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A Thought for Today

Slander is the coward's bible.


I love books. The look. The smell, the feel of books; the paper and the binding of as much importance as the boards that hold them. The word inside them is a plus. Poetry, philosophy, medicine, archaeology, romances, political tracts, biographies of the gifted and the ordinary. The Bible and the Oz books. The Republic, The Riders of the Purple Sage, Leaves of Grass and Gravity's Rainbow. Chap Books and encyclopedias. The Four Horsemen, The Seven Deadly Sins, The Tale of One Thousand and One Nights, Five Thousand Things to Do on A Rainy Day. How To, Haiku, empty books with fine blank paper in them. (I buy such books but always find them too perfect to be written in.)

When I had little education and the prospect of the classroom on a regular basis eluded me, I haunted libraries. I could, right now, walk into the library of most Western American cities and go directly to the Science and the - small in those days - science-fiction section, find the reference shelves in darkness, go right to Geography and Architecture books. The former on the low shelves, the latter easier to reach. Of course I'm assuming that libraries haven't changed much in thirty years or so. Few do because learning has been kicked far down the ladder of priorities. I'm not completely sure of who's responsible for the loss of libraries and with it a general lack of literacy. Certainly not teachers.

- Excerpted from a speech given to The American Booksellers Association – First published16 June 1998.

notable birthdays Baby Leroy o Burt Bacharach o Stephen Baldwin o Yogi Berra o Jason Biggs o Bruce Boxleitner o George Carlin o Linda Dano o Emilio Estevez o Kim Fields o Susan Hampshire o Tony Hawk o Kathryn Hepburn o Wilfrid Hyde-White o Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. o Samantha Mathis o Jules Massanet o Florence Nightingale o Millie Perkins o John Simon o Howard K. Smith o Tom Snyder o Billy Squier o Billy Swann o Vanessa Williams o Steve Winwood o Ron Ziegler
Rod's random thoughts The only thing we own without condition is experience.

All we should ask from anyone is a patchwork quilt of hope.

Lifetimes can be lived out in an hour or loafed and wasted in a ten year span.


Whitman left from Ninth and Green
               in Philadelphia
at eight o’clock on June the third
in eighteen eighty-two, or three.
The time is true
the year debatable or hazy.
He trained to Buffalo
               and the Niagara
to see the Falls, not cowboys
or young men at the river this time –
long ranks of them, naked, rose colored
with movements, postures, ahead of any sculptures
nor sailors, tanned, strong, so bright and able looking.

He went to see the water only
rushing, running to its end.

And yet his trip to Canada
to see the waterfall of waterfalls
brought back those leaves of grass
collected twenty years before
               onto a single branch
then judged obscene, notorious
not worth paper bought to place it on -
until the world bent closer
       for a better look.
I have his words locked up
               in my house
jotted on a page with steady hand
and then crossed out.

A missing paragraph perhaps
in days that he termed specimen,
I will not give to history
those boys still swimming,
young men saddlesore
and older ones who sail forward
on the unmarked vessel.

Old poets are forever trapped
by thoughts let go of in their prime
they are time’s best example
of the limping soldier now on pension
reliving and exaggerating battles, war games,
                             he loved best
fought and played in fields
long covered with a concrete mask.

What is the prime of any man
who shouts I love America
at thirty-six and long beyond
then dying thirty-six years later
a month and five days till his birthday -
lungs, liver and knotted stomach
               giving out in consort ?

Walt, as you surveyed suspension bridge,
white water over water under it,
the tumbling green and white -
comparing it to wild sea storm
once seen off New York Island
how far back did your mind go
and how far did it shuttle on ahead?
I question what the margin
               never tells us.

When you saw in your head again
that same storm raging
did sailors this time paddle foam
away from tilting ship about to slam a rock?

I think prime is the place
we call and return home to
               with most regularity.
That dreaming place, always perfect
we make more perfect every time
                      we tap it.

Good poet gray too early on
your prime outlived you by a century
heading off toward another and a third
                     and on and on.
Your perfect men and perfect women too
modeled after Michelangelo,
are models now for every world.

Four lines in a margin doubled up to eight
a clue to thoughts midway between
                notoriety and death.
An exclamation point enforced,
if one is judged by lifetime work.

- from Folio No.45 - Summer 1984

© 1966, 1984, 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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