Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
Fantasies are free. And in the end that may be what makes some of them so costly.
I’m very pleased but a bit taken aback at all the mail a new poem I published on the 5th of April. It was entitled “Can We Have Our Ball Back” and written at the request of a new online magazine of the same name. Every writer wants what he does to resonate with others and so here’s a sampling of the mail I received.
FEEDBACK: CAN WE HAVE OUR BALL BACK
Thank you for the poem, "Can we have our ball back."
You’re terrific! Ann
Love the new poem. Joey
Can We Have Our Ball Back is one of the most unusual McKuen poems ever. The inner rhymes show so much invention and the form seems to be unlike anything you have ever written before. It reminds me of the best work of Auden because from one stanza to the next it is so unpredictable. Is this the McKuen entry into more formal poetry? James Gruffedd.
Thank you for sharing your new poem. The visuals it brought to mind clearly showed me the way to let go of some things in the past. Once more you have profoundly touched my life. Thank you. I would also like to thank you for your performance at Thousand Oaks. It was a truly wonderful evening. Carla
“Can We Have Our Ball Back” is like an aria. It should be set to music. Do it and I’ll sing it. Rodney Gilford
I read “Can We Have Our Ball Back” with great interest, it seemed so focused. I wasn’t prepared for the O’Henry-like ending. Thanks for sharing this unusual poem with all of us. You are full of surprises. I never know what to expect when I turn to your Flight Plan every morning and that’s what keeps me coming back. Pauline McMasters, London
Dear Rod, I noticed that you preceded your new poem with a letter requesting that you write a poem for a literary magazine that is itself called “Can We Have Our Ball Back,” does such a magazine exist or was that just a literary device you employed? If the magazine is for real, where can I get a copy of it? If the level of literature in it matches your poem it is certainly something I would like to read whenever it is published.
It was only recently by reading your flight plan that I discovered you write sonnets. I had no idea that some of your poetry followed such formalism. I own eleven of your books but now I want to collect them all. Congratulations on a lovely, lovely poem. Elizabeth
Dear Rod McKuen, “Can We Have Our Ball Back” is an instant classic. It touched me on so many levels. I read it to my two sons tonight while I was helping them with their homework. It prompted dozens of questions about life and about the meaning of poetry and also why poetry is so important. I would recommend that every parent read it to a child if they want to stimulate an interesting and intellectual discussion. It seems to me Mr. McKuen that your poetry only gets better as you grow older.
But, in going back and looking at some of your early work, I was amazed to discover that the same wisdom and intelligence can be found in poems that I read in your books thirty years ago. I guess I grew up too. Keith Waterman
Hi Rod, Hope all is well with you. Just a quick note to let you know how much I loved your new poem from last Thursday's Flight Plan. I wrote the following today, after I had read the poem a few times.
Actually, I read several things into the poem, probably none of which you meant to say. *S* It was lovely though Rod, thanks. Affectionately, Larry
Re: Can We Have Our Ball Back?
I read (rather hurriedly I'm afraid) Rod's new poem on Thursday when it was printed in that day's Flight Plan. At the time it seemed like a very nice poem, sort of whimsical I thought. I re-read it last night and the words suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me. Rod had once again spoken directly to me in one of his poems. *S*
After reading it again, I felt a certain uneasiness, and perhaps I was also somewhat ashamed of myself for the way I've treated some truly wonderful girls who I've known over the years. Sometimes, we are so enamored of the first ball that we once owned and lost, that we become obsessed with trying to recapture it; little knowing that it was probably lost forever.
Some very special people have held out some truly beautiful balls to me; offering to toss them my way to have and to hold
forever. In most cases, when they threw a ball to me, I purposely let it slip through my fingers. At other times I did catch the ball, but sooner or later, I threw it back to them because, in my mind, it didn't quite measure up to that first ball I owned so long ago; the one I lost.
When someone offers you a ball, think carefully: "Should I catch this one?" It might well turn out to be even more beautiful than the one you lost. I suppose if you don't catch the ball and at least hold it for awhile, you'll never know the answer.
