of me that no longer remains

my love is like a broken arrow
once strong and mighty
now useless and dead

-from the original version of “. . and autumn came,” 1954

© 1954, 1969. 1975, 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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