FLIGHT PLANS OF YESTERDAY
1 September, 1998
Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
What good is dynamite without a decent fuse?
“Rod: A week or so ago you published some of your words from “Time of Desire” and it made me think of the first time I read one of your Flight Plans featuring material from that album (one of my favorites.) Why not print “Soldiers from Another War” again, Thanks, Anthony Muscamp”
SOLDIERS FROM ANOTHER WAR
Soldiers from another war, memories of another time when a dime was a dime and love was something G.I's only read about: 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 high 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 is worth it.
Some soldiers fight their daily battles, not in body but in mind: Private Spence 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.
Soldiering is more than coming through the trenches still intact, it's threading minefields still unmined: 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 seemed 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 another girl, who never got to know his name.
Some soldiers come from long lines of soldiers. Soldiering runs in the family. Some become soldiers to run from the family: Lieutenant Paul Smith, Marine. Son of a Boston lawyer. His mother played bridge in Westchester County. This is his first night on the Ginza. He dances well. His Japanese girl comes to his chin. And they move with easy motion on the dance floor. The motions will be quicker after dark. Everything is okay. The moth chases the flame. The bees still pollinate. The grass is green on spring mountains. The haze of the evening is soft blue. And Lieutenant Paul Smith waltzes endlessly, with an Oriental head against his shoulder.
Soldiers from another war, memories of another time when a dime was a dime and love was something G.I's only read about: Long before we decided the fate of that wretched woman at the Prince Hotel and laughed into the night, conjuring ways to upset her. I had thought of the possibility of falling in love with you. Even after I knew there were others. I was determined not to. Not at this time. Not when I was going home. But as it happened, you turned to me in bed, and smiled. And we were very warm.
- Written in Taegu, Korea, 1954. Some of this material was used in the album "Time of Desire", 1957. With new material, 1998
Summer concert just announced!
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McKuen Concerts & Appearances
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McKuen happenings - add your name to the Rod McKuen
||Art Alexakis o Montserrat Caballe o David Cassidy o Tom Clancy o Henry Clay o Claire Danes o Shannon Doherty o Andy Garcia o Vince Gill o Lionel Hampton o Herbie Hancock o David Letterman o Ann Miller o Alexander N. Ostrovsky o Sally Rand o Johanna Spyri o Tiny Tim o Jane Withers o F.W. Woolworth
||Harmony is thought in motion.
Allow yourself to disallow yourself.
If creativity wasn’t such a solitary thing, we’d have more Galileo's.
||They swoop at you like larks
or quarterbacks in forward runs
of either sex or neither sex
without formation or a plan;
unless the worked-out play
is to make the lonesome cry
or cry out,
cause the looker-on to weep
at glimpses and snippets
of great beauty
in long distance runner
or the smile of loping jogger -
here then gone forever in the crowd.
Headband, headset firm in place,
dodging honking autos and the cursing tourist,
hearing music from some other sphere.
Distant eyes and yet aware, aware
of damage done by muscled leg
and thrusting arm.
Such sleek machinery coming from,
moving from such supple trunks.
I tell you just the sight of them
can cause pedestrian heart to pound,
can set off bells in heads
that were not there or never rang before.
If age-old steeples toppled to the ground
at their mere passing
I would not feign surprise.
Should traffic stop and drivers die
while shifting gears.
As these sprinters sprinted traffic lights
and bounded corners,
it would not make the papers
or the nightly news.
These runners are the body commonplace
and so uncommon as to melt the sidewalk,
wilt the rose.
I would I were the vendor on the street
dispensing water and refreshment
to the sweated brow,
if only just to gain another momentary look
at Venus and Adonis too in colored underwear.
The joy to be stone pony on the carousel
awarding rings to every arm-stretched runner.
Oh, I have seen the future
running in each retina -
it is brown bodies tumbling in summer games,
and afterward more summer games,
You, runner, coming at me
catch my breath and eat it up.
Wipe your forehead on my chest
with knifelike slash that draws
a cup of blood to prove I have one.
Smother me with arms and legs
and piston trunk.
Trample me with feet
that do not touch the ground.
It would be easy death to one
who having trod a dozen blocks on summer days
now returns to unlit rooms
and to such memories that kill a man
with the slowest kind of passion poison.
from "The Sound of Solitude", 1983