This new poem is beautifully perceptive and profound; please give it the chance it deserves, as I did. You might read something entirely different into the words than I did, and that's as it should be: poetry is, after all, a very subjective experience.
Thought hugs, Larry
I just read the poem again. I must tell you, I know what ball it was now,
thanks to you and your gift. The ball was a baseball we were playing with and playing a game of base ball , hit a ball into the busy street, our dog Fritz chased the ball, and was killed by a car. I have no idea how old I was, but thank you for helping me to remember.... I am going to go to the place where I need to feel the pain, so I can get over it. I will be off work now till the 23 of April. April , what a lovely month. Lilacs and rebirth of the good earth.
I just love that poem. Also made me remember, the yellow sweater, the red headed doll, the doll with one leg, and I think you are magic:) Lola
Dear Mr. McKuen, I only discovered your poetry recently and I must tell you that while you seem to be well represented in libraries, I find an ignorance of your work when it comes to the literary establishment. I don’t get it. In less than three years you have become my favorite poet.
I like to think I have good taste and my bookshelves are lined with favorite poets of three centuries. Your poems rank up there with the best of them. Can We Have Our Ball Back is a case in point. I’m only twenty-four but I can identify with the humanity and nostalgia it calls back from what I can only assume is a long ago time for you. I love the simplicity of the poem, though I’m sure it wasn’t simple to write. Aaron Wexler
Rod: I don’t know where genius comes from but I know where it often lands and that’s on your Flight Plan. When I read “Can We Have Our Ball Back” last Thursday I was once again amazed at what you can do with words. How nice to know you are still with us and still writing important poetry. Jeff Barber
Dear Rod: RE: 5 April Flight Plan: What a joyous poem, so full of boyhood dreams and yet everywhere pervaded by the sage wisdom of a man who’s been there. Please print it again soon. Allyson Corrigan
Thanks for all of the feedback. For those who might have missed it last week, here it is again.
CAN WE HAVE OUR BALL BACK?
Mr. McKuen. We are great fans of your work, and we've
started a new secret poetry magazine. We'd love a poem
from you for a future issue. Would you please send us a
poem? Take care. can we have our ball back?
Dear can we have our ball back?, Thanks for asking,
the answer is yes. Here it is. Cheers, Rod
RE: CAN WE HAVE OUR BALL BACK?
By Rod McKuen 3/31/01
I wish I could give back to you the first
ball you threw so long ago, the one that
wore out, got mislaid or stolen. The one
you tossed into the trees or sent way up
to the top of the tent that rolled down the
side and under the slide, gone forever.
If ever a ball deserved to come back
it was that one that wont be retrieved
by what we believed or believe. The
trouble with balls is the trouble with all
those things left behind is some other
time or mind set. We always forget to
forget them in time to move on, get on
with what ever whatever is. That stuff
we gave up ball games for, forgot all
the names for as we traveled from
there to here. We do not select our
memories they choose us. Why not a
ball, an agate, a sled instead of the
boy who went away, the girl who broke
your heart at eleven. I wish I could give
you your youth back or some truth
good enough to take its place, erase
recollections of lost balls and days.
I wish I could give your ball back. I can’t,
anymore than I am able to show you the
road you took up and out so long ago
you can’t remember taking it. But there
is something I have been making for you;
a ball you can hold and wind and throw
from this day on. Take it along to where
ever you go and know it is given with all
the love I had for it while I had it. Only a
ball, round, small, not your ball of old but
yours now to play with, or if you choose
hit over the fence, over the tent and lose.
First publication 3/31/2001
PASS IT ALONG
Let’s hope Good Friday cancels the first Friday the 13th of 20001 out. Then we won’t have to worry until July when the number 13 and Friday coincide again. On to ‘the stuff.’
DEEP THOUGHTS REVISITED
One of my favorite features of the old “Saturday Night Live” was Al Frankin’s ‘Deep Thoughts’ feature. The more absurd the thought the better. My friend “Garden Lover” must have had Franklin in mind when she submitted these.
WORDS TO LIVE BY?
A day without sunshine is like, well, night.
On the other hand, you have different fingers.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.
Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it.
Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
He's not dead, he's electroencephalographically challenged.
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.
Honk if you love peace and quiet.
Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how it remains so popular?
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial cost and blamed it on the cost of living.
Just remember...if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.
The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try and pass them.
Latest survey shows that 3 out of 4 people make up 75% of the world's population.
The things that come to those that wait may be the things left by those who got there first.
A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
It was recently discovered that research causes cancer in
Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter since nobody listens.
I wished the buck stopped here, as I could use a few.
I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak
THE FRIENDLY SKIES
Did Carl Wobbel send this in time to arrive while most of us are planning our vacations?
AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE FLIGHT DECK
"This is your captain speaking. On behalf of my crew I'd like to welcome you aboard British Airways flight 602 from New York to London. We are currently flying at a height of 35,000 feet midway across the Atlantic.
"If you look out of the windows on the starboard side of the aircraft, you will observe that both the starboard engines are on fire. If you look out of the windows on the port side, you will observe that the port wing has fallen off.
"If you look down towards the Atlantic ocean, you will see a little yellow life raft with three people in it waving at you. That's me, the copilot, and one of our flight attendants. This is a recording."
Hi Rod, I thought the women reading your flight plan might get a little chuckle out of this. Janice K
OLD JOKES ARE THE BEST JOKES
In the hospital the relatives gathered in the waiting room where
their family member lay gravely ill. Finally the doctor came in looking tired and somber.
"I'm afraid I'm the bearer of bad news," he said as he surveyed the worried faces. "The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It's an experimental procedure,
semi - risky and you will have to pay for the brain yourselves."
The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news.
After a great length of time, someone asked, "Well, how much
does a brain cost?" The doctor quickly responded, "$5,000
for a male brain, and $200 for a female brain."
The moment turned awkward. Men in the room tried not to smile, avoiding eye contact with the women, but some actually smirked. A man, unable to control his curiosity, blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, "Why is the male brain so much more?"
The doctor smiled at the childish innocence and so to the entire group said, "It's just standard pricing procedure. We have to mark down the price of the female brains, because they've actually been used."
MORE BUMMER STICKERS FROM ROSE
When it comes to men, Rose cab be cruel . . . but apt.
TOP 20 BUMPER STICKERS FOR WOMEN
1. SO MANY MEN, SO FEW WHO CAN AFFORD ME.
2. GOD MADE US SISTERS, PROZAC MADE US FRIENDS.
3. IF THEY DON'T HAVE CHOCOLATE IN HEAVEN, I AIN'T GOING.
4. MY MOTHER IS A TRAVEL AGENT FOR GUILT TRIPS.
5. PRINCESS, HAVING HAD SUFFICIENT EXPERIENCE WITH PRINCES, SEEKS FROG.
6. COFFEE, CHOCOLATE, MEN. SOME THINGS ARE JUST BETTER RICH.
7. DON'T TREAT ME ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU WOULD THE QUEEN
8. IF YOU WANT BREAKFAST IN BED, SLEEP IN THE KITCHEN.
9. DINNER IS READY WHEN THE SMOKE ALARM GOES OFF.
10. I'M OUT OF ESTROGEN - AND I HAVE A GUN.
11. GUYS HAVE FEELINGS TOO. BUT LIKE... WHO CARES?
12. NEXT MOOD SWING: 6 MINUTES
13. AND YOUR POINT IS?
14. WARNING! I HAVE AN ATTITUDE AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT.
15. OF COURSE I DON'T LOOK BUSY...I DID IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.
16. DO NOT START WITH ME. YOU WILL NOT WIN.
17. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, SO PLEASE SHUT UP.
18. ALL STRESSED OUT AND NO ONE TO CHOKE.
19. I'M ONE OF THOSE BAD THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.
20. HOW CAN I MISS YOU IF YOU WON'T GO AWAY?
THE FINAL WORD
Today it belongs to Ralph Jones.
My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of chips and a Chocolate cake. I feel better already.
See you tomorrow with some Saturday Stuff, or something. Sleep warm.
RM 4/12/2001 Previously unpublished.
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